McCoy v. U.S., No. 03-CF-722, 03-CF-1184.

Citation890 A.2d 204
Case DateJanuary 12, 2006
CourtCourt of Appeals of Columbia District

Page 204

890 A.2d 204
Edward I. McCOY and Darryl Woodard, Appellants,
No. 03-CF-722, 03-CF-1184.
District of Columbia Court of Appeals.
Argued October 5, 2005.
Decided January 12, 2006.

Page 205

Dennis M. Hart, Washington, appointed by the court, for appellant McCoy.

Page 206

Winsome G. Gayle, Public Defender Service, with whom James Klein, Samia Fam, and Robin Walker, Public Defender Service, were on the brief, for appellant Woodard.

Chrisellen R. Kolb, Assistant United States Attorney, with whom Kenneth Wainstein, United States Attorney, and John R. Fisher, Assistant United States Attorney at the time the brief was filed, Elizabeth Trosman, and Daniel P. Butler, Assistant United States Attorneys, were on the brief, for appellee.

Before WASHINGTON, Chief Judge, FARRELL, Associate Judge, and NEBEKER, Senior Judge.

NEBEKER, Senior Judge:

These appeals from convictions require the court to decide whether admission of a confession by each appellant was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. The trial court had denied their motions to suppress the confessions, but after these appeals were noted, the Supreme Court of the United States decided Missouri v. Seibert, 542 U.S. 600, 124 S.Ct. 2601, 159 L.Ed.2d 643 (2004), which, as the government recognizes, renders the confessions inadmissible.

The threshold for harmlessness in erroneously admitting a confession has been set quite high. Chapman v. California, 386 U.S. 18, 87 S.Ct. 824, 17 L.Ed.2d 705 (1967). If there is no reasonable possibility that the offending evidence might have contributed to the conviction, the error is harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. Dancy v. United States, 745 A.2d 259, 273 (D.C.2000). We hold as to appellant Woodard that admission of his confession is not harmless by the Chapman standard. As to appellant McCoy, we hold the admission of his confession is harmless by that standard. The other issues McCoy raises—severance and sufficiency of the evidence—we hold do not require reversal. Nor are we persuaded by McCoy's argument that the use of redacted statements presents a viable confrontation issue.


In March 2002, two cars sped adjacent to one another through the Third Street Tunnel of this city. Gunfire from someone in the Volvo struck both occupants of the Chevrolet. Ebony Byrd, the passenger in the Chevrolet, helped the driver, Michael Cary, get to the hospital. While recuperating from his injuries there, police interviewed Cary, who identified appellant Darryl Woodard as the shooter.

Police then arrested Woodard and had him wait at the interview room at the station house. Thereafter, they questioned him about the shooting without giving him warnings, as required by Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966). Throughout the ensuing forty-five minutes of continuous interrogation, Woodard implicated co-appellant Edward McCoy as the actual shooter, and also made incriminating statements against himself. Police then administered the Miranda warnings, obtained a waiver of his rights, activated an audio tape recorder, and had Woodard repeat the confessions he had just made to them. Several weeks later, McCoy was arrested on unrelated warrants, and police subsequently questioned him regarding the Third Street Tunnel shooting. Their "question first, Mirandize later" interrogation tactics closely resembled those used on Woodard, in that the officers' lengthy and persistent questioning resulted in incriminating statements, at which point the officers finally administered warnings, obtained a waiver, and had McCoy repeat the confession on videotape.

Page 207

Before trial, both appellants moved to suppress the recordings of their post-Miranda confessions to the police. The motions were denied, and at trial, the tapes were admitted against them.1 Appellants also moved to have their trials severed, but the court also denied this motion. The government then presented several witnesses, including victims Cary and Byrd. Cary and Byrd, who lived in the Lincoln-Westmoreland apartment complex, testified that on the night in question, they were at a nightclub in Prince George's County and attempted to have their picture taken at a photo booth there. They were unable to do so, though, because Woodard began dancing between them and the camera. Cary recognized Woodard and some of his friends there as residents of the Sursum Corda neighborhood. After a heated exchange of words, Cary once more attempted to have a photo taken, only to notice that Woodard's dancing again obstructed the camera. A brief fist fight ensued between Cary, Woodard, and their respective groups of friends, but thereafter for the following two hours, the nightclub remained peaceful.

As Cary left the club, he saw Woodard and three others walk to a Volvo. Cary drove away in the Chevrolet, only to notice that the Volvo was in pursuit. As Cary sped up, the Volvo did too, until both vehicles were moving rapidly through the Third Street Tunnel. Byrd testified that the Volvo pulled up alongside of the other car and that Woodard shot at them from the Volvo. As the shots rang out, Cary testified that he heard Woodard shout "stop bullshitting," though Cary also admitted that at the time, he was more concerned with dodging the bullets than noting who was in the other car.

The government then presented Todd Lawton as a witness. Lawton also testified in regards to the photo booth scuffle, essentially corroborating Cary's story on that point. The Volvo did not leave until the Chevrolet did. He recounted that during the ride from the club, he was in the back seat of the Volvo with Woodard, while Jerome Edwards drove and McCoy sat in the front passenger seat. As the cars approached the Third Street Tunnel, McCoy shouted at Edwards to maintain pace alongside the Chevrolet. Lawton testified that, just before the shots were fired, Woodard put his sweatshirt hood over his head, and motioned for Lawton to do the same. Lawton did so because he "thought something was going to happen." His intuitions were correct, because he testified that soon thereafter, McCoy fired several shots at the Chevrolet using a chrome-colored.25 caliber pistol. Police later found a shell casing from an expended .25 caliber cartridge in the Volvo.

