Abeokuto v. State, No. 129, September Term, 2004.

CourtCourt of Special Appeals of Maryland
Writing for the CourtHarrell
Citation893 A.2d 1018
PartiesJamaal Kenneth ABEOKUTO v. STATE of Maryland.
Decision Date13 February 2006
Docket NumberNo. 129, September Term, 2004.

Page 1018

893 A.2d 1018
Jamaal Kenneth ABEOKUTO
v.
STATE of Maryland.
No. 129, September Term, 2004.
Court of Appeals of Maryland.
February 13, 2006.
Reconsideration Denied April 7, 2006.

Appeal from the Circuit Court, Baltimore County, Thomas J. Bollinger, J.

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Michael R. Braudes, Asst. Public Defenders (Nancy S. Forster, Public Defender, and Allison E. Pierce and Brian L. Zavin, Asst. Public Defenders, on brief), Baltimore, for appellant.

Annabelle L. Lisic, Asst. Attorney General (J. Joseph Curran, Jr., Attorney general of Maryland, and Edward J. Kelley, Asst. Attorney General, on brief), Baltimore, for appellee.

Argued before BELL, C.J., RAKER, WILNER, CATHELL, HARRELL, BATTAGLIA and GREENE, JJ.

HARRELL, J.


In this direct appeal by Jamaal Kenneth Abeokuto (Appellant) of his conviction by the Circuit Court for Baltimore County for first-degree murder (and other crimes) and the resultant primary sentence of death, we are asked to consider the following questions:

1. Did the trial court err in determining that Appellant's waiver of his constitutional right to a trial by jury at the guilt/innocence phase was knowing and voluntary?

2. Did the trial court err in admitting evidence of Appellant's post-arrest and post-Miranda1 warning silence?

3. Did the trial court err when it denied Appellant's requests for continuance to permit new counsel to prepare for trial and the sentencing hearing?

4. Did the suppression court err when it denied Appellant's motion to suppress his statement, given without a Miranda warning, at the Homicide Unit?

5. Did the suppression court err when it denied Appellant's motion to suppress his clothing taken by police while he was at the Homicide Unit?

6. Did the suppression court err when it determined that the issuance of the warrant to search Appellant's car was supported by probable cause?

7. Did the trial court err in accepting Appellant's sentencing jury waiver?

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8. Did the trial court illegally increase Appellant's sentence for extortion?

9. Did the trial court err in admitting into evidence at the sentencing hearing the testimony of a medical expert when he opined that Appellant had lied about symptoms of psychosis?

10. Did the trial court err in admitting victim's impact testimony by the victim's family members?

11. Should Appellant's death sentence be reversed as a result of the prosecutor's closing argument at the sentencing hearing when he stated that the trial court proceeding would not be the final proceeding?

12. Did the trial court err in imposing separate sentences for kidnapping and child kidnapping?

13. Did the trial court err if it in fact found as separate aggravating circumstances that the victim was taken in the course of an abduction or kidnapping and that the victim was a child abducted in violation of § 3-503(a)(1) of the Criminal Law Article?

14. Did the trial court err in admitting into evidence at the sentencing hearing a handgun recovered from Appellant's car?

15. Did the cumulative effect of the alleged errors deprive Appellant of a fair trial and/or a fair sentencing hearing?

16. Should the failure of the indictment to allege principalship and aggravating circumstances have precluded the imposition of a sentence of death?

17. Is the Maryland death penalty statute unconstitutional because it requires that aggravating circumstances outweigh mitigating circumstances only by a preponderance of the evidence?

I.
A.

Appellant, Jamaal Kenneth Abeokuto, was found guilty, following a bench trial in the Circuit Court for Baltimore County, of: first-degree murder, first-degree assault, kidnapping, and child kidnapping of his girlfriend's eight-year old daughter, Marciana Monyai Ringo; extortion; and, wearing or carrying a dangerous weapon openly with the intent to injure. According to the State's evidence at trial, Abeokuto abducted Marciana on 3 December 2002, took her to a wooded area in Harford County, and killed her by slitting her throat and kicking her head.

