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Owens v. United States

October 8, 2009

GLENN OWENS AND JAMAL YOUNG, APPELLANTS,
v.
UNITED STATES, APPELLEE.



Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (F-2060-03 & F-1923-03), (Hon. Ann O'Regan Keary, Trial Judge).

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

Argued May 20, 2009

Before KRAMER and BLACKBURNE-RIGSBY, Associate Judges, and FARRELL, Senior Judge.

Appellant Glenn Owens was convicted of second-degree murder and appellant Jamal Young was convicted of aggravated assault in connection with the beating death of John Short. On appeal, Owens argues that the trial court committed reversible error by improperly instructing the jury on voluntary manslaughter, giving a special causation instruction, and failing to give a corrective instruction after comments made by a government witness about Owens' counsel during cross-examination. Young argues that the evidence was not sufficient to sustain his conviction for aggravated assault. We affirm the convictions of both appellants.

I. Factual Background

On October 9, 2002, Gary Cunningham, Owens, and Young assaulted John Short in the 200 block of Adams Street, Northeast. There was testimony that the assailants struck Short repeatedly and forcefully with their fists and jumped on him. Short walked away from the altercation with assistance. After a witness called 911, an ambulance took Short to Howard University Hospital for emergency treatment. Later that day, he died. Dr. Marie-Lydie Pierre-Louis, Interim Chief Medical Examiner for the District of Columbia, testified that Short's death was caused by "blunt impact with compression of abdomen, fractures of ribs, injury to spleen, pancreas and stomach."

Owens, Young, and Cunningham were charged with second-degree murder in connection with Short's death. Cunningham pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter prior to trial. Owens and Young went to trial. The jury found Owens guilty of second-degree murder and Young guilty of the lesser-included offense of aggravated assault. This appeal followed.

II. Jury Instructions

Owens argues that the trial court committed reversible error by (1) erroneously instructing the jury on voluntary manslaughter, (2) failing to instruct the jury on involuntary manslaughter, and (3) giving a special causation instruction. Owens also argues that the trial court committed reversible error by failing to give a corrective instruction after Howard DeShields, a government witness, accused Owens' counsel of identifying him as a government witness to other inmates during a visit to the jail.

A. Standard of Review

"Where no objection is made to an instruction, we review for plain error." Williams v. United States, 858 A.2d 984, 991-92 (D.C. 2004) (citation omitted).

Under the plain error standard . . . [a defendant] not only must establish error, but also that the error is plain and affects substantial rights. If he satisfies these three hurdles, he must then show either a miscarriage of justice, that is, actual innocence; or that the trial court's error seriously affected the fairness, integrity or public reputation of judicial proceedings.

Id. at 998 (citations and internal quotation ...


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