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Miller v. United States

Court of Appeals of The District of Columbia

June 6, 2019

Francisca C. Miller, Appellant,
v.
United States, Appellee.

          Argued May 7, 2019

          Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (DVM-358-13) (Hon. A. Franklin Burgess Jr., Trial Judge)

          Donna L. Biderman for appellant.

          Lauren R. Bates, Assistant United States Attorney, with whom Jessie K. Liu, United States Attorney, and Elizabeth Trosman, John P. Mannarino, and Rikki D. McCoy, Assistant United States Attorneys, were on the briefs, for appellee.

          Before Beckwith and McLeese, Associate Judges, and Nebeker, Senior Judge.

          MCLEESE, ASSOCIATE JUDGE

         After a bench trial, appellant Francisca Miller was found guilty of attempted possession of a prohibited weapon and attempted threats to do bodily harm. Ms. Miller is not a United States citizen, and it is uncontested that her convictions legally authorize her to be removed from the United States. Relying on our recent decision in Bado v. United States, 186 A.3d 1243 (D.C. 2018) (en banc), Ms. Miller argues among other things that she was denied her constitutional right to a jury trial. We agree, and we therefore vacate Ms. Miller's convictions and remand for further proceedings.

         I.

         The United States's evidence at trial was as follows. On the date of the offense, Ms. Miller lived at 3552 Warter Street N.W. with Teresa Smith and Ms. Smith's boyfriend, Marquis Childs. Ms. Smith heard an argument between Ms. Miller and Mr. Childs. Entering the kitchen where the argument was taking place, Ms. Smith asked what was going on. Ms. Miller began to curse at Ms. Smith and stated she was going to cut Ms. Smith's eye out. Ms. Miller then ran to her room and retrieved a large butcher knife with an approximately eight-inch blade and a black handle. Ms. Miller returned, waved the knife around, and said "I'll fuck you up," and "I'm going to get your ass, bitch." Ms. Smith was scared and upset.

         Ms. Smith called the police. A Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) officer responded to the house and spoke with Ms. Miller. Ms. Miller told the officer that she and Ms. Smith had a verbal argument, but Ms. Miller denied wielding a knife. The officer performed a consensual search of Ms. Miller's room and found a knife with a black handle in plain view. Mr. Childs identified that knife as the knife Ms. Miller had wielded earlier. An MPD detective interviewed Ms. Smith. Ms. Smith told the detective that Ms. Miller had pulled a knife on her. Mr. Childs corroborated Ms. Smith's statement.

         The defense evidence was as follows. Ms. Miller testified that on the day of the incident she was talking to Mr. Childs in the kitchen, that Mr. Childs threatened her, and that she was afraid of him. She did not bring out a knife during the argument or threaten anyone with a knife. She keeps cooking knives in her room because she does not want them to go missing and because of roaches and mice. John Osanyingbemi, another resident of 3552 Warter Street, also testified. He testified that he saw the argument in the kitchen and that no one was holding any weapons or objects. Mr. Osanyingbemi told Ms. Miller, Mr. Childs, and Ms. Smith to stop arguing, and the group dispersed.

         II.

         Ms. Miller contends that the evidence was insufficient to support her convictions. We disagree.

         When assessing the sufficiency of the evidence, we "view the evidence in the light most favorable to the [verdict], giving full play to the right of the fact-finder to determine credibility, weigh the evidence, and draw justifiable inferences of fact." Cherry v. District of Columbia, 164 A.3d 922, 929 (D.C. 2017) (internal quotation marks omitted). The evidence is sufficient if, "after viewing it in the light most favorable to the [verdict], any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of ...


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