Colkley v. State

Decision Date26 April 2012
Docket NumberNos. 1770,1764,Sept. Term, 2010.,Sept. Term, 2010,s. 1770
PartiesClayton COLKLEY v. STATE of Maryland. Darnell Fields v. State of Maryland.
CourtCourt of Special Appeals of Maryland

204 Md.App. 593
42 A.3d 646

STATE of Maryland.

Darnell Fields
State of Maryland.

Nos. 1770, Sept. Term, 2010, 1764, Sept. Term, 2010.

Court of Special Appeals of Maryland.

April 26, 2012.

[42 A.3d 649]

Brian L. Zavin & Brian L. DeLeonardo (Paul B. DeWolfe, Public Defender, Baltimore, MD and DeLeonardo, Smith & Associates, LLC, Reisterstown, MD, on the brief), for appellant.

[42 A.3d 650]

Todd W. Hesel (Douglas F. Gansler, Atty. Gen., on the brief) Baltimore, MD, for appellee.

Panel: EYLER, JAMES R., MATRICCIANI, and CHARLES E. MOYLAN, JR. (Retired, Specially Assigned), JJ.

CHARLES E. MOYLAN, JR. (Retired, Specially Assigned), J.

[204 Md.App. 599]In a retrial, the appellants, Clayton “Coco” Colkley and Darnell “Pooh” Fields, were convicted in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City by a jury, presided over by Judge George L. Russell, III. Colkley was found guilty of second-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, the illegal use of a handgun, and two counts of unlawfully wearing or carrying a handgun. Fields [204 Md.App. 600]was convicted of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, second-degree assault, and the unlawful wearing or carrying of a handgun. In this consolidated appeal, we must address a veritable decathlon of challenges.

The Opening Round

The crimes in this case were committed almost a decade ago, on May 28, 2003. Following an initial jury trial, presided over by Judge John M. Glynn in March of 2005, both Colkley and Fields were convicted in a variety of crimes. Both appealed to this Court. On February 2, 2007, we filed an opinion in Fields v. State, 172 Md.App. 496, 916 A.2d 357,cert. denied,399 Md. 33, 922 A.2d 574 (2007), in which we reversed the convictions because of an improper response to a note from one of the jurors. The case was remanded for further proceedings.

The Final Round

The retrial before Judge Russell and a jury consumed eleven trial days. Colkley was convicted of the second-degree murder of James “Buck” Bowens, the attempted first-degree murder of William Courts, conspiracy to commit the first-degree murder of William Courts, and various handgun offenses. Fields was also convicted of conspiracy to commit the first-degree murder of William Courts, a second-degree assault on William Courts, and a handgun charge. Although Yvette Hollie, as unintended collateral damage, was shot in the arm and hospitalized, none of the convictions was based on the attack on her.

The Back Story

The May 28, 2003 crimes constituted a single skirmish in an ongoing turf war between two rival drug-selling organizations in Baltimore City. In the larger picture, which inevitably intrudes itself into the narrative of May 28, 2003, there are so many murderers, accomplices of murderers, hirers of murderers, murder victims, and intended murder victims, all of whom have both legal names and wildly unrelated street names, that [204 Md.App. 601]it is impossible to follow the game without a well-annotated scorecard.

If we appreciate from the opening scene that the appellant Clayton Colkley was a contract killer, the whole story will be a lot easier to follow. The accessory-before-the-fact who hired Colkley as a hit man was Eric Horsey. Horsey was the head of a major drug-distributing operation in East Baltimore. The apparently smaller but rival drug organization was run by the brothers William and David Courts. Their operation distributed drugs from a geographic base centered on the intersection of Lafayette Avenue and Port Street, also in East Baltimore. It was the William and David Courts group that was the target of the May 28, 2003 shooting spree in the 1700 block of Port Street.

[42 A.3d 651]

Bad blood between Horsey and the Courts brothers had been brewing for at least five months. In January of 2003, David Courts had shot two of Horsey's close associates in front of a Teamsters' Hall. Killed was a man known as “Tool,” who was Horsey's best friend. Wounded was a man known as “Gigit,” who was Horsey's brother. For the next month or so, Horsey went on a revenge-inspired shooting spree, by his own admission shooting “quite a few individuals” in the area of Port Street and Lafayette Avenues. Jermaine “Polish” Lee, a member of the Courts brothers' group, was shot, along with several other members of the group, while “standing around Lafayette and Port.”

