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United States v. Edwards

November 12, 2004


Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia (No. 03cr00054-01)

Before: Rogers, Tatel, and Garland, Circuit Judges

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Garland, Circuit Judge

Argued October 7, 2004

A jury found defendant Shawn Edwards guilty of unlawful possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. At the trial, police officer Brian Glover testified on direct examination that he apprehended Edwards after a chase that ended when the officer knocked a gun from Edwards' hand. Glover also testified on redirect examination that he chased Edwards because Edwards ran from him, and people who had run from him in the past had been carrying guns or drugs. On appeal, Edwards contends that the latter testimony was inadmissible because it was not relevant to whether he possessed a gun on the night in question. Although the government agrees that such testimony would not have been admissible if offered during direct examination, it argues that Edwards' counsel rendered the testimony relevant by a cross-examination that impugned the officer's motive for chasing the defendant. We agree and affirm the judgment of the district court.


On February 6, 2003, a grand jury indicted Edwards on a single charge of possession of a firearm and ammunition by a convicted felon, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). The principal witnesses at Edwards' trial were police officers Brian Glover and Christopher Dove. On December 6, 2002, the two drove a marked police car on routine patrol in northwest Washington, D.C. Glover testified that, while driving east on the 100 block of Q Street, he and Dove observed a group of men, including Edwards, loitering in front of a residence. Because residents of the neighborhood had complained to the police about people standing in front of their homes, Glover said he called out to the group: "Gentlemen, y'all need to move on." 5/8/03 Tr. at 68. The men started to walk away; Edwards walked in one direction and his companions walked in another. Edwards, who had his hand in his jacket, then yelled at the officers: "What the f*** you looking at?" Id. at 69.

Glover testified that, because the officers were on a oneway street with traffic behind them, they drove around the block. As the officers drove down First Street, they again encountered Edwards, who "was looking over his shoulder" at them. Id. at 72. According to Dove, Edwards then "[ran] his mouth again." Id. at 137. Glover and Dove moved on, circling the block once more. This time they encountered Edwards on Bates Street.

Officer Glover testified that, upon this third encounter, Officer Dove "yelled over to [Edwards], and stated, what the F is your problem?" Id. at 73. Edwards replied with: "[W]hat the F are you looking at?" Id. As Glover began to get out of the police car, Edwards took off running through an alley, holding his left jacket pocket. Glover gave chase on foot, and Dove drove around to the other end of the alley. When Edwards emerged from the alley, running in front of the police car, Dove got out and joined the chase. Both officers testified that, as Dove neared Edwards, the latter reached into his jacket, pulled his hand out, and turned towards Dove with a semi-automatic pistol. Dove then tackled Edwards, knocking the pistol -- later found to be fully loaded -- into the snow. After a brief struggle, the officers subdued Edwards with pepper spray and arrested him.

In the course of cross-examining Officer Glover, defense counsel repeatedly suggested that, after first encountering Edwards, the officers pursued him because he had yelled a profanity at them. This line of questioning reached its crescendo when counsel suggested that the officers had decided to harass Edwards:

Q. ... [Y]ou decided on that third sighting to stop your car there on Bates Street and confront him; is that right?

A. Yes, sir.


Q. You and Officer Dove had talked about jacking up this guy who was vulgar and profane with you; isn't that right?

A. No, sir.

Q. You had talked about, I think maybe we should confront this young man about his profanity; isn't that right?

A. About the profanity, sir, yes.

Q. So you and Dove had talked about this is what we should do.

A. No. If we see him, find out what's his problem, yes, sir.

Id. at 103-04.

After defense counsel finished cross-examining Officer Glover, the prosecutor alerted the court, in limine, that on redirect examination he planned to ask Glover ...

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