Christian v. United States

Decision Date28 September 1978
Docket NumberNo. 11042.,No. 8810.,No. 8809.,No. 8811.,8809.,8810.,8811.,11042.
Citation394 A.2d 1
PartiesWilliam CHRISTIAN, Appellant, v. UNITED STATES, Appellee. Theodore MOODY, Appellant, v. UNITED STATES, Appellee. John W. CLARK, Appellant, v. UNITED STATES, Appellee.
CourtD.C. Court of Appeals

Herbert 0. Reid, Washington, D. C., appointed by this court, for appellant Christian.

George B. Mickum, III, and Herbert E. Forrest, Washington, D. C., appointed by this court, with whom Judith H. Bello, Allan Gates and Howard H. Stahl, Washington, D. C., were on the brief, for appellant Moody.

Francis X. Lilly, Washington, D. C., appointed by this court, and Reed L. Von Maur, Washington, D. C., with whom Burton A. Schwalb, Rodney F. Page, Douglas G. Green, Carter Strong and William R. Charyk, Washington, D. C., were on the brief, for appellant Clark.

John W. Polk, Asst. U. S. Atty., Washington, D. C., with whom Earl J. Silbert, U. S. Atty., John A. Terry, Henry F. Schuelke, III, and Percy H. Russell, Jr., Asst. U. S. Attys., Washington, D. C., were on the brief, for appellee.

Before KELLY, GALLAGHER and YEAGLEY, Associate Judges.


On August 15, 1973, seven individuals were each indicted by a grand jury on twenty-three counts of murder, assault, robbery, burglary, and conspiracy to commit the substantive offenses.1 The charges arose out of events culminating in the deaths of seven persons at 7700 16th Street, N.W., on January 18, 1973. The ghastly crimes committed there came to be known collectively as the "Hanafi" case because all of the victims were Orthodox Hanafi Muslims. Five of the seven defendants were jointly tried.2

After a lengthy and rather complex trial3 the jury found appellants William Christian, John Clark and Theodore Moody each guilty of seven counts of first-degree premeditated murder, seven counts of first-degree felony murder, two counts of assault with intent to kill while armed, one count of armed robbery, three counts of attempted robbery while armed, one count of first-degree burglary while armed and one count of conspiracy.4 Motions for a new trial were filed on behalf of appellants and denied. They were sentenced to life imprisonment on each of the premeditated murder counts, those sentences to run consecutively to one another, but concurrently with all other sentences; to life imprisonment on each of the felony murder counts, those sentences to run consecutively to each other, but concurrently with all other sentences; to life imprisonment on each of the remaining substantive counts; and to one to five years' imprisonment on the conspiracy count.5

We begin with a summary of the government's evidence introduced at trial against all three appellants (Part I). The facts will be developed more fully, infra, as we discuss the individual arguments raised on appeal. Appellants jointly contend (1) they were denied their Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights by the presence of an informant (codefendant Price) in the defense camp (Part II); (2) the trial court erred in denying their motions for severance (Part III); and (3) the court erred in failing to grant a mistrial after the emotional outbursts of several prosecution witnesses (Part IV). Clark challenges the admissibility of the in-court identification of him by Amina Khaalis (Part V) and, together with Christian, claims the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction (Part VI). Clark and Moody contend the Interstate Agreement on Detainers mandates the dismissal of their indictments with prejudice (Part VII). They also assert certain evidence should not have been admitted at trial because it was obtained through unauthorized process (subpoenas and writs of habeas corpus) (Part VIII). Finally, appellants claim error in the felony-murder instructions (Part IX).


On January 18, 1973, approximately eight armed men entered a house at 7700 16th Street, N.W., and proceeded to rob, shoot, or drown every person present. Seven persons, including five children, were brutally murdered; two others were seriously wounded.6 The home was the residence of Calipha Hamaas Abdul Khaalis and the headquarters of the Orthodox Hanafi Muslims. The government's theory at trial was that the murders were the culmination of a conspiracy by members of the "Nation of Islam," the so-called "Black Muslims," to seek revenge against Hamaas Khaalis for his criticism of Elijah Muhammad, then leader of the Nation of Islam. Khaalis had voiced his disapproval of Elijah Muhammad in two letters sent to Nation of Islam mosques throughout the United States. In support of this theory, the government produced Amina Khaalis, the only competent surviving victim of the massacre and daughter of Hamaas Khaalis.7 She testified at trial that during the melee, one of the intruders had questioned her as to why her father had written "those letters." Before being taken to the hospital on the day of the murders, she was able to tell police her assailants were some of "Elijah's people."

