Conyers v. State, No. 39

CourtCourt of Appeals of Maryland
Writing for the CourtArgued before BELL; CHASANOW
Citation693 A.2d 781,345 Md. 525
Decision Date01 September 1996
Docket NumberNo. 39
PartiesClarence CONYERS, Jr. v. STATE of Maryland. ,

Page 525

345 Md. 525
693 A.2d 781
Clarence CONYERS, Jr.
v.
STATE of Maryland.
No. 39, Sept.Term, 1996.
Court of Appeals of Maryland.
May 8, 1997.

Page 533

Michael R. Braudes, Asst. Public Defender (Stephen E. Harris, Public Defender; Margaret L. Lanier, Asst. Public Defender, on brief), Baltimore, for appellant.

Page 534

Annabelle L. Lisic, Asst. Atty. Gen., (J. Joseph Curran, Jr., Atty. Gen., on brief), Baltimore, for appellee.

Argued before BELL, C.J., and ELDRIDGE, RODOWSKY, CHASANOW, KARWACKI, RAKER and WILNER, JJ.

CHASANOW, Judge.

This direct appeal comes to us pursuant to Maryland Code (1957, 1996 Repl.Vol.), Article 27, § 414(a). Appellant, Clarence Conyers, Jr., was adjudicated guilty in the Circuit Court for Wicomico County of premeditated murder, felony murder, first-degree burglary, robbery with a deadly weapon, attempted robbery with a deadly weapon, robbery, attempted robbery, and use of a handgun in the commission of a crime of violence with respect to Wanda Johnson. He was also convicted of premeditated murder and use of a handgun in the commission of a crime of violence with respect to Lawrence Bradshaw. Appellant was sentenced to death for the murder of Ms. Johnson and to life without the possibility of parole for the murder of Mr. Bradshaw. Appellant presents ten issues for review, and he asks this Court to grant him a new trial or, in the alternative, a new sentencing hearing.

I.

At approximately 9:35 p.m. on Friday, October 21, 1994, Appellant's estranged girlfriend, Monica Wilson, went to visit her mother, Wanda Johnson, at the home Ms. Johnson shared with her husband, Elwood Johnson. Ms. Wilson had just spoken with her mother at 9:00 p.m. that evening, and her mother had agreed to babysit for Ms. Wilson's son. Arriving with Ms. Wilson at the Johnson home was her cousin, Carla Clinton.

As the two women approached the Johnson home, they saw someone looking outside through a second floor bedroom window. The women knocked on the door, and, as they waited for someone to open it, they saw through a window a man walking down the stairs. The women saw this man turn

Page 535

off the lights inside the house and duck down as if to avoid being seen. The two women walked to a back door and knocked on it. The women heard sounds of a struggle, described as "a commotion," "tussling" and "fighting," coming from inside the house. Then Ms. Johnson began to scream, and a window on the second floor broke over the women's heads.

The two women fled to the home of a relative who lived nearby and called the police. On the way to the relative's house, Ms. Wilson noticed a car parked across the street from her mother's house. The car resembled one that Appellant sometimes borrowed from his former girlfriend and mother of his child, Debra Meyers. Upon returning to the Johnson home, Ms. Wilson was informed by the police that her mother was dead.

There were no signs of forced entry into the Johnson home. Wanda Johnson's body was found in the master bedroom. She had been shot three times in the head, once in the back, and once in the arm. It was Ms. Johnson's custom to keep a small amount of money in her wallet. Furthermore, when Ms. Wilson spoke to Ms. Johnson earlier that evening, at approximately 9:00 p.m., Ms. Johnson said that she had twenty dollars. Ms. Johnson's open wallet was found atop her dresser in the master bedroom; there was no money in the wallet.

In the den, a door to a closet had been forced open, revealing a safe. The closet door had a hasp and a lock on it for security, but the hasp and lock had been pried out of the door jamb to gain access to the closet. Pulling the hasp out of the door jamb had caused splinters to fall on the floor around the closet. The safe inside the closet was closed. Mr. Johnson opened the safe the day after his wife's murder; it contained fifteen dollars.

