Criminal Law Blog

The DCCA rejects medley of appellate claims.

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Jamarr Medley, Antoine Richardson, and Lucious McLeod v. United States, Nos. 11-CF-1670, 11-CF-1671 & 12-CF-7 (decided December 18, 2014).

Players: Associate Judges Thompson and Blackburne-Rigsby, and Senior Judge Reid. Opinion by Judge Thompson. PDS for Jamarr Medley. Antoine Richardson for Antoine Richardson.  Cory Carlyle for Lucious McLeod. Trial Judge Ann O'Regan Keary.

Facts: In short, the facts of this case tell the tale of Cordell Brown's very bad year.  In late 2009, Brown was involved in an altercation with Medley and Richardson in which Brown was hit with a pole, a "black gate," and a chair, and was also stabbed two times.  In the ensuing months, Brown and his girlfriend were approached on multiple occasions by Medley and McLeod, who suggested that Brown consider dropping the charges related to the pole/"black gate"/chair/knife assault. Brown voiced his disinclination to do so.  In late 2010, four weeks before the scheduled trial date, Brown was assaulted by McLeod, who stabbed him in the chest and struck him several times. The two assaults and three defendants were joined in a single trial--a move protested by all of the defendants--that involved a bevy of mostly-assault-related charges.  The defendants lost at trial and raised eight appellate claims, three of which are discussed herein.

Issue 1: Whether the trial court abused its discretion by refusing to sever Medley's case from his co-defendants' where Medley was uninvolved in the second assault and prejudiced by a joint trial.

Holding 1: No.  In short, the court emphasizes the trial court's considerable discretion and the fact that a defendant must do more than show prejudice--he must show the "most compelling prejudice." The Court did not deny that Mr. Medley was prejudiced but found that his prejudice was more garden-variety prejudice than "most compelling prejudice."

Of Note: Part of Medley's argument was that he suffered prejudice because the government did not keep the evidence of the assaults "separate and distinct."  The Court agreed but dismissed this claim on a novel legal ground raised by neither party: that the "separate and distinct" standard may apply only to cases joined pursuant to Super Ct. Crim. R. 8(a) and not R. 8(b).

Practice Tip: The meaning of the Court's R. 8(a)/(b) detour is somewhat murky.  Future litigants can argue that it does not amount to a rule that the "separate and distinct" standard is inapplicable because the opinion states only that its application is not "required" in the 8(b) context--not that it is impermissible or never appropriate.  Litigants can also attempt to challenge the logic underpinning the court's claim, which is premised on the idea that applying the "separate and distinct rule" is "antithetical" to Rule 8(b)'s "same series of acts or transactions" criterion because 8(b) applies to instances where the offenses "are interrelated in such a manner that proof of charges against one defendant would necessarily have to be introduced in proving the jointly-charged offenses."  The court's rationale seems to ignore the possibility--presented in this case--that: two offenses exist, that one of the offenses has multiple co-defendants, and that the subsequent offense is only related to one of the co-defendants of the first offense, such that evidence of the second offense would not "necessarily have to be introduced" in a trial of the co-defendant who is not connected to the second offense.  On such facts, the "separate and distinct" requirement is not "antithetical" to the 8(b) "same series of acts or transactions" requirement.

Issue 2: Richardson placed phone calls from the jail to Medley and McLeod in which he asked them to speak to or take certain actions towards witnesses in his case.  The calls were admitted only against Richardson.  The DCCA was asked to decide whether the calls should have been redacted to remove McLeod's and Medley's names pursuant to Carpenter v. United States, which holds that trial courts have a duty "to reduce or eliminate any prejudice arising from the joint trial of defendants."

Holding 2: No redaction was required.  Carpenter's requirements do not apply to statements that fall within a hearsay exception and the statements at issue "were either assertions that something ought to occur or were directive or verbal acts."

Issue 3: Did the government present sufficient evidence of serious bodily injury where the complainant was stabbed two times, required eighteen staples to the head, a doctor testified that his wounds were "very painful," and Brown described his pain as "terrible."

Holding 3: Yes.  Although the Court has previously found similar wounds to fall short of the mark, see, e.g., Bolanos v. United States, the Court believed that these facts satisfied the "extreme pain requirement" for reasons that the Court does not entirely articulate.

Of Note: Future litigants can highlight this Court's emphasis in other cases to the effect that "pain that is merely significant, rather than exceptionally severe if not unbearable, does not constitute extreme physical pain."  Or highlight other stabbing cases, like Bolanos, in which similar injuries were deemed insufficient to meet the exacting "serious bodily injury" standard.  In the end, this decision is a reminder that "serious bodily injury" cases are inherently fact intensive and that fact-intensive cases can look different to different panels on different days. CK.

Read full opinion here.