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Haywood v. United States

February 19, 2009


Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (F-7973-04) (Hon. Erik P. Christian, Trial Judge).

The opinion of the court was delivered by: King, Senior Judge

Argued October 15, 2008

(As Amended May 7, 2009)*fn1

Before REID, Associate Judge, KING and FARRELL,*fn2 Senior Judges.

Appellant Ricky Haywood was found guilty by a jury of second-degree murder while armed. On appeal, he contends that the trial court erred in curtailing his cross-examination of a government witness and in precluding him from making an argument related to the government's failure to call certain witnesses. We are satisfied that there was no error requiring reversal in either of the trial court's rulings. Accordingly, we affirm.


According to the testimony presented by the government at trial, Sylvia Johnson (hereinafter "Sylvia Johnson" or "Sylvia") had several acquaintances gather at her home on the evening of July 29, 1989. All of the individuals, including Sylvia, were deaf and socially connected through Gallaudet University's Model Secondary School for the Deaf. The first to arrive was the victim, Ronnie Johnson (hereinafter "Ronnie"), who was not related to Sylvia. Larry Nolan arrived soon thereafter, and found Ronnie and Sylvia arguing in front of her home, with Ronnie waving a knife at her. Sylvia eventually took the knife from him and placed it inside. Later that evening, Marvin Rankin, Aaron Williamson, Marcus Shelton, and the appellant, Ricky Haywood, all arrived.

Haywood had an intense dislike of Ronnie, because nearly three years earlier, Ronnie had a consensual sexual encounter with Renee Eades, Haywood's then girlfriend. Very soon after that encounter, Eades learned that she was pregnant, but she never gave birth to the child.*fn3 Both Haywood and Eades believed that Ronnie had fathered the child, and as a result, Haywood cultivated the idea that Ronnie had raped Eades.

After all the men arrived, Ronnie, who had been standing on Sylvia's front porch, stepped down to the sidewalk and exchanged angry words with the others. At that point, four of the men, including Haywood, assaulted him. The scuffle was brief; three of the men used their fists, while Aaron Williamson hit Ronnie with a wooden axe handle. Ronnie, who was strong and athletic, emerged with only a knot on his head, some minor cuts and a bloody lip. Ronnie then taunted the men, infuriating Haywood.

Sylvia was nearby watching the scuffle. Haywood drew near her and she passed him an object. Immediately after, Haywood ran toward Ronnie, who fled around the corner into a nearby alley. Marcus Shelton and Aaron Williamson joined the chase, but were outrun. Moments later, Haywood emerged from the alley with bloody hands and a spot of blood on his sneakers. He signed the words, "I stabbed him," washed his hands and left. Ronnie's body was later found in the alley near Sylvia Johnson's home.

After the Metropolitan Police Department ("MPD") arrived, Marcus Shelton and Sylvia gave written statements to the police. The MPD recovered several items of physical evidence from the area: a medium-sized gold t-shirt, brown trousers, a pair of white sneakers, a blue short-sleeved buttoned shirt, some broken glass fragments from a window, some sections of surface paint from Sylvia's door, a swab of blood from a lawn chair, and four kitchen knives from Sylvia's home.

Ronnie's autopsy showed bruises and abrasions on his head and face, and bruises on his forehead and right arm. All of these occurred within twenty-four hours of his death. A single stab wound to the chest was caused by a single-edged blade of at least three inches in length. The knife wound punctured Ronnie's heart, lung, and pulmonary artery, causing blood loss and massive internal bleeding. Ronnie lost consciousness two to three minutes after being stabbed and he died of blood loss.

Despite the evidence collected and the statements from Marcus Shelton and Sylvia, no arrests were made for Ronnie's death. Over time, the two MPD detectives who had investigated the case retired, as did the crime scene technician, and the medical examiner. Sylvia moved to North Carolina, Marvin Rankin moved to New York City, and Renee Eades moved to Mississippi. Haywood, Aaron Williamson, Marcus Shelton, and Larry Nolan remained in the vicinity of the District of Columbia. The case file remained with the MPD, and its contents were placed in storage.

Almost fifteen years later, Reese Cane, an acquaintance of Sylvia Johnson, contacted the MPD with information about the killing. On February 26, 2004, Cane spoke with Det. Jeff Mayberry of the MPD Major Cold Case Unit. Cane recounted the events of the night of the killing, as told to him by Sylvia. Det. Mayberry located the original homicide case file and began an investigation. He traveled to North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and New York to interview witnesses. He gathered the physical evidence from 1989 and sent some of the items for testing to the FBI's crime laboratory.*fn4 He also assembled a photographic array for Marvin Rankin, who identified Haywood as the assailant. Det. Mayberry's investigation led to the arrests of Haywood and Sylvia Johnson for Ronnie's murder. On March 30, 2005, they were indicted by a grand jury for first-degree ...

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