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Davis v. United States

October 30, 2003

LAWRENCE DAVIS, APPELLANT,
v.
UNITED STATES, APPELLEE.



Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (M5622-99) (Hon. Patricia A. Broderick, Trial Judge)

Before Schwelb and Glickman, Associate Judges, and Pryor, Senior Judge.

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

Submitted October 9, 2003

Following a bench trial, Lawrence Davis was found guilty of violation of a civil protection order by failing to complete a Domestic Violence Intervention Program (DVIP). See D.C. Code §§ 16-1005 (f) and (g) (2001). The prosecution was precipitated by Davis' failure to attend a DVIP class a few days after the death of his wife, who was alleged to have been murdered. On appeal, Davis claims that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction. We agree and reverse.

I. THE TRIAL COURT PROCEEDINGS

On September 23, 1998, a judge of the Superior Court entered a "Consent Civil Protection Order Without Admissions" in the case of Elizabeth Singleton v. Lawrence Davis, IF No. 2488-98. The petitioner, Ms. Singleton, now deceased, was Davis' estranged wife. The typed portion of the order provided, in pertinent part, as follows:

Respondent shall enroll in and complete a counseling program for . . . dome stic violence . . . . Respondent shall enroll in the designated program(s) TODAY, in the Probation Office, Room 4206 of the D.C. Superior Court. *fn1

On April 21, 1999, the United States Attorney filed a criminal information alleging that on or about March 11, 1999, Davis "willfully violated" the provision of the civil protection order requiring him to "enroll in and successfully complete the [DVIP]," contrary to "Section 16-1004, 16-1005, District of Columbia Code." *fn2 Davis entered a plea of "Not Guilty," and the case was tried on March 27, 2000.

The prosecution presented the testimony of two witnesses: Bernard Matthews, a part-time domestic violence intervention counselor at Family and Child Services (FACS), and Barbara Bordinaro, FACS' Director of Mental Health Services.

Matthews first described the operation of the DVIP program. He explained that each participant was required to attend twenty-two classes, and that "an individual, upon missing four classes, is to be terminated from the class." He elaborated:

If three classes are missed, it's understood that the fourth class will result in termination. Now, should, however, an individual miss four classes . . ., if an individual would provide some reason for having missed those four classes and if the excuse is a valid one, such as "I was having to go out of the country to visit a loved one" or something like that. And it depends on how a person has been progressing within the class.

Matthews testified that the classes met once a week for 1½ to 2 hours, and that in order to monitor attendance, he maintained a sign-in sheet. According to Matthews, each class member was required to "take an orientation [at] the Superior Court, [a]t [which] they are told when they are to attend and the requirements of the training." Matthews then provided the members of the class with a "mini-orientation" on the first day of the program.

Matthews testified, on the basis of the sign-in sheets, that

[Davis] attended January the 20th , January the 27th , he was absent February the 3rd , he attended February the 10th , absent February the 17th , present February the 24th , absent March 3rd . Classes were canceled on March 10th , he was absent ...


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