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Adams v. United States

September 8, 2005


Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (F717-02) (Hon. Robert I. Richter, Trial Judge).

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

Argued March 17, 2005

Before SCHWELB, RUIZ and REID, Associate Judges.

After a jury trial, the appellant, Glenn Adams, was found guilty of the lesser-included crime of second-degree murder while armed, D.C. Code §§ 22-2103, -4502 (a) (2001);*fn1 (2) possession of a firearm during a crime of violence, D.C. Code § 22-4504 (b) (2001);*fn2 (3) carrying a pistol without a license, D.C. Code § 22-4504 (a)(2) (2001);*fn3 (4) carrying a dangerous weapon, D.C. Code § 22-4504 (a) (2001);*fn4 (5) possession of an unregistered firearm, D.C. Code § 7-2502.01 (2002);*fn5 and (6) unlawful possession of ammunition, D.C. Code § 7-2506.01 (3) (2001).*fn6 He challenges several of the trial court's evidentiary rulings and the sufficiency of the government's evidence. We affirm.


The record before us shows that in the early morning hours of January 26, 2002, Mr. Adams was sitting in his brother's black Nissan automobile, which was parked on the 3100 block of Newton Street, in the Northeast quadrant of the District of Columbia, talking to an acquaintance, Jonathan Silver. A short while later, Mr. Adams exited his vehicle and approached a group of young men who were standing in the center of Newton Street. He asked the group, which included Bernard Brooks, Eugene Thomas, Marquette Brooks, and Donnell Diggins, if they knew where he could find Michael Thomas, the decedent. Some members of the group, including Bernard Brooks, pointed out that Mr. Thomas was standing only a few houses down the street, leaning on a chain-link fence; Mr. Adams walked "up the street" towards Mr. Thomas.

Approximately one or two minutes later, Bernard Brooks and the others in the group, who were walking down Newton Street in the opposite direction from where Mr. Thomas was standing, were startled by the sound of gunfire. Turning around, they saw Mr. Adams "pointing a gun" at an unarmed Mr. Thomas. Mr. Thomas, who was "bending down" in a defensive position, with his arms raised in an attempt to push Mr. Adams away, said: "Go ahead. Go ahead, Glenn. I love you." With his gun pointed at Mr. Thomas, Mr. Adams "shot him."*fn7 Mr. Thomas spun around and fell to the ground. Mr. Adams "walked up to him and kicked him in the face." Mr. Adams then walked across Newton Street and got back in his car. "He drove down the street towards" the group of men who had just watched the shooting, stopping his car momentarily to yell something inaudible at the bystanders. Mr. Adams then sped away; Mr. Thomas died a short time later of a single gunshot wound.

Prior to his trial, Mr. Adams filed a motion to suppress identification evidence as "unreliable" and "impermissibly suggestive." On November 12, 2002, a hearing was held on Mr. Adams' motion. The government presented the testimony of Detective Gregory Sullivan of the Metropolitan Police Department ("MPD"). Detective Sullivan testified that he interviewed two eyewitnesses on the morning of the shooting. The first witness stated that "the shooter was a man named Glenn," that he had known Glenn for "five or six years." When asked to describe Glenn, the first witness stated that he "was a black male in his twenties, that he had a mustache, goatee, that he had short hair, that he had craters in his face, moles on his face, that he had a big nose, that he had big lips and his lower lip hung down." The second witness also stated that "the shooter was a man named Glenn," and that he had known Glenn for "a couple of years." The description of the shooter provided by the second witness was nearly identical to that provided by the first witness. Both witnesses stated that they had a clear view of the shooting.

Using a computerized database to display the arrest photograph of every male named "Glenn" who had been arrested in the District of Columbia within the "past several years," Detective Sullivan asked the first eyewitness if he could identify the shooter. After reviewing all of the "arrest photos" in the database, however, the first eyewitness was unable to identify the man he saw shoot Mr. Thomas. Detective Sullivan did not ask the second witness to review the photo array created by the District's database. Instead, Detective Sullivan transported the two eyewitnesses to Maryland, where he created a similar display using the arrest photo database for Prince George's County. After looking at approximately ten pages of photographs, with each page containing six photographs, the first eyewitness identified Mr. Adams as the shooter. He was "[o]ne hundred percent sure" that Mr. Adams had shot Mr. Thomas.

After the first eyewitness left the room, Detective Sullivan brought the second eyewitness in and asked him if he could identify the shooter; however, before Detective Sullivan had an opportunity to reset the database, the second eyewitness "looked at the screen shot of page ten and said 'there you go right there.'"*fn8 The second eyewitness put his finger on the picture of Mr. Adams, the very same man the first witness had just identified, stating that he was "[a]bsolutely positive" that Mr. Adams was the shooter. Detective Sullivan was confident that neither witness had an opportunity to speak with the other during or between the photographic displays. The witnesses also recognized pictures of the black Nissan automobile that Mr. Adams drove on the night of the shooting.

After considering, and crediting, Detective Sullivan's testimony, the trial court denied Mr. Adams' motion to suppress. The trial court found that the photo display "was utterly unsuggestive" given that both eyewitnesses had "prior knowledge" of the shooter and that "until the first witness made the ID the police didn't even know who they were looking for."

It concluded that "there was certainly nothing unduly suggestive about the way the police did [the display] and there's nothing about the procedure to question the reliability of the identifications."

On November 13, 2002, a jury trial was held in the Superior Court. The government presented the testimony of Bernard Brooks, Eugene Thomas, Marquette Brooks, and Donnell Diggins, each of whom identified Mr. Adams as the shooter, as well as Richard Griffin, Gregory Sullivan, and Christopher MacWilliams of the Metropolitan Police Department. The government presented no physical evidence linking Mr. Adams to the shooting.*fn9 Mr. Adams' defense at trial was misidentification; he testified in his own defense. On November 18, 2002, the jury found Mr. Adams guilty on all counts, except for first-degree ...

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