After charging in Harford County, the Circuit Court for Harford County granted Appellant's request for a change of venue, citing pre-trial publicity in Harford County, and transferred the case to the Circuit Court for Baltimore County. Appellant separately elected to waive both his right to trial by jury and sentencing by jury. Accordingly, he was tried and, after being found guilty, sentenced by the court. On 15 November 2004, the court sentenced him in open court as follows: death for the murder conviction; merged for sentencing purposes the first degree assault count with the murder count; ten years of incarceration, to be served from the initial date of Appellant's arrest (24 December 2002), for the extortion conviction; thirty years of imprisonment for the kidnapping conviction, consecutive to the sentence for extortion; three years for the deadly weapon conviction, to be served consecutive to the extortion and kidnapping sentences; and twenty years to be served for child kidnapping, to run concurrently with the sentences for the extortion, kidnapping, and deadly weapon convictions. At the sentencing hearing, the court stated, as to the sentence for murder, that it found two statutory aggravating circumstances

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proved beyond a reasonable doubt, kidnapping and child kidnapping. The court found as a mitigator, by a preponderance of the evidence, that Appellant had not been found guilty previously of a crime of violence. Penultimately, the court determined that the State had proven beyond a preponderance of the evidence that the aggravating circumstances outweighed the mitigating circumstances. It therefore imposed the sentence of death for Marciana's murder.

In the trial judge's required Post-Sentencing Report, he stated that, although he found at the sentencing proceeding two aggravating circumstances, kidnapping and child kidnapping, he "wish[ed] to clarify that although the evidence names [sic] Kidnapping and Child Kidnapping, the Court considered one Kidnapping as the aggravating circumstance." The sentence of ten years for the extortion conviction was later amended in the Commitment Report and the Trial Judge's Post-Sentencing Report to reflect that it was to be served consecutive to the sentence for the murder conviction.

B.

The State's evidence presented at the suppression hearings on 12 and 13 November 20032 revealed the following facts:

At approximately 4:45 p.m. on 3 December 2002, Officer Joseph Petryszak of the Baltimore City Police Department responded to 5300 Leith Road, Apartment C, because he received a report that Marciana was missing. When he arrived at the apartment, he found Marciana's parents, Milagro White and Marc Ringo, Sr., present.3 Officer Petryszak called Appellant, who, at the time was attending class at a commercial truck driving school, and requested that he come to the apartment. Appellant agreed to the request and drove himself there. When he arrived, Officer Petryszak and two other officers questioned Appellant for about five minutes in the stairwell in front of the apartment. In response to Officer Petryszak's questions, Appellant told him that Marciana had walked to school around 7:30 a.m., came back around 7:35 a.m., and said that she needed her homework signed. While signing her homework he noticed a note about a field trip. Appellant then said that he drove her back to school, which, Officer Petryszak noted, was just across the street from the apartment. Appellant further explained that he dropped her off by the school's front doors, noticed a yellow school bus parked there with teachers and students around it, and then, without waiting to see whether Marciana went inside the school, drove through the alley at the 5200 block of Loch Raven Boulevard on his way to work.

After this initial questioning, Officer Petryszak and Appellant entered the apartment. Twenty minutes later, a sergeant at the scene asked Appellant to come back

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out to the hallway outside of the apartment to speak with him and Officer Petryszak because of the noise in the apartment. Appellant obliged and was again cooperative. Appellant repeated his earlier statements. Meanwhile, the sergeant and officers coordinated a search for Marciana and canvassed the apartment complex. No Miranda warnings were given to Appellant at that time.

Detective Timothy Rabbit of the Missing Persons Unit of the Baltimore City Police Department asked Officer Petryszak to transport Appellant, Ms. White, and Mr. Ringo to his unit. Officer Petryszak advised Appellant that the detectives at the Missing Persons Unit wanted to talk with him to gather more information. Appellant said okay and was again cooperative. At about 8:00 p.m., Appellant, Ms. White and Mr. Ringo were transported separately to the Missing Persons Unit (about 15 minutes away) in marked police cars. Appellant fell asleep on the way. Ms. Constance Greene, a neighbor, also came to the Missing Persons Unit to be interviewed.

