Hammond v. State

Decision Date02 February 2023
Docket Number44-2022
CourtCourt of Special Appeals of Maryland



No. 44-2022

Court of Special Appeals of Maryland[*]

February 2, 2023

Circuit Court for Cecil County Case No. C-07-CR-20-000442


Wells, C.J., Graeff, Nazarian, JJ.




After a three-day bench trial, the Circuit Court for Cecil County convicted appellant, Robert Eugene Hammond, of first-degree assault, use of a firearm in the commission of a crime of violence, possession of a firearm with a felony conviction, illegal possession of ammunition, and possession of a controlled dangerous substance. The court imposed an aggregate sentence of 30 years.[1]

On appeal, appellant presents the following questions for this Court's review, which we have reordered and rephrased slightly, as follows:

1. Did the circuit court violate appellant's constitutional rights by failing to ensure that he knowingly and voluntarily waived his right to a jury trial
2. Was the evidence legally sufficient to support appellant's assault convictions? For the reasons set forth below, we shall affirm the judgments of the circuit court


On May 11, 2020, Elkton police responded to reports of a shooting at a residence on Huntsman Drive. At the time of the shooting, there were multiple people inside the house, including Brittany Dill, five of her children, her boyfriend, Terrance "HB" Lee, and another man, Michael Duff. When the police arrived, they found Mr. Duff, who was shot in his back. Ms. Dill's six-year-old son, A.M., was bleeding from a gunshot wound to his


left knee.[2] He was transported to Nemours A.I. Dupont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Delaware ("Nemours Hospital"), where he received surgery to close the wound.

Detectives searched the Huntsman Drive residence and seized, among other things, a .22 caliber semi-automatic rifle, six .22 caliber shell casings, and a surveillance system, containing footage from three cameras installed at different locations around the outside of the residence. The police reviewed the surveillance system footage, which appeared to show appellant run past the Huntsman Drive residence with his two brothers, Jason "Ty" Holland and Cody Hammond, and then showed "puffs of smoke," indicating that gunshots were fired at the house. Appellant's mother, Crystal Hammond, was visible near the residence as well. The footage also showed Mr. Lee as he held a rifle through the front door of the house and fired two shots.

Later that evening, detectives obtained a search warrant for appellant's residence on Cow Lane, located "to the left and diagonal to the rear," through the alleyway or "cut," next to the Huntsman Drive residence. During the search, they recovered multiple types of ammunition, a box for a handgun, and a magazine for a handgun, but they did not recover any firearms. They also recovered drugs, which were later identified as fentanyl and methamphetamine.


At 1:00 a.m. on May 12, 2020, the police detained appellant. He waived his Miranda rights and agreed to be interviewed about the shooting.[3] In response to Detective Lindsey Ziegenfuss's questioning, appellant stated that he did not hear gunshots, did not know that Mr. Lee's house had been "shot up," did not have any "beef" with him or any reason to take revenge against him, and did not walk by Mr. Lee's house alone or with his brothers that day. He also denied that he owned or carried a gun, noting that it was illegal for him to do so as a convicted felon.[4] He denied that anyone at his residence owned a gun. He admitted that his brother and Mr. Lee had fought the previous year, but he stated that it had since resolved. Detective Ziegenfuss then asked appellant to identify individuals shown in still images taken from the surveillance footage at the Huntsman Drive residence. When she asked whether the images showed appellant's brother and mother, appellant repeatedly stated that he did not "know who that is." Appellant remained in custody overnight and was released on bail the following morning.

On July 1, 2020, appellant was indicted for multiple crimes against Mr. Duff, Ms. Dill, and A.M. He was charged with three counts of attempted first-degree murder, three counts of attempted second-degree murder, three counts of first-degree assault, three counts of second-degree assault, three counts of reckless endangerment, and multiple counts of conspiracy. Appellant also was indicted for four counts of use of a firearm in the commission of a crime of violence, one count of wearing, carrying, and transporting a


handgun, one count of firearm possession with a felony conviction, one count of illegal possession of a regulated firearm, one count of illegal possession of ammunition, and six counts related to drug charges.[5]

