Wilson-Bey v. U.S., No. 01-CF-293.

Decision Date20 July 2006
Docket NumberNo. 01-CF-633.,No. 01-CF-293.
PartiesLakeisha WILSON-BEY, Appellant, v. UNITED STATES, Appellee, and Sckeena Marbury, Appellant, v. United States, Appellee.
CourtD.C. Court of Appeals

John O. Iweanoge, Jr., Washington, DC, for appellant Lakeisha Wilson-Bey.

Matthew M. Hoffman, with whom John Moustakas and Stephen R. Galoob, Washington DC, were on the brief, for appellant Sckeena Marbury.

David B. Goodhand, Assistant United States Attorney, with whom Kenneth L. Wainstein, United States Attorney, and Roy W. McLeese III and Lynn C. Holliday, Assistant United States Attorneys, were on the brief, for appellee.

Andrea Roth, with whom James Klein and Samia Fam were on the brief, for Public Defender Service, amicus curiae.

Before WASHINGTON, Chief Judge, FARRELL, RUIZ, REID, GLICKMAN, and KRAMER, Associate Judges, and WAGNER and SCHWELB,* Senior Judges.

SCHWELB, Senior Judge:

Following a jury trial, Lakeisha Wilson-Bey and Sckeena Marbury, who are sisters, were both convicted of first-degree premeditated murder while armed, in violation of D.C.Code §§ 22-2401, -3202 (1996).1 The two women were also found guilty of several other offenses stemming from the same homicide.2 The prosecution's theory at trial was that Ms. Wilson-Bey, who was twenty-one years old at the time that the offenses were committed, was the principal in the premeditated murder of Tomika Blackwell, and that Ms. Marbury, who was then eighteen, participated as an aider and abettor.

Both women appealed from their convictions, contending principally that the trial judge instructed the jury erroneously with respect to the "intent" element of "aiding and abetting" first-degree premeditated murder. Specifically, appellants claim that the trial court committed reversible error, in the context of this case, by instructing the jury that "[a]n aider and abettor is legally responsible for the natural and probable consequences of the crime in which [s]he intentionally participates."

On April 7, 2005, a division of this court affirmed appellants' convictions. Wilson-Bey v. United States, 871 A.2d 1155 (D.C. 2005) (Wilson-Bey I). The division noted the existence of substantial authority casting doubt on the appropriateness of the "natural and probable consequences instruction," id. at 1161-62, 1165-66, but concluded that then-binding precedent in this jurisdiction required affirmance of the convictions. Id. at 1163-64. The members of the division expressed the view that consideration of the issue by the en banc court may be warranted. Id. at 1166.

Each appellant petitioned the full court to rehear the case, and on November 2, 2005, we granted both petitions and vacated the opinion of the division in Wilson-Bey I. See Wilson-Bey v. United States, 886 A.2d 77 (D.C.2005) (per curiam) (en banc) (Wilson-Bey II). We now hold that the trial court's instruction regarding the requisite intent was erroneous, for in any prosecution for premeditated murder, whether the defendant is charged as a principal or as an aider or abettor, the government must prove all of the elements of the offense, including premeditation, deliberation, and intent to kill. Because the instruction given in this case omitted the mens rea element of the offense charged, the error was of constitutional magnitude. Concluding that the erroneous instruction was prejudicial as to Ms. Marbury but harmless beyond a reasonable doubt as to Ms. Wilson-Bey, we reverse Ms. Marbury's conviction of premeditated murder while armed. With a single exception unrelated to the principal issue before us, we affirm Ms. Marbury's other convictions and all of Ms. Wilson-Bey's convictions.3

A. The evidence.

The facts relevant to these appeals were described in Wilson-Bey I, 871 A.2d at 1157-59, and we summarize them briefly, borrowing liberally from the division's narrative. On the evening of January 16-17, 2000, several young women were playing cards in an apartment in southeast Washington, D.C. An argument broke out between the decedent, Tomika Blackwell, and appellant, Sckeena Marbury, who had been drinking heavily. After the two women, whose quarrel was causing a disturbance, left the apartment at the request of their hostess, the dispute escalated from words to blows, and Ms. Blackwell easily bested Ms. Marbury in the fight that followed. At the conclusion of the encounter, Ms. Marbury was lying on the ground with a bloody nose, a knot on her head, a busted lip, and an injured eye. By all accounts, Ms. Marbury was both drunk and angry.