When they arrived, Officer Petryszak escorted Appellant to Detective Rabbit, who interviewed him in a small interview room. The door was shut and no officers waited outside. Appellant repeated what he had told Officer Petryszak, and also stated that he arrived at work that morning at 8:00 a.m. Detective Rabbit described Appellant as without emotion, not upset, "very low key," and cooperative. After the interview, Appellant was escorted to one of the unit's other interview rooms to wait while Detective Rabbit interviewed Ms. White, Mr. Ringo, and Ms. Greene.4 These interviews took place in Detective Rabbit's office cubicle. Mr. Ringo told Detective Rabbit that he usually saw Marciana in the 7:30 to 7:45 a.m. time frame, but he did not that morning when he came to pick up Marc, Jr. The door to the interview room where...

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  • Morgan v. State, 2288, Sept. Term, 2019
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • 8 Septiembre 2021
    ...sentence for violation of a protective order into his sentence for second-degree assault. See Abeokuto v. State , 391 Md. 289, 356, 893 A.2d 1018 (2006) ("where there is a merger under the rule of lenity, the offense carrying the lesser maximum penalty ordinarily merges into the offense car......
  • Williams v. State, 1403, Sept. Term, 2019
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    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • 7 Julio 2021
    ...lesser-included offense of another when all of its individual elements are contained in the other. Abeokuto v. State , 391 Md. 289, 353, 893 A.2d 1018 (2006). The prohibition on legally inconsistent verdicts ensures that a person is "not convicted of a crime on which the jury has actually f......
  • Huggins v. State, 59, Sept. Term, 2021
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • 7 Julio 2022
    ...on the specific context of each case. Smith v. State , 375 Md. 365, 380, 825 A.2d 1055 (2003) ; Abeokuto v. State , 391 Md. 289, 318, 893 A.2d 1018 (2006). To put this matter in proper context, there are two foundational principles we should keep in mind. The first is that judges presumably......
  • Thomas v. State, 130
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Maryland
    • 26 Octubre 2012
    ...police and they're in the law enforcement system. And the Court said that in a case cited by the State, Abeokuto v. State, at 391 Md. 289 [893 A.2d 1018 (2006) ]. You know, inherently, if you're being interviewed by the police, and particularly in a police station, there is some coercive as......
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  • State v. Stewart, No. 53
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • 25 Junio 2019
    ...of [Crime A] are included in [Crime B], so that only [Crime B] contains a distinct element[.]" Abeokuto v. State, 391 Md. 289, 353, 893 A.2d 1018, 1055 (2006) (citation omitted). In other words, neither Crime A nor Crime B is a lesser-included offense of the other where each crime &quo......
  • Boulden v. State, No. 49, September Term, 2009 (Md. App. 5/14/2010), No. 49, September Term, 2009.
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • 14 Mayo 2010
    ...instead be tried by the court. Powell v. State, 394 Page 8 Md. 632, 638, 907 A.2d 242, 246 (2006); Abeokuto v. State, 391 Md. 289, 316, 893 A.2d 1018, 1033 (2006); Martinez v. State, 309 Md. 124, 132-33, 522 A.2d 950, 954 (1987); Countess v. State, 286 Md. 444, 449, 408 A.2d 1302, 1304 Mary......
  • Nicolas v. State , No. 88
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    • 8 Mayo 2012
    ...the statutory language, the offense of second degree assault retains its common law meaning. We stated in Abeokuto v. State, 391 Md. 289, 893 A.2d 1018 (2006), that “[w]hen applying the required evidence test to multi-purpose offenses, i.e., offenses having alternative elements, a court mus......
  • Jefferson v. State Of Md.., No. 1013, Sept. Term, 2008.
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    • Maryland Court of Special Appeals
    • 2 Septiembre 2010
    ...or fundamental to assure the defendant a fair trial’ by applying the plain error standard.” Abeokuto v. State, 391 Md. 289, 327, 893 A.2d 1018 (2006) (citation omitted). In James, we declined to apply plain error to a voir dire procedure that was error under Wright. There, we stated: We dec......
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