Booth v. State

Decision Date01 September 1984
Docket NumberNo. 151,151
PartiesJohn BOOTH a/k/a Marvin Booth v. STATE of Maryland. ,
CourtMaryland Court of Appeals

Julia Doyle Bernhardt and George E. Burns, Jr., Asst. Public Defenders (Alan H. Murrell, Public Defender, on brief), Baltimore, for appellant.

Valerie V. Cloutier, Asst. Atty. Gen. (Stephen H. Sachs, Atty. Gen., on brief), Baltimore, for appellee.



We shall affirm the judgments of conviction and death sentence in this case for the reasons set forth below. Of the nineteen issues raised on appeal only issues eight through ten present questions of any novelty. These deal with the right of allocution conferred by a Maryland Rule of Procedure which was made applicable to capital cases as of July 1, 1984.

Appellant, John "Ace" Booth (Booth), and his friend, Willie "Sweetsie" Reid (Reid), in order to obtain money for heroin, on May 18, 1983, robbed and murdered an elderly couple in the victims' home. The victims were Irvin Bronstein, age 78, and his wife, Rose, age 75. Their bodies were found by their son on May 20 in the living room of their home. Each had been stabbed in the chest twelve times, after having been bound and gagged. Mr. Bronstein was found reclining face up on the sofa, with a cloth covering his face. Mrs. Bronstein was found face down on the floor. Their home had been ransacked. Property, including television sets, jewelry, and their 1972 Chevrolet Impala automobile, had been taken. The police found the automobile abandoned and partially stripped on the parking lot of the Flag House high-rise public housing projects in East Baltimore. The police were able to associate Booth with the abandoned car and arrested Booth June 7, 1983.

The first trial of the charges against Booth, before Honorable James W. Murphy, ended in a mistrial on April 23, 1984. See Booth v. State, 301 Md. 1, 481 A.2d 505 (1984). At retrial, a jury presided over by Judge Edward J. Angeletti in the fall of 1984 heard both the guilt or innocence phase and the sentencing phase. The jury found Booth guilty of the murder of Mr. Bronstein in the first degree, both premeditated and felony, and found that Booth was a principal in the first degree to that murder for which they imposed the death sentence. The jurors found Booth guilty of murder in the first degree of Mrs. Bronstein for which the court imposed a life sentence. 1 Booth also received three consecutive sentences of twenty years each, the first of which was consecutive to the life sentence, for the robbery of Mr. Bronstein, the robbery of Mrs. Bronstein, and for conspiring with Reid and with his nephew, Darrell Brooks, to rob the Bronsteins.

On this appeal Booth challenges the sufficiency of the evidence against him only as to the charge of conspiracy to rob. Neither Booth nor Reid testified as witnesses at Booth's trial at which the jury could have found the following facts on guilt or innocence.

The Bronsteins lived at 3412 Rockwood Avenue in West Baltimore. Booth, age 29 at the time of the murders, lived with his mother at 3416 Rockwood Avenue. Booth's friend Reid lived with his girlfriend, Veronda "Ronnie" Mazyck and her two sons, age nine and four at the time of the murders, in Ms. Mazyck's apartment at 400 Aisquith Street in East Baltimore. On May 18, 1983, Booth met Reid at Mazyck's apartment at about 4:00 p.m. Mazyck went out with her children and, when she returned about 8:00 to 8:30 p.m., no one was at home. Reid and Booth returned to the apartment at about 9:00 p.m. They had heroin which Booth, Reid, and Mazyck injected. Reid also had a small brown paper bag filled with jewelry.

When the contents of the bag were spread on a tabletop, Mazyck commented that the jewelry was cheap to which Reid, in the presence of Booth, replied that it was "white people's shit." In response to a question from Mazyck, Reid, in Booth's presence, said he had made a "hustle" which Mazyck interpreted as meaning that "they went out and stole it."

At some point Booth telephoned his girlfriend, Jewell "Judy" Edwards, 2 who lived in the 2600 block of Harford Road, and asked her to meet him at Mazyck's apartment. Booth wanted Edwards to drive a car. She was a licensed operator but Booth, Reid, and Mazyck were not licensed.

Renee "Tony" Collins, a 17-year-old mother of two children who lived in the apartment across the hall from Mazyck, dropped by Mazyck's apartment while the jewelry was spread on the table. Booth and Reid asked her if she wanted to buy any of it. While Ms. Collins was in the apartment, Eddie Smith, his girlfriend, and another couple stopped by the apartment. Smith paid Reid $2 so that he and his companions could use the apartment to inject themselves with heroin. Ms. Collins heard Booth and Reid asking "the junkies" for the use of a car so that Booth and Reid could pick up some television sets.

When Ms. Edwards arrived at the Mazyck apartment, Booth explained that he wanted her to drive the car of a friend of his and that he needed someone who had a driver's license in the event the car was stopped by the police.

Late on the evening of May 18 or early in the morning of May 19 all of the adults left the Aisquith Street apartment. Smith and his companions went their separate way. Booth and Ms. Edwards, Reid and Ms. Mazyck told Ms. Collins that they were going "[t]o pick up the T.V.'s."

The two couples took a cab to Booth's mother's home. Booth went in the house while the other three remained outside. Booth came out with green plastic trash bags. He then went back into his mother's house and came out with gloves for everyone to wear. The group then went to the rear of the Bronstein home. Before entering, Booth pointed the Bronsteins' car out to Ms. Edwards as the car which she would be driving and handed her the keys to the car. Also before the group entered the Bronstein home, Booth told the women that they should pay "no mind" if they saw any dead bodies.

