U.S. v. Caldwell

Decision Date23 September 1976
Docket NumberNos. 72-1513,s. 72-1513
Citation543 F.2d 1333,178 U.S.App.D.C. 20
PartiesUNITED STATES of America v. Lawrence Daniel CALDWELL, A/K/A Thomas E. Morgan, Appellant (two cases). UNITED STATES of America v. Eros A. TIMM, Appellant (two cases). to 72-1516.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — District of Columbia Circuit

Harry David Rosenbloom and John T. Shinkle, Washington, D.C. (both appointed by this Court), for appellant in Nos. 72-1513 and 72-1515.

Carol Garfiel Freeman, Washington, D.C., with whom Michael A. Fayad, Washington, D.C. (both appointed by this Court), was on the brief for appellant in Nos. 72-1514 and 72-1516.

Earl J. Silbert, Principal Asst. U. S. Atty., with whom Harold H. Titus, Jr., U. S. Atty. at the time the briefs were filed, and John A. Terry, Asst. U. S. Atty., were on the brief, for appellee.

Before WRIGHT, ROBINSON and MacKINNON, Circuit Judges.


Appellants have been found guilty by a jury on numerous charges emanating from two armed robberies in the District of Columbia and the slaying of a police officer as the aftermath of one. On the verdicts, the trial judge entered judgments convicting appellants and sentencing them to long terms of imprisonment. 1 Appellants now tender for our consideration a veritable host of contentions, 2 all of which we have studied assidiously. Finding, in the circumstances of the case, no need for definitive decision of some issues, and no error warranting reversal on the others, we affirm the judgments in part and vacate them in part, 3 leaving unaffected the maximum term of imprisonment imposed.


We start with a summary of the events comprising the offenses with which appellants were charged and the major developments at the trial ensuing. Our recitation is not nearly exhaustive of the innumerable details, 4 nor need it be at this point. Appellants do not dispute the commission or the ingredients of the crimes, or their roles as perpetrators; their points on appeal, rather, are objections to procedural aspects of the trial, and the facts bearing on each are staked out fully as they are successively treated in subsequent sections of this opinion. Our present effort, then, is simply to recount highlights in order to frame the backdrop against which the legal issues posed can more perceptively be analyzed and resolved.

A. The Offenses

The two holdups from which the charges in suit emanated took place on May 24 and 25, 1971. On the first date, at about 11:00 a. m., appellants entered a branch office of the American Savings and Loan Association at 4900 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W. 5 Dressed in business suits and sporting short, conservative haircuts, the two men first conferred briefly. 6 Caldwell then approached teller Betty Vance and asked about opening an account; simultaneously, Timm proceeded to the window of another teller, Gwenda Younger. After a customer in front of Timm completed her transaction, he placed a briefcase on the counter with a note saying, "place your money in this briefcase." Perceiving a dark automatic pistol pointed at her, Ms. Younger reached for bait money, but was foiled when Timm recognized what she was about to do and warned her not to touch the bait money or the alarm. After emptying her own money drawer, she obeyed his order to obtain additional cash from another teller. A total of $4,305 was taken.

Both men fled from the building on foot. Officer Nelson Gosnell, already staking out a nearby bank, observed them as they crossed an adjacent parking lot to an intersection, at which point they separated and casually walked away in different directions. In a matter of minutes, Officer Gosnell responded to the report of the holdup of American Savings, but by that time appellants had escaped and no one was able to track their movements. 7

On the next morning, May 25, again about 11:00 a. m., the second holdup occurred at a branch of the National Permanent Federal Savings and Loan Association 8 located in a small shopping center on MacArthur Boulevard. Timm, the first to enter, proceeded directly to the window of a teller, Nancy DuTeil, and again used the pretense of inquiring about opening a savings account. Unbeknown to Timm, two police officers, William L. Sigmon and William Schwartz, at the time were stationed in a back room, but, unfortunately, they had no way of watching activity inside the branch.

While Ms. DuTeil was preoccupied with Timm, Caldwell appeared at her window, this time wearing a beard and collar-length hair. As she turned to assist Caldwell at the window, he produced a gun and directed her to put money into a briefcase. Although she readily complied, Caldwell demanded to know "where . . . you keep the big money?" When she informed him that only the vault contained a larger amount, he ordered her to open it.