In the wake of the murders, several leads soon developed which prompted investigators to turn toward the city of Philadelphia in their search for the killers. Several pieces of evidence were abandoned by the intruders as they made their getaway: a large blue suitcase containing two sawed-off shotguns, ammunition, a copy of the Philadelphia Daily News (not sold in Washington during January 1973), credit cards belonging to a William Horton of Philadelphia,8 and a brown paper bag from which a fingerprint of Clark's was later identified. Also discarded were three pistols, one of which was registered to a Eugene White of Philadelphia, who had previously reported it stolen in an armed robbery. Moody was subsequently identified as one of the perpetrators of that robbery. An eyewitness saw the getaway cars and recalled their Pennsylvania license plates. Found later on the escape path was a piece of paper on which was written "Brother Lieutenant John 38X." The name is of the type received by one who has joined the Nation of Islam and was, in fact, used by Clark. Clark and Christian were identified as being associated with the Philadelphia mosque.

Records of Clark's home telephone number revealed that on January 17 and 18, 1973, several calls were made between his Philadelphia home and the Downtown Motel in Washington, D.C. The motel's records disclosed that a man purporting to be William Horton had registered a party of six on January 17, 1973. Two handwriting experts positively identified Clark as the person who had forged Horton's signature. A call from the motel also was made to Christian's home in Philadelphia. One of the motel's employees identified Christian from a photograph and again in court as one of the persons she had seen at the motel on January 18, 1973.

Other evidence showed that Moody had purchased a used Chrysler in Philadelphia on January 16, 1973. Gasoline for this car was purchased at Exxon stations in Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and between the two cities over the next few days. Used to buy the gasoline was a stolen credit card issued in the name of Lorrene Goode. A handwriting expert testified it was "probable" that Clark was the forger of Goode's signature.9 Further evidence indicated that Christian had used the Goode credit card in the Philadelphia area in January and February 1973.

In the spring of 1973, the grand jury investigating the Hanafi case issued subpoenas for appellants to appear in a lineup. Moody and Clark were incarcerated in Philadelphia on unrelated charges and were transferred to the District pursuant to writs of habeas corpus. When Christian was served with the subpoena, he chose to ignore it by fleeing to Florida where he (along with codefendant Griffin) was apprehended in October 1973. At the lineup, Amina Khaalis identified Moody as one of the men she had seen in the house on the day of the murders. Two eyewitnesses identified Moody as one of the individuals seen fleeing from the scene. Clark was not identified at the lineup proceedings. At trial, Amina Khaalis made in-court identifications of both Moody and Clark. Two other witnesses identified Moody at trial.

Appellants Clark and Moody presented alibi defenses. Christian produced no testimony.


All three appellants contend that their Fifth Amendment rights to a fair trial and their Sixth Amendment rights to effective assistance of counsel were violated because the presence of James Price as a codefendant in their midst up until the eve of trial constituted a governmental intrusion into the defense camp. More specifically, they argue that because James Price had given a statement to the prosecution inculpating himself and seven others (including them), and because the prosecution anticipated his testimony against them at trial, he was the equivalent of a government agent. Furthermore, they assert that because he was made a codefendant with them, housed in the same jail with them temporarily, and participated in defense discussions with appellants and their attorneys, as did his counsel, their constitutional rights to a fair trial and effective assistance of counsel were violated.10

At a lineup held on June 7, 1973, Amina Khaalis identified James Price as one of the perpetrators. On June 21, 1973, the prosecutors met with Price and his wife in Philadelphia to discuss an agreement to testify for the government. On June 22, Price was placed in protective custody and moved to the District of Columbia (D.C.). On July 3, he gave the prosecution a detailed statement inculpating himself and seven others, including appellants Christian, Clark, and Moody, as participants in the Hanafi murders. Two days later he affirmed his written confession before the grand jury. At the start of the grand jury proceedings, prosecutor Shuker agreed that if...

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