Trial began on September 1, 2021. In its opening statement, the State indicated that the surveillance footage from the camera system at the Huntsman Drive residence showed appellant's brother, Jason Holland, run through the "cut" next to the house and meet with Cody and Crystal Hammond. Appellant then appeared in the video, with a handgun in his hand, moved the "slide on the gun," and proceeded through the "cut" with his two brothers. Appellant and his two brothers approached the back of the property and Mr. Holland fired a shot, prompting Mr. Lee to return fire, and leading to "a hail of gunfire." Thirteen bullets hit the Huntsman Drive residence. "Eight of the rounds that hit the house . . . [were] 7.62 by 39 millimeter casings, which is consistent with either an SKS or an assault rifle." When the police arrived, they found .25 caliber casings and .380 casings, which are for handguns, "consistent with what was shown on the video." Upon searching appellant's residence on Cow Lane, the police found "a box of ammo with .25 caliber .... a box of ammo with .380 caliber.... some loose 7.62 by 39 millimeter ammunition.... a magazine for a gun," and "a box for a gun." The police did not find any guns, however, "because at that point several of the individuals involved had fled the area." The State concluded that "the evidence will show that the defendant willingly participated in this. He was prohibited


from possessing any handguns. That he was involved in the distribution of drugs. And the evidence will show that he is guilty of the charges."

Counsel for appellant provided a brief opening statement that, even if the court "finds that the defendant is guilty of anything, it's not the scenario that was painted by the State." Rather, Mr. Lee was "shooting out of this house minutes before" appellant or his brothers appeared.

Detective Thomas Saulsbury testified that he was on patrol in Hollingsworth Manor at 3:30 p.m. on May 11, 2020, when he heard "a volley of about five to six gunshots." He arrived at Huntsman Drive and saw Nakeere Sayers, whom the detective was familiar with, wearing a backpack and running through the "cut," from the Huntsman Drive residence toward appellant's residence on Cow Lane. He did not pursue Mr. Sayers at that time because Ms. Dill informed him that Mr. Duff had been shot inside the house. As he entered the house, he noticed bullet holes outside. Inside, he noticed an AR-15 lying on a staircase. He also found unused ammunition and spent shell casings in the living room. The room smelled "like gunshot residue."

The State then played video footage captured at the scene by Detective Saulsbury's body worn camera and asked him to identify the individuals shown in and outside of the Huntsman Drive residence. He identified Mr. Duff, who was shot in the back, A.M., who was bleeding from an apparent gunshot wound to his left knee, A.M.'s grandmother, Theresa Dill, and Mr. Lee. The footage showed Detective Saulsbury applying a tourniquet to A.M.'s leg and cutting A.M.'s pants to apply bandages around the wound until EMS workers arrived.


After leaving Huntsman Drive, Detective Saulsbury went to several houses in the area. He went to residences in Hollingsworth Manor because he received a report that "the people allegedly involved with this shooting, one or more of them, had stashed a bag" nearby. He searched the shared yard between two residences and recovered a backpack that looked similar to the one that he observed Mr. Sayers wearing earlier. The recovered backpack contained firearms and what appeared to be illegal drugs, including heroin mixed with fentanyl, as well as marijuana. Detective Saulsbury then went to another residence in Hollingsworth Manor because three suspects were allegedly there, including appellant, also known as "Little Blackie," and appellant's two brothers.

Detective Joshua Leffew testified that he was assigned to the Elkton Police Department's Criminal Investigative Division. At approximately 3:30 p.m. on May 11, 2020, he arrived at Huntsman Drive and found a "chaotic" scene of people outside who "appeared to be very scared, very worried." He entered the residence and met with Sergeant Ronald Odom, who directed him to collect digital evidence from the home security system. Detective Leffew located the security system, which was connected to a television in the living room, and he was able to rewind and replay the footage. He then downloaded the footage onto a flash drive and collected the surveillance system equipment. Detective Leffew testified that there was no way to make alterations to the footage; he did not edit it in any way. Detective Leffew then proceeded to "process the scene inside at the residence" by "collecting items of evidentiary value" and tracing the paths from bullet holes left inside the house. He identified more than five holes that came "from the exterior of the residence, specifically to the rear and side of the residence." Another detective,


Detective Justin Beamer, collected several .22 caliber cartridges and shell casings at the residence.

Steven Greene, a digital...

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