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Griffin v. United States

Court of Appeals of Columbia District

August 4, 2016

DANIEL GRIFFIN, Appellant,
v.
UNITED STATES, Appellee.

          Submitted June 17, 2016

         On Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia Criminal Division, CF2-20479-13, Hon. John McCabe, Trial Judge.

          Enid Hinkes was on the brief for appellant.

          Channing D. Phillips, United States Attorney, and Elizabeth Trosman, Lindsey Merikas, Alicia Long, and Danielle M. Kudla, Assistant United States Attorneys, were on the brief for appellee.

          Before Fisher and McLeese, Associate Judges, and Steadman, Senior Judge.

         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.

          JUDGMENT

          Associate Judge John R. Fisher

         Appellant Daniel Griffin challenges his convictions, arguing that the trial court committed reversible error by omitting part of the first paragraph of this jurisdiction's standard jury instruction defining reasonable doubt. Finding no plain error, we affirm.

         I. Background

         Appellant was charged with unlawful possession of a firearm, possession of an unregistered firearm, and unlawful possession of ammunition. On the afternoon before the jury was to be instructed, the court sent its proposed jury instructions to counsel by email. Later that evening, defense counsel replied: "I believe the instructions are fine[.]" The next day, the judge read the following instruction to the jury:

Reasonable doubt, as the name implies, is a doubt based on reason, a doubt for which you have a reason based upon the evidence or lack of evidence in the case. If after careful, honest and impartial consideration of all the evidence you cannot say that you are firmly convinced of a defendant's guilt, then you have a reasonable doubt.
Reasonable doubt is the kind of doubt that would cause a reasonable person after careful and thoughtful reflection to hesitate to act in the graver or more important matters in life. However, it is not an imaginary doubt, nor a doubt based on speculation or guesswork. It is a doubt based on reason. The government is not required to prove guilt beyond all doubt or to a mathematical or scientific certainty. Its burden is to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

         When reading this instruction, the judge omitted the entire first paragraph of the reasonable doubt instruction we adopted in Smith v. United ...


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