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Martinez v. United States

October 29, 2009

EDWARD L. MARTINEZ, APPELLANT,
v.
UNITED STATES, APPELLEE.



Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, (F-3531-04), (Hon. Erik P. Christian, Trial Judge).

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

Argued December 3, 2008

Before RUIZ, GLICKMAN and THOMPSON, Associate Judges.

On June 7, 2005, after a trial before the Honorable Erik P. Christian, a jury found appellant Edward Martinez guilty as charged of first-degree premeditated murder while armed (D.C. Code §§ 22-2101, -4502 (2001)) and possession of a firearm during a crime of violence (D.C. Code §§ 22-3204 (b) (2001)). Appellant seeks reversal of his convictions, citing (1) restrictions that the trial judge imposed on defense counsel's cross-examination and impeachment of a government witness, and (2) the erroneous aiding-and-abetting instruction that the trial judge gave to the jury. We affirm the judgments of conviction.

I.

The case arose out of the killing of David Hicks in the alley behind his home in the 800 block of Kennedy Street, N.W. At trial, the government presented several witnesses. Daniel Powell testified that, on April 16, 2003, he spent part of the afternoon in the company of appellant Martinez (whom he called "Nitty"), Hicks, and another man. With appellant driving, the men rode around in a "greenish-bluish," four-door rental car, eventually stopping at a liquor store. After purchasing alcohol, they drove to the alley behind Hicks's home. Powell left the group for five minutes to use the bathroom at his sister's house. He returned to find appellant and Hicks arguing. As the altercation escalated, appellant threw a cup of liquor into Hicks's eyes. Crying and complaining that his eyes were burning, Hicks picked up a brick and "told [appellant] to get his damn car out of his yard." Appellant drove away, saying "That's how you feel? I'll be back." Fifteen or twenty minutes later, appellant returned to the alley in the same car, with another man in the passenger seat. Wearing a ski mask, the passenger exited the car, ran up to Hicks, shot Hicks with a pump-action shotgun, and pumped the weapon as if to fire once more. Powell ran out of the alley but, about five minutes later, encountered appellant again. Appellant drove up alongside Powell and, placing a finger to his own lips, said "Shh," an utterance that Powell understood as an acknowledgment that appellant "did something" and "didn't want [Powell] to say nothing."

Other government witnesses corroborated portions of Powell's account and provided additional details. Donna Baxter, who was in the alley behind Hicks's home that day, testified that she "didn't know what the fight [had been] over" but saw that Hicks was "upset." Baxter also testified that she saw a masked gunman get out of a car and point a shotgun at Hicks. After shooting Hicks, the gunman re-entered the car and the car sped away. Baxter saw only "the shadow of the driver."

James Bush, who lived across the alley from Hicks, heard people arguing across the alley and then saw a dark-colored car pull off from the vicinity of Hicks's yard. Bush could not see the occupants of the car. Five or ten minutes later, Bush heard a loud boom, looked out, and saw the same car pulling off, "going real fast." Bush went outside to see what was going on and found that Hicks had been shot.

Brenda Lampkin testified that on the night of the shooting, she and her friend "Pat" (Ms.Willie Moore) were standing on the corner of the alley behind Hicks's home. Lampkin saw a dark blue car enter the alley and almost hit the two women. Lampkin could see that "Nitty"(whom she identified in court as appellant Martinez) was driving the car and that there was a passenger "laying down" in the car. After the car "went on up the alley," Lampkin heard a noise that Moore said was a gunshot. The women went into the alley and saw Hicks on the ground. Earlier in the day, Lampkin had witnessed a fight between Hicks and appellant.

Moore offered similar testimony. She testified that she and Lampkin were near the alley when a dark "greenish blue" car turned into the alley and almost hit her and Lampkin. Moore saw two people in the car, and, although she did not know the name of the driver at the time, she recognized him as a man she had seen earlier in the day when she was with Hicks. After the car drove past, Moore heard a gunshot come from the direction of Hicks's house. Moore made an in-court identification of appellant as the driver.*fn1

Metropolitan Police Department ("MPD") Officer Andre Harrison, who assisted in executing the arrest warrant for appellant, testified that appellant "took flight" when the officer approached and sought to speak with him. MPD Sergeant Fred Johnson also testified for the government. Sergeant Johnson was not the lead detective in the case, but interviewed witnesses, conducted photo identification procedures with Powell and Baxter, and prepared the PD-163 arrest report.

The defense presented no witnesses. After one day of deliberations, the jury returned guilty verdicts on both counts of the indictment.

II.

Appellant argues that the trial court erred by limiting his proposed cross-examination and presentation of evidence relating to the alleged bias of Sergeant Johnson. Anticipating before trial that Sergeant Johnson would testify for the government, defense counsel informed the court that she intended to cross-examine Johnson about information the defense had received that "Johnson at this time has been relieved of his powers as a police officer and is under investigation for a number of matters." Defense counsel requested that the government be compelled to provide information as to "what those matters are that he's being investigated for and where they are at this stage in the investigation." The prosecutor responded by telling the court that the nature of the investigation "is totally administrative and not criminal," and that there was "no investigation inside the U.S. Attorney's Office concerning" Johnson. The court then denied the defense request to compel disclosure, explaining that ...


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