Colkley v. State

Decision Date02 July 2021
Docket NumberNo. 833, Sept. Term, 2019,833, Sept. Term, 2019
Citation251 Md.App. 243,253 A.3d 1107
CourtCourt of Special Appeals of Maryland
Parties Clayton Daman COLKLEY v. STATE of Maryland

Submitted by: Eva Shell (Paul B. DeWolfe, Public Defender), Baltimore, MD, for Appellant.

Submitted by: Cathleen C. Brockmeyer (Brian E. Frosh, Atty. Gen.), Baltimore, MD, for Appellee.

Panel: Kehoe, Berger, Reed, JJ.*

Reed, J.

This case stems from a shooting that occurred on the 1700 block of Port Street in Baltimore on May 28, 2003 (the "Incident"). During the Incident, four individuals were shot, one of whom was fatally wounded. In 2003, the State of Maryland (the "State") indicted Clayton Colkley ("Appellant") for his alleged involvement in the Incident. The charges against Appellant included, inter alia , attempted first-degree murder of William Courts, conspiracy to murder William Courts, and first-degree murder of James Bowens.

This appeal comes from Appellant's convictions at his fifth trial. Appellant's first and second trial each resulted in convictions, but those convictions were each subsequently reversed and remanded for a new trial. Appellant's third and fourth trials each resulted in a mistrial. In the trial relevant to this appeal, the jury found Appellant guilty of attempted first-degree murder of William Courts, conspiracy to murder William Courts, and unlawfully carrying a handgun. Appellant timely appealed.

In bringing his appeal, Appellant presents six (6) questions for appellate review, which we have rephrased for clarity:1

I. Did the trial court err in declining to take judicial notice of an unavailable hearsay declarants’ prior conviction?
II. Did the trial court abuse its discretion by allowing testimony which implicated Appellant's involvement in two other murders?
III. Did the trial court abuse its discretion by allowing the jury to view video footage of two witnesses’ prior testimony, rather than only an audio recording or transcript of that testimony, where the video footage revealed that the witnesses had testified in two prior trials?
IV. Did the trial court abuse its discretion by allowing Det. Snead to testify to statements made by an alleged witness (Campbell) to the shooting who was not called to testify at trial?
V. Did the trial court abuse its discretion by allowing statements, by prosecutors for the State during closing argument/rebuttal, pertaining to the credibility of certain witnesses and the standard of proof?
VI. Did the trial court abuse its discretion by declining to propound Appellant's proposed voir dire question asking whether prospective jurors had strong feelings about illegal drugs?

For the following reasons, we affirm Appellant's convictions.

FACTUAL & PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

This case stems from a shooting that occurred on the 1700 block of Port Street in Baltimore on May 28, 2003. During the Incident, four individuals were shot,2 one of whom – James Bowens – was fatally wounded.

In 2003, based on his alleged involvement in the Incident, Clayton Colkley (Appellant) was indicted for attempted first-degree murder (and lesser-included offenses) of William Courts; conspiracy to murder William Courts; first-degree murder (and lesser-included offenses) of James Bowens; and related firearms offenses. Appellant's first two trials were reversed and remanded for a new trial. Thereafter, Appellant's third and fourth trials each resulted in a mistrial. This appeal stems from Appellant's convictions following his fifth trial.

Procedural Background

In Appellant's first trial (2005), Appellant was jointly tried with his then co-defendant Darnell Fields. Appellant was convicted of second-degree murder of Bowens; attempted first-degree murder of Courts; conspiracy to murder Courts, use of a handgun in the commission of a crime of violence; and wearing or carrying a handgun. However, we reversed and remanded for a new trial because Appellant had not been present when the trial court had disposed of a jury note. Fields v. State , 172 Md. App. 496, 916 A.2d 357, cert. denied , 399 Md. 33, 922 A.2d 574 (2007).

Following a joint retrial in 2010, Appellant was convicted of the same crimes, and an additional count of wearing or carrying a handgun. However, the Court of Appeals reversed those convictions and remanded for a new trial. See Fields v. State , 432 Md. 650, 69 A.3d 1104 (2013) (Holding that the trial court erred in denying the defense the opportunity to inspect internal investigation files related to prior misconduct by two detectives who worked on the case; and holding that the trial court erred in not allowing cross-examination of the detectives regarding that misconduct.).

In September 2015, Appellant's third trial commenced. A mistrial was declared after the State elicited from a witness that Fields – Appellant's prior co-defendant – had been charged and convicted in relation to Appellant's case.

