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Young v. United States

Court of Appeals of Columbia District

March 5, 2015

DARIUS YOUNG, APPELLANT,
v.
UNITED STATES, APPELLEE

Argued January 29, 2015.

Appeals from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. (CF2-10858-11 and CF2-22892-11) (Hon. Ronna L. Beck, Trial Judge).

Chris Kemmitt, Public Defender Service, with whom James Klein and Alice Wang, Public Defender Service, were on the brief, for appellant.

Stephen F. Rickard, Assistant United States Attorney, with whom Ronald C. Machen Jr., United States Attorney, and Elizabeth Trosman, Elizabeth H. Danello, and Andrew Finkelman, Assistant United States Attorneys, were on the brief, for appellee.

Before FISHER and THOMPSON, Associate Judges, and BELSON, Senior Judge.

OPINION

Belson, Senior Judge :

Darius Young appeals his convictions for carjacking, first-degree theft, and unauthorized use of a vehicle, arguing that the trial court abused its discretion by admitting

Page 14

lay witness opinion testimony that identified him in surveillance footage. We conclude that the testimony was admissible under Sanders v. United States, 809 A.2d 584, 596 (D.C. 2002), and affirm.

I.

On April 9, 2011, at around 12:30 p.m., Mr. Dongni Pho was standing outside of his Lexus SUV in a service station as he finished pumping gas. A man ran up to the SUV, jumped in, locked the door, and drove away. Mr. Pho had left his wallet, keys, and an iPhone inside the car. Police reviewed the station's surveillance footage of the incident, and then used tracking software on Mr. Pho's iPhone to track the device to an area close to the intersection of 46th and G Streets, Southeast. The police arrived at that location around 3:30 p.m., three hours after the robbery. They saw two men standing by automobiles, but the Lexus SUV was nowhere to be seen. Officer White saw one man, later identified as appellant Darius Young, wearing a jacket that looked like the jacket worn by the thief in the surveillance video. Mr. Young " made a motion as [though] he was passing something to the other gentleman" which the police interpreted as passing the stolen iPhone. The other man then walked inside an adjacent apartment building.[1] The police then ordered Mr. Young to approach them, and he did so. He gave the police a series of false names. Officer White then seized Mr. Young's jacket and searched it, but found no proceeds of the theft of the Lexus SUV. Officer White did not arrest Mr. Young, but took his photo without the jacket, which the officers retained. Mr. Young was subsequently prosecuted, and both the photo and the jacket were later introduced at trial.

At trial, the government called a witness, Ms. Edwina Jackson, whose testimony is the subject of this appeal. During the relevant time period, Ms. Jackson was a social worker who worked with at-risk teens, picking them up at their homes or schools and taking them to activities in the community, outside of their own neighborhood. In February of 2009, she worked with two families, including the family of Mr. Young. For four to eight months in 2009, Ms. Jackson worked with Mr. Young and his family for up to five hours a day, Monday through Friday. Her encounters with Mr. Young gradually decreased, especially in late 2009 and early 2010. In this period, Ms. Jackson only saw Mr. Young " maybe two or three times a week to not being able to catch up with him at all." Mr. Young had dreadlocks during the period of frequent interaction in 2009, but cut his hair short in 2010. Ms. Jackson testified that her last sighting of Mr. Young was " three to four weeks prior" to June 23, 2011, which would have been after the April 9, 2011, carjacking.

Ms. Jackson testified that she recognized Mr. Young as the carjacker in the gas station surveillance video. She stated that the carjacker's face " does look like Darius," and that " [t]he stance, the gait, and the jacket look[] familiar." Asked to clarify what she meant by gait, she said " [T]he stance. The walk. Like, when he went back and forth, just the posture."

Mr. Young was convicted by the jury of carjacking in violation of D.C. Code § 22-2803 (a) (2001); first-degree theft in violation of D.C. Code § § 22-3211, -3212 (a) (2001); and unauthorized use of a vehicle, in violation of D.C. Code § 22-3215 (2001). He was sentenced to seven years of ...


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