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Grady v. United States

Court of Appeals of The District of Columbia

March 15, 2018

Sean A. Grady, Appellant,
United States, Appellee.

          Argued October 4, 2017

         Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (CF2-19000-14) (Hon. Zoe Bush, Trial Judge)

          William Collins, Public Defender Service, with whom Samia Fam and Shilpa S. Satoskar, Public Defender Service, were on the brief, for appellant.

          Nicholas P. Coleman, Assistant United States Attorney, with whom Charming D. Phillips, United States Attorney at the time the brief was filed, and Elizabeth Trosman, Elizabeth H. Danello, and Richard R. Barker, Assistant United States Attorneys, were on the brief, for appellee.

          Before Blackburne-Rigsby, Chief Judge, Fisher, Associate Judge, and NEBEKER, Senior Judge.

          Blackburne-Rigsby, Chief Judge

         Following a jury trial, appellant Sean Grady was convicted of carrying a pistol without a license ("CPWL") and unlawful possession of a controlled substance (marijuana).[1] These charges stem from a police stop in Northwest Washington, D.C., where appellant had dropped a gun in the street while speaking to a Metropolitan Police Department ("MPD") officer. Appellant sought to argue at trial that a high gun-crime rate in the neighborhood meant that the gun may have been left by someone other than appellant, and that he was just at the wrong place at the wrong time. Appellant sought to introduce statistics on the neighborhood's gun-related crime rates through a subpoena duces tecum and on cross-examination, which the trial court rejected. Appellant appeals the trial court's denial. We affirm.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         A. The Stop

         At around 10:45 a.m. on October 27, 2014, MPD Patrol Officer Armando De los Santos was dispatched to the intersection of Euclid Street and 13th Street, Northwest to investigate a reported domestic incident between a man and a woman. The man was described as wearing a black shirt and blue jeans. When Officer De los Santos arrived at the intersection, construction workers indicated that a man matching that description had walked north on 13th Street, so Officer De los Santos drove his police vehicle in that direction. From his vehicle, Officer De los Santos saw the individual, who he believed to be the suspect and later identified as appellant, walking northbound looking over his shoulder and appearing "anxious." Appellant, who was wearing a "thick coat, " continued down the street and Officer De los Santos followed him in his police cruiser.[2]

         Officer De los Santos attempted to speak with appellant two or three times until he responded because appellant was evading the officer. Officer De los Santos asked appellant if he had seen anything or if he had argued with anyone. Appellant, who was walking on the sidewalk parallel to the officer in his police vehicle, appeared apprehensive and responded, "no, what do you want to talk to me about?" Appellant stopped approximately halfway down the block, in between two parked cars, at which point he was standing approximately ten to fifteen feet from the officer. Appellant then backed up toward "either a large station wagon or a small SUV[, ]" such that the vehicle was between him and the officer. Officer De los Santos could "see [appellant's] waist up to almost his neck . . . [t]hrough the windows of the [SUV]" and "[appellant's] head from the top of the [SUV]." Through the vehicle's windows, Officer De los Santos saw appellant put one of his hands inside a middle zippered pocket of his coat and "fumbl[e]" with something inside for about three to five seconds when the officer suddenly heard the sound of a hard or heavy object hitting the ground where appellant was standing. A second patrol officer, Martin Fosso, arrived around the same time, pulled up, and parked his police vehicle in front of Officer De los Santos's vehicle.

         Officer De los Santos got out of his vehicle, went to the spot where appellant was standing, and saw a gun lying on the ground there. Officer De los Santos told Officer Fosso about the gun and Officer Fosso apprehended appellant and placed him under arrest. Officer De los Santos searched appellant incident to the arrest and found a bag of what was later determined to be about 3.33 ounces of marijuana in appellant's coat pocket.

          B. The Trial

         During the trial, appellant sought to elicit testimony regarding neighborhood gun-crime statistics from Officer De los Santos. On cross-examination, Officer De los Santos stated that he had been a patrol officer in the Third District for about seventeen years and was familiar with "Police Service Area 304" ("PSA 304"), where the gun was found. Appellant then tried to ask Officer De los Santos whether during the "last few years, there ha[d] . . . been a number of gun-related crimes reported in" PSA 304. The government objected on relevance grounds and the trial court sustained the objection and held a bench conference. At the bench, appellant argued that the number of gun-related crimes in PSA 304 was relevant to show "how a gun could possibly end up there[, ]" because "there [wa]s crime that ... [was] occurring in that vicinity with guns where individuals m[ight] be walking [and] discarding them." The trial court ultimately found ...

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