Next, a Jonathan Paige testified that the blue Volvo belonged to his mother. He knew McCoy "from the neighborhood," and the day after the shooting incident, he went to "confront" McCoy in regards to the incident, because he was upset that McCoy's use of the Volvo was "putting [his] mother in danger." When asked on direct examination how McCoy responded when Paige inquired about his involvement in the incident, Paige testified, "He said he shot out the car," and that McCoy "said he wish he'd never done it."2

Page 208

The recordings of both Woodard and McCoy's confessions were played to the jury. Woodard was convicted of assault with a dangerous weapon (ADW)3 under an aiding and abetting theory, and of conspiracy.4 McCoy was convicted of conspiracy,5 ADW against Cary (as a lesser included offense of assault with intent to kill while armed)6 and a pendent count of possession of a firearm during that crime (PFCV)7, aggravated assault while armed (AAWA)8 against Cary and a pendent PFCV count, ADW against Byrd9 and a pendent PFCV count, carrying a pistol without a license10 or valid registration,11 possession of ammunition without a license,12 and misdemeanor destruction of property.13 This appeal followed.


The Supreme Court's recent holding in Missouri v. Seibert, supra, establishes that when police purposefully use a "question first, Mirandize later" interrogation technique, postwarning statements related to prewarning statements must be excluded unless curative measures are taken before the postwarning statement is made. 542 U.S. at 604-05, 610-11, 622, 124 S.Ct. 2601. That case limited—or at least explicitly distinguished—the holdings of Oregon v. Elstad, 470 U.S. 298, 105 S.Ct. 1285, 84 L.Ed.2d 222 (1985), and Davis v. United States, 724 A.2d 1163 (D.C.1998), which was this court's application of Elstad. Seibert, 542 U.S. at 611, 124 S.Ct. 2601. The trial court had relied on both of those decisions in denying the motions to suppress the confessions. Elstad held that, when an interrogator has failed to administer the Miranda warnings in a good-faith but mistaken belief that the warnings were not required, then corrective measures might salvage the fruits of the interrogation. In this case, the government cannot and does not claim that good-faith mistake or curative measures make Elstad or Davis applicable.

However, the government proceeds to argue that, despite the introduction into evidence of the tainted confession, the convictions should still stand because the use of the confessions was harmless under the Chapman standard.


While the "beyond a reasonable doubt" measure seems to be unique among appellate standards of review, this court has alternatively phrased the rule thusly: if, after excluding the contents of the illegally obtained confession from the record, "there remains overwhelming evidence to support the jury's verdict," then admission of the confession into evidence will not warrant a new trial. Hill v. United States, 858 A.2d 435, 448 (D.C.2004); Smith v. United States, 529 A.2d 312, 318 (D.C. 1987). This wording suggests that we use a "cumulative" test: if the content of the improperly admitted confession is replicated in toto by other evidence, then the error is harmless. See, e.g., Lewis v. United

Page 209

States, 483 A.2d 1125, 1131 (D.C.1984) (admitting statement obtained in violation of Miranda held to be harmless beyond a reasonable doubt because substance of statement was presented to jury through other, untainted testimony). However, even if the content of a tainted confession is entirely cumulative, its introduction into evidence might—under quite...

To continue reading

Request your trial
32 cases
  • Smith v. U.S., No. 06-CF-243.
    • United States
    • District of Columbia Court of Appeals of Columbia District
    • February 26, 2009 the jury. See Neder v. United States, 527 U.S. 1, 15, 119 S.Ct. 1827, 144 L.Ed.2d 35 (1999). 46. See also McCoy v. United States, 890 A.2d 204, 208 (D.C.2006) ("this court has alternatively phrased the rule thusly: if, after excluding the contents of the illegally obtained confession fro......
  • Heath v. United States, 08–CF–347.
    • United States
    • District of Columbia Court of Appeals of Columbia District
    • July 21, 2011
    ...Chapman materiality test is consistent with our recent constructions of the Chapman standard. For example, in McCoy v. United States, 890 A.2d 204, 212 (D.C.2006) (quoting Hill v. United States, 858 A.2d 435, 447 (D.C.2004)), we reversed upon a finding of Chapman error that characterized th......
  • Perez v. U.S., 99-CF-107.
    • United States
    • District of Columbia Court of Appeals of Columbia District
    • March 26, 2009
    ...evidence is introduced by a codefendant or the government and [must] sever the trials where appropriate"); cf. McCoy v. United States, 890 A.2d 204, 215 (D.C.2006) (noting two crucial measures undertaken by trial judge that compensated for any possible prejudice that might have resulted fro......
  • Johnson v. United States, s. 04–CF–1125
    • United States
    • District of Columbia Court of Appeals of Columbia District
    • December 22, 2011
    ...of might have contributed to the conviction.’ ” Ellis v. United States, 941 A.2d 1042, 1048–49 (D.C.2008) (quoting McCoy v. United States, 890 A.2d 204, 212 (D.C.2006); Chapman, 386 U.S. at 23, 87 S.Ct. 824). “Indeed, the ‘inquiry [under Chapman ] ... is not whether, in a trial that occurre......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT