Government of Virgin Islands v. Joseph, No. 91-3424

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
Writing for the CourtSLOVITER
Citation964 F.2d 1380
Parties35 Fed. R. Evid. Serv. 877 GOVERNMENT OF the VIRGIN ISLANDS v. Eurie JOSEPH, Appellant.
Docket NumberNo. 91-3424
Decision Date01 June 1992

Page 1380

964 F.2d 1380
35 Fed. R. Evid. Serv. 877
GOVERNMENT OF the VIRGIN ISLANDS
v.
Eurie JOSEPH, Appellant.
No. 91-3424.
United States Court of Appeals,
Third Circuit.
Argued April 20, 1992.
Decided June 1, 1992.

Page 1381

Thurston T. McKelvin, Acting Federal Public Defender, Melody M. Walcott (argued), Asst. Federal Public Defender, Christiansted, St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, for appellant.

Terry M. Halpern, U.S. Atty., David L. Atkinson (argued), Asst. U.S. Atty., Christiansted, St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, for appellee.

Before: SLOVITER, Chief Judge, MANSMANN and WEIS, Circuit Judges.

OPINION OF THE COURT

SLOVITER, Chief Judge.

At issue in this case is whether a second hearsay statement made by the victim of a homicide is admissible under the analysis of the Confrontation Clause set forth in Idaho v. Wright, 497 U.S. 805, 110 S.Ct. 3139, 111 L.Ed.2d 638 (1990).

I.

Procedural Posture and Factual History

On December 24, 1990, a five count information was filed charging Eurie Joseph with felony murder in violation of V.I.Code Ann. tit. 14, § 922(a)(2) (1964); premeditated murder in violation of V.I.Code Ann. tit. 14, § 922(a)(1) (1964); possession of an unlicensed firearm in a crime of violence in violation of V.I.Code Ann. tit. 14, § 2253 (1990 Supp.); assault with intent to commit murder, robbery and larceny in violation of V.I.Code Ann. tit. 14, § 295 (1964); and assault with a deadly weapon in violation of V.I.Code Ann. tit. 14, § 297 (1990 Supp.). Joseph entered a plea of not guilty.

Following a trial, the jury convicted him on count 1 of voluntary manslaughter (a lesser included offense of the felony murder and first degree murder charges), on count 3 of possession of an unlicensed firearm in a crime of violence, on count 4 of assault in the first degree, and on count 5 of assault in the third degree. The court sentenced Joseph to serve eight years on counts 1 and 4; five years on count 3 to run consecutive to the sentence imposed on counts 1 and 4; and five years probation on count 5 to commence upon release with credit for time served. Joseph appeals his conviction, claiming that the district court improperly admitted hearsay testimony which did not meet the requirements of either Fed.R.Evid. 804(b)(5) or the Confrontation Clause.

Following a conviction, we review the facts of record in the light most favorable to the government. United States v. Aguilar, 843 F.2d 155, 157 (3d Cir.), cert. denied, 488 U.S. 924, 109 S.Ct. 305, 102 L.Ed.2d 324 (1988). On November 20, 1990 during the mid-afternoon hours, two men entered the home of Ramon Castillo in Christiansted, St. Croix. Mr. Castillo's stepson, Francisco Mercado, was in the house at the time taking a shower. Mercado testified that when he went upstairs to bathe, he saw only his stepfather through a partially opened bedroom door, did not hear any voices, and did not see anyone else in the house. As he showered, Mercado heard his stepfather call his name "in a desperate way." Mercado ran out of the shower, opened the door to his stepfather's bedroom, and found his stepfather on the floor with a gunshot wound to his chest.

Mercado testified that when he reached the bedroom door, he encountered a young man coming out of the bedroom into the

Page 1382

hallway where Mercado stood. That man, whom Mercado later identified as Jose Rivera from a photo lineup, held a gun which was pointed directly at him and then fired. Mercado pushed Rivera's hand as he dodged out of the line of fire and thus was not injured. A second man followed the first so closely that Mercado was barely able to see him. Mercado did not identify the second man at trial.

Castillo's wife heard gunshots from the bar-restaurant that she operated below the apartment. She saw the backs of the two strangers as they were leaving but never identified them. She also testified that one of the men was carrying a gun, although she could not identify which one. She ran upstairs where she found her husband lying on the floor of their bedroom with a gunshot wound to his chest. When she found her husband, the bedroom was in disarray, although $500 in rent money which was secreted in the bedroom closet had not been removed. When Mrs. Castillo went to her husband, Castillo told her to "[l]ift my head, I'm dying." App. at 132.

