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Anderson v. United States

August 19, 2004


Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. Hon. Michael L. Rankin, Motions Judge. Hon. Zoe Bush, Trial Judge. CR F-7639-00. Affirmed.

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

Argued: March 25, 2004

Before SCHWELB, Associate Judge, STEADMAN, Associate Judge, Retired, *fn1 and BELSON, Senior Judge.

Appellant, Steven Anderson, was convicted of a number of assault counts following an altercation that occurred between appellant and his ex-girlfriend, Tameika Butler.*fn2 Appellant challenges his convictions on the grounds that the trial court erred in permitting (1) government cross-examination of the appellant regarding a prior bad act by the appellant, (2) reference to that act in closing arguments, (3) government cross-examination of a police officer regarding the statements of a person at the scene, and (4) admission of a 911 tape. Appellant also contends that the government failed to present sufficient evidence to warrant a finding that Ms. Butler suffered serious bodily injury, a prerequisite for aggravated assault. We affirm.

I. Facts

On the day in question, appellant, with his step-grandfather, Leonard Kelley, picked up Ms. Butler's three-year-old son, Done. After placing Done in Mr. Kelley's car, Ms. Butler and a friend walked from her home through an alley to a store on Minnesota Avenue. Before she reached the store, appellant approached Ms. Butler. Appellant and Ms. Butler differed as to the events that followed.

Ms. Butler testified that appellant yanked her hair and told her he was going to kill her. Appellant then guided her into an alley. Once in the alley, appellant punched Ms. Butler several times in the face. Attempting to defend herself, Ms. Butler retrieved a knife from her waist pouch. Appellant knocked Ms. Butler to the ground, and she tried to cut his leg with the knife. Appellant grabbed the knife from Ms. Butler. He began stomping on her face with his feet while she lay on the ground, struggling to cover her face. Appellant then stabbed Ms. Butler on the left side of her body. Ms. Butler testified she could not recall what occurred after that until the ambulance arrived.

Appellant testified that upon encountering Ms. Butler on Minnesota Avenue, she inquired when he would bring Done home. After appellant stated that he would bring Done back the next day, Ms. Butler indicated she should get Done some clothes and the two began walking back to her home. While en route, Ms. Butler told appellant not to take Done around other women. Appellant testified that he grabbed Ms. Butler to calm her. Once in the alley, appellant claimed that Ms. Butler punched him in the face so he slapped her in response. Appellant testified that the two shoved each other until Ms. Butler produced a knife. To protect himself, appellant grabbed Ms. Butler's arm, twisted her arm behind her, and knocked her to the ground. Upon falling, Ms. Butler hit her face against a fence. Ms. Butler grabbed appellant's shirt and ripped it off him. Appellant fell on Ms. Butler and she grabbed onto appellant's legs. Appellant stomped his feet to free himself and ran out of the alley. Appellant contended at trial that Ms. Butler must have fallen on her knife during the altercation.

Ms. Jeanette Brown testified that she had been driving down Minnesota Avenue and saw the appellant and Ms. Butler before they entered the alley. While stopped at a red light, Ms. Brown saw appellant slap Ms. Butler. She told the appellant not to "do that," to which appellant responded, "fuck you, mind your business." As appellant pushed Ms. Butler toward the alley, Ms. Brown called the police.

Mr. Kelley, the appellant's step-grandfather, testified that appellant emerged from the alley in a "worked up" state. Appellant admitted that he had beaten Ms. Butler and asked Mr. Kelley to drive him to a friend's house. About two months later, a deputy on the fugitive apprehension warrant squad of the U.S. Marshals Service apprehended appellant at his step-grandfather's house in Prince George's County, Maryland.

II. Drew Evidence

Prior to trial, before Judge Rankin, the government sought court approval to use three incidents of prior bad acts evidence at trial. Only the third incident is at issue. The government sought to show that in the summer of 2000, several months prior to the indicted altercation, Ms. Butler arrived home in a vehicle with another man. Appellant, in a fit of jealously, stabbed the man, smashed the windows of the car, and attempted to attack another passenger. Finding the incident to be relevant to rebutting appellant's claim of self-defense, both Judge Rankin and Judge Bush ruled pretrial that evidence of the incident could be admitted.*fn3 No evidence of the incident was introduced in the government's case in chief; however, the government did cross-examine appellant regarding the incident, to which appellant made no objection.*fn4 On appeal, appellant contests the adequacy of the government's pretrial proffer regarding its Drew evidence, asserting that the government failed to establish the crime by clear and convincing evidence. Appellant also challenges the government's cross-examination of the appellant regarding the incident and the government's reference to the incident in its closing remarks.

A. The Proffer

While "evidence of a crime for which the accused is not on trial is 'inadmissible to prove disposition to commit crime, from which the jury may infer that the defendant committed the crime charged,' other crimes evidence is admissible. . . when it is 'relevant and important' to the issue of intent (among other issues)." Riley v. United States, 790 A.2d 538, 539-540 (D.C. 2002) (citing Drew v. United States, 118 U.S. App. D.C. 11, 15-16, 331 F.2d 85, 89-90 (1964)) (other citation, footnote, and emphasis omitted). To warrant admission of Drew evidence, "our cases have held that ...

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