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Williams v. United States

Court of Appeals of Columbia District

April 28, 2016

RICHARD WALKER WILLIAMS, Appellant,
v.
UNITED STATES, Appellee.

Argued November 5, 2015

Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (CF1-19666-10) Hon. Robert E. Morin, Trial Judge

Debra Soltis, with whom Paul Y. Kiyonaga was on the brief, for appellant.

Christopher R. Howland, Assistant United States Attorney, with whom Vincent H. Cohen, Jr., Acting United States Attorney at the time, and Elizabeth Trosman, John P. Mannarino, and Michael Liebman, Assistant United States Attorneys, were on the brief, for appellee.

Before Glickman and Thompson, Associate Judges, and Nebeker, Senior Judge.

JUDGMENT

This case came to be heard on the transcript of record and the briefs filed, and was argued by counsel. On consideration whereof, and as set forth in the opinion filed this date, it is now hereby

ORDERED and ADJUDGED that the appellant's convictions are affirmed.

OPINION

Senior Judge Frank Q. Nebeker.

This appeal arises from a fatal stabbing in the Southeast quadrant of the District of Columbia. Following a jury trial, appellant Richard Walker Williams was convicted of one count of second-degree murder while armed as a lesser included offense, one count of carrying a dangerous weapon ("CDW") having previously been convicted of a felony, [1] and two counts of offense committed during release ("OCDR").[2] Appellant challenges his convictions, arguing that the trial court erred in finding him competent for self-representation and in failing to re-examine sua sponte the issue of appellant's competency during trial. Appellant also argues that the trial court erred in admitting evidence of his prior felony conviction and his release status. For the reasons stated below, we affirm appellant's convictions.

I.

A.

On August 27, 2010, Sean West was fatally stabbed at a Shell Station after being seen engaging in a fight with appellant. On March 1, 2011, appellant was indicted for multiple felony offenses. After lengthy pretrial proceedings, which included a competency hearing, appellant requested and was allowed to represent himself at trial with the assistance of standby counsel.

Appellant was initially represented by Anthony Matthews who filed a motion to withdraw based in part on appellant's belief that Mr. Matthews was ineffective during the preliminary hearings. Appellant claimed that Mr. Matthews had altered the preliminary hearings transcripts. The trial court granted a continuance to allow appellant to retain new counsel. On July 29, 2011, appellant's second counsel, Heather Pinckney, informed the court that she had productive discussion with appellant and that they were negotiating with the government. Nevertheless, on January 20, 2012, Ms. Pinckney filed a motion to withdraw, citing an "extreme lack of trust . . . that extends both from client to counsel as well as counsel to client."[3] The court granted a continuance to see if appellant and Ms. Pinckney could resolve their differences. Utimately, Ms. Pinckney requested that the court again consider her motion to withdraw. The court granted Ms. Pinckney's motion to withdraw and asked another attorney, Elliot Queen, to consult with appellant about potential representation. Finally, Tom Heslep became appellant's final and standby counsel. Mr. Heslep, although he thought there were competency issues, stated that appellant could easily pass the Dusky[4] competency test because appellant "[knew] who does what, when, and where in the trial." Appellant denied being paranoid and asked to represent himself.[5]

On November 19, 2012, the trial court held a suppression motions hearing. Mr. Heslep argued a motion to suppress identification, which the court conditionally denied. Appellant argued motions pro se alleging multiple instances of prosecutorial misconduct. During his argument, appellant conceded that he went by "Gemini, " the nickname of the person two eyewitnesses had seen fighting with Mr. West prior to the stabbing. Appellant admitted that he fought with Mr. West, who died shortly after their altercation. He also admitted to being intoxicated and "a little fuzzy on what took place." During this hearing, appellant accused the government of knowingly allowing a witness to give false testimony at a preliminary hearing and of providing altered PD-119 forms to him, reiterating his basic point: appellant was "being framed by ...


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