Hall v. State

Citation123 A.3d 577,225 Md.App. 72
Decision Date30 September 2015
Docket NumberNo. 2757, Sept. Term, 2013.,2757, Sept. Term, 2013.
PartiesCalvin Jerome HALL v. STATE of Maryland.
CourtCourt of Special Appeals of Maryland

Allison P. Brasseaux (Paul B. DeWolfe, Public Defender, on the brief), Baltimore, MD, for appellant.

Sarah P. Pritzlaff (Douglas F. Gansler, Attorney General, on the brief), Baltimore, MD, for appellee.

Panel: KRAUSER, C.J., ZARNOCH,* and REED, JJ.

Opinion

REED, J.

A jury in the Circuit Court for Frederick County convicted Calvin Jerome Hall, appellant, of first-degree burglary and theft of $10,000 to under $100,000 in value. During trial, he was acquitted with respect to a charge of malicious destruction of property. He was sentenced to 20 years of imprisonment, with all but 15 years suspended, followed by three years of supervised probation for first-degree burglary. In addition, he was ordered to pay restitution totaling $12,902.04. Appellant timely appealed and presents three questions for our review, which we rephrased:1

1. Was the evidence sufficient to support the guilty verdict reached by the jury on the burglary charge?
2. If properly preserved for appeal, did the trial court abuse its discretion when it certified Trooper Dwyer as an expert?
3. Did the trial court abuse its discretion when it ordered Mr. Hall to pay restitution pursuant to the burglary conviction even though he was previously acquitted on the malicious destruction charge?

For the following reasons, we answer the first question in the affirmative and the second and third questions in the negative. Therefore, we affirm the judgments of the circuit court.

Factual And Procedural Background

On November 10, 2011, Ms. Martha Goodenough left her residence at 8049 Stone Ridge Drive in Frederick, Maryland, sometime between 7:45 and 7:50 a.m. to go to work. Such was her usual morning routine. When she arrived home from work around 3:40 p.m., she immediately noticed that her front screen door was propped open. Then, upon opening her garage door, she noticed that the door leading into the house from the garage was also open, even though she had closed and locked it before she left for work. She entered her house and discovered that a number of her personal items were missing, including two televisions, a computer, a printer, three Coach purses, and multiple boxes of jewelry. She also discovered that her front door had been kicked in in such a way that it broke her doorframe. She called 9–1–1 and the police reported to the scene.

On the same day, at approximately 5:45 p.m., appellant sold several pieces of Ms. Goodenough's jewelry to Frazier's Pawn Shop in Martinsburg, West Virginia. He provided the assistant manager of the pawn shop with his driver's license, which contained the name Calvin J. Hall and the address 2203 Lamp Post Lane, Frederick, Maryland. Frazier's Pawn Shop recorded this information in its daily transactions report, which it shares with the local police department in Martinsburg, West Virginia. Appellant returned to Frazier's Pawn Shop several times during the next two weeks and sold a total of nine pieces of Ms. Goodenough's jewelry.

After learning from the police department in Martinsburg, West Virginia, that appellant had pawned jewelry matching the description of that which was stolen from Ms. Goodenough's house, Detective Joseph McCallion of the Frederick County Sheriff's Office subpoenaed appellant's telephone records. Those records were given to Senior Trooper Dave Dwyer of the Maryland State Police, who, over appellant's objections, was allowed to testify as an expert on reading and mapping cell phone data. He testified at trial regarding one of the maps he had made using appellant's cell phone data. That map indicated the cell towers appellant's cell phone had communicated with in the window of time in which the burglary occurred. It also showed where those towers were located in relation to Ms. Goodenough's residence. Trooper Dwyer testified that on the day of the burglary, appellant's phone “hit” off a cell tower near Ms. Goodenough's residence at 12:11 p.m., 12:52 p.m., and 1:09 p.m. He further testified that all three of those “hits” corresponded with the side of the cell tower closest to Ms. Goodenough's residence, and that calls and texts made earlier in the day “hit” off towers that were farther away.

The jury found that the aforementioned circumstantial evidence was sufficient to find appellant guilty of first-degree burglary and theft of $10,000 to under $100,000 in value. After sentencing, appellant filed a timely appeal.