The next day, Ms. Clinton worked with a police artist on a sketch of the man she had seen on the staircase inside the Johnson [693 A.2d 786] home the evening before. Ms. Wilson was asked to look at the sketch that had been made based on Ms. Clinton's description. Appellant, who had come to the police station to

Page 536

keep Ms. Wilson company, took the sketch away before Ms. Wilson had a chance to see it, telling the police that the sketch would upset her. When Ms. Wilson finally had a chance to see the police sketch, she did not immediately identify Lawrence Bradshaw as the man depicted in the sketch. She made a photo identification of another man, who was arrested and incarcerated for a brief time as a result. Ms. Wilson later agreed, however, that the police sketch looked like Lawrence Bradshaw.

Shortly after 1:00 a.m. on October 23, 1994, approximately 27 hours after the murder of Ms. Johnson, Lawrence Bradshaw was shot in the 4300 block of McDowell Lane. This street is located in the Lansdowne area, near Debra Meyers's home. Mr. Bradshaw had been shot three times in the head, once in the back, once in the arm, and once in the finger. Mr. Bradshaw was taken to Shock Trauma, where he died the following day.

Appellant was charged with both the Johnson and the Bradshaw murders. With regard to Ms. Johnson, Appellant was charged with premeditated murder, felony murder, first-degree burglary, robbery with a deadly weapon, attempted robbery with a deadly weapon, robbery, attempted robbery, and use of a handgun in the commission of a crime of violence. With regard to Mr. Bradshaw, Appellant was charged with premeditated murder and use of a handgun in the commission of a crime of violence.

At trial, Ms. Wilson testified that she and Appellant had been romantically involved for approximately two years and that they had lived together from February 1994 until October 1994. She moved out of the house in October of 1994 because her relationship with Appellant had become "real violent." She returned to the home she had shared with Appellant frequently, however, and she often saw Bradshaw there.

Ms. Wilson explained that Appellant was a frequent and welcome guest in the home of Wanda and Elwood Johnson. She testified that she told Appellant about the safe in the Johnsons' upstairs closet. Appellant also knew that Ms. Johnson

Page 537

was usually out of the house on Friday evenings. Ms. Wilson testified that her mother often spent entire weekends babysitting for Keion, Ms. Wilson's son. At some time before her murder, however, Ms. Johnson's routine changed, and she was no longer able to babysit for Keion on the weekends. Ms. Wilson testified that she often complained to Appellant that because of Ms. Johnson's new routine, Ms. Wilson did not have a weekend babysitter.

Ms. Wilson testified that she spent the night of her mother's murder at the apartment she used to share with Appellant; that sometime during the next day, Lawrence Bradshaw called the apartment to speak to Appellant, who was not at home; and that when Ms. Wilson gave Appellant the message that Mr. Bradshaw had called, Appellant became angry, and he said: "[H]ow the F did he get my phone number[?] What is he doing calling here? I don't know why he would call here." Ms. Wilson also testified that the day after the murder, October 22, Appellant would change the television channel whenever the news of Ms. Johnson's murder was being broadcast.

Wanda Johnson and Lawrence Bradshaw were both shot with a .38 caliber handgun. Ms. Wilson testified that Appellant owned two .38 caliber handguns and that she had seen and held one of those handguns when she lived with Appellant. Ms. Wilson explained that Appellant occasionally stored that handgun in a Charlie Rudo bag. Ms. Wilson never saw the second gun, but she was told about it by Appellant while he was incarcerated for the Johnson and Bradshaw murders.

Debra Meyers testified that on the evening of October 21, the night of Ms. Johnson's murder, Appellant came to Ms. Meyers's house between 10:00 and 11:00 p.m., shortly after the time of the murder, and asked to leave a Charlie Rudo bag at her house. Ms. Meyers agreed. She returned the bag to Appellant the following day, October 22, at his request. The State theorized that the bag contained the gun that had been used to commit one or both of the murders, but, after [693 A.2d 787] being given a gun to hold at trial, Ms. Meyers testified that the bag

Page 538

she held for Appellant did not weigh enough to contain a gun and that, when dropped, the bag did not sound as if it contained a gun.

