United States v. Watson

District of Columbia Court of Appeals 1985

Facts:  D was accused of 1st degree murder of police officer Lunning.  During the investigation of a stolen car, 2 police officers saw the car pull into a parking lot.  Lunning ended up chasing (with his gun drawn) the D through an apartment complex and into an apartment where three young girls were sitting at a table.  D asked to use the telephone and then asked “Are they sill out there?”  Lunning entered the apartment with his gun drawn and said “Police, you are under arrest”.  When D refused to co-operate Lunning said, “Do you want me to blow your m—f—-head off?”  As Lunning tried to put handcuffs on the D he fought back and the two struggled.  Eventually, D was on Lunning’s chest and had pressed the gun against his chest.  The girls left the room but one heard Lunning say that “It wasn’t worth it.” two times.  After D shot Lunning once in the chest and Lunning died.  D then went into another apartment and called somebody and said, “I just shot the police, could you come and get me?”  He also said that he had drugs on him and asked the woman in the apartment to hold onto the drugs.

Procedural History: The lower court found the D guilty of first degree murder.

Issue:  Was there sufficient evidence from which a reasonable juror could fairly conclude guilt beyond a reasonable doubt of murder in the first degree (murder with premeditation and deliberation)?

Holding:  Yes, there was sufficient evidence.

Reasoning: First degree murder is a calculated and planned killing.    Premeditation and deliberation may be inferred from sufficiently probative facts and circumstances (Hall).  Jury could reasonably find that when the D was sitting at the table after making the phone call, he was anticipating the officer’s arrival and planning how to escape.  A juror could find that when the officer said that “it wasn’t worth it”, the officer was pleading for his life.  Juror could also infer that grabbing the loose gun and putting it to the officer’s chest instead of fleeing, the D had made the decision to kill the officer.  Before the shot was fired, the officer had time to repeat that “it wasn’t worth it”.  A juror could reasonably infer that when the officer said this the 2nd time, he was asking the D to reconsider killing him.  He did not shoot him in a frenzy or in the heat of passion.

Disposition: Affirmed.

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