As the two intruders left the house, they were seen by Jose Quinones, who had been fixing Castillo's car in the yard below at the time of the shooting. He saw the two men run from the apartment, down the front steps, and toward a gold-colored Sprint automobile parked directly behind the vehicle on which he was working. As the fleeing men approached after the shooting, Quinones tried to hide behind the Sprint, but one of the men approached him, pointed a .38 revolver at him, and told him to move out of the way. Thereafter the two men drove away. Quinones identified Joseph as the man who threatened him. Both Mercado and Quinones testified that both men they saw had guns with them.

Police were immediately summoned and arrived at the scene about seven minutes after the shooting. One of the first officers to respond was Sgt. Ramirez, who saw that Castillo was "in bad condition." App. at 183. Nevertheless, Ramirez was able to take a brief statement from Castillo before the ambulance took him to the hospital.

Joseph concedes the admissibility of Castillo's November 20 statement as testified to by Ramirez as a dying declaration, and we thus include that portion of Ramirez's testimony verbatim:

But I was looking more for h[im] to tell me, describe the guys them that been there or whoever did the crime.

So he told me that he was upstairs and two guys came in and demanded money.

I ask him to describe the guys for me. He said that one of the guys of them were cleancut, and his hair was short, and he were clean, and he had a big pendant on a chain. That the other guy was short and had locks, and he had his locks in a knot. The two of them were short.

Q. Okay.

Did he describe the[ ] relative complexions of the two individuals?

A. Yes, he did.

Q. Tell the jury about that, if you would, please.

A. He said that one of them was a little more clear, and the clear skin guy's hair was short. That that guy had a pendant, a big pendant on a chain. That the other guy was short and he was more dark, and he had his hair in locks, but had it tied up in a knot.

App. at 185.

Because Castillo was "in bad shape", Ramirez did not ask Castillo additional questions at that time. Ramirez testified that in the past he had seen Joseph with a rope chain with a big pendant, that Joseph's complexion is clearer than Rivera's, and that Rivera is between 5'6"' and 5'7"', weighs about 120 to 125 pounds and is a "brown-skinned individual." Joseph testified that his height and weight are similar.

Virgin Islands police officer Hitesman testified that he photographed the crime scene and recovered physical evidence. He found a spent projectile on the hallway floor outside of Castillo's bedroom and a shell casing just inside the bedroom. He observed and photographed a bullet hole in the same hallway near the projectile and shell casing. Hitesman also inspected and photographed the doorway to Castillo's

Page 1383

bedroom and found no bullet holes. There was testimony from an expert in the field of firearms examination that the bullet that caused Castillo's death was .38 caliber and had been fired from a revolver. He further testified that the shell casing found in the hallway was a 9 millimeter shot from a semiautomatic pistol, and that the bullet in the hallway was 9 millimeter. Both the expert and Hitesman testified that these two bullets could not have been fired from the same gun.

On November 29, 1990, Ramirez returned to the hospital to interview Castillo. 1 Castillo, while paralyzed, was no longer in critical condition and had recovered sufficiently for Ramirez to interview him. It is the admissibility of this November 29 statement that is the subject of this appeal. We describe Ramirez's testimony verbatim:

MR. ATKINSON: Okay.

Q. The specific question, Sergeant Ramirez, is this: Did you talk with Mr. Castillo about what had happened to him on the 20th?

A. Yes, I did.

Q. Did he indicate to you what had happened?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. Did he indicate whether or not he had been shot by one of the two individuals that he had described to you earlier?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. Which of the two individuals did he say had shot him?

A. He stated the clear-skinned individual shot him.

Q. Did he say what immediately preceded him being shot by the clear-skinned individual?

A. Yeah. He said that he had just--he had just came from buying some parts to fix his car. He was upstairs, he was going to change his clothes to go work on his car when the two individuals came in the house, demanded the money. He told them he only had $30. He said that the clear-skinned guy, individual, hit him with a gun butt on his head, right, and then he shot him, and then he fell down.

Q. Did he indicate whether he was able to see whether the darker-skinned individual took a shot at somebody else?

A. Yeah.

He said that when they were leaving, he started to call for his stepson, and he saw that when they were leaving, the darker guy, the guy with the locks fired a shot at his stepson.

