785 A.2d 865 (Md.App. 2001), 2500, Pantazes v. State

Docket Nº:2500
Citation:785 A.2d 865, 141 Md.App. 422
Opinion Judge:[7] The opinion of the court was delivered by: Adkins, J.
Party Name:Dean James PANTAZES v. STATE of Maryland.
Case Date:November 30, 2001
Court:Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
 
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785 A.2d 865 (Md.App. 2001)

141 Md.App. 422

Dean James PANTAZES

v.

STATE of Maryland.

No. 2500

Court of Special Appeals of Maryland.

November 30, 2001.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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[141 Md.App. 426] Paul Mark Sandler (Robert B. Levin and Freishtat & Sandler, on the brief), Baltimore, for appellant.

Diane E. Keller, Assistant Attorney General (J. Joseph Curran, Jr., Attorney General, Baltimore, and Leonard Collins, Jr., State's Attorney for Charles County, LaPlata, on the brief), for appellee.

Argued before SALMON, ADKINS, and MARVIN H. SMITH (Retired, Specially Assigned), JJ.

ADKINS, Judge.

On the morning of March 30, 2000, when Clara Pantazes ("Mrs. Pantazes") entered her garage to leave for work at the bail bond company that she and her husband operated, a stranger shot her three times at close range. The State charged that Dean James Pantazes, appellant, hired Jermel Chambers, a heroin-addicted prostitute, to murder his wife, and then take her jewelry, purse, and Jeep to make the murder look like a random robbery and shooting. The State accused Pantazes of driving Chambers to his house in Upper Marlboro, opening the garage door, and instructing Chambers to shoot his wife with a gun that he left under a towel on top of the garage refrigerator. According to the State, Pantazes then closed the garage door, leaving Chambers inside to lie in wait for his wife of more than twenty years. The proffered motive was that Clara Pantazes may have been contemplating a divorce that Pantazes believed would cost him too dearly.

Pantazes denied that he had anything to do with the murder. At trial, the State's star witness was Chambers, who admitted murdering and robbing Mrs. Pantazes in exchange for $11,000 from Pantazes. The primary corroborating witness was "Kim" Young, 1 a prostitute who claimed that Pantazes [141 Md.App. 427] separately solicited her to do the killing. A Charles County jury convicted Pantazes on seven counts, including first degree murder, first degree felony murder, and conspiracy to commit first degree murder. 2 this appeal, Pantazes demands a new trial because Young blurted out that she had taken a lie detector test, and Chambers, in an emotional outburst from the witness stand, shouted to Pantazes, "You are going to kill the children next. Tell them that. The two of them were next for you." We conclude that the lie detector remark merited a mistrial, and therefore, do not address whether the emotional outburst did as well.

FACTS AND LEGAL PROCEEDINGS

The only witness to the events was the admitted shooter, Jermel Chambers.

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Chambers pleaded guilty to the first degree murder of Mrs. Pantazes in return for the State's agreement not to seek the death penalty. She said that she was hired by Pantazes to kill his wife. He drove her to the Pantazes' house on the morning of March 30, where she shot Mrs. Pantazes with a gun left there by Pantazes. Chambers, a prostitute and drug addict, was first approached by Pantazes on the street in January 2000. Pantazes, who was driving a big green truck and introduced himself as "Steve," inquired how much oral sex would cost. When Pantazes agreed to pay the forty dollar price quoted, Pantazes took her to a house on K Street, "which is right across the DC line," and they had oral sex. For an additional sum of fifty dollars, they had vaginal sex, and, according to Chambers, Pantazes "said he wanted to see me as a regular, so he wouldn't have to go with different girls." Chambers described the K Street house as having a brown door, with blue carpeting on the first floor.

[141 Md.App. 428] Chambers testified that the topic of murder came up in their first meeting:

He told me something about a boss' wife of his, his boss' wife. Anyway, he indicated that she was going to be running off and leaving him and taking almost everything that he had. And his boss, when he was indicated to do him or to do her.

The next time they met, Chambers said, "he told me the whole story then."

He said his boss' wife was going to divorce him and was sleeping around with his best friend, and she was going to get everything that he had. And he would pay someone almost whatever they asked for to do her. That is how he said it.

Chambers told Pantazes that she "would look around and see if [she] knew anybody." They continued to meet, and engaged in sexual activity between six and eight times, always at the K Street house. During these encounters, they would talk "[a]bout this job being done. Getting his boss' wife killed." Chambers described herself as "very high" on these occasions.

