Submitted June 6, 2014
Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. (CF1-11664-11). (Hon. William M. Jackson, Trial Judge).
Thomas T. Heslep was on the brief for appellant.
Ronald C. Machen Jr., United States Attorney, and Elizabeth Trosman, Suzanne Grealy Curt, and David B. Goodhand, Assistant United States Attorneys, were on the brief for appellee.
Before FISHER and BLACKBURNE-RIGSBY, Associate Judges, and KING, Senior Judge.
Blackburne-Rigsby, Associate Judge.
Following a jury trial, appellant Cedrick Lorenzo Shuler was acquitted of the initial charge of first-degree murder while armed, D.C. Code § § 22-2401, -3202 (1981) (current versions at D.C. Code § § 22-2101, -4502 (2012 Repl.)), and convicted of the lesser included offense of second-degree murder while armed, D.C. Code § § 22-2403, -3202 (1981) (current versions at D.C. Code § § 22-2103, -4502 (2012 Repl.)), for the February 22, 1998, fatal shooting of Renee Best. On appeal, appellant argues that the trial court committed reversible error by: (1) giving a supplemental instruction on second-degree murder for the first time during jury deliberations in response to a jury question; and (2) reinstructing the jury on premeditation and deliberation, transferred intent, and the obligation of the jury to acquit appellant of first-degree murder before considering second-degree. We affirm.
I. Factual Background
A. The 1998 Shooting
On February 22, 1998, in an attempt to avenge the killing of a close friend, Hosea Stringfield, appellant Shuler asked his friend Alvin Barnes to " go with him to get," i.e., kill, the alleged perpetrator,
Walter Jones. They found Jones speaking with Renee Best, an unrelated female, off the 4600 block of Hillside Road, Southeast, Washington, D.C. With appellant leading the way, they walked through an alley past bystanding eyewitness, Ricky Black. Upon approaching Jones and Best, appellant inexplicably first shot Best in the face, which ultimately led to her death. Although appellant also shot at Jones and managed to hit him in the leg, Jones ultimately escaped. Afterwards, Barnes questioned appellant about why he " shot the girl," to which appellant replied: " F*** it. It's over with."
B. The Trial
Thirteen years later, on June 22, 2011, a grand jury returned an indictment charging appellant with first-degree murder while armed for the killing of Best. The jury trial commenced on October 1, 2012. The government's case relied primarily on the eyewitness accounts of Barnes and Black, due to the age of the murder. At the close of the government's case, the trial court outlined its proposed jury instructions on first-degree murder, and neither party asked for an instruction on second-degree murder.
During closing arguments, defense counsel sought to attack the credibility of Barnes and Black. Specifically, to further emphasize the defense's theory at trial that appellant was never at the scene of the crime, defense counsel insinuated that the eyewitness testimony of Barnes and Black placing appellant at the scene could not be trusted because Barnes and Black " [were] receiving a benefit" and testified " for compensation."
After closing arguments, the trial court proceeded to instruct the jury on the charge of first-degree murder while armed, with instructions on the two alternative theories of mens rea liability: (1) appellant intended to kill Best, or (2) the transfer of appellant's intention to kill Jones to Best under the principle of transferred intent. The trial court additionally ...