Dinkins v. Grimes, 2829

CourtCourt of Special Appeals of Maryland
Writing for the CourtPanel: ZARNOCH, WATTS, and JAMES P. SALMON, (Retired, Specially Assigned), JJ.
Citation201 Md.App. 344,29 A.3d 696
PartiesLakisa DINKINS, Individually, et al.v.Charles GRIMES, et al.
Docket NumberNo. 2829,2009.,Sept. Term,2829
Decision Date30 September 2011

201 Md.App. 344
29 A.3d 696

Lakisa DINKINS, Individually, et al.
Charles GRIMES, et al.

No. 2829

Sept. Term


Court of Special Appeals of Maryland.

Sept. 30, 2011.

[29 A.3d 698]

Allan B. Rabineau & A. Dwight Pettit (Ronisha A. Moore, on the brief), Baltimore, MD, for Appellant.William P. Phelan, Jr. (George A. Nilson, City Solicitor, on the brief), Baltimore, MD, for Appellee.Panel: ZARNOCH, WATTS, and JAMES P. SALMON, (Retired, Specially Assigned), JJ.ZARNOCH, J.

[201 Md.App. 347] Against the backdrop of a controversial arrest in 2007 by Baltimore City Police of a 7–year old on a dirt bike, we are called upon to examine judicial decisions that led to an order and confirmation of an out-of-city removal and transfer and ultimately, a rejection of damages by a jury in the Circuit Court for Howard County. Among the hot-button issues in this highly-charged case are: 1) whether a removal and a transfer were justified on the basis of pervasive community prejudice, including widespread prejudicial publicity; 2) whether due process required appellants to be heard in the transferor court on the designation of a new venue; and 3) whether equal protection required the case to be transferred to a jurisdiction with racial demographics similar to those of [201 Md.App. 348] Baltimore City.1 For reasons set forth below, we answer these questions in appellees' favor and uphold the decisions below.2


Not particularly helpful in resolving this appeal are the facts supporting non-liability as found by a jury in Howard County. Rather, more critical are appellants' pre-trial allegations and the public reaction

[29 A.3d 699]

before and at the time the transfer decisions were made. These allegations focused on police encounters on March 13, 2007 and March 24, 2007.I. The Allegations

On the afternoon of March 13, 2007, 7–year–old Gerard Mungo, Jr. (“Gerard”) was sitting on a Yamaha TT–R50 Mini Bike (“dirt bike”) outside his home on the 2100 block of East Federal Street in Baltimore City. Although the vehicle was turned off, it was not “securely locked or otherwise immobilized” as required by the Baltimore City Code.3 After observing[201 Md.App. 349] Gerard, Baltimore City Police Officer Charles Grimes and Officer–Trainee Brian Chris approached the child and confiscated the dirt bike. Officer Donald Hayes arrived at the scene and the dirt bike was placed in the back of his police truck. According to the complaint filed in this case, these officers (among others) “maliciously and unreasonably grabbed Gerard by his shirt collar and dragged him off the bike.”

At this time, Lakisa Dinkins, Gerard's mother, confronted the officers and informed them that she planned to make a complaint to their supervisor. Officer Grimes called his supervisor, Sergeant William Colburn, IV, to inform Colburn of Dinkins' intentions. Subsequently, Dinkins called 311 to make a formal complaint about the conduct of Officer Grimes, Officer Hayes, and Officer–Trainee Chris. Before responding to the scene, Sgt. Colburn called the State's Attorney's office regarding the legality of arresting Gerard. Later, Sgt. Colburn, along with Officer Grimes and Officer Hayes, returned to Dinkins' home. According to the complaint, the officers yelled at, taunted and bullied Gerard and followed the frightened child into his house. The officers then arrested Gerard handcuffed him, and placed him in the back of a police car. The child was then transported to the Eastern District Police Station for processing and fingerprinting. According to the complaint, he was chained to a bench for hours, interrogated and detained without his parents' consent. In addition, one officer was alleged to have said to Gerard: “If it weren't for your mother calling my boss, you wouldn't have went to jail.” The child was later released and never formally charged.

[201 Md.App. 350] The dust had barely settled on the dirt bike arrest when the City police again encountered Dinkins and her family. Eleven days later, Officer Jermaine Cook, Detective Gene Bennett and Officer Calvin Moss were in an unmarked vehicle investigating illegal drug activity. Believing they had observed an unlawful drug transaction involving one Ernest Thompson, they confronted Thompson, who allegedly ran into a dwelling on the 2200 block of Prentiss Place. The house was owned by Dinkins' sister.