Chambers testified that after Pantazes paid her $5,000 in cash, wrapped in a money wrapper, they continued to talk about the murder. When he asked, one evening in February, how much it would cost for her to do the murder, she told him $6,000 more. On March 29, they met in his truck, and agreed to meet again at a convenience store the next morning. Early that morning, Chambers got into Pantazes' truck, and he drove her to his house on Kenfield Lane, in an affluent neighborhood in Upper Marlboro, arriving at 7:45 a.m.

He opened the garage door. He then told me to come in. I went into the garage. We were standing there kind of going back at each other.... He was telling me the gun was on top of the refrigerator. He handed me the gloves. He told me to sit on a milk crate that is behind the cooler that is in his basement, or is in his garage.

Then, Chambers learned for the first time that there was no "boss" and Pantazes' wife was to be the victim.

He told me she would be coming out before ten o'clock, because she had an appointment. He said she was in the shower. When he said that to me, I knew that he was lying. That he was really Dino ... the boss. Whoever he said his boss was. I figured it out when he said she is in the shower right now. She'll come out. She'll put the dog in.

Pantazes left Chambers inside the garage and closed the door. According to Chambers, she could not leave because she did not know how to reopen the garage door.

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When Mrs. Pantazes came out of the house, she saw Chambers, and they exchanged words. Mrs. Pantazes asked Chambers what she was doing in her house, and Chambers replied that a man named Steve had let her in. Chambers begged Mrs. Pantazes to let her leave the garage, without telling the police she had been there. After Mrs. Pantazes said she was going to call the police, Chambers shot her three times. She then prepared the scene to look like a robbery had occurred.

I grabbed everything and did like he told me to do, make it look like a robbery. And he said he would put cigarette butts and hair and all around her to mess up the scene for the cops before they got there.... I finally figured out how to get out. There was a remote control on the visor [of Mrs. Pantazes' car].

Chambers recounted that she drove away in Mrs. Pantazes' Jeep, and headed back to the District of Columbia. She took with her the gun, and Mrs. Pantazes' ring and Rolex watch. She said that she called Pantazes with the cell phone she found in Mrs. Pantazes' car, and "told him it was done." She left the car in the District of Columbia.

Chambers recounted that after the murder, she called Pantazes twice and asked for the balance of the sum promised her to do the murder. In the second call, she "made it very clear to him that if he didn't give me my money, you know, he was going to have repercussions behind it." Pantazes replied, "[You] didn't ... do it right."

On cross-examination of Chambers, the defense brought out her long term history of prostitution. Chambers also admitted [141 Md.App. 430] that she had lied on numerous occasions to police and court agencies about her name and address. She admitted that the details of her testimony about what happened inside the Pantazes' garage were inconsistent with her previous statements to the police. The defense also established that she had worked occasionally as a bounty hunter. Chambers explained that a bounty hunter is "a person that retrieves fugitives or persons that have run away and are on bond." She denied having worked as a bounty hunter for Pantazes. Although she had been to the bail bond office where "Steve" worked, she denied knowing that he was a bail bondsman until three months after she was incarcerated.

The State's chief corroborating witness was Kim Young, also a prostitute. Although she worked in the same general area of Eastern Avenue as Chambers, and had seen Chambers on the streets, Young denied having any relationship with Chambers. Young said she met Pantazes, who called himself "Steve," in December 1999 when she was working by Paul's Liquor Store. She flagged him down in his "big old truck" to offer him sex. She got in his car, where the two had oral sex, for which he paid her twenty dollars plus a twenty dollar tip.

According to Young, when Pantazes was driving Young back to the area of the liquor store to drop her off, he mentioned that he was looking for someone to commit a contract murder.

[H]e said this old man wants this woman killed, and I said why.... [H]e said because she's like a bitch.... I said how do you want her killed. He said well, she go to work at 9, best do it in the morning. That way no one will be home. He said when she comes out, she comes out between 9:00 and 9:30 like that. I said oh. And you shoot her, take the Jeep, her Cherokee, her Jeep and get rid of it[.]

Young testified that Pantazes offered her $10,000 to "do it," but she declined, because

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she was afraid of guns. When he asked her to look for "one of those young hustlers," Young gave him her telephone number. Pantazes called Young frequently after their first meeting.

[141 Md.App. 431] Young testified that the next time they met, in January 2000, Pantazes had murder on his mind. "[W]e talked about the murder, the plot again.......

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