Hammond v. US

Decision Date11 August 2005
Docket Number No. 97-CF-624, No. 97-CF-791.
PartiesNavarro A. HAMMOND, Appellant, v. UNITED STATES, Appellee. Chester C. Wright, Appellant, v. United States, Appellee.
CourtD.C. Court of Appeals

Matthew J. Perry, with whom Jeffrey T. Green, Washington, DC, appointed by the court, was on the brief, for appellant Hammond.

Brenda C. Wagner, Washington, DC, appointed by the court, for appellant Wright.

David B. Goodhand, Assistant United States Attorney, with whom Roscoe C. Howard, Jr., United States Attorney at the time the brief was filed, and John R. Fisher and Roy W. McLeese III, Assistant United States Attorneys, were on the brief, for appellee.

Before: FARRELL and WAGNER, Associate Judges, and STEADMAN, Senior Judge.1

WAGNER, Associate Judge:

Appellants, Navarro A. Hammond and Chester C. Wright, were indicted on charges of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder while armed (D.C.Code §§ 22-105a,2 -24013(1989)), first-degree murder while armed (premeditated) (D.C.Code §§ 22-2401, -32024 (1989)), obstruction of justice (D.C.Code § 22-722(a)(1)(1989)),5 first-degree murder while armed (felony murder predicated upon obstruction of justice) (D.C.Code §§ 22-502,6 -722(a)(1), -3202 (1989)), and assault with intent to commit obstruction of justice while armed (D.C.Code §§ 22-502, -722(a)(1)), all arising out of the murder of Ronald Richardson, a District of Columbia Corrections Officer. Wright was also charged with possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime of violence (PFCV) and carrying a pistol without a license (CPWL) (D.C.Code §§ 22-3204(a), (b) (1992)).7 Following a jury trial, both appellants were convicted as charged except that Wright was found not guilty of CPWL. Hammond's principal argument on appeal is that reversal and dismissal of the indictment is required because he was denied his constitutional right to a speedy trial. He also argues that the trial court erred in failing to sever his case from Wright's case and in admitting certain statements made by a co-defendant, Bradley Sweet, who was tried separately. Wright adopts Hammond's speedy trial argument. Further, he argues: (1) that the trial court erred in admitting certain hearsay statements and in excluding others; (2) that he was prejudiced by other crimes evidence and fear expressed by the witnesses; (3) that the evidence was insufficient to convict him; (4) that he was denied due process because the prosecutor pursued conflicting theories against him and a co-defendant in a separate trial; and (5) that all of the offenses of his conviction merge. After carefully considering all of the factors relevant to a speedy trial analysis, we conclude that, in spite of the lengthy delay in this case, appellants were not deprived of their constitutional right to a speedy trial. Finding no other reversible error, we affirm appellants' convictions. We remand to the trial court with instructions to vacate the merged offenses consistent with this opinion and for consideration of Wright's unresolved motion filed pursuant to D.C.Code § 23-110 (1989).

I. Factual and Procedural Background
A. Procedural History

Ronald Richardson, a corrections officer, was scheduled to testify against Michael Page in a kidnaping trial on October 7, 1991. That morning, as Richardson left his home at 5739 Blaine Street, N.E. to go to court, he was shot and killed as he stood next to the family car. Hammond, Wright, Terrence (Terry) Pleasant, and Bradley Sweet, who were associates of Page, were indicted on June 29, 1992 on charges related to Richardson's murder. Both Hammond and Wright filed motions to sever their cases from that of their co-defendants, which the trial court (Judge Cheryl M. Long) denied. The government voluntarily severed Sweet's case for trial, and the court decided to proceed first with Sweet's trial, scheduling it for February 19, 1993. Neither Hammond nor Wright objected. The court scheduled trial for Hammond, Wright and Pleasant for March 5, 1993.

