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Best v. United States

Court of Appeals of Columbia District

May 30, 2013

Curtis J. Best, Appellant,
v.
United States, Appellee.

Argued April 11, 2013

Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (DVM-921-12) (Hon. Geoffrey M. Alprin, Trial Judge) (

Jamison Koehler for appellant.

Stephen Rickard, Assistant United States Attorney, with whom Ronald C. Machen Jr., United States Attorney, and Elizabeth Trosman, John P. Mannarino, and Kasia Preneta, Assistant United States Attorneys, were on the brief, for appellee.

Before Fisher and Easterly, Associate Judges, and Schwelb, Senior Judge.

Fisher, Associate Judge

Appellant Curtis J. Best challenges his convictions for assault, attempted possession of a prohibited weapon (PPW (b)), and malicious destruction of property, [1] claiming that they were based on insufficient evidence. He also asserts that the trial court improperly admitted hearsay evidence and violated his Sixth Amendment right to confrontation. We affirm the judgment as to destruction of property, but reverse and remand for further proceedings as to assault and attempted PPW (b).

I. Background

Appellant and Lawrence Robinson are stepbrothers who lived in one side of their father's duplex, which was comprised of two units and a common basement, all separated by locked doors. Sometime after 10:30 p.m. on the evening of April 27, 2012, appellant's father, Herbert Best, came home to find that the lock on the door leading from the basement to his side of the duplex was broken, and the door jamb was damaged. Appellant later told his father that he had broken the door in order to gain access to his father's side of the duplex because it was locked.

At trial, Officer Terrence Eberhardt testified that he and his partner responded to a radio call regarding an "assault in progress" at the duplex at approximately eight or nine o'clock that evening. Upon arrival, Officer Eberhardt saw both appellant and Robinson standing outside the house near the fence line. Both men had visible injuries and bloodstained clothes, Robinson apparently bleeding from the hand, appellant with blood on his face. Officer Eberhardt described Robinson as "hysterical" and "frantic, " pacing back and forth, and waving his hand.

After describing Robinson's demeanor, Officer Eberhardt recounted what Robinson told him had transpired that evening:

What [Robinson] stated was he was laying in the bed, and the defendant came up to him, approached him and told him that he looked like he had been, he was selling drugs. So, he needed a haircut, and he looked and the defendant was standing over top of him with a knife . . . . Trying to cut, cut his, cut the complaining witness's hair.

Officer Eberhardt also testified that he saw a trail of blood throughout the house. There were bloody bed sheets and a bloodstained knife in the bedroom that Robinson identified as his. Officer Eberhardt also saw severed dreadlocks in the hallway.

Officer Eberhardt did not specify where his conversation with Robinson took place or over what period of time. Nor did he describe the content of questions asked or answers given, giving no indication whether appellant blurted out any information. Instead, he testified, "I can't quote specifics, " and proceeded to summarize Robinson's statements from that evening. Officer Eberhardt's testimony laid the foundation for admitting photographs of the scene and of the weapon, which, along with Eberhardt's own observations and his summary of ...


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