Hughes v. State, 012021 MDSCA, 1100-2019

Docket Nº1100-2019
Opinion JudgeRaker, J.
Party NameTHOMAS FREDDIE A. HUGHES v. STATE OF MARYLAND
Judge PanelFader, C.J., Wells, Raker, Irma S. (Senior Judge, Specially Assigned), JJ.
Case DateJanuary 20, 2021
CourtCourt of Special Appeals of Maryland

THOMAS FREDDIE A. HUGHES

v.

STATE OF MARYLAND

No. 1100-2019

Court of Special Appeals of Maryland

January 20, 2021

Circuit Court for Prince George's County Case No. CT180880X

Fader, C.J., Wells, Raker, Irma S. (Senior Judge, Specially Assigned), JJ.

OPINION [*]

Raker, J.

Appellant, Thomas Freddie A. Hughes, was convicted by a jury in the Circuit Court for Prince George's County of voluntary manslaughter and assault in the second degree. He presents one question for our review: "Did the trial court err in admitting hearsay statements recorded by a police officer's body worn camera into evidence?"

We shall hold that the statement by the unidentified woman recorded on the police officer's body camera was inadmissible hearsay and the court erroneously admitted the statement into evidence. The error was not harmless. Therefore, we shall reverse and remand for a new trial.

I.

Appellant was indicted by the Grand Jury for Prince George's County for the offenses of first-degree murder, second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter, first-degree assault, and second-degree assault. The jury acquitted him of murder and first-degree assault, convicting him of voluntary manslaughter and second-degree assault. The court sentenced appellant to a term of incarceration of ten years, all but eight years suspended.

We glean the following facts from trial. These unfortunate events arose from an altercation on June 4, 2018, in the parking lot of the Dollar Tree store in the Bowie Town Center in Bowie, Maryland, between Nicholas Keys, the decedent, and appellant. Sterling Davis was with Mr. Keys on that date in a small parking lot. As they approached their car to leave, Mr. Davis could not get to his door because a woman was leaning her door on his car. She pulled her door away, but Mr. Davis, concerned about possible damage to his car, asked her for her insurance information. After they exchanged information and Mr. Davis entered his car, his friend Mr. Keys walked up to the woman's window and said, "What's your problem?" Then, appellant left the driver's seat of the woman's car and told Mr. Keys not to disrespect his girlfriend. Mr. Keys then ran to his car and retrieved a bat, which appellant wrested from his hands. According to Mr. Davis, appellant threw the bat across the parking lot. He then struck Mr. Keys in the face two times with his fist. Appellant then left in the car. Mr. Davis called 911, and the police arrived soon, followed by an ambulance. Mr. Keys was taken to the hospital, where he died shortly thereafter.

Dr. Zabiullah Ali, a forensic pathologist with the Baltimore Medical Examiner's Officer, testified that the cause of Mr. Keys's death was from his head injuries, and the manner of death was homicide.

Appellant testified in his defense. He argued self-defense. He said that he said nothing when Mr. Davis and his friend Tanesha exchanged information. After Mr. Davis returned to his car and Tanesha closed the door, Mr. Keys walked up, banged on the window and said, "Bitch, what's your problem you going around hitting people's car, what's wrong with you?" Appellant testified that that is when he told Mr. Keys to stop disrespecting her and Mr. Keys responded, "I got something for you." Mr. Keys walked back to his car and returned with a baseball bat, swinging it until appellant caught it and wrested it away. Appellant threw the bat away, and as he did Mr. Keys grabbed him by his shoulder. Appellant stated that, fearing further assault, he turned, threw two punches at Mr. Keys, and then drove away before Mr. Keys could retrieve the baseball bat.

Officer Anthony Imperiale, wearing a body camera recorder, arrived at the Bowie Town Center. He spoke with Mr. Davis and other bystanders, including an unidentified woman. The State offered the body camera recordings into evidence, over appellant's objection that the evidence was inadmissible hearsay. The recording contained statements from Mr. Davis, and an...

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