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State v. Williams

Supreme Court of Rhode Island

April 11, 2016

Alicia Williams.

Newport County Superior Court, (N2/13-18A), Edward C. Clifton, Associate Justice.

For State: Allison E. Krause, Department of Attorney General.

For Defendant: Camille A. McKenna, Office of the Public Defender.

Present: Suttell, C.J., Goldberg, Flaherty, Robinson, and Indeglia, JJ.


Gilbert V. Indeglia, Associate Justice

The defendant, Alicia Williams (Williams or defendant), appeals her conviction of one count of assault with a dangerous weapon following a jury trial. On appeal, the defendant presents two claims of error: (1) that the trial justice improperly excluded testimony from one of the responding police officers which concluded that the defendant was afraid of the complaining witness; and (2) that the trial justice erred in denying her motion for a new trial. This matter came before the Supreme Court on February 25, 2016, pursuant to an order directing the parties to appear and show cause why the issues raised should not be summarily decided. After hearing the arguments of counsel and reviewing the memoranda submitted on behalf of the parties, we are satisfied that cause has not been shown. Accordingly, we shall decide the appeal at this time without further briefing or argument. For the reasons set forth herein, we affirm the Superior Court's judgment of conviction.

I Facts and Travel

The defendant's conviction arises from an incident that occurred on the afternoon of August 10, 2012, between her and the complaining witness, Rick Butler (Butler). At that time, Butler and defendant were living with defendant's mother, Brenda Washington, who is Butler's cousin, and defendant's sister, G'tobia Washington, [1] in a three-story, townhouse-style apartment located at 214 Hillside Avenue in Newport, Rhode Island.[2] Brenda and defendant each occupied separate bedrooms on the second floor of the apartment and shared the second-floor bathroom, while Butler and G'tobia each occupied separate bedrooms on the third floor and shared the third-floor bathroom.

As Butler tells the story, on the afternoon of the altercation, he was between shifts at his jobs at Burger King and Walmart. He was in a hurry and wanted to take a shower, but both bathrooms were occupied-the second-floor bathroom by defendant and the third-floor bathroom by G'tobia. Butler testified that he asked Brenda if she could "talk to one of the girls and let [him] use the restroom" so he could get ready for work. Brenda went upstairs to ask defendant how much longer she would be occupying the bathroom, to which she responded: "Not too long, Mom." According to Butler, fearing that he would be late, he reluctantly opted to skip the shower and instead decided to just put on his uniform and go to his shift at Walmart. Butler further testified that at this point, he told G'tobia that he felt as though he "was being nit-picked" and that the sisters had set him up to be late by purposely occupying both bathrooms at a time when they knew he needed to get ready for work.

According to Butler, an argument then ensued between him and defendant on the second-floor "landing area" of the apartment. Butler testified that defendant put her hand in his face twice and that, at one point, her hand "touched his nose." Butler "removed" defendant's hand from his face, and the two "got into it." Butler testified that defendant pushed him, he pushed her back, and then defendant "left the scene and went in her room and came out with a box cutter *** and started just swinging it." Butler went on to testify that defendant was "just like cutting *** just was going everywhere" and demonstrated for the jury a "vigorous slashing motion." Butler testified that he felt a cut across his left bicep and inner forearm. He stated that the incident ended shortly thereafter because G'tobia had called the police.

Butler added that the police took a photograph of the cut on his forearm and that this was the only photograph of his injuries taken at that time. Butler testified that afterwards, he left the house to go to Walmart to explain to his managers what had transpired. After leaving Walmart, Butler testified that he came back to the apartment and then took a walk "to clear [his] mind." He then went back home, went upstairs to take a "bath;" and, "when [he] went into the bathroom, [he] noticed that there was a big gash up on [his] arm." Thereafter, Butler took Brenda's cell phone, walked up the street, and called the police, who arrived that evening and took a photograph of the newly-discovered cut on his left bicep.

Aside from Butler, the state called only one other witness, Officer Stephen Carrig (Officer Carrig) of the Newport Police Department, who, along with another officer, initially responded to the altercation. Officer Carrig testified that he spoke to "all the parties involved, " including both Butler and defendant, and photographed the scene, Butler, and defendant. Officer Carrig further stated that he was also one of the officers who responded to Butler's call later that evening.

G'tobia, Brenda, and defendant all testified for the defense. G'tobia took the stand first. She testified that, at the time of the incident, Butler had not been getting along with anyone in the house. She recounted that, on the day of the incident, Butler was upset because defendant went to his place of work and took the car that they shared because she needed to use it. She testified that, after Butler came home from work that afternoon and after she thought he was done using the third-floor bathroom, she went into the bathroom to take a shower. She then recalled that Butler came upstairs and started banging on the door, saying he needed to use the bathroom. She said she tried to calm him down by indicating she would be out of the bathroom soon, but that Butler kept banging on the door saying, "[t]hese bitches, they keep playing * * * I'm going to show them I'm not playing." G'tobia recounted that she came out of the bathroom shortly thereafter and saw Butler and defendant "arguing back and forth"-defendant was standing in front of the closet doors on the second floor, and Butler was standing on the second step going up to the third floor.

She testified that Butler turned the altercation into a physical one when he "jumped" on defendant and was "just punching her." G'tobia stated that defendant "started to fight back" and hit Butler and that Brenda tried to break up the altercation. After deducing that Brenda was not going to be able to break up the fight, G'tobia stated that she went into Brenda's room to call the police. G'tobia testified that she never saw defendant holding a box cutter, but that she heard a box cutter was involved and relayed that over the phone to the police dispatcher. ...

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