In the hours after her beating, Ms. Marbury related to several of her friends that she had been "jumped" by Tomika Blackwell and two of Tomika's alleged confederates. According to Teresa Brown, in whose car Ms. Marbury was riding away from the scene of the fight, a "ranting and raving" Ms. Marbury proclaimed that "I'm coming back. I'm going to kill that bitch."4 Appellant Lakeisha Wilson-Bey, who had clashed with Ms. Blackwell on a previous occasion,5 was notified of her younger sister's beef, and resorting to terminology identical to that allegedly used by Ms. Marbury, she stated in front of the group of young women that had gathered in the wake of the fight that she was going to "kill that bitch."6 Eventually, the group of eight, including both appellants, armed themselves with knives and baseball bats and set out in a van for Ms. Blackwell's apartment. Their ostensible plan was to find out why Ms. Marbury had been beaten up and to avenge Ms. Marbury by fighting Ms. Blackwell and her friends. All of the women in the van were subsequently charged with first-degree premeditated murder while armed, but several of them agreed to cooperate with the government in exchange for negotiated plea agreements, and three testified at trial against the appellants.7 The facts described below are based largely on their testimony and that of Ms. Blackwell's boyfriend, Arnold Rucker. The prosecution witnesses were all impeached, at least in some measure, but there was evidence which, if credited, would permit an impartial jury to find that both appellants set out deliberately to murder Ms. Blackwell in retaliation for her having beaten up Ms. Marbury, and that Ms. Wilson-Bey repeatedly stabbed the decedent, thus carrying out this premeditated plan. The sufficiency of the evidence cannot be persuasively disputed by either appellant.

The van in which the eight young women traveled to seek out Ms. Blackwell was owned and driven by appellants' friend, Angel Lewis. When the vehicle arrived outside Ms. Blackwell's apartment house, the two appellants and their friend Lashawn Miller ran up to Ms. Blackwell's unit, Apartment 304. According to prosecution witnesses, Ms. Wilson-Bey had a large butcher knife or steak knife8 in her hand, and Ms. Marbury was carrying both a bat and a knife. The other occupants of the van, several of them armed, followed the initial trio up the stairs.

At the time the appellants arrived on the scene, Ms. Blackwell was inside the apartment with Mr. Rucker and another woman. Rucker became aware of the commotion outside, and he heard someone calling for Ms. Blackwell. Rucker opened the door, and he observed what he described as "a rack of females" in the hall. He testified that several of the women were carrying weapons. Rucker did not know Ms. Wilson-Bey,9 but he recognized Ms. Marbury as the young woman whom Ms. Blackwell had fought and bested earlier that night. According to Rucker, Ms. Wilson-Bey was at the head of the group, holding a butcher knife, and she asked for Tomika. Ms. Blackwell walked to the door, stood behind Rucker, and announced: "I'm right here." Although she was not armed, Ms. Blackwell advanced on Ms. Wilson-Bey. Rucker tried unsuccessfully to restrain Ms. Blackwell, but while he was attempting to do so, Ms. Wilson-Bey swung the knife at Ms. Blackwell several times, inflicting a stab wound near her victim's right eye. Ms. Blackwell, bleeding profusely, nevertheless tried to fight her knife-wielding assailant. The two women struggled on the floor, with Ms. Blackwell on top, and during the ensuing melee, Ms. Wilson-Bey (and apparently one or more other assailants)10 stabbed Ms. Blackwell several more times. One witness testified that Ms. Marbury struck Ms. Blackwell with a bat while Ms. Wilson-Bey was stabbing her; according to Rucker, however, Ms. Marbury was initially just standing there, crying.11

At approximately 4:00 a.m. on January 17, officers from the Metropolitan Police Department arrived at the apartment. They found Ms. Blackwell unconscious, and she was suffering from multiple wounds to the face and body. The officers transported Ms. Blackwell to D.C. General Hospital. At 4:30 a.m., Tomika Blackwell was pronounced dead.

Ms. Blackwell was not the only person who suffered injury to person or property as a result of the criminal activities of the appellants and of the other members of their group. Arnold Rucker was stabbed in the arm, and although he left the hospital before being treated,12 he later testified that he suffered intense pain for two weeks, and the wound left a large scar. Moreover, after the appellants and their friends left Ms. Blackwell bleeding to death in her apartment, they proceeded to the home of Teresa Brown, in whose car Ms. Marbury had earlier left the scene of the fight; they did so because Ms. Marbury had stated that Ms. Brown was one of the women who had joined Ms. Blackwell in attacking Ms. Marbury. Upon arrival at Teresa Brown's apartment house, the women tried to locate Ms. Brown's unit, and they yelled at Ms. Brown to come out. Ms. Wilson-Bey allegedly threatened to kill Ms. Brown; Ms. Marbury allegedly made a similar threat to Ms. Brown's fiancé. When Ms. Brown declined to leave her apartment, several of the women took turns stomping on Ms. Brown's automobile, and they shattered...

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