Trice v. United States, 84-518.

Citation525 A.2d 176
Case DateApril 27, 1987
CourtCourt of Appeals of Columbia District

Deborah L. Sines, Washington, D.C., appointed by this court, for appellant.

Edward C. McGuire, Asst. U.S. Atty., with whom Joseph E. diGenova, U.S. Atty., Michael W. Farrell and John E. Stevens, Asst. U.S. Attys., Washington, D.C., were on the brief, for appellee.

Before MACK, TERRY, and ROGERS, Associate Judges.

TERRY, Associate Judge:

Appellant was convicted of willfully failing to appear in court when required, a crime commonly known as bail jumping, in violation of the District of Columbia Bail Act, D.C.Code § 23-1327(a) (1981). On appeal he contends that the evidence on the element of willfulness was insufficient to support his conviction, and that the trial court's instructions to the jury were confusing and incomplete. We reject all his arguments and affirm the conviction.


The government presented no live testimony in its case in chief but simply introduced four exhibits, each a photocopy of an official court document1 Exhibit No. 1 was part of the case file in Criminal Case No. M-8783-83, which showed that appellant was charged with a misdemeanor on July 11, 1983. He was released that day on his own recognizance, to return to court for trial on August 1. The exhibit also indicated that appellant was advised of the penalties for failure to appear in court as directed.

Exhibit No. 2 was a docket entry showing that appellant failed to appear in court on August 1 in No. M-8783-83, and that a bench warrant was issued that day for his arrest. Exhibit No. 3 was a copy of the bench warrant. The return at the bottom showed that appellant was arrested on the warrant on September 8, 1983.

Exhibit No. 4 was a copy of the District of Columbia Pretrial Services Agency's conditional release form, which was issued on July 11, 1983, at appellant's arraignment. It listed appellant's address as 636 I Street, S.E., Apartment 33. The form instructed appellant to report in person to the Pretrial Services Agency once a week. Appellant's signature appeared next to a statement in bold print that said, "I understand the penalties which may be imposed on me for willful failure to appear or for violation of any condition of release and agree to comply with the conditions of my release and to appear as required."2 Immediately above appellant's signature was a box stating that appellant was "NEXT DUE BACK" on August 1, 1983, in Courtroom 1 at 9:00 a.m. Finally, in another box below appellant's signature, beginning with the word "IMPORTANT," appeared a notice in block capitals instructing appellant "to notify immediately the D.C. Pretrial Services Agency, 500 Indiana Avenue, N.W., first floor, telephone number 727-2800, of any change of address, employment, or change in status of any release conditions."

Appellant did not deny that he failed to appear in court on August 1, 1983, but defended on the ground that his failure was not willful. He testified that he was not in court on August 1 because he was unaware that he was supposed to be in court that day. At that time, he said, he had another pending criminal case, No. F-3821-82, in which he had made "around nine or ten" appearances without missing any scheduled court dates. Appellant explained that he routinely received notices in the mail from the Pretrial Services Agency telling him when and where to appear in court. The notices were mailed to his aunt's home at 613½ Park Road, N.W., rather than his own home at 636 I Street, S.E., because the mailbox in his apartment building had been "vandalized."3

Appellant remembered going to court on July 11, 1983, the day he was arraigned, but all he could think about that day was "going home." He said that neither his attorney nor anyone from the Pretrial Services Agency called him or mailed him a notice regarding his next scheduled court appearance.

On cross-examination, appellant acknowledged that he had signed the Pretrial Services Agency conditional release form immediately below the box stating that he was "NEXT DUE BACK on 1 Aug. 83 in Courtroom 1 at 9 A.M." He also conceded that he had received a copy of the form, but he could not remember what had happened to it. Appellant admitted that he did not contact the Pretrial Services Agency until August 8, when he called to inform the Agency of his problem with receiving mail and to find out when he was to return to court. He did not know with whom he talked on August 8, but whoever it was did not know the date of his next scheduled court appearance. Finally, appellant said he "understood" that the document he signed on July 11 "was an order" for him to return to court.

