COLEMAN-FULLER v. State

Citation192 Md. App. 577,995 A.2d 985
PartiesLee Andrew COLEMAN-FULLER v. STATE of Maryland.
Decision Date27 May 2010
CourtCourt of Special Appeals of Maryland

COPYRIGHT MATERIAL OMITTED

Michael R. Braudes (Elizabeth L. Julian, Acting Public Defender, on the brief), Baltimore, MD, for appellant.

Diane E. Keller (Douglas F. Gansler, Atty. Gen., on the brief), Baltimore, MD, for appellee.

Panel: DAVIS, JAMES R. EYLER and MATRICCIANI, JJ.

DAVIS, J.

On May 8, 2006, a Baltimore County grand jury indicted Lee Andrew Coleman-Fuller, appellant, for the first-degree murder of Travis Taylor. Md.Code (2002 Vol., 2008 Supp.), Crim. Law. § 2-201. On September 5 and 6, 2007, and again on November 6, 2007, the Circuit Court for Baltimore County heard appellant's motion to suppress two statements that he made to police, on April 12 and April 19, 2006, and the evidence derived from his first statement. The court granted the motion to suppress the April 12th statement, but denied the motion to suppress the April 19th statement and the evidence derived from appellant's April 12th statement. On April 14, 2008, the court heard appellant's motion in limine regarding the State's attempt to introduce cell phone records and cell phone tracking evidence through a detective instead of an expert witness. The court ruled that such evidence did not require expert testimony and denied the motion. Thereafter, on May 5 through May 15, 2008, a jury trial was held. On May 15, 2008, the jury convicted Lee Andrew Coleman-Fuller, appellant, of the first-degree murder of Travis Taylor. On September 10, 2008, the court sentenced appellant to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

Appellant filed a timely appeal and raises six questions for our review, which we quote:

I. Did the trial court err in refusing to instruct the jury on the law relating to accomplice testimony?
II. Did the trial court err in denying appellant's motion to suppress the second of his two statements to the police?
III. Did the trial court err in denying appellant's motion to suppress the fruits of his first statement to the police?
IV. Did the trial court err in permitting a lay witness to present expert testimony concerning cell phone records and cell phone technology?
V. Did the trial court erroneously restrict defense cross-examination of Shamar Harris?
VI. Did the trial court err in permitting improper prosecutorial closing argument?

For the reasons that follow, we answer appellant's first and third questions in the negative, decline to address his sixth question, and answer his remaining questions in the affirmative. Accordingly, we vacate the judgment of conviction for first-degree murder and remand the case to the Circuit Court of Baltimore County for a new trial.

PROCEDURAL AND FACTUAL BACKGROUND1

The charges against appellant stem from a murder that took place at 2878 Scarborough Circle in Woodlawn, Maryland on April 11, 2006. On the evening of April 11th, the victim, Travis Taylor, was stabbed to death at the home of April Goggans. At the time, both appellant and Taylor were staying with Goggans. After two interrogations, one on April 12, 2006 and another April 19, 2006, the police arrested appellant for the murder. As noted, appellant's trial before a jury transpired from May 5 to May 15, 2008.

Goggans testified that she and her daughter lived on Scarborough Circle during the Spring of 2006. She was a self-professed alcoholic who drank "... every night. All day every day on the weekends." She also admitted that she was fairly promiscuous. One night in February 2006, she met appellant, whom she knew as "Javier," and his friend, Kenneth "Bean" Hill. The first night that they met, she had sexual relations with both Hill and appellant. Shortly thereafter, Goggans continued to carry on a sexual relationship with Hill. A few weeks later, appellant began to stay at Goggans's house. He slept on her couch and used her car to earn money as a "hack," a slang term for an unlicensed cab driver. Goggans admitted that, during this time, she carried on a sexual relationship with appellant.

The events ultimately ending in Taylor's murder began during the first week of April 2006. Goggans met Taylor while he was attending a party at her house at the invitation of Hill. Goggans and Taylor talked most of the night and, in her words, "kind of hit it off." She and Taylor discussed her drinking problem and the number of people in her house. She related part of the conversation she had with Taylor in which he told her "`you just got to stop, you got to stop drinking, you got to get these people out of your house ... you got to stop letting people beat on you.'" She further recollected that, the next day, "it was obvious that we connected in that way" and that she and Taylor were starting a relationship.