Sweet's trial was continued, and on March 5, 1993 counsel for co-defendant Pleasant requested a June trial date "on behalf of defense counsel." The government represented that Sweet's trial would not be completed by that time and that defense counsel would not have had an opportunity to obtain and review transcripts and documents from Sweet's trial with only a week between trials. Neither Hammond nor Wright objected to this representation. The court set a new trial date of June 18, 1993. At a status conference held on June 2, 1993, a new attorney was appointed for Wright, and the court considered a new trial date. The government noted that in addition to Wright's change of counsel, there was a possibility that the Sweet trial might be continued and that defense counsel had said that they wanted the "benefit of hearing . . . the evidence [from the Sweet trial] first before going to trial." Again, neither Wright nor Hammond objected to this representation, and a new trial date was set for November 1, 1993. However, this trial date was continued again, first to November 17, 1993, apparently because Sweet's trial had not yet ended. On November 17, 1993, the court was in trial. At a status hearing on November 23, 1993, the court (Judge Long) announced that the Sweet trial had just ended on Friday, November 19, 1993.8

The government then informed the court that the Michael Page case would be tried separately and suggested setting Page's trial in early January and trials for the remaining co-defendants in February or March. However, Hammond's counsel indicated that he had a very complicated, multi-defendant death penalty trial in the District Court that was expected to last four months. After considering the scheduling conflicts, the trial court set the Page trial for January 19, 1994 and appellants' trial for May 9, 1994. During this hearing, Wright's counsel asserted his speedy trial rights. The government noted that Mr. Wright was serving a sentence in another case.

At a status conference on April 14, 1994, co-counsel for Hammond requested a continuance of the May 9th trial date because of the anticipated delivery date for her child and the projected six weeks for the trial of this case. The prosecutor stated that the government was anxious to try the case, and counsel for appellant Wright also stated that he was prepared and anxious to proceed; however, he acknowledged that Wright was serving a sentence in another case. Since appellant Hammond had co-counsel who was expected to try the case, the trial court (Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly) denied the request to continue the May 9th trial date. The court vacated the June 6th back-up trial date, and set a back-up trial date for September 23, 1994.

On May 9, 1994, the assigned prosecutor was in trial, and therefore requested a continuance. Although a back-up date of September 23, 1994 had been set, the lead counsel for Hammond was expected to be in trial in the federal court for four to five weeks at that time. Hammond's counsel said that he had no objection to an October or November trial date. Counsel for appellant Wright had a five co-defendant trial starting on September 28, 1994 that was expected to last for two weeks. Co-counsel for Hammond indicated that it would be lead counsel's "preference" to proceed in October, and counsel for Wright stated that any date in October was agreeable to him. The court then scheduled the trial for October 17, 1994.

On October 17, 1994, Pleasant's counsel moved for a continuance because he was in a trial that was expected to take four weeks to complete. Finding it difficult to secure a date convenient for all parties, the trial court suggested proceeding with the trials of the remaining defendants and continuing only Pleasant's case. Not having anticipated this possibility, the prosecutor stated that he was not ready to proceed in the other two cases. There was a suggestion that the case be continued for two weeks. Hammond's counsel stated that he agreed to a continuance of three to seven days, but that a longer continuance would present difficulties for him. Wright's counsel stated that he was prepared to go forward that day, and he moved to dismiss if the government was not prepared to proceed. The trial court denied Wright's motion to dismiss and continued the case for one week until October 24, 1994. On October 24, 1994, the prosecutor was ill, and the case was continued until the next day.

On October 25, 1994, the trial court (Judge Kollar-Kotelly) ruled inadmissible portions of certain statements implicating Hammond, Wright and Pleasant in the crimes charged.9 The government filed a notice of appeal and certification that "the evidence at issue is substantial proof of the charged offenses and that the appeal is not taken for purposes of delay." On November 7, 1994, the government filed a motion to expedite its interlocutory appeal, which was granted on January 25, 1995. The record was completed on March 16, 1995. On September 5, 1995, this court issued an order requiring the government to file its brief in forty days and Hammond and Wright to file their briefs within thirty days. The government filed its brief on October 16, 1995. Hammond's brief was filed nunc pro tunc on November 24, 1995. Wright was directed to file his brief at that time, but Wright did not file his brief until February 20, 1996. The government filed its reply brief on April 5, 1996. The case was argued in the Court of Appeals on April 22, 1996.

On August 15, 1996, this court issued an opinion reversing the decision of the trial court. See Hammond I, supra

note 8, 681 A.2d at 1146. This court determined that the appeal was properly before the court and that the trial court had "misconstrued Williamson [v. United States, 512 U.S. 594, 114 S.Ct. 2431, 129 L.Ed.2d 476 (1994)] as creating a per se rule barring admission, under the hearsay exception for declarations against penal...

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