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Scott v. United States

July 31, 2008


Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (F-3359-03) (Hon. Rafael Diaz, Trial Judge).

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

Argued January 4, 2007

Before RUIZ and BLACKBURNE-RIGSBY, Associate Judges, and SCHWELB, Senior Judge.

Following a jury trial, Randolph E. Scott was convicted of assault with a dangerous weapon, in violation of D.C. Code § 22-402 (2001), and first-degree sexual abuse, in violation of D.C. Code § 22-3002. On appeal, Scott argues that the trial court improperly limited his cross-examination of the complainant and erred in permitting the victim's six-year-old son to testify and to be led by the prosecutor during direct examination. He also contends that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions, and that the two convictions merged. We conclude there is no reversible error and affirm.

I. Factual Summary

In March of 2003, C.M. began a romantic relationship with appellant. Two months later, in May, she received a phone call from her former boyfriend, Antoine Turner, who asked C.M. if he could stay at her house for a while. C.M. agreed to let Turner stay with her, and Turner moved into C.M.'s house on June 2, 2003. A few days later, C.M. had a party at her home which spanned two or three days. Guests consumed alcohol and marijuana, and C.M. admitted at trial that she also used PCP during the party.

On Friday, June 6, while the party was still ongoing, appellant and Turner spent part of the day together away from C.M.'s home. When they returned, appellant told C.M. that he wanted to "see something" upstairs. C.M. accompanied appellant to the second-floor hallway, where he asked if she had had sex with Turner since he had moved into her house, and called her a "ho." C.M. responded that even if she had, she had "already [taken her] bath and everything," and therefore appellant would not be able to determine whether she had had sex with Turner.*fn1

C.M. then entered the bathroom adjacent to the hallway, followed by appellant, who remained there while C.M. used the toilet. As C.M. was pulling her pants up, appellant slapped her on the face. C.M. fell to the floor as a result of the blow, and her earring came off as her face hit the bathtub. While C.M. stood up and argued with appellant, Turner, who was at the bottom of the staircase leading up to the hallway, told appellant not to argue with C.M. while her son, Michael,*fn2 was upstairs in the room next to the bathroom. Appellant left the bathroom to talk to Turner, and C.M. locked herself in the bathroom.

A few moments later, appellant knocked on the bathroom door and told C.M. that he wanted to talk to her, assuring her that he had no intention of harming her. C.M. opened the door, and appellant entered the bathroom, closing the door behind him. Saying that he wanted to examine her vagina, he punched her, ripped her pants and underwear off, and kicked her with his boots.*fn3 He knocked C.M. to the floor, inserted his fingers in C.M.'s vagina, and then smelled his fingers in an attempt to determine whether C.M. had engaged in sexual activity with Turner.

C.M. managed to escape from the bathroom and ran into her son's bedroom, where she attempted to hide in the closet. Appellant found her inside the closet and threw her to the floor. Michael, who had been sleeping, awoke as a result of the commotion, saw appellant hitting his mother, and tried to defend her by hitting appellant with his plastic toy sword. Meanwhile, Turner came into Michael's bedroom and, with knife in hand, got appellant out of the room, saying he should not be fighting in front of the child. Appellant and Turner then went downstairs together.

A few moments later, C.M. ran downstairs, without telling either man, and called the Metropolitan Police Department ("MPD") from her neighbor's house. C.M. told the responding officer, Deirdre Fisher, that her boyfriend "punched her in the face [and] . . . rammed his fingers in her vagina." According to the officer, C.M. was "upset, distraught, shaking, holding her side as if she was in pain." She was taken to Howard University Hospital for examination, where she reported that she was "physically and sexually assaulted by her significant other." The physical examination at the hospital revealed that C.M. had suffered abrasions and contusions on her body as well as in her genitals.

Appellant was not arrested on the evening of the assault, but he turned himself in a few days later, on June 9, 2003. At trial, C.M. and her son Michael testified about the events. The defense presented only a general denial of the events and appellant did not testify on his own behalf.*fn4 The jury convicted appellant of assault with a dangerous weapon (the boots) and first-degree sexual abuse.

II. Analysis

A. Limits on Cross-Examination

Appellant complains that the trial judge improperly precluded his cross-examination of C.M. with respect to her prior sexual experiences with Turner and her motivation to falsely accuse him. "The right to cross-examine the government's witnesses is inherent in a defendant's Sixth Amendment right of confrontation." Jones v. United States, 516 A.2d 513, 517 (D.C. 1986) (citing Davis v. Alaska, 415 U.S. 308, 315-16 (1974)). Denial of the right is therefore subject to harmless error review under the standard for constitutional error, i.e., whether a reviewing court can conclude that the error is harmless "beyond a reasonable doubt." Chapman v. California, 386 U.S. 18, 24 (1967). Once a "meaningful" cross-examination has been allowed, however, "this 'right is subject to reasonable limits imposed at the discretion of the trial judge.'" Flores v. United States, 698 A.2d 474, 479 (D.C. 1997) (quoting Scull v. United States, 564 A.2d 1161, 1164 ...

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