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Wilson v. United States

May 6, 2010

BRYAN K. WILSON, APPELLANT,
v.
UNITED STATES, APPELLEE.



Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (FEL-5634-05) (Hon. Erik P. Christian, Trial Judge).

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

Argued March 11, 2010

Before REID and THOMPSON, Associate Judges,and WAGNER, Senior Judge.

Appellant Bryan K. Wilson was convicted of first-degree premeditated murder while armed and of several weapons charges in connection with the death of his wife Inga Wilson.*fn1 In this appeal, he argues that (1) the trial court's ruling disqualifying an attorney that he sought to add to his defense team violated his Sixth Amendment right to counsel; (2) the admission of a videotape violated his rights under the Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment; (3) the court erred by allowing the government to present hearsay testimony; (4) there was insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that appellant was guilty of murdering his wife; and (5) the claimed errors in combination affected the verdicts, warranting reversal. Unpersuaded by appellant's arguments, we affirm.

I.

The government presented evidence that, on the afternoon of December 13, 2003, Inga Wilson was found dead in the passenger seat of her Ford Expedition, which was parked in the 3000 block of Adams Street, N.E. She had been shot four times in the head and died sometime around 12:00 a.m. on December 13, 2003. After police arrived on the scene, they discovered that both the vehicle and the decedent had been reported missing. Police contacted appellant to inform him of his wife's death and later that day interviewed him to gather information regarding the decedent's death.

Detective George Blackwell testified that appellant told him that on the evening of December 12, 2003, he and his wife went to dinner at an Olive Garden restaurant and then to a movie in Waldorf, Maryland. According to appellant's account, when they arrived at their home in Upper Marlboro, Maryland just after 11:00 p.m., his wife said she wanted something sweet to eat. Appellant remained at home while his wife went to a Shell gas station about a quarter-mile away to purchase candy. He fell asleep on the couch and when he woke up, his wife had not returned. When she did not answer her cell phone, appellant got into his car and drove by the gas station and around the neighborhood, searching for her. Appellant told police that he could not recall the name of the movie he and his wife saw and that he was not in the District of Columbia that evening.

On December 31, 2003, appellant was interviewed by FBI Agent Gary Gerszewski. During that interview, appellant told Agent Gerszewski that after dinner at the Olive Garden, he and his wife had seen the 9:30 p.m. showing of the movie "Bad Santa" in Waldorf. Appellant repeated the account he had given Detective Blackwell about the couple returning home around 11:00 p.m.; Inga Wilson going to the Shell station to purchase a sweet snack; appellant falling asleep, waking to discover that his wife was not home, and placing a call to her (which he said went directly to her voice mail); and appellant going out to search for her in the neighborhood around his home and the adjacent neighborhood. In addition, he told Agent Gerszewski that while searching for his wife, he saw a woman in the parking lot of the Shell station changing her car tire and he offered assistance. After he changed the tire, the woman gave him a ride to his house, where he retrieved money, which he used to put gas in the woman's car after they drove back to the Shell station and to give her $100 to pay for the replacement tire. Thereafter, appellant returned home, called his mother, continued the search for his wife, and, at around 3:30 or 3:40 a.m., called 911 to report his wife missing.

The government also presented testimony by Renee Benjamin, appellant's former co-worker, with whom he began a romantic relationship in June 2003. Benjamin testified that appellant told her that he was not happy in his marriage and that he was planning to leave his wife. On December 5, 2003, Benjamin received a phone call from appellant stating that his wife and two of his children had been in a car accident. Later that afternoon, appellant called Benjamin again and said that the children were doing well, but that his wife had internal bleeding. On December 7 or December 8, 2003, Benjamin received another call from appellant, who said that his wife had taken a turn for the worse and the family had to decide whether to remove her life support.*fn2

Appellant informed Benjamin on Friday, December 12, 2003, that he and his in-laws were going to remove his wife's life support that evening. Sometime after 12:00 a.m. on December 13, 2003, Benjamin received another phone call from appellant, who asked Benjamin to come and pick him up in the District because he had lent his car to someone. Benjamin told him that she could not do so. The next morning, appellant called Benjamin to inform her that he had paid a woman $100 to drive him home from the District.

FBI Agent Brad Garrett testified that during the investigation of decedent's death, one of appellant's friends, Tracy Thompson, told investigators that he had given appellant a gun. Agent Garrett further testified that Thompson offered to allow agents to place video and audio recording equipment in his car and to engage appellant in a conversation that investigators could record. During a recorded conversation that took place on January 6, 2005, appellant denied killing his wife but told Thompson that he had thrown the gun that Thompson had given him into the Patuxent River right after the police called him to inform him that his wife's body had been found. As described in more detail infra, the government relied on the videotape to prove that Thompson gave appellant a gun a week before Inga Wilson's murder.

An insurance company officer testified that on December 19, 2003, the company received an application from appellant to purchase a life insurance policy on his wife. The application had been completed on December 7, 2003. The government also presented the testimony of a cell phone expert, who told the jury that he was "one hundred percent" certain that on December 13, 2003 at 12:51 a.m., appellant's cell phone was located nowhere near Upper Marlboro, Maryland, because, in placing an outgoing call, the cell phone had connected with a cell phone tower in the District-specifically, the cell phone tower closest to the location where Inga Wilson's body was found.

The defense offered the testimony of several witnesses. A DNA expert testified that DNA from an unknown male was found on the underside of Inga Wilson's fingernails. The expert acknowledged that the analysis did not reveal how long the DNA had been there or how it got there,but testified thatappellant and his two sons were excluded as the source of the DNA. Bobby Segears and his son Brandon testified that at approximately 12:45 or 1:00 a.m. on December 13, 2003, they were walking home from a bus stop and saw a Ford Expedition parked on the 3000 block of Adams Street. Bobby testified that he saw a man and a woman inside the car talking. Both Bobby and Brandon testified that appellant was not the man they saw inside the car. On cross-examination, both said that it was difficult to see inside the vehicle because its interior lights were off and its windows were tinted.

After the jury returned its guilty verdicts, the trial court denied appellant's motion for a new trial. This appeal followed.

II.

During the weekend before appellant's trial was set to begin, the prosecutor learned that criminal defense attorney Douglas Evans had joined appellant's defense team. The prosecutor notified one of appellant's other attorneys that Evans had a conflict because Evans had represented Tracy Thompson-appellant's friend who gave him a gun and who consented to having his conversation with appellant recorded-when Thompson testified at the grand jury proceedings that led to appellant's indictment. When Evans appeared in the courtroom on the day trial was to begin, he told the court that he had not remembered meeting with Thompson, but, once his memory was jogged by the prosecutor's comments, he recalled having represented him. Evans urged that this should not disqualify him from representing appellant because he did not remember any details regarding the representation of Thompson,*fn3 and thus had not and could not share any such details with the other defense lawyers; that one of the other defense lawyers could cross- examine Thompson if he testified at trial; and that any potential conflict therefore would be eliminated. The prosecutor disagreed, arguing that Thompson was a key witness and the conflict was not waivable. In disqualifying Evans from representing appellant, the trial court found that there was a conflict based on Evans's prior representation of Thompson in this case. ...


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