Jacome-Rosales v. State, 2136-2019

CourtCourt of Special Appeals of Maryland
Writing for the CourtGRAEFF, J.
Docket Number2136-2019
Decision Date14 December 2021



No. 2136-2019

Court of Special Appeals of Maryland

December 14, 2021

Circuit Court for Prince George's County Case No. CT150617B

Graeff, Reed, Ripken, JJ.




Appellant was convicted by a jury in the Circuit Court for Prince George's County of second-degree murder, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, robbery with a dangerous weapon, and conspiracy to commit robbery with a dangerous weapon. The court sentenced appellant as follows: 30 years for the conviction of second-degree murder, all but 20 years suspended; 50 years, concurrent, for the conviction of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, all but 30 years suspended; 20 years, concurrent, for the conviction of robbery with a dangerous weapon, all but 9 years suspended; and 10 years, concur rent, for the conviction of conspiracy to commit robbery with a dangerous weapon.

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

1. Did the circuit court err in admitting into evidence portions of the transcript of appellant's custodial police interrogation, which included statements that another person allegedly made implicating appellant in the crime
2. Did the circuit court err in admitting into evidence testimony that appellant was identified through the police department's Gang Unit

For the reasons set forth below, we shall affirm the judgment of the circuit court.


On the night of March 28, 2015, at approximately 8:30 p.m., Juan Lopez ("the victim") and a friend went to an apartment complex on Kanawha Street in Langley Park, Maryland.[1] They went to the residence of Mr. Armando Sanchez-Cabrera, who sold beer


out of his second-floor apartment. The victim stayed for approximately two-and-a-half hours, and he then left the residence.

At midnight, Mr. Sanchez-Cabrera left the living room and went to his bedroom. Rene Lopez, who also lived in the apartment and was "kind of" drunk, remained in the living room. The victim subsequently returned to the apartment, and he and Mr. Lopez fell asleep in the living room. Mr. Lopez woke up to find two other men, who had joined them in the living room. Mr. Lopez asked how they got into the apartment, and the men responded that the door was open.

Mr. Lopez recognized one of the men as "Elias," later identified as Sergio Serrano. Mr. Serrano asked for a beer, and when Mr. Lopez knocked on Mr. Sanchez-Cabrera's bedroom door, Mr. Sanchez-Cabrera said that he did not have any beer.

Mr. Lopez went to the bathroom while Mr. Serrano and his friend were talking to the victim. When Mr. Lopez returned, Mr. Serrano's friend was grabbing the victim by the neck. Mr. Lopez told the man to let go of the victim, but the man told him to "shut-up" and gave him a bloody nose. The man told the victim to stand up, and he ordered Mr. Serrano to grab the victim's wallet. The victim reached into his pocket, retrieved his wallet, and handed it to Mr. Serrano. Mr. Serrano and the man then dragged the victim out of the apartment, as the victim resisted. Mr. Lopez did not stop the men because he was afraid.

The men were inside the apartment for approximately 40 minutes before they left. Mr. Lopez testified that, while the men were in the apartment, he was not able to get a good look at Mr. Serrano's friend, but from a few glances, he noticed the man was taller and "chunkier" than him and "a little white."


When the men dragged the victim outside, the door to the apartment closed. Mr. Lopez locked the door and then sat in his chair. He heard banging and yelling in the stairway, which went on for approximately five minutes, after which there was silence. When the noise died down, Mr. Lopez got up "to smoke a cigarette" by the kitchen window for about three minutes. He did not go outside after the banging because he was fearful. Mr. Serrano then called Mr. Lopez's cellphone and said: "The next one is going to be you, dude."

The noise woke up Mr. Sanchez-Cabrera. It was approximately 2:30 a.m. He walked to the kitchen, looked out the window, and saw Mr. Serrano and another man he did not recognize running to building 1444, the complex next to Mr. Sanchez-Cabrera's apartment. Mr. Sanchez-Cabrera recognized Mr. Serrano because they lived in nearby buildings, and they occasionally would greet each other. Although Mr. Sanchez-Cabrera could not identify the man with Mr. Serrano, he observed that the man wore "some dark clothing."

Approximately 20 minutes after witnessing the two men running, Mr. Sanchez-Cabrera asked Mr. Lopez what had happened. Mr. Sanchez-Cabrera then went out of the apartment and saw the victim on the floor by the building's main entrance. There was blood, but the victim was still breathing.