It was in March of 2003 that Colkley first peddled his services to Horsey as a hired gun who, for a price, offered to eliminate both William Courts and David Courts. The deal with Horsey was then on and off for several months. It was Colkley who led the execution-style raid of May 28, 2003. Horsey refused to pay him, however, when it came to light that one of the two desired targets, William Courts, had survived even after receiving ten bullets at point-blank range. When Colkley and Brian “Bee” Smith were successful in killing David Courts on the very next day, however, Horsey readily paid them $10,000 for the job. This background is the [204 Md.App. 602]context for a full understanding of what happened on May 28, 2003.

May 28, 2003: Armageddon

Instead of the Earps versus the Clantons, May 28, 2003 was scripted to be the showdown between Horsey and the Courts brothers, although neither Eric Horsey nor David Courts literally showed up at the corral that day. A key witness to the events of that day was Jermaine Lee. Lee was a part of the Courts brothers' organization. He was sitting on the steps of a house in the middle of the 1700 block of Port Street with William Courts and James Bowen when a car pulled quickly around the corner and stopped in front of them. The sound of the car startled the three men, who were “on point” (on their guard) as a result of the series of shootings that had been going on since January. They let down their guard immediately, however, when Bowens recognized the driver of the car as the appellant Darnell “Pooh” Fields, saying, “Nah. That car's cool. That's Pooh's car.” Lee testified that he also knew Fields from prior drug deals and had no reason to fear him. He described the car as a “cream colored” older model car, possibly a Grand Marquis, with tinted windows. After signaling to the others that there was no danger, Bowens approached the passenger side of the car “with his hand on his dip.” At that moment, however, the passenger door swung open, the appellant Colkley dove out in “a falling motion,” and Colkley shot Bowens in the chest from a distance of about the length of a car door. Despite being shot, Bowens ran in the direction of Lafayette Avenue. Lee ran as well. As he did so, he noticed that the other occupants of the car had also opened their respective car doors and were firing guns. Lee fled through an alley to a friend's house, from which he called an ambulance to the scene. He then ran to Lafayette Avenue where Bowens was lying on the ground, bleeding. Lee then returned to Port Street, where he found William Courts also lying on the ground, badly wounded. Lee left the scene without waiting for the ambulance to arrive. Later that evening, Lee did go out with David Courts in an unsuccessful [204 Md.App. 603]retaliatory effort to find Colkley and Fields. Two days later, Lee learned that David Courts had been shot and killed. After his arrest on July 2, 2003, Lee, through a series of photo

[42 A.3d 652]

arrays, identified both Colkley and Fields to the police as two of the May 28 shooters.

The post-mortem examination showed that Bowens had died from a single gunshot wound to the chest. At the Johns Hopkins Hospital, William Courts survived, notwithstanding having received ten gunshot wounds at point-blank range. Yvette Hollie, who was not involved with either of the drug-distributing organizations, was simply visiting with friends at 1702 Port Street when she heard “a whole lot of shots” coming from down the street. As she tried to lead a child inside the house, she was shot in the arm.

In the taped statement Qonta Waddell gave to the police on July 2, 2003, which was played for the jury, Waddell stated that he, a member of the Courts brothers group, had been standing at the top of Port Street when the Grand Marquis drove down the street and stopped. He heard James Bowens approach the car and say, “That's Pooh.” He then saw four people get out of the car and start shooting. Waddell hid behind a van until the shooting was over. From photo arrays, he later identified three of the gunmen as the appellant Colkley, the appellant Fields, and Edwin Boyd, who was later murdered after Colkley discovered that he was turning over information to the police.

The taped statement that Edwin Boyd had given to the police was also played before the jury. In that statement, Boyd said that he had been a part of the execution squad that drove to Port Street under the command of Colkley. When the shooting began, Boyd himself was in a one-on-one confrontation with Broderick Campbell, a member of the Courts brothers organization, and he, Boyd, took a bullet in the eye, ultimately losing the eye.

Eric Horsey, although he did not testify at the first trial, was a key witness at the retrial. As we have already fully described in setting out the background for May 28, 2003, [204 Md.App. 604]Horsey testified as to Colkley's having solicited the job of hit man for both William and David Courts. He testified as to how Colkley, on the morning after the May 28 shootings, boasted about killing William Courts, describing how he had stood over Courts's prostrate body and put ten bullets in him, in his chest, stomach, side, back, hip and arm. When it was learned that William Courts was not dead, however, Horsey refused to pay Colkley for that job. In the world of Murder for Hire, the effort does not count; only the result matters. When a day or two later, Colkley reported that he had killed David Courts and that fact was then verified, Horsey paid Colkley $10,000 for the successful “hit.”


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