Michael Gunn, a representative of the Pretrial Services Agency, testified that the Agency's records showed that between July 26, 1982, and June 7, 1983, the Agency sent notices about appellant's pending felony case, No. F-3821-82, to him at 6131/2 Park Road, N.W. The records also showed, however, that with respect to his pending misdemeanor case, No. M-8783-83, in which appellant was scheduled to appear in court on August 1, 1983, the Agency sent the notices to 6 (not 636) I Street, S.E. Two notices were mailed, one on July 15 and one on July 27. On cross-examination Mr. Gunn explained that the Agency relied upon each defendant to provide a correct mailing address and to notify the Agency of any changes of address. The Agency, he said, had no way to determine whether a defendant's purported address was correct.

Cora Williams, appellant's aunt, testified that she lived at 613½ Park Road, N.W. She said that appellant had lived with her at an unspecified time in the past, and that during that time he had received mail there. However, no mail addressed to appellant had come to her house for over two years.4 She specifically stated that she had not received any mail for him after he moved away, and that no mail came for him in August 1983. When asked whether she had ever notified appellant of his court dates, she replied, "[W]hen he had court days, I notified him, when he got mail, but he ain't got no mail there."

The government recalled Mr. Gunn as a rebuttal witness. He testified that the Agency records showed only one telephone contact with appellant concerning case No. M-8783-83. That contact occurred on August 25, 1983, not August 8 as appellant had claimed. In addition, Mr. Gunn pointed out that appellant did not comply at all with one of the conditions of his release in No. M-8783-83, namely, that he report weekly, in person, to the Agency.

The court instructed the jury in part as follows:

The essential elements of the offense of bail jumping, each of which the Government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt, are:

1. That the defendant was released by a judicial officer in connection with a charge of a misdemeanor;

2. That on August 1st, 1983, the defendant was required to appear before a court or judicial officer in connection with the misdemeanor charge;

3. That the defendant willfully failed to appear as required. In this connection, you are advised that an act is done willfully if done knowingly, intentionally, and deliberately.

If you find beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant had received notice of the date on which he was to appear before a court or judicial officer and that he failed to appear on that date, then you may infer that his failure to appear on that date was willful. You may not infer that he willfully failed to appear, however, if, after considering all of the evidence, you find that his failure to appear was not willful.

You are further instructed that even if the defendant did not receive actual notice of the date on which he was to appear before a court or judicial officer, you may, if you find beyond a reasonable doubt that reasonable efforts were made to notify the defendant and that the defendant, by his own actions, willfully frustrated the receipt of actual notice, find that the defendant willfully failed to appear.

In determining from all the circumstances in question whether the defendant's failure to appear was willful beyond a reasonable doubt, you may also consider whether, at the time of his release from custody, the defendant was advised by a judicial officer of the penalties for failure to appear. You are instructed, however, that the Government need not establish that the defendant was advised of the penalties for failure to appear and you may return a verdict of guilty as to the defendant, even though there is no proof that the defendant was advised of the penalties for failure to appear, if you are otherwise satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt from all the evidence that the defendant's failure to appear was willful.

Intent means that a person had the purpose to do a thing. It means that he failed to act or acted with the will or will not to do the thing. It means that he acted or failed to act consciously or voluntarily and not inadvertently or accidentally.

Some criminal offenses require only a general intent. Where this is so, and it is shown that a person has knowingly committed an act which the law makes a crime, intent may be inferred from the doing of the act.

Intent is a state of mind. Intent ordinarily cannot be proved directly, because there is no way of fathoming and scrutinizing the operations of the human mind. But you may infer the defendant's intent from the surrounding circumstances. You may consider any statement made and act done or omitted by the defendant, and all other facts and circumstances in evidence which indicate his state of mind. You may infer that a person ordinarily intends the natural and probable consequence of acts knowingly done or knowingly omitted. However, you should consider all the circumstances in evidence that you deem relevant in determining whether the Government has proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant acted with the...

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