Before calling the police, Mr. Sanchez-Cabrera went back into his apartment, and with Mr. Lopez's help, they grabbed some beer boxes and climbed over the victim to dispose of the boxes in the dumpster outside. They did not touch the victim. There was a shoe by the stairs that Mr. Sanchez-Cabrera picked up and threw "further down." Mr.


Lopez testified that there was a little blood on the floor outside the apartment, and Mr. Sanchez-Cabrera requested that he bring a rag to wipe it off. They threw the rag in the dumpster. Mr. Sanchez-Cabrera also threw away a doormat with blood on it. He testified that he did so to prevent trouble with the police for selling beer.

It took the men approximately 15 minutes to take the trash outside. Afterwards, Mr. Sanchez-Cabrera called an ambulance. He then went back into his bedroom, and Mr. Lopez laid down on the living room rug to sleep.

Members of the Prince George's County Fire and Rescue Department and the Prince George's County Police Department ("PGPD") subsequently arrived at the scene. Officer Ayala arrived first, less than two minutes after receiving a call "sometime between 3:00 and 4:00 a.m." to respond to the scene. After climbing the first flight of stairs, he discovered an unresponsive body. His first thought was that the man was drunk, but after a failed attempt to wake the man on the floor, Officer Ayala observed the man closer and "noticed a small puncture wound on [the man's] chest," with a small amount of blood. The man was not breathing. Officer Ayala called for more help.

On redirect examination, Officer Ayala testified that it appeared that there had been a struggle, and the victim may have been pushed down the stairs. Once emergency personnel arrived, they performed "life-saving measures," to no avail.

Corporal Jerry Montgomery arrived to process the scene. He took pictures of the interior and exterior of the building and the victim's wound. Lying near the victim were three dollars and a magnet with a key. Corporal Montgomery also collected serology and


DNA swabs. He did not check or process the dumpster around the building because he was not notified that there was anything of evidentiary value in the dumpster.

Officers began knocking on the surrounding apartment doors. Eventually they reached the second floor, where Mr. Sanchez-Cabrera resided. Mr. Lopez was asleep, but Mr. Sanchez-Cabrera opened the door. Mr. Sanchez-Cabrera initially was reluctant to talk because he did not want to "get in trouble . . . [w]ith the law." Eventually, he told the police that he had seen Mr. Serrano and another man running away. He told the police where to find Mr. Serrano. Mr. Lopez woke up and related what he witnessed. The police then arrested Mr. Serrano.

Corporal Edgerton also helped with the investigation of the case. On March 29, 2015, he received information about a possible suspect named Burro. He later determined that Burro was appellant. The police went to appellant's location, where he was asleep in a bedroom. As the officers opened the door, appellant "jumped up out of the bed, reached into his pocket and pulled a knife out."

Corporal Edgerton grabbed appellant's hand, and the knife fell on the floor. The officers arrested appellant and took him to the Criminal Investigation Division ("CID"). Appellant was wearing "a black shirt, dark-colored jeans" and grey shoes, which appeared to have two spots of dry blood on them.

Detective Marcos Rodriguez interviewed appellant. At trial, the State sought to introduce into evidence the transcript of the interview. The parties agreed to redact portions of the interview, but they could not reach an agreement regarding other portions. Defense counsel objected to the admission of un-redacted portions of the interview that referenced


gang affiliations, drug use, and "statements made by the co-defendant who is not going to testify."

With respect to statements made by Mr. Serrano, defense counsel argued that they were inadmissible because they were hearsay and violated appellant's right to confrontation. Counsel also argued that the probative value of the evidence was substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice. Counsel requested that those references, which will be discussed in more detail, infra, be redacted before the transcript was admitted into evidence. The State argued that the statements were not hearsay because it was not offering them for the truth of the matter asserted. The court denied defense counsel's request without elaboration.

Detective Rodriguez did not testify regarding those objected-to portions of the transcript, but he read other portions of the interview where appellant stated that the knife that was recovered from him belonged to his cousin, Mr. Francisco Salvador Ceron Hernandez, and he took it from his cousin's room by accident. When shown the knife at trial, Mr. Hernandez denied ownership and stated that he did not remember having seen it.

Detective Rodriguez also testified that, during the interview, he noticed that...

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