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Simms v. United States

January 27, 2005


Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (F-1847-01. (Hon. Wendell P. Gardner, Jr., Trial Judge).

Before Schwelb and Washington, Associate Judges, and Kravitz, Associate Judge, Superior Court of the District of Columbia.*fn1

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

Argued December 15, 2004

Following a jury trial, Theodore R. Simms, Jr., was found guilty of simple assault. The jury acquitted Simms of aggravated assault, first-degree cruelty to children, and second-degree cruelty to children. At the time of the offense, the victim, William Calloway, who was the son of Simms' fiancée, Pauline Calloway, was fourteen months old.

On appeal, Simms contends that he was acting in loco parentis and that the trial judge committed reversible error by refusing to instruct the jury on the defense of reasonable parental discipline. The government responds, inter alia, that no impartial jury could reasonably find that Simms was acting in loco parentis, and that there was therefore no evidentiary foundation for the requested instruction. We agree with the government and accordingly, we affirm.*fn2


A. William's Injuries

On November 7, 2000, Michael Knaggs, a firefighter and emergency medical technician, responded to Simms' home after receiving a report that a father and child had fallen down a flight of stairs. When Knaggs arrived, Simms told him that William was his son. Simms confirmed that he had fallen down the stairs with William in his arms. Simms took Knaggs upstairs, and Knaggsfound the child lying down, holding his arm, and whimpering. Knaggs noted bruises on William's upper arm and a bite mark on his left arm. Knaggs recalled the bite mark because "there are some things that stand out in your head."

Knaggs took William to Children's Hospital, where the boy was found to have suffered numerous injuries, including three fractures of his left arm, two fractures of his right arm, several bite marks, and bruises all over his head, face and body. Simms indicated, both to Knaggs and to physicians at Children's Hospital, that William might have been bitten by a puppy. The bite marks, however, were human, and the parties ultimately so stipulated at trial. Because William's injuries appeared inconsistent with Simms' explanation of a fall down the stairs, and because they were so numerous, Dr. Maria Ieni, a Children's Hospital pediatrician, reported the matter to the District's Office of Child Protective Services.

Following Dr. Ieni's call, Sergeant Morani Hines and Detective Wallace of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) responded to Children's Hospital. After Simms had told them that he was prepared to talk about the incident, Hines and Wallace transported him to a police station where Simms made a videotaped statement which was subsequently introduced into evidence at his trial.

B. Simms' Videotaped Statement

In his statement, Simms asserted that on Sunday, November 5, 2000, his fiancée brought William to the home where Simms lived with his parents. Simms claimed that he had been slightly injured in an automobile accident on the preceding Friday night, and that he was therefore unable to perform his job as a chef for a few days. He therefore agreed to look after William, whom he claimed to regard as a son, while Ms. Calloway was at work.

Simms told the police that on the evening of Monday, November 6, he and some friends were playing video games in Simms' bedroom. On that evening, William had a slight fever. William was lying down in Simms' mother's room, and he knocked down a glass vase. Simms "used some force and smacked [William's] hand," and he "popped" (i.e., slapped) William on the thigh,*fn3 apparently to discipline him for knocking down the vase. Simms then "tucked William in the sheets real tight so he couldn't get out" and returned to his friends. Notwithstanding Simms' efforts to keep him tucked in, William got loose and was about to fall; Simms "tapped" or "popped" him again.

Simms further related that neither he nor William had slept during the night from Monday to Tuesday. On Tuesday morning, at Ms. Calloway's direction, Simms set out to give William a bottle. He picked William up and headed towards the stairs. En route, Simms was "playing" with William by shaking him, rubbing him, and putting William's arm in his (Simms') mouth and biting him on both arms in order to "make him laugh." Thereafter, as he was walking downstairs with William in his arms, Simms' leg buckled and he ...

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