The two couples entered the house through the rear door and the two women saw the bound and gagged corpses of Mr. and Mrs. Bronstein in the living room. The group looted the house and loaded the loot, including two television sets, into the Bronsteins' car. When someone realized that they had left a trash bag in the house, Booth said not to worry because the police would think that the bag had been left by people who were working on the Bronsteins' lawn that day.

The two couples returned with the loot to the Aisquith Street apartment. Booth and Reid obtained heroin and the couples "fired up" and went to bed, Reid and Ms. Mazyck in the bedroom, while Booth and Ms. Edwards used a sofa bed in the living room. While lying in bed Ms. Edwards asked Booth if the people whom she had seen in the house were actually dead, and Booth replied that they were and that he had killed the man while Reid had killed the woman.

The next morning Ms. Mazyck asked Booth why the elderly couple had been killed, and Booth told her that it was because the elderly couple knew Booth and his nephew.

Issues as to Guilt or Innocence

During voir dire of prospective jurors Booth had moved to strike one of them for cause and the motion was denied. Booth argues that the juror had heard that a previous guilty verdict had been overturned and had stated that he would give more weight to the testimony of a police officer than to other witnesses. Error, if any, in denying the challenge was waived and was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. The venireman in question did not serve as a juror and was not the object of the exercise by the defense of one of its allotted peremptory challenges. The jury was impaneled without Booth's having exhausted all of his peremptory challenges. Immediately prior to the State's calling its first witness defense counsel advised the court that "the Court's jury is acceptable to the defense subject to the previous objections that have been made with regard to the Witherspoon matter, and bifurcation." See Foster v. State, 304 Md. 439, 450-51, 499 A.2d 1236, 1241-42 (1985) and cases cited therein.


Appellant's second issue reaches back into the period preceding the aborted first trial and asserts that the circuit court erred in denying an oral defense motion that the court order Veronda Mazyck to submit to a psychiatric examination by a particular psychiatrist who had been identified in discovery as an expert witness for Booth. The point is frivolous.

On the afternoon of March 27, 1984, the defense supplemented its answer to the State's motion for discovery and advised that Booth intended to call Dr. John Henderson to explain records of Johns Hopkins Hospital relating to Ms. Mazyck's condition and treatment in April-May 1982. At a pretrial hearing on April 3, 1984, the State orally moved that Judge Murphy preclude the defense from using the hospital records and from having expert testimony based upon them. The prosecutor represented that the records related to psychiatric treatment. He then called Ms. Mazyck as a witness in support of the motion. She testified to her preference that any such records be kept secret and said that she had not consented to the release of any such records. The purpose of this testimony was to lay a foundation for a legal argument, to be made on a later day, that the records represented privileged communications between patient and psychiatrist as recognized in Md. Code (1974, 1984 Repl. Vol.), § 9-109 of the Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article.

Jury selection for the first trial started on April 9, 1984, and continued through April 11. Late in the day of April 11 defense counsel delivered to the State a memorandum in opposition to the State's motion to preclude. Appellant contended that the records showed Ms. Mazyck was diagnosed as an alcoholic and a polydrug abuser, who had experienced auditory and visual hallucinations...

To continue reading

Request your trial
50 cases
  • Bowers v. State
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Maryland
    • September 1, 1984
  • Hunt v. State
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Maryland
    • December 28, 1990
    ......State, 6 Md.App. 265, 268-69, 250 A.2d 904, 906 (1969). "The permissible scope of closing argument is a matter left to the sound discretion of the trial court. The exercise of that discretion will not constitute reversible error unless clearly abused and prejudicial to the accused." Booth v. State, 306 Md. 172, 210-11, 507 A.2d 1098, 1118, vacated in part, 482 U.S. 496, 107 S.Ct. 2529, 96 L.Ed.2d 440 (1987). . A. Prosecutor's Comments on Hunt's Allocution .         A defendant in a death penalty sentencing proceeding may give an allocution to the jury. Maryland Rule ......
  • Jones v. State
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Maryland
    • September 16, 1987
    ...... 304 Md. at 534. Accord Huffington v. State, 304 Md. 559, 574-75, 500 A.2d 272, 279-80 (1985), cert. denied, --- U.S. ----, 106 S.Ct. 3315, 92 L.Ed.2d 745 (1986). See also Booth v. State, 306 Md. 172, 219-20, 507 A.2d 1098 (1986) (conviction of principal in second degree does not preclude a finding that defendant was "sole proximate cause" of death). . XI .         Jones also contends that he did not knowingly and intelligently elect to have a jury sentence him. ......
  • State v. Zola
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (New Jersey)
    • October 7, 1988
    ...... Washington apparently permits a capital defendant personally to "make an unsworn statement to the jury prior to closing arguments." See State v. Mak, 105 Wash.2d 692, 729, 718 P.2d 407, 430 (Wash.1986). Maryland now permits allocution by a defendant before capital sentencing. Booth v. Maryland, 306 Md. 172, 507 A.2d 1098, 1109-18 (Md.1986), vacated in part on other[548 A.2d 1046] grounds and remanded, 482 U.S. 496, 107 S.Ct. 2529, 96 L.Ed.2d 440 (1987). The Maryland procedure would permit more than we contemplate in that it seemingly would allow the defendant to deny the ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT