Butler v. State

Decision Date01 September 1992
Docket NumberNo. 75,75
Citation643 A.2d 389,335 Md. 238
PartiesMichael BUTLER v. STATE of Maryland. ,
CourtMaryland Court of Appeals

Mark Colvin, Asst. Public Defender (Stephen E. Harris, Public Defender, both on brief), Baltimore, for petitioner.

Cathleen C. Brockmeyer, Asst. Atty. Gen. (J. Joseph Curran, Jr., Atty. Gen., both on brief), Baltimore, for respondent.



We granted Michael Butler's petition for a writ of certiorari to decide whether the doctrine of collateral estoppel bars the State from retrying Butler for various counts on which the jury deadlocked at his former trial. Butler contends that, by finding him guilty of being an accessory after the fact in that trial, the jury determined that he was not a principal in the offenses on which the jury was unable to reach a verdict. For the reasons discussed below, we hold that collateral estoppel does not preclude the retrial.


On August 12, 1989, the Howard County police responded to a call about a shooting in Columbia, Maryland. Upon arriving at the scene, the police found an automobile (a Buick "Riviera") with its engine running and its turn signal activated. The driver, Sherman Chenault, was slumped behind the wheel of the vehicle with a gunshot wound to his neck and one to the back of his head. Another victim of the shooting, Sharrell Hudson, approached the police officers and informed them that she had been shot in the face.

Emergency medical personnel arrived at the scene, examined the driver, and confirmed that he was dead. Hudson, on the other hand, survived the shooting. She was admitted to the Shock Trauma Unit of the University of Maryland Medical System, where it was determined she had a bullet wound to the left side of her face and a fractured jaw.

By way of an eight-count indictment, Michael Butler was charged with having been one of two assailants who attacked Hudson and Chenault. The specific charges contained in that indictment were as follows:

1. Murder of Chenault;

2. Assault with intent to murder Hudson;

3. Use of a handgun in the murder of Chenault;

4. Use of a handgun in the commission of a felonious assault on Hudson 5. Common law assault on Hudson;

6. Common law battery on Hudson;

7. Transportation of a handgun; and

8. Accessory after the fact to the murder of Chenault.

The indictment also named Kent Tilghman 1 as the other assailant.

Butler was tried by a jury in the Circuit Court for Howard County (Kane, J.). The evidence at trial disclosed that the attack on Chenault and Hudson occurred during what the victims were led to believe was the consummation of a drug deal. The State called Ms. Hudson and various other witnesses in support of its case. Hudson described the events leading up to, and including, the shooting in Columbia.

Hudson testified that in the late afternoon of August 11, 1989, Chenault came over to her house. Chenault then telephoned Tilghman and arranged to meet with him later that evening. After the phone call, Hudson saw Chenault take "a whole lot of money" out of a metal box and count it. 2 At approximately 10:00 p.m., Chenault left the house to meet Tilghman at a McDonald's on Security Boulevard. Approximately thirty minutes later, however, Chenault returned to Hudson's house, placed a gun and the metal box containing the money into a black vinyl bag, and asked Hudson to accompany him to meet Tilghman "because he was lost."

Chenault, Hudson, and her five-year old daughter then drove in the Riviera to the McDonald's to meet Tilghman. Tilghman, accompanied by Butler's sister, arrived at the McDonald's in a Toyota Celica. The group proceeded to Butler's mother's house, where Chenault took the money out of the metal box and handed it to Tilghman, who in turn placed it into a yellow trash bag. Although in Butler's first statement to the police he said he only heard about but did not see any money, this claim was contradicted by Hudson. After Tilghman and Chenault finished putting the money in the yellow bag, the two of them went outside of the house. Tilghman had the yellow bag and his keys in his hand.

