571 F.3d 331 (4th Cir. 2009), 07-4619, United States v. Blake

Docket Nº:07-4619, 07-4827.
Citation:571 F.3d 331
Opinion Judge:TRAXLER, Circuit Judge:
Party Name:UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Leeander Jerome BLAKE, Defendant-Appellant. United States of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Leeander Jerome Blake, Defendant-Appellant.
Attorney:Kenneth Wendell Ravenell, Baltimore, Maryland, for Appellant. John Francis Purcell, Jr., Office of the United States Attorney, Baltimore, Maryland, for Appellee. Rod J. Rosenstein, United States Attorney, Baltimore, Maryland, for Appellee.
Judge Panel:Before WILKINSON and TRAXLER, Circuit Judges, and C. ARLEN BEAM, Senior Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, sitting by designation. Affirmed by published opinion. Judge TRAXLER wrote the opinion, in which Judge WILKINSON and Senior Judge BEAM joined.
Case Date:July 02, 2009
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
 
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Page 331

571 F.3d 331 (4th Cir. 2009)

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,

v.

Leeander Jerome BLAKE, Defendant-Appellant.

United States of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,

v.

Leeander Jerome Blake, Defendant-Appellant.

Nos. 07-4619, 07-4827.

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit.

July 2, 2009

Argued: May 15, 2009.

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ARGUED:

Kenneth Wendell Ravenell, Baltimore, Maryland, for Appellant.

John Francis Purcell, Jr., Office of the United States Attorney, Baltimore, Maryland, for Appellee.

ON BRIEF:

Rod J. Rosenstein, United States Attorney, Baltimore, Maryland, for Appellee.

Before WILKINSON and TRAXLER, Circuit Judges, and C. ARLEN BEAM, Senior Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, sitting by designation.

Affirmed by published opinion. Judge TRAXLER wrote the opinion, in which Judge WILKINSON and Senior Judge BEAM joined.

OPINION

TRAXLER, Circuit Judge:

Leeander Jerome Blake raises numerous challenges to his conviction and sentence for offenses arising out of a carjacking that caused the death of the victim. We affirm.

I.

On the evening of September 19, 2002, Blake and Terrance Tolbert walked into a Maryland neighborhood with a gun, looking for someone to carjack. Blake pointed out 51-year-old Straughan Lee Griffin, who had just arrived home from work and was in the process of unloading his Jeep Grand Cherokee in front of his home. The men approached Griffin and shot him in the head. They then drove away in his vehicle, running over Griffin in the process. Griffin was transported to a nearby hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

On October 25, 2002, Tolbert was arrested, and he made statements implicating Blake. Tolbert told police that he was with Blake on the night Griffin was murdered, that Blake had a gun, and that Blake shot Griffin, took Griffin's keys, and drove his vehicle from the scene.

Based on this statement, the lead Annapolis police investigator in this case, Detective Williams Johns, applied for an arrest warrant for Blake and a search warrant for Blake's residence. Using the information in Detective Johns's application, a Maryland state district court commissioner issued the requested warrants, determined the offenses Blake would be charged with, and generated a statement of charges.

At around 5:00 a.m. on October 26, a dozen officers executed the warrant at Blake's home. They entered with guns drawn and found Blake watching television. They ordered him to lie on the floor

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and then arrested and handcuffed him. He was wearing only boxer shorts and a T-shirt. The police forcibly took him away, giving him no time to dress or put on his shoes.

When Blake arrived at the Annapolis Police Department, he was brought to an intake room. Detective Johns arrived soon after. According to Johns, he and Corporal Thomas Hannon, who was assisting Johns in the investigation, spoke to Blake in a non-aggressive, conversational tone without discussing the possible penalties that Blake faced. Johns testified that Blake was not given the statement of charges at that time because it contained Tolbert's version of events, and Johns did not want Blake to be able to tailor his version of events to Tolbert's. According to Johns, Blake appeared calm and was not wearing handcuffs. Johns read Blake his Miranda rights and provided a waiver outlining each right. Blake immediately requested a lawyer. As a result, Johns stopped the interrogation. Thus, at around 5:25 a.m., Blake was transferred to a prison cell and left alone.

Thirty-five minutes later, Detective Johns returned to Blake's cell. According to Johns, his purpose in returning was to give Blake a copy of the statement of charges. See Maryland Rule 4-212(e) (requiring police to provide a copy of this statement " promptly" after arrest). Johns was accompanied by Officer Curtis Reese, who had driven the police car that transported Blake to the Annapolis Police Department but who was not involved in the investigation.

