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Cousart v. United States

Court of Appeals of Columbia District

August 4, 2016

NATHANIEL COUSART, Appellant,
v.
UNITED STATES, Appellee.

          Submitted March 24, 2016

         On Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia Criminal Division (CF3-16472-13)(Hon. Patricia A. Broderick, Trial Judge)

          Matthew J. Peed was on the brief for appellant.

          Channing D. Phillips, United States Attorney, and Elizabeth Trosman, John P. Mannarino, John P. Marston, and Danny Lam Nguyen, Assistant United States Attorneys, were on the brief for appellee.

          BEFORE: Glickman and Fisher, Associate Judges; and Steadman, Senior Judge.

         JUDGMENT

         This case was submitted to the court on the transcript of record and the briefs filed, and without presentation of oral argument. On consideration whereof, and for the reasons set forth in the opinion filed this date, it is now hereby

         ORDERED and ADJUDGED that the judgment on appeal is affirmed.

          OPINION

          JOHN STEADMAN SENIOR JUDGE.

         Nathaniel Cousart appeals his convictions by a jury of aggravated assault while armed (AAWA)[1] and assault with a dangerous weapon (ADW).[2] He argues that the trial court committed plain error in its instructions on both counts. We find no plain error. However, we publish this opinion because in instructing on the AAWA count, the trial court closely followed the model instructions in Criminal Jury Instructions for the District of Columbia (5th ed. rev. 2015), [3] but yet, in doing so, left open the possibility of argument for reversal that appellant makes here and others may make in future cases.[4]

         I. The Facts

         On September 13, 2013, when he went into an alley to urinate, Darfus Barrett was stabbed in the neck, shoulder, and back, inflicting serious injury. Mr. Barrett testified at trial that it was appellant who followed him into the alley and stabbed him with a knife. Mr. Barrett and appellant were acquaintances but not friends and did not "get along"; they had had a verbal set-to the previous day. There was no other witness to this stabbing.

         After the attack, Mr. Barrett fled and ran south on North Capitol Street, hollering for help, and appellant followed him with the knife in his hand. As Mr. Barrett approached the apartment complex at 1200 North Capitol Street, Trever Edelin, a security guard at the complex, emerged to help. When Mr. Edelin asked who had stabbed him, Mr. Barrett pointed toward the crowd of onlookers and said, "blue shirt." Appellant, who was wearing a blue shirt, began walking away. Mr. Edelin pursued appellant while yelling "blue shirt" and "stop." Appellant then pulled out a knife, turned and took a step towards Mr. Edelin "in a threatening manner." Mr. Edelin saw blood on appellant's shirt and face when he approached appellant. Appellant was not directly pointing the knife at him but held the knife "toward his waistline, back toward his body, " and he "had it shielded with his body." Fearing for his life, Mr. Edelin drew his gun. Seeing the gun, appellant turned around, walked a few steps, and then threw the knife down a sewer. Mr. Edelin eventually succeeded in restraining and handcuffing appellant with the aid of a fellow officer from the complex.[5]

         II. The AAWA Instruction

         The charge of AAWA was based on the stabbing of Mr. Barrett in the alley. The trial court gave the jury the following instruction:

The elements of the crime of aggravated assault while armed, each of which the Government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt are that, one, Nathaniel Cousart caused serious bodily injury to Darfus Barrett; and, two, Nathaniel Cousart either, A, intended to cause serious bodily injury to Darfus Barrett, or, B, knew that serious bodily injury to Darfus Barrett would result from his conduct, or, C, was aware that his conduct ...

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