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Ferguson v. United States

August 13, 2009

MELVIN L. FERGUSON, APPELLANT
v.
UNITED STATES, APPELLEE



Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (F-2502-04) (Hon. Susan R. Winfield, Pretrial Motions Judge) (Hon. Maurice A. Ross, Trial Judge).

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

Submitted March 27, 2008

Before GLICKMAN and THOMPSON, Associate Judges, and TERRY, Senior Judge.

Appellant was convicted of assault with intent to kill while armed (AWIKWA), aggravated assault while armed (AAWA), and simple assault. On appeal from those convictions, he argues (1) that the trial court erroneously denied his pro se motions to dismiss the indictment for lack of a speedy trial, and (2) that the court abused its discretion by allowing the government to introduce evidence of his post-crime conduct to demonstrate consciousness of guilt. We affirm.

I.

A. The Government's Evidence

On the evening of December 11, 2003, appellant and his then-fiancée Sheila Rainford were at the home of Ms. Rainford's daughter on Southern Avenue, S.E. While discussing the possibility of getting an apartment of their own, appellant suggested that Ms. Rainford call her friend, Louis Gaston, to ask if he would be willing to let Rainford use his address to secure Section 8 housing.*fn1 Ms. Rainford agreed and called Mr. Gaston while appellant was still in the room. Gaston suggested to Rainford that she come to his home to discuss the issue further.

Ms. Rainford's daughter drove her to Gaston's home, and when she arrived, she called appellant to let him know she was there. She then handed the phone to Mr. Gaston, who had expressed an interest in having appellant paint his house. Ms. Rainford heard Gaston tell appellant, "Oh no, no, no, it's not like that. The girl really loves you, you know."*fn2

Shortly after this conversation, appellant showed up at Gaston's house just as Rainford was getting ready to leave. Ms. Rainford testified that appellant appeared to be very angry. He took a half-pint bottle of vodka from Rainford and "drank it down, all of it, straight." Appellant then demanded that Ms. Rainford return the engagement ring he had given her, and threatened to "kick her ass" and end their relationship if she did not leave Gaston's home with him. Gaston tried to talk to appellant, referring to him in derogatory terms. Apparently upset by Gaston's choice of words, appellant hit him in the head, knocking him unconscious.*fn3 Gaston suffered injuries to his left eye, which was swollen shut and bled significantly.

Appellant and Ms. Rainford left Gaston's house, but Rainford returned shortly thereafter to check on Gaston. She found him just as he was regaining consciousness. She called her daughter and asked to be picked up, but her daughter refused to come. Appellant then returned to Gaston's house, and he and Rainford left together. As they were walking out the front door, appellant turned and stabbed Ms. Rainford under her right breast with a "butterfly knife." When Rainford asked him why he had stabbed her and told him to leave her alone, appellant stabbed her again in the face, causing lacerations to her mouth and tongue. Ms. Rainford could not recall what happened after that, but she was "absolutely positive" that appellant was the person who stabbed her. She also admitted in her testimony that she had been drinking that evening.*fn4

Tanya Latson, a neighbor of Mr. Gaston, was getting ready for bed that evening when she heard a woman's voice shouting, "Don't kill me, I love you." Ms. Latson looked out her living room window toward the alley down the street and saw a man wearing a work jacket striking a woman who appeared to be on her knees pleading with him. Ms. Latson called the police and then went upstairs to bed. Moments later, Ms. Latson heard more yelling, and when she went back to the window, she saw the same man kicking the same woman in the head, next to a brick wall. Ms. Latson called the police again and "told them they would need to bring an ambulance." She saw the man walking back and forth from the woman's body to a nearby hill, and believed he was trying to "drag her by the arm." The woman was not moving and appeared to be unconscious, and bleeding as well. The man fled when the police approached and their sirens became audible.

Sheela Long Weems, who also lived nearby, was watching television and trying to put her son to sleep when she heard a man shouting obscenities outside her window. Ms. Weems looked out the window and saw a man kicking something and "putting his back, his whole body, into every kick that he took." When she went out the front door to see what was going on, she saw a man kicking a partially clothed woman in the alley next to her home. Ms. Weems asked, "What the [expletive] are you doing?" He responded, "This drunk bitch," and continued to kick the woman.

Ms. Weems turned and started to go back inside to call the police, but they were already on their way.

Metropolitan Police Officer Stuart Emerman was the first officer to respond. When he arrived, he saw a partially clothed woman, later identified as Sheila Rainford, sitting in the alley and bleeding profusely from apparent stab wounds. Officer Emerman called for an ambulance and remained with her until the ambulance arrived. The officer asked Ms. Rainford what had happened but was unable to understand her answer, mainly because her mouth was filled with blood. After Ms. Rainford left in the ambulance, Officer Emerman canvassed the area and recovered a knife approximately twenty to thirty feet from the spot where he had found her.

Ms. Rainford suffered a total of fifteen stab wounds in the face, chest, breasts, and abdomen. Her stomach was perforated in two places, and she had a collapsed lung. She also required plastic surgery to correct lacerated tendons in her left arm. She was hospitalized for approximately five days and received additional follow-up care after her release.

Lakeisha McKinley, Ms. Rainford's sixteen-year-old daughter, visited her mother in the hospital and cared for her after she was released. At trial Ms. McKinley described her mother's injuries and scars, and recounted some of the lasting effects of those injuries, such as slurred speech. She also testified that she saw appellant "a couple of weeks later" at the Congress Heights Metro station, getting off a bus. Ms. McKinley looked at appellant and called his name, but he ran off when he saw her. She also testified that appellant left a number of personal items at Ms. Rainford's home, including his car, some important paperwork, and clothing. Shortly after her mother was released from the hospital, Ms. McKinley ...


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