In September 2018, Appellant's fourth trial resulted in another mistrial after a State's witness referred to a prior trial while testifying.

This appeal comes from Appellant's fifth trial which commenced on January 22, 2019. At the conclusion of Appellant's fifth trial, the jury found Appellant guilty of attempted first-degree murder of William Courts, conspiracy to murder William Courts, and carrying a handgun. The jury found Appellant not guilty of second-degree murder of James Bowens and a second count of carrying a handgun. Appellant timely appealed his conviction, contending that multiple errors in the proceeding below warrant the reversal of his convictions.

Trial Below: Witnesses and Evidence

At Appellant's fifth trial, the State again presented its theory of the case. Under the State's theory, Appellant and three other men drove to the 1700 block of Port Street for the purpose of killing William Courts at the behest of a large-scale drug supplier – Eric Horsey. The State asserted that Horsey had a motive to kill Courts because, according to Horsey, Courts and/or his brother – David Courts – had killed Horsey's friend and shot Horsey's brother. The State alleged that Horsey placed a bounty on William Courts, which Appellant sought to collect by shooting Courts on the night of the Incident. Conversely, Appellant's defense argued at trial that Appellant was not involved in the shooting, and that the State's witnesses were falsely accusing him for personal gain.

The State's primary civilian witnesses at trial were Eric Horsey, Qonta Waddell (deceased), Jermaine Lee, and Edwin Boyd (deceased). Yvette Hollie testified in support of Appellant. Additionally, Detectives Massey and Snead – who participated in the investigation of Appellant – testified for the State.

a) Eric Horsey

Eric Horsey testified extensively in Appellant's second trial in 2010 while in federal custody. Between 2000 and 2006, Horsey was a large-scale drug supplier, making $10,000-$30,000 per month.

In January of 2003, Horsey's friend and brother were shot, allegedly by William Courts, outside a club called the "Teamsters Hall." In response, Horsey went to Courts’ neighborhood – including the 1700 block of Port Street – seeking to retaliate. Horsey later testified that he would have killed someone "[i]f that's what it took" to get revenge. Horsey frequented the Port Street area with others over the course of a month. Horsey testified that, during this time, he "shot quite a few individuals," but no one was killed.

In 2006, Horsey was arrested on federal conspiracy charges which carried a potential penalty of life imprisonment. However, Horsey reached an agreement to receive only a ten-year mandatory-minimum sentence. In return, Horsey agreed to testify against all alleged co-conspirators and to provide "substantial assistance."

Although Horsey testified in the present trial, the court found that he was feigning memory loss and declared him unavailable as a witness. Accordingly, the State played a video recording of Horsey's prior testimony from Appellant's second trial in 2010.

Horsey testified in 2010 that Appellant proposed to kill one of the Courts brothers in exchange for financial compensation. Horsey stated that he agreed on the condition that Appellant would not implicate Horsey. The next day, Horsey withdrew the offer after word had spread that he had "put bounties ... on the Courts brothers." However, after Appellant adamantly denied telling anyone of their arrangement, Horsey confirmed their original agreement on the condition that Appellant would "take care of it" by the end of the weekend.

Horsey testified that Appellant contacted him two months later stating that he had "killed Little Will" and "another guy" on Port Street. Horsey further testified that Appellant told him that Appellant had driven to Port Street with three other people3 intending to shoot "Billy" (Broderick Campbell), who had previously threatened them. However, when they got to Port Street Appellant said they did not see Campbell, so they started shooting at other people. According to Horsey, Appellant said that he "shot the first dude that was in his way," while "Bee" (Brian Smith) shot William Courts and Campbell shot Boyd. Horsey subsequently discovered that William Courts had been shot but was not dead. Horsey testified that Appellant asked if he could receive partial payment, but Horsey declined.

In his 2010 testimony, Horsey was also permitted to testify to his knowledge of Appellant's involvement in the deaths of David Courts and Edwin Boyd.

b) Qonta Waddell

Qonta Waddell's relevant testimony comes from his recorded interview with police on July 3, 2003, and his testimony in Appellant's first trial in 2005. Waddell agreed to cooperate with the police after he was charged with possession of three handguns.

In his 2003 recorded interview, Qonta Waddell told police that at the time of the Incident he was on the 1700 block of Port Street with William Courts and James Bowens when a car pulled up. Waddell stated that he saw four armed men in the car: "Coco" (Appellant), "Pooh" (Darnell Fields), "Edward" (...

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