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McKnight v. United States

Court of Appeals of Columbia District

October 30, 2014

CURTIS L. MCKNIGHT and ROBERT H. PUMPHREY, APPELLANTS,
v.
UNITED STATES, APPELLEE

Argued May 20, 2014

Appeals from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. (CF1-25075-07, CF1-22254-08). (Hon. William M. Jackson, Trial Judge).

Craig N. Moore for appellant Curtis L. McKnight.

Julian S. Greenspun for appellant Robert H. Pumphrey.

Peter S. Smith, Assistant United States Attorney, with whom Ronald C. Machen, Jr., United States Attorney, Elizabeth Trosman, Alessio D. Evangelista, and Lara Worm, Assistant United States Attorneys, were on the brief, for appellee.

Before GLICKMAN and EASTERLY, Associate Judges, and PRYOR, Senior Judge. OPINION by Associate Judge EASTERLY. Opinion dissenting in part by Senior Judge PRYOR.

OPINION

Page 285

Easterly, Associate Judge :

Curtis L. McKnight and Robert H. Pumphrey were jointly tried in connection with the shooting death of Raynard Jennings. Mr. McKnight, the gunman, was convicted of first-degree murder while armed, possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime of violence (PFCV), unlawful possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, and obstruction of justice.[1] Mr. Pumphrey, who had handed Mr. McKnight the gun used in the shooting, was convicted of second-degree murder while armed under an aiding and abetting theory, PFCV, and unlawful possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.[2] Both appellants

Page 286

now challenge their convictions on various grounds. We determine that only one has merit: Mr. Pumphrey's insufficiency challenge to his conviction for second-degree murder. Because there was insufficient evidence to support a jury's determination beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Pumphrey possessed the requisite malicious intent, we reverse Mr. Pumphrey's convictions for second-degree murder and PFCV. We otherwise affirm.

I. Facts and Procedural History

The government's case against Mr. McKnight and Mr. Pumphrey rested on the testimony of one eyewitness to the shooting, Shanicka Adams. Ms. Adams had been in her bedroom watching television when, around two o'clock in the morning, she heard " arguing" outside. She went to the window and saw three men in the street: Mr. McKnight and Mr. Pumphrey, whom she knew from the neighborhood, and a man, later identified as Mr. Jennings, whom she did not know.[3]

Ms. Adams testified that Mr. McKnight and Mr. Pumphrey were both standing by Mr. Pumphrey's car. Mr. Jennings was sitting in a different car, parked in front of Mr. Pumphrey's car. Mr. McKnight and Mr. Jennings were arguing. Because Ms. Adams could not hear what the men were saying, she went into her sister's room where the window was open. Looking out from her new vantage point, she saw the two men, still arguing. She then observed Mr. Jennings get out of his car and open his trunk. As Ms. Adams described it, he was " going through everything," and " throwing stuff out as if he was looking for something." Ms. Adams watched as Mr. McKnight followed Mr. Jennings to the trunk, and then asked what Mr. Jennings was looking for. Mr. Pumphrey remained by his car. As Mr. Jennings continued to rummage through his trunk, Ms. Adams heard Mr. Pumphrey say: " [H]e's looking for something, he's looking for something."

Mr. Pumphrey then walked to the passenger side of his car, reached through the window, and retrieved a gun.[4] Ms. Adams saw Mr. Pumphrey hand the gun to Mr. McKnight and return to the driver's side of his car.

According to Ms. Adams, when Mr. Jennings saw Mr. McKnight with a gun, Mr. Jennings turned and began to run away. At that point, Mr. McKnight started shooting. Ms. Adams testified that she saw Mr. McKnight fire three shots and then she ducked down below the window. She testified that she heard a few more shots and then returned to her bedroom; she did not look out the window again.

Notwithstanding this testimony, and without any explanation of how she could have seen subsequent events, Ms. Adams also testified that she saw what happened after the shooting. She said she saw Mr. McKnight walk over to Mr. Jennings's trunk and look inside, and she saw Mr. McKnight and Mr. Pumphrey ...


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