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Robinson v. United States

July 26, 2007


Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (F-7558-01) (Hon. Ann O' Regan Keary, Trial Judge).

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Washington, Chief Judge


Argued April 7, 2006

Before WASHINGTON, Chief Judge, KRAMER, Associate Judge and SCHWELB, Senior Judge.*fn1

On May 16, 2002, the grand jury indicted appellant Steven Robinson for first-degree murder while armed.*fn2 Following a jury trial, the appellant was convicted of second-degree murder while armed as a lesser included offense of first-degree murder while armed. On appeal, the appellant argues that: (1) the trial court erred in admitting into evidence his inculpatory videotaped statement; (2) the trial court erred in failing to grant the appellant's motion for judgment of acquittal; and (3) the trial court erred in failing to strike, sua sponte, several alleged improper statements made by the prosecutor during closing argument. Finding no error, we affirm.


On August 7, 2001 at 11:00 p.m., officers of the Metropolitan Police Department ("MPD") responded to a call that a man was being beaten at 1706 L Street N.E., Washington, D.C. Upon arrival, officers found James Junior Osborne on the ground suffering from severe head injuries. The police also discovered a bloodied baseball bat in the alley behind the house where they found Osborne. At 11:50 p.m., doctors pronounced James Osborne ("decedent") dead. A subsequent police investigation led to the appellant's arrest for the murder of James Osborne.

Alphonso Belton, appellant's cousin, accompanied the appellant to the Superior Court on the morning of his arrest. Belton claimed that the appellant asked to see his attorney as soon as the officers confronted him at the Superior Court entrance. He also stated that the detectives told the appellant that he could see his lawyer once they arrived at the station house. When the appellant asked why he was being arrested the officers replied that it was for murder, to which the appellant replied that "he knew [they] were going to get him." The appellant also stated that he had a scheduled court date for an unrelated drug charge. According to Detective Truesdale, at no point during the arrest did the appellant request his attorney in the drug case or any other attorney.

Following the arrest and arrival at the police station, Detective Truesdale placed the appellant in an interview room and secured one of his hands to the floor. The appellant was offered access to the bathroom, something to eat or drink, and cigarettes. A short time later, Detectives Truesdale and Darryl Richmond entered the interview room and began the formal interrogation of the appellant. Detective Richmond read the appellant his Miranda rights from a PD-47 Rights Card and the appellant responded by nodding his head in the affirmative as if he understood the meaning of his rights. When Detective Richmond asked the appellant the "waiver of rights" questions on the PD-47 card, the appellant answered yes, initialing each question. The appellant did not ask the Detectives to repeat any of the instructions and the officers had no other indication that the appellant had difficulty understanding what was transpiring. Before signing the PD-47 card and submitting to questioning, the appellant asked Detective Truesdale if he needed a lawyer, to which Detective Truesdale responded, "I can't answer that for you, you have to make that decision on your own." The appellant then signed the PD-47 card and did not inquire about an attorney again.

Detective Truesdale asked the appellant about his involvement in the beating death of the decedent. The appellant responded that he had no part in the decedent's death, but when the detective told the appellant that he didn't believe him, the appellant relented, confessed to some culpability and consented to a videotaped recording of his statement.


A. The Suppression Hearing

Prior to trial, appellant filed a motion to suppress a videotaped post-arrest statement he made to MPD detectives on the grounds that: (1) he invoked his right to speak with an attorney; (2) he lacked the intellectual capacity to knowingly and intelligently waive his Miranda*fn3 rights; and (3) there was an unreasonable and unnecessary delay from the time of the appellant's arrest to his presentment before the court.

At the pretrial suppression hearing, the government called Dr. David Shapiro to testify as an expert in forensic psychology. Dr. Shapiro testified that he interviewed the appellant on January 29, 2003. After reviewing the results of the Grisso Miranda Instrument ("Grisso Test"),*fn4 Dr. Shapiro believed that the appellant understood his Miranda rights when they were read to him based on the appellant's high score on the Grisso Test. Additionally, Dr. Shapiro testified that it was not possible for the appellant to have acquired his ...

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