Collins v. State

CourtCourt of Appeals of Maryland
Citation568 A.2d 1,318 Md. 269
Decision Date01 September 1988
Docket NumberNo. 33,33
PartiesKenneth Lloyd COLLINS v. STATE of Maryland. ,

Page 269

318 Md. 269
568 A.2d 1
Kenneth Lloyd COLLINS
STATE of Maryland.
No. 33, Sept. Term, 1988.
Court of Appeals of Maryland.
Jan. 10, 1990.

[568 A.2d 2]

Page 272

Nancy S. Forster, Asst. Public Defender and George E. Burns, Jr., Asst. Public Defender (Alan H. Murrell, Public Defender, Gary S. Offutt, Asst. Public Defender, all on brief), Baltimore, for appellant.

Valerie J. Smith, Asst. Atty. Gen. (J. Joseph Curran, Jr., Atty. Gen., Richard B. Rosenblatt, Cathleen C. Brockmeyer, Asst. Attys. Gen., all on brief) Baltimore, for appellee.



Pursuant to the automatic review provisions of Maryland Code (1957, 1987 Repl.Vol., 1988 Cum.Supp.), Article 27, § 414(a), appellant, Kenneth Lloyd Collins (Collins), directly appeals from his convictions of murder in the first degree, use of a handgun in the commission of a felony and robbery with a dangerous or deadly weapon. The jury imposed a sentence of death. We shall affirm both the conviction and the sentence.


During the early evening hours on December 7, 1986, Wayne Leander Breeden (Breeden) was brutally and savagely

Page 273

shot to death at close range. His body was found on the sidewalk outside a townhouse at 8502 Arry Place in Parkville, Maryland. Breeden was bludgeoned with the butt of a gun during the course of a robbery and was shot after attempting to stagger away from the scene. His death was immediate. The sole motivation for the murder was to take the $80.00 in cash that Breeden had on his person.

Breeden had been in the process of completing several errands. He had first stopped to withdraw money from an automatic teller machine. From there he was to deliver a box of bathroom tiles to Mary [568 A.2d 3] and Kenneth Johnson, who rented a townhouse from Breeden at 8514 Arry Place. Finally, he intended to pick up a pizza and return home.

Baltimore County Officer Ronald Kuhns (Kuhns) had been dispatched that evening to Old Harford Road to investigate a call made by a police lieutenant, Richard Koller (Koller). Lieutenant Koller informed Kuhns that he had heard at least two gunshots fired from the direction of Tommy True Court and Arry Place. Officer Kuhns proceeded to the area and was immediately approached by a young man, Timmy Kaufman (Kaufman), who said that someone was hurt and in need of assistance. Kaufman's mother had noticed a man's body lying in front of their residence at 8502 Arry Place. Koller informed Kuhns that he observed a shiny foreign automobile proceed around the rear of the house, "turn around quickly, came back out with its lights off ..., picked up someone and sped at a high rate of speed southbound on Old Harford Road with its lights off." 1 Koller noticed the very distinct taillights, the vehicle

Page 274

tag number was NEW-672, and the car was possibly a Toyota.

At the murder scene, police identified the victim's money clip and glasses, which were lying adjacent to the body, as well as a receipt for $80.00 from the automatic teller machine dated 12-7-86. His car was parked in front of 8514 Arry Place. Ceramic tiles were found scattered throughout the grounds. Dirt was found on the front porch of 8510 Arry Place. The flower garden there appeared to be out of order. Human blood substances were found on both the porch railing at 8510 and the sewer cover in front of 8502. A stipulation was entered into evidence that analysis of the substance found on the sewer cover confirmed its identification as human blood, but it could not be typed. There was not enough of the substance on the railing to conduct laboratory analysis.

Dr. John Smialek, Chief Medical Examiner for the State of Maryland, reviewed the autopsy report of Breeden as written by Dr. Gregory Kaufman. 2 The autopsy report revealed the cause of death was a gunshot wound that had entered the right lower back area. A "missile" was recovered from the left side of the front of his abdomen. The pattern of the gunpowder residue on Breeden's skin and jacket indicated that the weapon was held less than six inches from the body when fired. An extensive laceration consistent with "pistol whipping" was found on the right side of Breeden's head. Dr. Smialek classified this head injury as a superficial injury to the outside of the bone of the skull underneath a rectangular laceration. The injury

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"would have most likely stunned him. But it would not necessarily have rendered him unconscious. He would have been in all likelihood able to continue after he recovered from the pain of the injury...." There were abrasions to both of the victim's knees. The examiner testified that the body was rolled over while on the ground.

