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Coleman v. United States

May 22, 2008


Appeals from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (F-2232-01 & F-1057-02) (Hon. Robert I. Richter, Trial Judge).

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

Argued October 24, 2006

Before RUIZ and KRAMER, Associate Judges, and NEBEKER, Senior Judge.

This case involves the shooting deaths of two teenage boys, Mylan Lucas and Hakim Williams, in July of 2000, in Southeast Washington. Quincy Jones and Antoine Coleman were jointly tried for the murders before a jury. The jury convicted Coleman of two counts of first-degree premeditated murder, one count of carrying a dangerous weapon (CDW), one count of possession of a firearm during a crime of violence (PFCV), and one count of obstruction of justice. Jones was convicted of two counts of second-degree murder, as lesser included offenses of the first-degree premeditated murder charges, one count of PFCV, and one count of CDW. We affirm Coleman's convictions. With respect to Jones, we affirm his conviction for CDW but vacate his convictions for second-degree murder and PFCV because the trial judge erroneously instructed the jury as to the intent required to sustain those guilty verdicts as an aider and abettor.

Factual Background

The Government's Case

The government presented the testimony of two eyewitnesses as well as acquaintances of Coleman and Jones with whom they spoke about the murders. A description of the testimony at trial is necessary for our analysis.

Samuel Bowman

Samuel Bowman testified that on July 14, 2000, he was drinking alcohol by the parking lot near his apartment. Around 10:30 p.m., he went inside his apartment where several young men were playing video games, including his cousin, Micky Curtis, and his friends, appellant Jones, Andre Scott and Dante Scott.*fn1 A little while later, Samuel's brother, Kevin, came to the window of the apartment and told the occupants that somebody was breaking into Jones's car. Kevin asked them to "hold him down," which was a request to "hand him [a] gun." After Curtis gave him a shotgun, Kevin walked to the parking lot. According to Samuel, Jones then went outside to "talk to the boys that . . . . [Kevin] said had broken in [sic] his car."

Samuel Bowman testified that he stood in the doorway to his apartment and could see Jones talking to the two teenage boys -- Lucas and Williams -- in the parking lot but could not hear what they were saying.*fn2 After Jones spoke with them briefly, Samuel saw him cross the parking lot and go into a building. A "couple of minutes later" he saw Jones and Coleman*fn3 come out of the building and walk toward Lucas and Williams. Jones was carrying a "machine gun."*fn4 As they approached, Jones handed the weapon to Coleman and then patted down Lucas's and Williams's pockets.

After the pat-down, Samuel saw that Coleman started firing the machine gun; he also saw his brother, Kevin, shoot the victims with the shotgun.*fn5

Dante Scott

Dante Scott also testified for the government as an eyewitness to the murders. He testified that on July 14, 2000, he was playing video games with Samuel, Curtis, and Jones. Kevin came to the window and told them that "someone was messing around with Quincy's [i.e., appellant Jones's] car." He asked for a gun, and someone from inside the apartment -- Scott did not know who -- handed him a shotgun. Dante then left the apartment and stood by the entrance to the apartment building. There, he saw Kevin, Jones and Coleman in the parking lot. Kevin was holding the shotgun that he had been given by the person inside the apartment and Jones was holding a "rifle-machine gun." Dante said that he saw Jones "go[] through the pockets or search the pockets of . . . both of [Lucas and Williams]," and then Coleman and Bowman shot them.

According to Dante, he then turned around and walked to the exit on the opposite side of the apartment building to retrieve his car, which was parked behind the apartment complex. He drove to the parking lot where Lucas and Williams had just been shot. Jones asked him for a ride home, and he agreed. According to Dante, Jones was "shook up," but they did not talk about the shooting.

Dante also testified that one evening soon after the shootings, he spoke with Coleman about the murders. According to Dante, Coleman told him that he knew one of the victims from the neighborhood, because he "stayed around his . . . daughter's mother's complex . . . . [and] gave him kind of a look."*fn6

Andre Scott

Dante's brother, Andre, testified that Coleman confessed to the murders on two separate occasions. He testified that on July 14, 2000, he was sleeping when one of his friends awoke him and told him that "one of [his] friends got shot." He looked outside his apartment window and saw two bodies on the ground. Andre walked over to Greene's apartment, where he saw Coleman. According to Andre, he told Coleman about the two bodies, and Coleman responded "you know how I do, I don't play." Andre understood this to mean that Coleman was responsible for shooting Lucas and Williams.

The following day, in the afternoon, Andre was with Kevin and Coleman in their neighborhood. Coleman described the shooting, saying that somebody had attempted to break into a car in the parking lot and then he "tried to shoot them six times apiece."

Andre also testified that about a week after the murders, Coleman told him that he was "going to get rid of the gun, break it -- take it apart or something . . . . because the police was already on to Kevin." Scott knew the gun Coleman was referring to because he had previously seen him with it.*fn7

Rhea Shariati

Rhea Shariati, who was Coleman's girlfriend at the time of the shooting, testified for the government but was not an eyewitness to the murders. One day in May of 2001, Shariati visited Coleman in jail and asked "what was going on." According to Shariati, Coleman told her that the two victims were attempting to break into a car, and that he and Kevin held them at gunpoint, and then shot them.*fn8

Shariati testified that she was "in love with him so [she] was going to stick by him," and she continued to have contact with Coleman -- both in person and through letter correspondence. In one of the letters, Coleman had instructed her to tell the police that she did not know anything about the murders if they ever interviewed her.*fn9

Walter Thomas

Walter Thomas testified that Jones confessed his involvement in the murders to him. On February 15, 2002, Thomas was arrested in the District for a probation violation, and he was placed in a holding cell with Jones.*fn10 Thomas went to court and after his probation was revoked, he was placed in a cell in the D.C. Jail with Jones.

Thomas testified that while they were in the cell together, Jones confessed to his involvement in the murders. According to Thomas, Jones told him that Kevin alerted him that somebody was attempting to break into his car.*fn11 Jones told him that he then retrieved a rifle from Coleman's apartment, approached the victims, and patted them down. Kevin then asked Jones "what you going to do about this here, he tried to carry you and so what you going to do?," Jones replied, "fuck 'em." After he uttered those words, Coleman and Kevin shot the victims.*fn12

The Defense Case

Jones did not testify at trial and his defense was a general denial. Defense counsel relied on the impeachments of the three witnesses who described his involvement in the murders -- Samuel Bowman, Andre Scott, and Walter Thomas, see notes 5, 6 and 12, supra -- to create a reasonable doubt of guilt.

Coleman's defense theory was that Andre Scott and Kevin Bowman were the shooters. He testified on his own behalf, denied shooting either of the victims, and denied that Jones was present in the parking lot when Andre and Kevin shot them. According to Coleman, on the evening of the murders, he was near the parking lot talking to Kevin, Andre and Jones. The group split up when Jones "walked off." Coleman then walked away also, towards another street in an attempt to ...

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