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Williams v. United States

December 15, 2005

ANTWAN M. WILLIAMS, APPELLANT,
v.
UNITED STATES, APPELLEE.



Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. (DV2113-04). (Hon. Jeanette Jackson Clark, Trial Judge).

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

Submitted November 22, 2005

Before SCHWELB, REID, and GLICKMAN, Associate Judges.

Following a bench trial, Antwan M. Williams was convicted of assault on Herbert Richey. On appeal, Williams asserts that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction, but he predicates this claim in substantial part on a contention that the trial judge erroneously analyzed the nature of proof that the prosecution was required to present in order to establish the elements of the offense. In our view, the evidence, when viewed in the light most favorable to the government, see Rivas v. United States, 783 A.2d 125, 133-35 (D.C. 2001) (en banc), could support Williams' conviction if the trial judge credited the prosecution testimony, disbelieved the defense testimony, and applied the correct legal standard. We conclude, however, that the trial judge appears to have articulated and applied an erroneous legal standard.

We are unable to determine what the judge's findings would have been if she had decided the case on the basis of correct legal principles. Accordingly, we remand the case to the trial court with directions that she make the findings necessary to determine whether the government proved Williams' guilt beyond a reasonable doubt under the principles set forth in this opinion.

I. THE EVIDENCE

On June 24, 2004, Officer Ronald Solomon of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) and a second officer arrested Williams on a charge of domestic violence*fn1 and transported him to the MPD's Sixth District headquarters. At the station, Herbert Richey, a cellblock technician, directed Williams to take off his tennis shoes and remove the shoelaces. Meanwhile, Williams, who was allegedly inebriated, was voicing his displeasure with the officers for arresting him.

Richey, who was the only witness for the prosecution, testified that Williams removed one shoelace and threw it on the floor. Richey directed Williams to remove the second shoelace, but Williams "got loud and boisterous, saying that he didn't have to do that fucking thing." Then, according to Richey, Williams "threw the shoe and hit me in the face, and that's when we restrained him."*fn2 Richey was asked whether he believed that it was an accident, and he responded: "No, it wasn't." The government rested following Richey's testimony. Williams' attorney made a motion for judgment of acquittal, which the judge denied.

Officer Solomon was called to the stand by the defense. He testified that Williams was intoxicated and upset that Solomon had arrested him. When asked by defense counsel whether he believed that Williams had intended to hit Richey with the shoe, Officer Solomon answered "no," and added:

But when they wanted him to take his shoestrings out and he -- and he said, where here you do it, he tossed it. Here you do it and tossed it. I don't think he meant to hit him in the face with it.

On cross-examination, the officer elaborated:

[I]n my opinion, the way I'm use[d] to [doing] something intentionally -- somebody doing something intentionally against somebody else, he would've looked directly at him -- thrown it directly at him. He didn't -- Mr. Williams didn't do that.

Williams took the stand in his own defense. Asked whether he threw a shoe at Herbert Richey, Williams stated:

I mean, I tossed the shoe. I didn't -- I didn't throw the shoe to try to -- try to do anything to him to cause him any ...


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