Hayes v. State

Decision Date25 August 2020
Docket NumberNo. 500, 556, Sept. Term, 2019,500, 556, Sept. Term, 2019
Parties Tonya HAYES v. STATE of Maryland Marquese Winston v. State of Maryland
CourtCourt of Special Appeals of Maryland

Submitted by: Nancy S. Forster (Forster & LeCompte, on the brief), Towson, MD., for Appellant Tonya Hayes

Submitted by: Samuel Feder (Paul B. DeWolfe, Public Defender, on the brief), Baltimore, MD., for Appellant Marquese Winston

Submitted by: Derek Simmonsen (Brian E. Frosh, Atty. Gen., on the brief), Baltimore, MD., for Appellee

Panel: Nazarian, Beachley, Lynne A. Battaglia (Senior Judge, Specially Assigned), JJ.



Nazarian, J.

A popular bartender, Alex Wroblewski, was shot and killed at a Royal Farms store in Locust Point, where he had stopped on his way home after a shift. After a joint trial in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City, a jury found Tonya Hayes guilty of transporting a handgun in a vehicle and conspiracy to transport a handgun in a vehicle and Marquese Winston guilty of second-degree murder, use of a handgun in the commission of a crime of violence, transporting a handgun in a vehicle, conspiracy to transport a handgun in a vehicle, and carrying a handgun on his person. Ms. Hayes and Mr. Winston raise numerous challenges to their convictions. We reverse the convictions and remand both cases for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.


We recount the evidence presented at trial, viewed in the light most favorable to the State, the prevailing party. Surveillance cameras captured the incident, and the jury heard eyewitness testimony alongside the footage.

On November 14, 2017, Lawrence Greene worked the graveyard shift at the Royal Farms. That night, Mr. Wroblewski, who was a regular, came in at around 1:00 a.m., whereas he "normally [came] in between 2:30 and 3:00 in the morning." According to Mr. Greene, Mr. Wroblewski "was toasted when he came in." He remained in the store for about fifteen minutes and ordered food, but as he was leaving, "[h]e was stumbling all over the place." At that point, Mr. Greene saw "a young boy and then a older woman, the woman, heavyset, light skinned" come into Royal Farms. When the two saw Mr. Wroblewski, "the young man got really happy" and "was jumping up and down, skipping." When Mr. Wroblewski left the store, the two followed him. Video surveillance at Royal Farms confirmed everything to this point.

Mr. Wroblewski's condition and the behavior of the young man and older woman led Mr. Greene to go check on Mr. Wroblewski. As he approached, he heard a "bang" and went "all the way up by [Mr. Wroblewski]," saw that he was "laying on his back," and "checked his pulse and [saw] that he was still living, he was still breathing and everything." Mr. Greene observed that Mr. Wroblewski still had "his food, his bag, his cell phone and [ ] his wallet ... beside him." He went back in the store and told another employee to call 911.

Kiara Giddons was the cashier on duty that night. She described Mr. Wroblewski as "wasted" when he arrived. She testified that after he paid for his food, he went towards the window where there was a bar stool, and he sat there for a minute. Ms. Giddons saw "three people—two people getting out the car, [ ] a lady and a man getting out the car. And the other guy [ ] just sat in the car. They parked [near] the gas station." Ms. Giddons saw the woman and the man come into the store, and when Mr. Wroblewski left, the pair immediately left as well. Ms. Giddons testified that she walked outside and saw Mr. Wroblewski walking up the street, then she "heard one gunshot." She and Mr. Greene ran to where Mr. Wroblewski was lying, and Ms. Giddons then ran back in the store to call 911.

Lasheka Moore was the manager on duty. She testified that Mr. Wroblewski "was a regular" at the Royal Farms, but that night, "he spent a little bit more time than usual in the deli area" and "[a]ctually laid his head on top of the deli." Ms. Moore "walked over to [Mr. Wroblewski] and was, like, hey, why don't you go ahead and sit down, eat your food, wait for your friends to come[,]" and he replied "that he was okay." She testified that Mr. Wroblewski was in the store for about "10, 15 minutes" and when he left, "he was staggering on his way out the door." She observed that the Black male and the Black female to whom Mr. Greene and Ms. Giddons referred in their testimony seemed "a little off" because "they came and pulled up to the gas pump, but didn't purchase anything." Ms. Moore identified Mr. Winston as the Black man and Ms. Hayes as the Black woman.