Lieutenant Koller further attested to his investigation following the murder. Koller had drawn a sketch of the unique taillights observed of the foreign vehicle speeding from the scene. On December 8, 1986, he took the diagram to several neighborhood car dealerships. At Nationwide Toyota, Koller spoke with a salesman concerning the diagram. He noticed a Toyota Celica on the lot which matched the shape and [568 A.2d 4] size of the car seen the previous evening. After proceeding to the Parkville Police Station to get a camera, Koller returned to Nationwide and spotted a beige Celica with tag number NCS-623. He began photographing the car believing it was the same car observed at the murder scene. Koller gave the photographs to the police and the tags were traced to Tony Michie (Michie).

Michie testified that he would occasionally "hang out" with Collins. In October, 1986, the two had a discussion concerning ways to obtain money illegally. Michie needed money to support a drug habit which included "free base cocaine." Michie had use of a vehicle which could be used for getaway purposes. He was also in default on car payments and was being threatened with repossession. Thus, Michie approached Collins for the purpose of discussing a robbery scheme. Their plans were carried out on December 7, 1986.

Collins retrieved a .38 caliber revolver and a sawed-off rifle. They placed the rifle in a bag and appellant put the handgun in his waistband. According to Michie, the two then proceeded to find a "promising" location for the robbery. 3

Page 276

3] After deciding that a restaurant and a hardware store were inappropriate, they decided to follow a car and to rob the occupants. They stopped briefly at a "7-Eleven" store near 33rd Street and Hillen Road. Collins noticed several individuals. withdrawing money from a nearby automatic teller machine. Breeden was followed from the time he used the bank machine until he reached the townhouses on Arry Place. Collins attacked Breeden. They "clenched" and began wrestling. Collins hit Breeden on the top of the head using a "chopping motion." The gun went off shortly thereafter. After Collins frantically returned to the car, he stated, "I only shot him in the butt, so he ain't dead." Michie testified that Collins insisted "he bucked and I had to bust him." This same response was relayed to Collins' sister who observed the wallet and questioned whether she could use the credit cards.

During the course of the homicide investigation, Michie made three statements to the police. On December 10, 1986, he told the detectives that he would speak to them again after consulting with his attorney. Six months later, Michie informed the police that Collins was the triggerman and gave them appellant's name and address. A more detailed written statement implicating Collins was given on November 18, 1987. Michie later agreed to plead guilty to a second degree murder charge and use of a handgun in a crime of violence. 4 Michie gave his third written statement on March 2, 1988 in which he admitted that he had not been completely truthful in his November 18, 1987 statement.

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He again, however, implicated Collins as being the triggerman.

Rodney Bennett, Michie's cousin and roommate, testified concerning a conversation with Michie on December 8, 1986 at approximately 11:00 p.m. Michie told Bennett of the robbery and murder and that homicide detectives were looking for him.

Among other offenses, Collins was charged with first degree murder, use of a handgun in the commission of a felony and robbery with a dangerous or deadly weapon. The State notified appellant of its intention to seek the death penalty on September 21, 1987. Maryland Code (1957, 1987 Repl.Vol., 1988 Cum.Supp.), Article 27, § 412(b). The case was removed from Baltimore County to the Circuit Court for Somerset County on October 27, 1987. See Maryland Rule 4-254(b)(1). Collins was convicted of the three charges listed above after a jury trial was held on March 14-24, [568 A.2d 5] 1988. 5 The separate sentencing procedure was conducted on May 2, 1988. See Art. 27, § 413. The jury sentenced Collins to death. 6

Appellant immediately filed a motion for new sentence on May 4, 1988. The circuit court later held a hearing on May 27, 1988. The judge denied the motion stating:

The death penalty verdict in this case was not the consequence of an 'aberrant jury,' the danger against which the Supreme Court sought to protect in the case Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S. 153, 96 S.Ct. 2909, 49 L.Ed.2d 859 (1976). In Tichnell [v. State], 297 Md. 460, 468 A.2d 1 (1983) our Court said 'It is thus clear that the essential principle underlying the varieties of proportional review--is, in short, the guarantee that death sentences will be imposed in a reasonably consistent manner.' Here the

Page 278

jury reached the conclusion directed by the legislature in Article 27, Section 414, when it found no mitigating circumstances existed to the felony murder of Wayne Breeden. Thus, the Court finds that the jury's verdict was authorized by the statute and was not disproportionate given the facts of the case. No murder could have been more heinous, more premeditated and...

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