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Goodwine v. United States

March 18, 2010


Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. (DVM1321-08) (Hon. Erik P. Christian, Trial Judge).

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

Argued December 14, 2009

Before RUIZ and KRAMER, Associate Judges, and SCHWELB, Senior Judge.

Appellant, Phyllis Goodwine, appeals from her simple assault conviction, arguing that the trial court committed reversible error in admitting certain hearsay statements and evidence of her prior bad acts, as well as in excluding the details of the victim's prior convictions. Appellant also asserts that an alleged recantation by the victim and the absence of a witness at trial created reasonable doubt as to her guilt.*fn1 Appellant further contends that because her trial was to the court, not a jury, the trial court plainly erred by adding 100 hours of community service to her sentence. We conclude that none of her claims has merit and affirm.

I. Factual Background

The evidence presented at trial was as follows. On the evening of May 28, 2008, Henry Moore, appellant's ex-boyfriend and the father of her three year old daughter, arrived at the home of appellant's sister to drop off their daughter. As Moore was returning to his car, appellant approached him and called him a "b****," kicked his car, and then began to hit him with a bookbag and her hand. Moore called 911 from his cell phone during the assault.

Officer Michelle Riddlehoover arrived on the scene within two to three minutes after the 911 call and found Moore standing outside of his car, "pacing back and forth" and "kind of shaking a little bit."She noticed that "he had a small red . . . mark on his left temple." When Officer Riddlehoover inquired about what happened, Moore responded "fast" and in an "elevated" voice, appearing "frustrated . . . [and] upset and agitated," that appellant had followed him after he dropped off their daughter, kicked his car, "hit him in the head," and then "sped off." At trial, Moore testified that, despite his efforts to block the assault, appellant "got a couple of good hits on [his] face and [his] temple." Later that night, emergency room personnel prescribed him pain medication for "a closed head injury."

II. Legal Analysis

A. Evidentiary Claims

1. Moore's Statements to Police and a 911 Call were Properly Admitted

Appellant argues that the trial court erroneously admitted both the tape of Moore's 911 call and Officer Riddlehoover's testimony regarding Moore's statements, alleging that both pieces of evidence were inadmissible hearsay and admitted in violation of the Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment. With respect to the Confrontation Clause, it is not violated where, as here, the declarant Moore testified at trial and was available for cross-examination by defense counsel.*fn2

Moreover, the trial court properly admitted the tape of Moore's 911 call because there can be no question that his statements on the tape satisfy both the excited utterance and the present sense impression exceptions to the hearsay rule.*fn3 See generally Johnson v. United States, 980 A.2d 1174, 1185 (D.C. 2009); Hallums v. United States, 841 A.2d 1270, 1276 (D.C. 2004). Moore made the 911 call while "Ms. Goodwine was hitting [him]" and he was "angry and upset."*fn4 Moore's statements to Officer Riddlehoover also qualify as excited utterances and were thus properly admitted. See Johnson, 980 A.2d at 1185. Appellant argued that these statements were not spontaneous, as required by the excited utterance exception, because they were made after the assault had ended and the appellant had left the scene. The fact that the assault had ended, however, does not end the inquiry. Id. at 1185-86. Officer Riddlehoover arrived on the scene two to three minutes after the 911 call was made and she spoke with Moore immediately upon arrival. Officer Riddlehoover's testimony about Moore's mental and physical state upon her arrival makes clear that he was still in "a state of nervous excitement" due to the assault. Id. at 1185. Thus, we cannot say that the trial court clearly erred in finding that two to three minutes was "a reasonably short period of time" after a personal attack such that Moore's statements were not a result of reflection or invention. Id. at 1185-86.

2. The Trial Court Properly Limited the Impeachment of Moore to His Prior Conviction and Properly Declined to Consider Appellant's Prior Bad Acts

Appellant alleges two errors regarding the admission of prior bad acts: (1) that the trial court improperly allowed testimony regarding her prior bad acts, and (2) that the trial court should have allowed cross-examination on the details of Moore's prior conviction. With respect to appellant's first argument, appellant ignores the fact that the court sua sponte prevented testimony regarding appellant's prior bad acts and explicitly declined to consider any other crimes evidence.Accordingly, we find no error. We also hold that the trial court did not err in preventing the elicitation of testimony regarding the details of Moore's prior CPWL conviction. While a witness's credibility may be attacked with a criminal conviction involving dishonesty or false statement,*fn5 impeachment is essentially limited to the fact of the conviction.*fn6 The trial judge has the discretion to limit the ...

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