Ms. Moore testified further that Mr. Wroblewski left the store and walked "towards the Bank of America ATM machine." Mr. Winston then walked out ahead of Ms. Hayes, but when Ms. Hayes "was exiting the store, she looked in the direction of [Mr. Wroblewski], then looked back at the car." Ms. Moore saw Mr. Winston go to the back seat of the car, where "another male pops up out the car." Mr. Winston walked off a little bit, "and then the male that's in the backseat gets out the car and throws his hood over his head." They both "went walking across the parking lot towards the direction that [Mr. Wroblewski] was going in." Ms. Hayes "jumped in the driver's side, pulled off slow, like as if she was behind them."

Ms. Moore testified that at that point, she "grabbed a broom and [ ] went outside to sweep the sidewalk, [ ] made it to about the Bank of America ATM machine, [when she] heard a gunshot." She later identified all individuals involved through a photo array.

Dr. Patricia Aronica was the medical examiner who performed Mr. Wroblewski's autopsy. She testified that Mr. Wroblewski had "an entrance gunshot wound

to the abdomen and there were also some additional injuries which were multiple abrasions which are like scrapes and scratches where the top layer of the skin comes off and then some bruising were also noted." She assigned the cause of death as the gunshot wound

and the manner of death as homicide. Dr. Aronica described how the gunshot wound killed him:

[THE STATE]: And what type of wound

would you have considered this as far as—would it have been considered a rapidly fatal wound or not so rapid, how would you describe this wound ?

[DR. ARONICA]: Well, this is a fatal wound but because it hit—the bullet hit all these veins, it's a slower bleeding wound then say if it hit arteries. It's going to bleed slower, it's also going to cause intestinal contents to come out into the abdomen so it has great potential for infection, if they were able to stop all of the bleeding, but there was massive amount of blood loss but it would be slower and very difficult because of all the injuries that it did create to the veins.

She opined that there was "no evidence of close range firing" and that "[t]he level of alcohol had no effect on [Mr. Wroblewski's] death."

Tivontre Gatling-Mouzon,1 who pled guilty to conspiracy to commit armed robbery for his involvement in the killing of Mr. Wroblewski, testified on behalf of the State. Mr. Mouzon is Ms. Hayes's son. He testified that Ms. Hayes picked him and Mr. Winston up in Richmond, Virginia to drive to Baltimore to pick up his younger sister, Tiana Witherspoon, who was living there with her father. They stopped that night at Royal Farms to get gas after picking up Ms. Witherspoon.

Mr. Mouzon testified that Mr. Winston and Ms. Hayes went into the store while he sat in the car with his sister. While they waited, Mr. Winston came back to the car and "reached down by [his] leg." Mr. Winston asked Mr. Mouzon "to come with him around the corner ...." Mr. Mouzon followed Mr. Winston and saw him "conversating with the victim, arguing ...." He described this encounter as "a confrontation." Then Mr. Winston approached Mr. Wroblewski, and Mr. Mouzon "s[aw] the gun[ ]" in Mr. Winston's hand. After more confrontation, he began to head back to the car, but before he got in he "heard a shot." By then, Mr. Winston "was already coming to the passenger side to get in." They all left the area and went back to Richmond.

Detective Jonathan Riker was the homicide detective assigned to the case. He testified that he put the Royal Farms surveillance video on social media to try to locate the individuals responsible for killing Mr. Wroblewski. Through social media, Detective Riker was able to identify the woman as Ms. Hayes. He then reached out to Ms. Witherspoon's father, Steven Witherspoon. Mr. Witherspoon identified Mr. Winston as the male in the video and he also was able to identify Mr. Mouzon. Detective Riker located Mr. Mouzon in Richmond. The Detective put Ms. Hayes's vehicle information in the National Crime Information Center database and was able to locate her and Mr. Winston in Atlanta, Georgia; Officer Justin Hartsfield, a police officer in Atlanta, pulled Ms. Hayes over in her vehicle in response to a "Be On The Lookout" ("BOLO") alert identifying her as "armed and dangerous." The Atlanta Police then contacted Detective Riker, who along with Detective Dave Moynihan, flew to Atlanta to interview Ms. Hayes and Mr. Winston. No gun was ever recovered.

Mr. Winston testified in his own defense. He testified that on the evening of November 14, 2017, Ms. Hayes drove up from Atlanta, where she was living, and picked him up to drive to Baltimore to "pick up her daughter." According to Mr. Winston, they did not intend to stay the night in Baltimore and planned to travel immediately back to Richmond after picking up Ms. Witherspoon. He testified that before and while heading to Baltimore, he had been drinking vodka and beer, had used cocaine and marijuana, and was intoxicated.

Mr. Winston testified that after they picked up Ms. Witherspoon, they stopped at Royal Farms. When they approached the store, he saw "Mr. Wroblewski coming out the store, [and] witnessed [Mr. Wroblewski] hock spit in [Ms. Hayes's] direction." This made him feel "disrespected." He said that he did not immediately...

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