According to appellants' complaint, Officers Moss, Cook and Bennett “barged” into the house. The complaint continued:

[29 A.3d 700]

After barging into the house, Defendants Cook, Moss and/or Bennett maliciously and unreasonably held a gun to the head of Ms. Dinkins' fourteen (14) year-old-son, Devon Johnson, telling him to get off of the telephone....

Aware that Ms. Dinkins was the mother of the seven-year-old who was arrested for sitting on a dirt bike, an individual who had publicly criticized officers of the BCPD for their treatment of Gerard, Defendant Cook, Bennett and/or Moss unreasonably and maliciously grabbed Ms. Dinkins by the back of her jacket, shoved her into a chair and arrested her for allegedly hindering an arrest even though no other person at the scene was arrested.

Thereafter, Ms. Dinkins was unreasonably and maliciously taken against her will by Defendants Cook, Bennett and/or Moss to the Baltimore Central Booking and Intake Facility where she was forced to be imprisoned and detained in deplorable conditions for several hours before being released. When Ms. Dinkins was ultimately released from the Central Booking Facility, she was released without being advised as to what she had been charged with, she was never presented with any charging documents and she was never required to stand criminal charges for the incident of March 24, 2007.4

[201 Md.App. 351] II. Public / Media Reaction

By March 15, 2007, the story reached the media that police had pulled Gerard by the collar and dragged him off the dirt bike, yelled at the frightened child, handcuffed him and placed him under arrest.5 The next day the newspaper and television stations reported that Mayor Sheila Dixon criticized the officers' actions. She was quoted as saying: “It is clear to me that the arrest was wrong, that the officers on the scene should not have arrested the

[29 A.3d 701]

child, and on behalf of the City of Baltimore, I apologize to the boy and his parents.” Police Commissioner Leonard Hamm promised an internal investigation. Local politicians echoed their dismay and the President of the Baltimore Chapter of the NAACP said his membership [201 Md.App. 352] was angered by the arrest.6 Dinkins was reported as saying that the arrest had “changed [Gerard's] life ... he'll never be the same.”

On March 19, 2007, a demonstration took place outside City Hall in a “call for justice” for Gerard. According to the Examiner newspaper, the leader of the protest sought a personal apology by the Mayor and Police Chief and the firing of the officer who arrested the boy because the arrest was “a violation of the boy's civil rights.” He added that “[t]he officer is back in the community, which is an intimidation factor toward the young man and his family.” 7 News coverage of the protest continued the next day, reporting a church leader as saying: “Gerard is a symbol for broader problems, and the situation is an indication of an ongoing problem in the black community.” A story in the Examiner on the City crime rate made a reference to Gerard and letters to the editor in the same publication said that the correspondents were “disgust[ed]” and “incense[d]” at the police actions.

On March 21, Baltimore Sun columnist, Gregg Kane wrote: “If there were a Richter scale that measured outrage, this incident would have blown the needle off the thing.” Kane said: “The arrest was reserved for the 7–year–old black kid from a poor East Baltimore neighborhood. As Dixon and Hamm have said, there's really no way to justify that.”

Four days later, news media reported Dinkins' March 24 arrest and recounted her claim that the police retaliated against her for protesting the arrest of her son. In one account, the local NAACP reiterated that Dinkins' arrest “was retaliation for Dinkins taking her objections to her son's arrest public.” In an Examiner story, the organization's head reportedly said: “If they want war, they'll have war.” A March 26, 2007 Baltimore Sun article noted that Gerard's arrest had [201 Md.App. 353] “attracted national attention” and reported the details of the March 24 encounter, including allegations that an officer held a gun to Devon's head. The next day, the Baltimore branch president of the NAACP called for an emergency meeting with the Mayor on the arrest of Dinkins and Gerard. He called the arrest of Gerard “our Rosa Parker incident.” On March 27, Rev. Anthony Evans, the head of the National Black Church Initiative, an African–American religious organization, called for a “boycott of Baltimore” by all religious conventions to protest the child's arrest. The following day, the Examiner reported that at a NAACP meeting, a community activist said to Commissioner Hamm: “How can these officers still have badges after arresting a child? They are thugs in uniforms.” WJZ–TV reported without attribution that the City State's Attorney “personally reviewed the case [against Dinkins] and called it legally insufficient, fueling claims by the family that the arrest was retaliation [for] the embarrassing arrest of a seven year old.” The arrest also became an issue in Annapolis, where State legislators slowed progress on a police arbitration bill because of the incident.

[29 A.3d 702]

News coverage continued in April. An April 4, 2007 Examiner story reported on dueling protests outside Eastern District police headquarters: one group supporting Gerard; the other supporting the police. One community leader is reported to have said: “Until Commissioner Hamm has the badges of the officers that arrested Gerard, he has no credibility.” An April 12...

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