She recounted that, when she met Taylor, appellant was continually spending nights sleeping on her couch and she would "wake up and he was there in the morning." On the morning after she met Taylor, she had intended to use her car, but appellant had rendered it unfit to drive and she did not have the money to fix it. Despite this, she said that everything remained "fine up until about the second day Taylor was there."

On the morning of the second day that Taylor was at her house, Goggans noticed that appellant was putting more of his belongings in her closets, as if he were moving in. Out of patience with appellant and exacerbated by the fact that he had disabled her car, Goggans, along with Taylor, confronted appellant later that afternoon. Goggans told him that, while he was permitted to stay at her house occasionally, he could not live there. She stated that appellant was upset and said, "`I've been staying here. Everything's been fine till Travis got here.'" When she responded that he could not live there, he stated "`Man, you make me so mad, you make me want to kill you.'" Thereafter, appellant walked into the kitchen and Goggans "heard a silverware drawer being messed around in."2 When appellant reentered the room, Taylor told him that he had to leave and, according to Goggans, Taylor and appellant "stared at each other but it wasn't an altercation."

Goggans and Taylor had a conversation later that night in which he agreed to help her "fix the situation," meaning that he would help her to evict the people in her house and he would help her to stop drinking. Taylor stayed with Goggans throughout that night as she suffered symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.

The next day, April 11th, Taylor, Hill, Goggans and her daughter were at her house and the day was "kind of slow." Taylor helped Goggans clean her house and told anyone who came to the house that they could not come inside. Eventually, Goggans asked Hill to call someone so that they could take her daughter to get some food. At approximately 10:45 p.m., one of Hill's friends arrived to take Hill, Goggans and her daughter to buy food.

As she was preparing to leave, Hill was on the phone with appellant. Goggans spoke to appellant and told him that he needed to retrieve his belongings. She testified that appellant was upset when she said this:

He told me, just told me, you know, there was nothing else to say. I told him, I say, "You need to come get your stuff." He's like, "Man, you know, this shit is making me mad." And I'm like, "Well, you need to come get your stuff." And he was like, "Are you saying that I have to get my stuff?" I said, "There's nothing else to say, okay".

She then proceeded to get her daughter ready to leave. She stated that the person that Hill had called to provide transportation arrived and she, Hill and her daughter exited the front door. Taylor declined to accompany them. Goggans recounted that she did not close the door all the way when she left because she knew appellant was coming to pick up his belongings.

While Goggans, Hill and her daughter were walking to the car that was waiting out front, she noticed that appellant was walking with two people toward her house. She testified that she knew one person as "Nick" and that the other person was someone she had met through appellant, but she could not recall his name. Appellant did not say anything as he passed, but Goggans recollected that appellant "stared me down before he got into the house."

Goggans watched the three men go through the front door; they did not shut the door all the way. She witnessed appellant's "shirt go up as if he was going up the stairs." At this point, as she was walking toward the car, she heard the door shut. Then, she heard "feet like on a basketball court, like when they scuff, squeak a little bit" followed by Taylor "crying in pain." Shortly after she heard Taylor's cries, she saw Nick and the other individual run out of the house.

Goggans told Hill that she wanted to go see what was happening, but Hill insisted that Taylor was fine and that they needed to go to his house so that he could get changed and go to a local Wendy's. As they drove away, she witnessed appellant emerge from the house, stand in front of the door and stare at her. She stated that she wanted to go back, but did not because Hill assured her that everything was fine.

Goggans and Hill then drove to his mother's home and remained there for approximately forty-five minutes. They later drove back to her house and, when she opened the door, she saw Taylor lying on the stairs. Believing that Taylor had just been knocked unconscious, she took her daughter to a neighbor and called 9-1-1.

She testified that she made a statement at the scene and later talked to detectives from the Baltimore County Police Department—statements that she admitted were inconsistent, but that were inconsistent, she explained, because she was in shock when she first saw the body. She also identified photographs of "Nick" and appellant. On the witness stand, Goggans identified appellant from a photograph taken from a Wendy's surveillance camera...

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    ...A trial court must give the instruction if it is requested and there is "some evidence" to support it. Coleman-Fuller v. State, 192 Md. App. 577, 592-94 (2010); see also Gaskins v. State, 7 Md. App. 99, 104-06 (1969) (finding reversible error where trial court declined the defendant's reque......
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