Q. As he was telling you about this, were you able to see any small abrasions or bumps or contusions to his head?

A. Yes, he had a laceration to his head.

Q. Did he indicate to you whether he knew either of these assailants?

A. He said he ain't know any one of them.

App. at 189-91.

On December 5, 1990, Castillo unexpectedly died as a result of his wounds, and thus was unable to testify at trial. Castillo's statement of November 20 was admitted without objection as a dying declaration. Joseph objected to the admission of the November 29 statement but the district court admitted it under the residual hearsay exception of Fed.R.Evid. 804(b)(5).

II.

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  • U.S. v. Trenkler, No. 94-1301
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)
    • 6 Diciembre 1994
    ...exception." See Idaho v. Wright, 497 U.S. 805, 817, 110 S.Ct. 3139, 3147, 111 L.Ed.2d 638 (1990); Government of Virgin Islands v. Joseph, 964 F.2d 1380, 1387 (3d 33 Even the majority questions the validity of the EXIS conclusion that only the Roslindale and Quincy devices share the same cha......
  • U.S. v. Gallant, No. 07-1344.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (10th Circuit)
    • 20 Agosto 2008
    ...requirement. See Douglas v. Alabama, 380 U.S. 415, 421, 85 S.Ct. 1074, 13 L.Ed.2d 934 (1965); Government of Virgin Islands v. Joseph, 964 F.2d 1380 (3d Cir.1992) (objection to admissibility of hearsay statement preserved without contemporaneous objection where written motion to exclude the ......
  • U.S. v. McLaughlin, No. 96-1982
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • 11 Septiembre 1997
    ...court denied by "a definitive ruling 'with no suggestion that it would reconsider the matter at trial.' " Government of V.I. v. Joseph, 964 F.2d 1380, 1385 (3d Cir.1992) (citing American Home Assur. Co. v. Sunshine Supermarket, Inc., 753 F.2d 321, 325 (3d Cir.1985)). Thus, the issue is prop......
  • Wilson v. State, No. 72
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Maryland
    • 1 Septiembre 1993
    ...matter to what extent that evidence tends to corroborate the hearsay statement. See, for example, Government of Virgin Islands v. Joseph, 964 F.2d 1380, 1387-1388 (3d Cir.1992); United States v. Ellis, 951 F.2d 580, 582 (4th Cir.), cert. denied, 505 U.S. 1220, 112 S.Ct. 3030, 120 L.Ed.2d 90......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
20 cases
  • U.S. v. Trenkler, No. 94-1301
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)
    • 6 Diciembre 1994
    ...exception." See Idaho v. Wright, 497 U.S. 805, 817, 110 S.Ct. 3139, 3147, 111 L.Ed.2d 638 (1990); Government of Virgin Islands v. Joseph, 964 F.2d 1380, 1387 (3d 33 Even the majority questions the validity of the EXIS conclusion that only the Roslindale and Quincy devices share the same cha......
  • U.S. v. Gallant, No. 07-1344.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (10th Circuit)
    • 20 Agosto 2008
    ...requirement. See Douglas v. Alabama, 380 U.S. 415, 421, 85 S.Ct. 1074, 13 L.Ed.2d 934 (1965); Government of Virgin Islands v. Joseph, 964 F.2d 1380 (3d Cir.1992) (objection to admissibility of hearsay statement preserved without contemporaneous objection where written motion to exclude the ......
  • U.S. v. McLaughlin, No. 96-1982
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • 11 Septiembre 1997
    ...court denied by "a definitive ruling 'with no suggestion that it would reconsider the matter at trial.' " Government of V.I. v. Joseph, 964 F.2d 1380, 1385 (3d Cir.1992) (citing American Home Assur. Co. v. Sunshine Supermarket, Inc., 753 F.2d 321, 325 (3d Cir.1985)). Thus, the issue is prop......
  • Wilson v. State, No. 72
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Maryland
    • 1 Septiembre 1993
    ...matter to what extent that evidence tends to corroborate the hearsay statement. See, for example, Government of Virgin Islands v. Joseph, 964 F.2d 1380, 1387-1388 (3d Cir.1992); United States v. Ellis, 951 F.2d 580, 582 (4th Cir.), cert. denied, 505 U.S. 1220, 112 S.Ct. 3030, 120 L.Ed.2d 90......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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