Johns gave Blake the statement, read the charges as they were described on the first page, and told Blake, " it's very serious, this is your copy, you need to read it over." J.A. 744. The second and third pages contained a brief description of each charge as well as the maximum penalty for each offense. Unbeknownst to Johns, the maximum penalty listed for the first-degree murder charge was " DEATH." J.A. 518. Although the death penalty is indeed the maximum penalty that can be imposed in Maryland for first-degree murder, Blake himself could not have received the death penalty because he was only 17 years old on the night of the murder, and thus statutorily ineligible for the death penalty in Maryland. See Md.Code Ann., Crim. Law § 2-202(b)(2)(i) (West 2009). The application section of the statement of charges contained the factual summary, that Johns had prepared, of the conduct underlying the charges, including an accusation by Tolbert that Blake was the one who shot Griffin and drove Griffin's vehicle from the scene.

As Johns turned to leave, he heard Reese say, in a loud and confrontational voice, " I bet you want to talk now, huh?" J.A. 745-46, 819 (internal quotation marks omitted). Blake did not respond. Detective Johns was surprised by Reese's remark, and immediately physically guided Reese out of the cellblock. As he did so, he loudly stated to Reese words to the effect of " no, he doesn't want to talk to us, you can't say anything to him, he asked for a lawyer." J.A. 747. According to Johns, he spoke loudly to prevent Reese from saying anything more and to avoid hearing any response that Blake might offer. Johns reported this incident to his supervisor and included a description of it in the homicide report.

At 6:28 a.m., about one half-hour after Johns had last spoken to Blake, Johns returned to the cellblock to deliver Blake some clothing that had been brought for him. According to Johns, Blake appeared calm. When Johns gave him the clothes, Blake asked, " I can still talk to you?" J.A. 755 (internal quotation marks omitted). Johns replied, " Are you saying you want to

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talk to me now?" J.A. 756 (internal quotation marks omitted). Blake replied that he was. Johns told him he would have to re-read Blake his Miranda rights before they could talk, to which Blake agreed. Blake, fully clothed by that time, was then walked back to the interview room, where he was re-Mirandized. Blake never made reference to the death penalty or to Officer Reese's remark at any time that day.

Blake proceeded to provide the following account of the night in question. He and Tolbert were walking around Annapolis. At one point Tolbert entered a house and emerged with a gun; when they arrived at Cumberland Court they saw a man holding some clothes beside a car with its hood up. After they walked past the man, Tolbert approached him, pulled out the gun without saying anything, and pointed it at the man's face. Tolbert pulled the trigger once and it clicked. Then he pulled the trigger again, the gun fired, and the man fell. Tolbert rolled the man over and removed the car keys from his pocket. Tolbert and Blake entered the Jeep with Tolbert in the driver's seat. Tolbert drove the Jeep from the scene. They proceeded to Glen Burnie, where they wiped down the Jeep and went to the home of a person that Blake knew as " Smalls," where Tolbert and Smalls wiped off the gun and bullets. Blake explained that, prior to Tolbert approaching the victim, Blake and Tolbert had not been looking for someone to rob. Blake also stated, " I understand I was wrong by being there, but I don't want to be blamed for the murder." J.A. 1170.

At the end of the interview, Detective Johns asked if Blake would agree to a polygraph exam, and Blake said he would. About an hour later, Blake was transported to the Maryland State Police barracks, where he met Corporal Ed White, the state police polygraph examiner. White also found Blake to be calm. After White administered the test, he told Blake that he appeared to have been deceptive, and White asked Blake if he was holding anything back. Blake then admitted that on the day of the murder, he knew Tolbert had a gun. He also admitted that they were looking for someone to carjack, and that Blake initially noticed Griffin and pointed him out to Tolbert. After White informed Johns of the additional admissions, Blake then repeated them to White and also demonstrated how he pointed out Griffin to Tolbert.

Blake was indicted by an Anne Arundel County grand jury for first-degree murder, second-degree murder, and manslaughter. On June 3, 2003, however, a Maryland state court judge granted Blake's motion to suppress his post-arrest statements on the ground that after Blake invoked his right to counsel, the statements were obtained from Blake as the result of custodial interrogation in violation of Edwards v. Arizona, 451 U.S. 477, 101 S.Ct. 1880, 68 L.Ed.2d 378 (1981). The Maryland Court of Special Appeals reversed, but the Maryland Court of Appeals later reversed the intermediate court, upholding the suppression of Blake's statements, see Blake v. State, 381 Md. 218, 849 A.2d 410 (2004). In so doing, the Maryland Court of Appeals rejected an argument that Detective Johns cured any Edwards violation with his loud statement that Blake had requested a lawyer and could not be interrogated further. See id. at 422-23.

The state then petitioned the United States Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari. The sole issue presented was:

When a police officer improperly communicates...

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