About twenty-five minutes later, Chenault and Tilghman came back inside the house without the yellow trash bag. Shortly thereafter, while Chenault was in the bathroom, Tilghman and Butler went upstairs for several minutes. When they came back downstairs, Tilghman called his brother's beeper number and waited for his call to be returned. The phone rang shortly thereafter, Tilghman said a few words to the caller, and then informed everyone that it was time to leave. Hudson testified that just before they left Tilghman asked Butler to go upstairs and get the keys to the Celica. Butler, however, immediately pulled them out of his pocket. 3

At approximately midnight, they departed. Chenault drove the Riviera. He was accompanied by Hudson, who sat in the front passenger seat, and Hudson's daughter and Tilghman, who sat in the rear seat. Following Chenault, Butler drove alone in the Celica even though he had no driver's license. The Toyota Celica that Butler drove to Columbia belonged to Tilghman's girlfriend. During the drive, Butler was sometimes in front of the Riviera and sometimes behind it. Eventually both cars reached the village of Owen Brown, which is located in Columbia. Tilghman directed Chenault to the parking lot of an apartment complex. After Chenault pulled into a parking space, he asked Tilghman if Tilghman's brother was there yet. Tilghman's response was "no, not yet," immediately followed by multiple gunshots.

Hudson testified that Tilghman "started shooting us inside of the car." Hudson, however, was not looking at Chenault or Tilghman when the bullets began to fly. Rather, she was looking out the passenger side window and attempting to locate Butler. She did not see a gun. Hudson described feeling "a sharp pain on the left side of my head," hearing "loud noises like the car was maybe blowing up or something," and feeling Chenault fall over on top of her. Her daughter Monique started crying in the back seat. Hudson heard car doors shutting and a car driving away, and then noticed that the Celica was no longer in the parking lot. She exited the Riviera with her daughter, and asked the occupant of a nearby apartment to call the police and an ambulance.

During a subsequent search of the Riviera, the police discovered a black bag containing, inter alia, a nine millimeter handgun along with two clips. Tilghman's fingerprints were lifted from the driver's door. Butler's fingerprints were not found on or in the Riviera, nor on any of its contents. The police did not find any money (except for 53 cents), nor the yellow trash bag.

In addition to Ms. Hudson, the State called Officer Michael McKnight. He testified that on September 12, 1989, nearly a month after the crime, he and another officer spotted Butler walking down the street. Because Butler matched the description of a suspect in a homicide, they attempted to stop him. Butler ran, a chase ensued, and eventually the officers found him hiding in a dumpster. Butler initially gave the officers a false name and told them he ran because he thought a warrant might be outstanding for his failure to appear in court that morning. A short time later at the police station, another officer warned Butler not to run because Officer McKnight was "a killer." According to McKnight, Butler looked him in the eye and said, "so am I." Officer McKnight further testified that Butler said, "they're not going to pin anything on me. They think I'm an accomplice."

Another witness, Anthony McGrath, testified to admissions made by Butler which strongly supported the State's theory that Butler was an aider and abettor. McGrath, a correctional officer at the Howard County Detention Center where Butler was incarcerated while awaiting trial, testified that Butler "asked me do I know what he was in there for. I said 'yes,' and he said 'I'm in here for murder.' He says, 'You know, McGrath, I did it.' " When asked if Butler said anything else, McGrath replied:

"[Butler] raise[d] his hand like he had a gun in his grasp, and said, 'Boom, boom.' He said, 'I watched the bullets enter the back of the head, come out of the front of the head, and hit the dashboard.' He said, 'And then I watched him bleed to death.' He said, 'I collected $25,000.00 and left.' He also told me that his lawyer was going to get him off."

These statements contradicted Butler's trial testimony that he did not expect to receive nor did he obtain any money as a result of the shootings. Furthermore, these admissions were inconsistent with Butler's statement that he was a distance away from the Riviera and seated in another car when the shots were fired.

The State also called Police Detective Patricia Full, the officer who interrogated Butler after his arrest. The State supplemented Detective Full's testimony by playing a tape recording of the interrogation for the jury. During police interrogation, Butler maintained that he did not know where Chenault and Tilghman were going that evening, but that he thought they were engaged in a drug transaction; however, Butler did inform Detective Full that he had previously been to the Owen Brown community. Upon arriving at Owen Brown, Butler stated that he saw Tilghman getting out of the Riviera firing a gun. As for the number of gunshots he heard, Butler declared, "I know it was more than one shot.... [A]fter that one, if it was 4, 5, 6, 8, I can't say how many." Detective Full testified that Butler claimed he started to drive away when he heard the gunshots. He was stopped, however, by Tilghman who told him that he had shot Chenault and Hudson. Tilghman then got into the car and Butler drove them away from the scene of the crime. According to Full, Butler also stated that he pulled to the side of the highway and...

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