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07/20/61 Robert S. Brodie, v. United States of America

July 20, 1961




Before BAZELON, FAHY and BURGER, Circuit Judges.


July 20, 1961.


BURGER, Circuit Judge.

We granted certiorari to the Municipal Court of Appeals to review the stated questions (1) whether the Municipal Court abused its discretion in denying a motion, made the day after trial, for a new trial based on newly discovered evidence and (2) whether the Municipal Court abused its discretion in permitting the prosecution to reopen its case immediately after resting when the court took notice that no evidence had been introduced on one of the counts and on reopening that evidence was then adduced. No objection to reopening was made by the defense.

Appellant was charged by information and waived jury trial. He was found guilty by the court on one count of assault and one count of larceny and sentenced to two consecutive terms of 90 days each. No prior criminal record is indicated. The day after the trial appellant's motion for a new trial on the grounds of newly discovered evidence was denied and on appeal the Municipal Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the Municipal Court.

The facts are of critical importance to our consideration of the appeal particularly if we are not limited to the "newly discovered evidence" standards for granting a new trial. A government witness working in a filling station testified he saw two men approach an automobile; one of them seized a coat from the car of the complaining witness Carpenter and both men ran when a chase ensued. Carpenter, owner of the coat, followed them into an alley and apprehended one Martin, who was holding the stolen coat. The second man fled.

The day Martin entered a guilty plea in court, appellant came into the courtroom and sat beside Carpenter, who was in court in connection with the case. Carpenter concluded that appellant was Martin's companion at the time of the coat theft and he so informed a detective then present. Appellant explained his presence in court as being there to observe the case of a friend whose case was on the calendar that day. A check showed that the case he described was in fact on the calendar. Later he was arrested and charged.

Appellant's defense was the testimony of his mother, his wife and a neighbor who testified he was in his home 7 or 8 miles from the scene of the crime at the hour of its commission. Appellant denied knowing Martin, his alleged accomplice, and denied being present at the time of the crime. Carpenter made a positive identification of appellant. He testified that when he caught up with the two men in the alley, appellant brandished a knife but fled when Carpenter grappled with Martin.

On the second day following his conviction, appellant moved for a new trial on the grounds of newly discovered evidence, submitting an affidavit of Martin in which the latter absolved appellant of any part in the crimes. Martin also appeared as a witness at the hearing on the motion and testified he had met appellant when the latter was sent to jail and that he, Martin, volunteered this explanation because he did not want a guiltless man to suffer. Martin named one Tatum as his companion on the day of the offense but absolved Tatum of guilt in the theft saying that he, Martin, had seized the coat on a sudden impulse and that Tatum was not aware that the act was to occur.

Appellant's attorney gave his own affidavit at the hearing in which he recited that he had interviewed Tatum who told him that he, not appellant, was present with Martin on the day in question but had not known Martin was to seize the coat; Tatum was quoted as saying he had run in fright and because Martin ran. Tatum was in the courtroom during the hearing on the new trial motion and presumably heard appellant's attorney read the affidavit identifying him as Martin's companion on the day of the crime. Tatum's presence in court was made known when he was asked by one of the attorneys to stand to compare his height and build with that of appellant. The trial judge noted that there was a substantial difference in height. Carpenter, confronted with both men, again identified appellant as Martin's companion. He said it was 7 p.m. on the day in question (March 28, 1960) and dusk but that he "could see all right."

The Municipal Court held a second hearing on the motion at which there was no new information except that appellant's attorney had assured Tatum that appellant would help Tatum with his legal expenses if he, Brodie, were absolved and Tatum should be charged or need legal assistance.

The Municipal Judge appears to have given careful consideration to the evidence at the trial and to the issues argued at two hearings for a new trial, and were we to regard the "due diligence" standard as controlling we might reach a different conclusion. The Municipal Judge was apparently persuaded that appellant and his counsel, knowing, when appellant's trial was held, of Martin's existence and that Martin was the alleged accomplice, had shown lack of diligence in not calling Martin from his cell block to make him a witness or even to interview him.

But the result reached by the Municipal Court is perhaps traceable to counsel's misapprehension of the relief available to his client. He moved for a new trial for newly discovered evidence which put on him the burden of showing his own diligence. Under Rule 33 Fed.R.Crim.P., 18 U.S.C.A., a motion made within five days of final judgment, as distinguished from one made later but within two years, empowers the trial court to "grant a new trial to a defendant if required in the interest of justice." As we see it, the trial court's power with respect to a motion within five days is much broader than one made later than five days but within two years relying on newly discovered evidence. Benton v. United States, 1951, 88 U.S.App.D.C. 158, 188 F.2d 625. Plainly a later motion properly puts the movant under a heavier burden for the passage of time inevitably ripens the finality of the judgment and increases the ...

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