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Brown v. United States

September 20, 2007


Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. (F-1832-02) (Hon. Frederick H. Weisberg, Trial Judge).

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

Argued May 24, 2007

Before WASHINGTON, Chief Judge, and FARRELL and THOMPSON, Associate Judges.

Appellant Bradford Brown appeals from his convictions for unlawful distribution of cocaine and unlawful possession of heroin. See D.C. Code §§ 48-904.01 (a)(1) & (d). Brown contends that the trial court committed reversible error by excluding certain evidence and argument that he contends was "central to the defense theory" regarding the unlawful distribution charge. He also contends that the trial court erred in denying his pre-trial motion to suppress evidence that police obtained after forcibly entering, without a search warrant, the apartment where he was a guest. We reject these contentions and affirm Brown's convictions.


On March 22, 2002, members of the Metropolitan Police Department were conducting a buy-bust operation in the Trinidad area of Northeast Washington. At about 1:00 a.m., three officers were traveling in an unmarked car: Investigator Walter Ellerbe was driving and Officer Karen Taylor and Investigator Randall Parker were passengers. All were dressed in civilian clothing, and none carried a badge or handcuffs. Investigator Parker saw a woman, later identified as Maureen Thorne, standing on the corner. He engaged her in conversation and told her he wanted to purchase two "dime bags" of crack cocaine. Thorne stated, "I'll take you to get them." She got into the car and gave the team directions to the 1700 block of Capitol Avenue, N.E. Investigator Ellerbe stayed in the car while Investigator Parker and Officer Taylor went with Thorne to 1720 Capitol Avenue, Apartment 2.

Thorne knocked on the apartment door and a female voice answered "Who is it?" Thorne responded by saying "Maureen." Patricia Ingraham opened the door and told Thorne and the two officers to come in. The officers saw three people besides Ingraham in the apartment: an older woman on the couch in the living room, later identified as Edwina Powell, the resident of the apartment; appellant, watching television in the living room; and a man later identified as Paul Morris sitting at a table in a dining room area behind the living room.

According to the undercover officers' testimony, Thorne walked toward Morris in the dining room, telling Investigator Parker, "get [your cocaine] from [Ingraham]; I'm getting mine from Paul." Officer Taylor watched Thorne approach Morris in the dining room, saw Thorne give Morris money, and watched Morris cut cocaine on a mirror and give some to Thorne. While that transaction was occurring, Ingraham asked Investigator Parker, "What you want?" and he asked for two $10 bags of crack. Ingraham asked for money and Investigator Parker handed her $20 in pre-recorded bills. Ingraham took the money to appellant and told appellant that Parker had asked for crack. Appellant reached into his right sock, pulled out a clear bag that contained tannish-white loose rocks, and handed it to Ingraham. He also pulled out some green baggies but put those back into his sock.

Ingraham emptied three rocks onto a nearby living room table. She split one of the rocks into two pieces with a razor and, with a bobby pin, pushed the two halves of the rock into purple baggies. Ingraham gave the baggies to Parker and left the remaining cocaine on the table. As the officers walked toward the door to exit the apartment, Investigator Parker spoke to appellant, saying "All right, Brown." Appellant responded "All right, see you, Shorty."

The undercover officers went straight back to their vehicle and Investigator Parker radioed a description of the individuals involved in the sale of drugs and the location and lay-out of the apartment to the arrest team. Investigator Parker further told the team that "Bradford Brown is in the apartment. That's who I bought from." Investigator Parker made this comment about appellant Brown because police had an outstanding arrest warrant for Brown in connection with another case.

Within minutes, the arrest team went to the apartment and knocked. The officers heard a female voice say "It's the police, it's the police." Hearing sounds "like people running out of the apartment," and hearing a police officer who was stationed at the back of the apartment radio "there [are] people coming out the back," one of the officers kicked open the door. Police found appellant sitting in a chair at the dining room table.

Appellant subsequently was identified by the undercover buy-bust team during a drive-by identification. Officers searched appellant incident to arrest and found in his right sock three green baggies of white powder, which later tested positive for heroin. Officers also found on appellant $179 in cash, including the $20 in pre-recorded funds.


Appellant argues that the trial court erred by cutting off and then precluding questioning and argument designed to establish that (1) the arrest team found Morris hiding in a closet with what defense counsel proffered was "a large rock of cocaine and a substantial amount of money;" (2) the arrest team found cocaine and drug paraphernalia at the dining room location where Morris had been sitting and selling cocaine; and (3) no cocaine or paraphernalia were found on the living room table where the dime bags sold to Officer Parker allegedly were prepared. The trial court's rulings, appellant argues, kept his trial counsel from providing to the jury a basis for inferring ...

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