Her unsuccessful fumbling in the vault room was noticed by the manager, William Garnett, and as he came to investigate he too was ordered at gunpoint to open her teller's vault. At last, he obtained approximately $5,000 in old bills and about $175 in bait money from each of two tellers' drawers. Garnett and Ms. DuTeil were told to stay in the vault room for five minutes and not to set off the alarm, under Timm's threat to shoot people on the street if his orders were not followed.

As soon as the two left the premises, Garnett informed Officers Sigmon and Schwartz, the policemen in the back, that a robbery had taken place. Officer Sigmon thereupon left by the front door, the same exit used by appellants. The felony-murder in this case was soon to follow from the attempted capture of appellants and a shootout which then ensued.

Appellants had walked through a nearby parking lot, but, they turned back and began to run when they heard Officer Sigmon's demand for them to halt. Almost immediately the gunfire began, though it remains uncertain who fired first. Shooting as he ran ahead of Timm, Caldwell headed for a flight of stairs leading to an alley; following Caldwell's progress, Officer Sigmon took cover, crouching down with his left side against a retaining wall. Other law enforcement officers in the vicini ty were on the scene by that time, but held their fire for a variety of reasons. 9

Officer Sigmon was in a position which blocked Timm's escape route. At a pace described as "walking" to "rather fast," Timm approached Officer Sigmon from behind, the officer, facing Caldwell, being unaware of his presence. Timm then shot the officer in the back from a distance noted by witnesses as varying from six inches to four feet. From the wound thus inflicted Officer Sigmon died.

Officer Wade Bishop then opened fire on Timm, but soon was forced to retreat and call for assistance. Timm and Caldwell managed to reach their getaway vehicle, a blue panel truck driven by a young woman later identified as Heidi Ann Fletcher, 10 and the trio escaped before police were able to complete a search of the area. Shortly after noon, however, Officers Marshall Brothers and Wince Clifton spotted the truck. Matching the physical appearance of the driver, Ms. Fletcher, with their lookout description, the officers pursued the truck and stopped it. Ms. Fletcher was removed from the driver's seat, and Timm and Caldwell from the rear. 11 Also found in the truck were items tying the occupants to the National Permanent Savings robbery. 12

B. The Trial

After various pretrial proceedings consuming several months' time, appellants reached trial. The trial, by a sequestered jury, lasted three weeks. During the first five days the Government presented its case, which involved 52 witnesses and about 120 exhibits.

The Government's proof of the events comprising the offenses on trial was unopposed, 13 and the identifications of Caldwell and Timm as participants were solid and convincing. With respect to the May 25 holdup, Caldwell was singled out both at a lineup and at trial by Ms. DuTeil and Larry Newman, a witness to the gunfight. Timm was similarly identified by Ms. DuTeil and Officer Bishop. As to the May 24 robbery, Officer Gosnell identified Timm in court, as did tellers Younger and Vance. Ms. Younger had previously picked him out of a lineup, and Ms. Vance had made an identification from a photograph of the lineup. Ms. Younger also identified a .45 caliber gun and a briefcase recovered from the getaway truck as the automatic pistol and briefcase used by Timm in the holdup. Photographs made by cameras positioned inside the robbed institutions were introduced to depict the participation of Timm and Caldwell in the holdups.

Although appellants entered the American Savings branch dressed in disguises, the attempt to mask their identities, as we have indicated, did not prove to be a problem for witnesses there. Ms. Wells, the branch manager, picked Caldwell as one of the robbers and testified that a brown wig found in the panel truck corresponded with the length and color of his hair. Ms. Younger stated that a black wig found in the truck matched Timm's hair color and length when he appeared at the branch, and Ms. Vance recognized the sunglasses and dark clip-ons worn by Timm and Caldwell. 14

There was also a great deal of other evidence directly implicating the two men, including items uncovered by a search of the panel truck 15 and, as well, by a warranted post-arrest search of an apartment occupied by Timm and Ms. Fletcher. The weapons offenses 16 were established in part by defense stipulations as to basic elements such as non-registration and non-possession of gun licenses. A variety of witnesses testified from their expertise in the forensic sciences to provide the technical links to the robberies and the slaying of Officer Sigmon. 17

Insanity defenses presented by appellants were their only responses to the charges, and here also the judge and...

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