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Cook v. United States

July 10, 2003


Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (M8372-01) (Hon. Judith E. Retchin, Trial Judge)

Before Reid and Washington, Associate Judges, and Kern, Senior Judge

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Reid, Associate Judge

Argued June 11, 2003

After a bench trial, appellant Jeffrey Cook was convicted of simple assault, in violation of D.C. Code § 22-504 (1996). *fn1 He filed a timely appeal primarily raising contentions relating to (1) the Jencks Act, 18 U.S.C. § 3500, and (2) Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963). *fn2 We conclude that the trial court did not commit reversible error with regard to Brady. However, we vacate Mr. Cook's conviction and remand this case to the trial court for a proper Jencks Act inquiry regarding notes taken by the police officers at the tim e of the assault.


The government presented its case through the testimony of complaining witness, Marcel Forrest. At the time of the incident at issue in this case, Mr. Cook and Ms. Forrest lived in the same apartment building, located in the 1500 block of 25th Street, Southeast, in the District of Columbia. Mr. Cook's girlfriend and his witness, Latisha Green, also resided in the same building.

On June 19, 2001, Mr. Cook assaulted Ms. Forrest by punching and kicking her in the head, face and back with his boots (Timberland with a steel toe) for about ten minutes. The assault grew out of a conversation between Mr. Cook and another man in the afternoon during which the other man accused Mr. Cook of taking money from Ms. Forrest's apartment. *fn3 Ms. Forrest overheard the accusation as well as Mr. Cook's denial that he had taken the money; saw him kick the lawn chairs; and listened to his threat that if Ms. Forrest were a male, he would "punch [her] in [her] face."

Later, around 9:45 p.m. on June 19, Ms. Forrest returned home. She noticed Mr. Cook "was sitting outside" as she pulled up in her car. He went into the apartment building upon seeing her. Ms. Forrest then "got out of [her] car, . . . walke d into the building and . . . walked up the stairs to [her] apartment." She was attempting to unlock the door to her apartment when "[Ms.] Green grabbed [her] by the back of [her] head and started punching [her] in [her] face." Ms. Forrest described the subsequent events as follows:

We stumbled down the first set of stairs, and [Ms. Green] was punching me in my face, and [Mr.] Cook came out of his apartment and stood over top of us, and was screaming get her

. . . . You're going to tell people I stole your money . . . . [G]et her . . . .

He then started kicking me in the face . . . . He started stomping me in my face and punching me with his Timberlands which are steel toe boots. He was punching me in my face, kicking me in the back of my head, kicking me in my back. Just all areas of the upper part of my body.

Ms. Forrest suffered a "cut" over her left eye, "a black eye on one eye, . . . bruises all over [her] back to the middle of [her] back, . . . scrapes and cuts all on [her] back and . . . neck area." "When the police arrived, they saw that [Ms. Forrest] had . . . blood - not gushing blood, but they saw that [she] had injuries." An ambulance was called and she was treated at the scene with "ice packs and . . . [was given] gauze and bandages." Mr. Cook and M s. Green fled the scene before the police arrived, and Ms. Forrest provided the officers with their description.

Ms. Green and Mr. Cook testified for the defense. Mr. Cook depicted Ms. Forrest, with whom he said he had an intimate relationship in the past, as jealous of Ms. Green, his current girlfriend. Both Ms. Green and M r. Cook claimed that M s. Forrest initiated the attack and was the aggressor. Mr. Cook heard the women's voices and "thumping coming down the stairs." He saw them "land" at the foot of the stairs, and decided to put a baseball bat inside another tenant's apartment to keep it away from the struggling women. He then returned to try to break up the fight. He stated that he saw no blood on Ms. Forrest and no injuries to her person, but that there was an old scar or mark over one of her eyes.

In her trial testimony, Ms. Green declared that she saw Ms. Forrest in the stairway of the apartment building, and inquired why a m an who had identified himself as Ms. Forrest's boyfriend, had threatened to kill Mr. Cook for taking money from her apartment, and the same man had said Mr. Cook should "stay out of [Ms. Forrest's] face." Ms. Forrest was on her cell phone when Ms. Green spoke to her, and she "hit [Ms. Green] with it . . . ." The two women struggled and fell down the stairs. Ms. Green saw no blood ...

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