Ms. Meyers also testified that in the early hours of October 23, shortly before Mr. Bradshaw was killed, Appellant and Mr. Bradshaw, whom Appellant introduced as "Molek," arrived at Ms. Meyers's house, 4236 Twin Circle Way, and stayed for twenty minutes. A short time after the two men left Ms. Meyers's house, she heard gunshots. Appellant returned to Ms. Meyers's house, alone, after the gunshots were fired, and left a few minutes later. One witness, who lived at 4245 Twin Circle Way, testified that she saw someone running down the street and into a neighbor's house shortly after hearing gunshots at approximately 1:15 a.m. The witness knew only that the neighbor's first name was Debbie.

One of the policemen who arrived at the scene of the Bradshaw murder, David Kruger, was a member of the K-9 unit. After ensuring that the crime scene had not been contaminated, he followed his canine partner, Hero, who had picked up a scent, from the crime scene to Debra Meyers's home.

Charles Johnson, who is not related to the murder victim, Wanda Johnson, was Appellant's cellmate for approximately one month in 1994. Charles Johnson testified that, while they shared a cell, Appellant had confessed to committing the two murders. Charles Johnson seemed to know many of the details of the killings, including details that had not been released to the media and that could not have been learned by reading Appellant's papers in their shared jail cell. According to Charles Johnson,...

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179 practice notes
  • State v. Stewart, No. 53
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • June 25, 2019
    ...the personal property of another, from his [or her] person or in his [or her] presence, by violence or putting in fear." Conyers v. State, 345 Md. 525, 558, 693 A.2d 781, 796 (1997) (citation omitted). Robbery's element of "force or threat of force" is what distinguishes it from theft. Cole......
  • Conyers v. State, No. 26
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Maryland
    • February 5, 2002
    ...report referring to Petitioner's prior juvenile charges that had not resulted in a finding of delinquency. See Conyers v. State, 345 Md. 525, 575, 693 A.2d 781, 805 (1997) ("Conyers I"). The case was remanded to the Circuit Court for Wicomico County for a new sentencing proceeding relating ......
  • Harper v. State, No. 2700
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • April 28, 2005
    ...(1989)]. If question number one is answered in the negative, then there is no need to address question number two.... Conyers v. State, 345 Md. 525, 553, 693 A.2d 781 Decisions regarding the joinder or severance of charges for trial are committed to the sound discretion of the trial court. ......
  • Conyers v. State, No. 27
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Maryland
    • May 17, 1999
    ...Code (1957, 1996 Repl. Vol., 1998 Supp.), Article 27, § 413.1 We affirmed the other judgments. Conyers v. State, 345 Md. 729 A.2d 915 525, 693 A.2d 781 (1997)(hereinafter "Conyers On January 17 and January 26-28, 1998, the Circuit Court for Wicomico County, the Honorable D. William Simpson ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
179 cases
  • State v. Stewart, No. 53
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • June 25, 2019
    ...property of another, from his [or her] person or in his [or her] presence, by violence or putting in fear." Conyers v. State, 345 Md. 525, 558, 693 A.2d 781, 796 (1997) (citation omitted). Robbery's element of "force or threat of force" is what distinguishes it from theft. Co......
  • Conyers v. State, No. 26
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Maryland
    • February 5, 2002
    ...report referring to Petitioner's prior juvenile charges that had not resulted in a finding of delinquency. See Conyers v. State, 345 Md. 525, 575, 693 A.2d 781, 805 (1997) ("Conyers I"). The case was remanded to the Circuit Court for Wicomico County for a new sentencing proceeding......
  • Harper v. State, No. 2700
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • April 28, 2005
    ...(1989)]. If question number one is answered in the negative, then there is no need to address question number two.... Conyers v. State, 345 Md. 525, 553, 693 A.2d 781 Decisions regarding the joinder or severance of charges for trial are committed to the sound discretion of the trial court. ......
  • Conyers v. State, No. 27
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Maryland
    • May 17, 1999
    ...Code (1957, 1996 Repl. Vol., 1998 Supp.), Article 27, § 413.1 We affirmed the other judgments. Conyers v. State, 345 Md. 729 A.2d 915 525, 693 A.2d 781 (1997)(hereinafter "Conyers On January 17 and January 26-28, 1998, the Circuit Court for Wicomico County, the Honorable D. William Sim......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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