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Jenkins v. United States

Court of Appeals of Columbia District

December 12, 2013

Emanuel JENKINS and Azariah Israel, Appellants,

Argued Feb. 13, 2013.

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Abram J. Pafford, Lynchburg, VA, for appellant Emanuel Jenkins.

Richard S. Stolker, Rockville, MD, for appellant Azariah Israel.

Elizabeth H. Danello, Assistant United States Attorney, with whom Ronald C. Machen Jr., United States Attorney, and Elizabeth Trosman, Deborah Sines, and Jennifer Kerkhoff, Assistant United States Attorneys, were on the brief, for appellee.

James Klein, Jaclyn S. Frankfurt, and Christine A. Monta filed a brief on behalf of the Public Defender Service as amicus curiae.

Before GLICKMAN and OBERLY, Associate Judges, and REID, Senior Judge.

GLICKMAN, Associate Judge:

Appellants Azariah Israel and Emanuel Jenkins were tried together before a jury for murders and other serious crimes committed in 2005 and 2006. The jury found Israel guilty on two counts of armed first-degree murder, three counts of armed assault with intent to kill, and related firearms charges, all in connection with a shooting of several individuals in Columbia Heights in December 2005. Israel also was found guilty, along with Jenkins, of conspiracy to obstruct justice and obstruction of justice in connection with the subsequent murder in August 2006 of a witness to the Columbia Heights shootings by the name of Charlie Evans. And though the jury hung on whether either appellant was guilty of Evans's murder itself, it convicted Jenkins of carrying a pistol without a license (CPWL) based on the evidence of his involvement in that crime.

Appellants present us with numerous claims of error in the conduct of their trial. Their weightiest challenges are to rulings admitting out-of-court statements by Jenkins and Evans under, respectively, the coconspirator and forfeiture-by-wrongdoing exceptions to the rule against hearsay. We conclude that error in the admission of Jenkins's statements against Israel requires us to reverse Israel's conviction for obstruction of justice. In addition, we must reverse Jenkins's CPWL conviction for insufficient evidence. We affirm appellants' other convictions.


A. The Murder of Charlie Evans

Appellants' trial revolved in large measure around the fate of Charlie Evans, a witness to the Columbia Heights shootings. Evans was last seen alive at around 11 p.m. on August 26, 2006, in the company of appellant Jenkins, and when Evans was shot and killed on Varnum Street in Northeast Washington three hours later, a vehicle linked by the government's investigation to Jenkins was observed leaving the scene.

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The prosecution called three witnesses who saw Evans and Jenkins together on the eve of Evans's death. Macey Robertson, Paul Brown, and Vanessa Thomas testified that they were with Evans that night at a parking lot near 14th and Euclid Streets, Northwest, drinking and smoking marijuana, when Jenkins and another man drove up in a red or burgundy SUV.[1] Evans walked up to the SUV to speak with Jenkins. As the parking lot was under surveillance, their meeting was captured on a videotape that was shown to the jury. Jenkins exited the vehicle and he and Evans made plans to buy PCP. While they were conferring, the SUV drove away. Before Evans left the parking lot with Jenkins to procure the PCP, he told Brown he did not feel safe and did not want to go with Jenkins alone. Brown was not interested in accompanying them, however, and eventually, at around 11 p.m., Evans and Jenkins left by themselves on foot. Brown, Robertson and Thomas did not see Evans again. A fourth government witness, Michael McNeill, testified that at around 2:00 that morning he heard squealing tires and a gunshot outside his house on Varnum Street. Looking out, he saw a dark-colored SUV drive off. McNeill went outside and found Charlie Evans's body lying in the street.

Investigators subsequently compared tire tracks left on Varnum Street with the tires on a burgundy-colored SUV belonging to Jenkins's parents. An FBI examiner testified that one of the tires had tread design features that were consistent with these tracks. Jenkins's mother testified that Jenkins had access to this vehicle.

B. The Columbia Road Shootings

The government's theory at trial was that Jenkins killed Evans to prevent him from testifying about a previous shooting committed by Jenkins's cousin, appellant Israel. That incident took place on Columbia Road near 13th Street, Northwest, on the evening of December 9, 2005. The victims were a group of young men known as the " 1-7 boys" (so-called because they came from the neighborhood around 17th Street, N.W.) who were " hang[ing] out" there at the time. One of the survivors, Cortez Blount, testified that Charlie Evans, whom he knew by the nicknames " Charlie Brown" and " Lamb Chop," arrived and " had words" with one of the group members. Two men, one with a tightly tied hoodie and one with a ski mask, arrived shortly afterward. Evans stepped away. Some pushing ensued and the man in the hoodie, whom Blount could not identify, started shooting at the 1-7 boys who had been talking with Evans. He killed two of them and wounded three, including Blount. Two months later, in February 2006, Detective Mitch Credle of the Metropolitan Police Department told Israel that he was the primary suspect in the shootings.

At appellants' trial, a government witness named George Haynes testified that Israel, in a conversation with him, had admitted having perpetrated the shootings on Columbia Road. As further proof of that fact, the government introduced evidence that Israel committed another murder a week earlier at a store on Chapin Street near 14th Street, N.W., with the same gun that was used in the Columbia Road shooting.[2] Israel's cousin Jeremy

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Johnson, whose presence during the Chapin Street shooting was confirmed by the store's surveillance tape, had testified before the grand jury that Israel was the shooter.[3] The trial court ruled the evidence of the uncharged Chapin Street murder admissible " on the issue of whether the shooter in the first case was the same shooter in the second case."

C. Hearsay Statements by Charlie Evans

Under the doctrine of forfeiture by wrongdoing, the court also permitted the prosecution to introduce a number of out-of-court statements made by Charlie Evans either under oath before the grand jury or in conversations with other government witnesses. The statements were admitted to prove not only that Israel committed the shootings on Columbia Road, but also Israel's and Jenkins's complicity in Evans's own murder.

In an appearance before the grand jury that subsequently indicted Israel, Evans testified that he was present at the scene of the Columbia Road shootings and knew who committed them. He identified the hooded man who suddenly opened fire on the 1-7 boys as Israel, whom Evans knew as a friend of his sister. Evans identified the man in the ski mask who accompanied Israel as Clifton Chaney, who was related to Israel. Immediately after the shootings, Evans testified, Israel confronted him and asked him if he had seen anything. Evans assured Israel he had not. Israel and others on his behalf later called Evans to arrange a meeting, which Evans avoided because he feared Israel wanted to kill him.

At trial, Evans's sister testified that Evans told her, too, that he had seen Israel commit the Columbia Road shootings. She also said Evans had expressed fear for his life because of his cooperation with the grand jury investigation. Paul Brown testified there had been rumors going around that Evans was " snitching." Evans told Macey Robertson he was anxious about these rumors and that Jenkins had accosted him in Adams Morgan and accused him of snitching on Israel.[4] Evans told another government witness, Niam Pannell, that Jenkins had pulled a gun on him.[5]

D. Recorded Phone Conversations Between Israel and Others

Finally, the government also relied at trial on a series of recorded phone calls made by Israel from the D.C. Jail (where he was being held following his arrest on an unrelated charge). The calls, which took place between March and August of 2006, were to Jenkins and others, including the aforementioned Clifton Chaney and ...

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