Discussion
I. Sufficiency of the Evidence
A. Parties' Contentions

Appellant argues that the State “failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that [he] was the person who broke and entered Ms. Goodenough's home.” Appellant argues that the two main pieces of circumstantial evidence linking him to the crime—namely, the fact that he had pieces of Ms. Goodenough's jewelry in his possession a short time after the burglary and that his cell phone “hit” off a cell tower near Ms. Goodenough's home around the time of the burglary—were insufficient to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. He notes that the State provided no direct evidence in the form of eyewitness testimony or fingerprint evidence linking him to the scene of the crime. Appellant acknowledges that in Molter v. State, 201 Md.App. 155, 28 A.3d 797 (2011), we held that the “unexplained possession of recently stolen goods ... permits the trier of fact to infer that the possessor was the burglar.” Id. at 168, 28 A.3d 797. However, he argues that more circumstantial evidence was presented against Molter than was presented against him. Therefore, he argues that there was insufficient evidence to support an inference that he committed the burglary.

The State argues that there was sufficient evidence to support the jury's verdict. The State points to evidence that appellant sold several pieces of Ms. Goodenough's jewelry to a pawn shop on the evening of the burglary, the fact that he sold additional pieces of Ms. Goodenough's jewelry to the same pawn shop over the course of the next two weeks, and the fact that his cell phone “hit” off a cell tower near Ms. Goodenough's home between noon and 1:00 p.m. on the day of the burglary to support its contention that the jury's verdict was based on sufficient evidence. In response to appellant's argument based on our decision in Molter, the State argues that evidence that an individual was in possession of recently stolen property is sufficient to support an inference that that individual was the burglar. The State argues that even if Molter does require additional evidence, the jury's verdict should still be upheld because additional evidence was presented. The additional evidence the State points to is the fact that appellant was in possession of the stolen property on the very same day as the burglary and the fact that his cell phone records place him in the vicinity of Ms. Goodenough's home when the burglary is thought to have occurred.

B. Standard of Review

We recently laid out the applicable standard of review for determining whether sufficient evidence exists to support a conviction on appeal:

The test of appellate review of evidentiary sufficiency is whether, ‘after viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.’ State v. Coleman, 423 Md. 666, 672 (2011) (quoting Facon v. State, 375 Md. 435, 454 (2003) ). The Court's concern is not whether the verdict is in accord with what appears to be the weight of the evidence, “but rather is only with whether the verdicts were supported with sufficient evidence—that is, evidence that either showed directly, or circumstantially, or supported a rational inference of facts which could fairly convince a trier of fact of the defendant's guilt of the offense charged beyond a reasonable doubt.”State v. Albrecht, 336 Md. 475, 479 (1994). We ‘must give deference to all reasonable inferences [that] the fact-finder draws, regardless of whether [the appellate court] would have chosen a different reasonable inference.’ Cox v. State, 421 Md. 630, 657 (2011) (quoting Bible v. State, 411 Md. 138, 156 (2009) ). Further, we do not ‘distinguish between circumstantial and direct evidence because [a] conviction may be sustained on the basis of a single strand of direct evidence or successive links of circumstantial evidence.’ Montgomery v. State, 206 Md.App. 357, 385 [47 A.3d 1140 (2012) ] (quoting Morris v. State, 192 Md.App. 1, 31 (2010) ), cert. denied, 429 Md. 83 (2012).

Kyler v. State, 218 Md.App. 196, 214–15, 96 A.3d 881 (2014) (quoting Donati v. State, 215 Md.App. 686, 716, 84 A.3d 156, cert. denied, 438 Md. 143, 91 A.3d 614 (2014) ).

C. Analysis

The statute in effect on November 10, 2011, defined first-degree burglary as the “break[ing] and enter[ing] [of] the dwelling of another with the intent to commit theft or a crime of violence.” Md.Code Ann., Crim. Law § 6–202 (2002 Repl.Vol.) (amended 2014). Looking at the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution and giving deference to all reasonable inferences drawn by the jury, we hold that appellant's first-degree burglary conviction is upheld because there was sufficient evidence to support the jury's findings.

Appellant argues that his possession of Ms. Goodenough's jewelry on the day of the burglary and the presence of his cell phone near Ms. Goodenough's house was insufficient evidence for the jury to find him guilty of first-degree burglary. We disagree. The fact that no direct evidence was produced linking appellant to the crime does not mean that no reasonable jury could have found him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. That all the evidence against him was circumstantial is irrelevant. As we have repeated time and time again, [a] conviction may be sustained on the basis of a single strand of direct evidence or successive links of...

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