Lincoln v. State

Decision Date14 September 2005
Docket NumberNo. 742,742
Citation882 A.2d 944,164 Md. App. 170
PartiesLeroy LINCOLN, Jr. v. STATE of Maryland.
CourtCourt of Special Appeals of Maryland

George E. Burns, Jr. (Nancy S. Forster, Public Defender, on brief), for appellant.

Diane E. Keller (J. Joseph Curran, Jr., Atty. Gen., on brief), for appellee.



A jury in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City found Leroy Lincoln, Jr., the appellant, guilty of conspiracy to commit murder.1 The court sentenced the appellant to life imprisonment with all but 25 years suspended.

On appeal, the appellant presents one question: Did the circuit court err in denying his motion to suppress his statement to the police? Perceiving no error, we shall affirm the judgment.


On February 27, 1995, Leroy Lincoln, Sr., was murdered in his home on East Northern Parkway, in Baltimore City. The cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head.

Lincoln, Sr., was the appellant's father. The appellant was 18 years old when the murder took place. Also at the time of the murder, Lincoln, Sr., was married to Geralene Lincoln, the appellant's mother, although it is not clear from the record whether Lincoln, Sr., and Geralene were living together.

The murder case remained unsolved for several years, until Baltimore City Police Detective Tyrone Francis, of the "Cold Case Unit," reopened the investigation. He tracked down Monique Peterson, who was the appellant's girlfriend at the time of the murder. On August 23, 2003, Francis interviewed Peterson and obtained a tape-recorded statement from her.2

Peterson told Francis that, sometime before the murder, she heard Geralene say she wanted to kill Lincoln, Sr. Also, Peterson had had a conversation with the appellant in which he said that he, his mother, and his friend "John," were planning to kill Lincoln, Sr. Peterson identified a picture of one John Ulrich as the friend in question.3 Peterson further stated that, after the murder, the appellant said his father was dead and that Ulrich had killed him. The appellant told her that he and Ulrich had gone to Lincoln, Sr.'s house and that Ulrich had hit Lincoln, Sr. with the back of an ax handle. The appellant also told Peterson the murder had been carried out so his mother could obtain his father's insurance money.

Francis attempted to interview Ulrich. Ulrich would not give a statement, but did remark, "If you did something with somebody, wouldn't you rather talk to them first before giving a statement?"

By the time the investigation was reopened, the appellant was 26 years old and was living in North Carolina. His mother was living in North Carolina also. They had moved there in late 1995.

As a result of Francis's investigation, the appellant and Geralene Lincoln were arrested in North Carolina, on October 3 and October 6, 2002, respectively. Francis and Detective J.T. Brown, also of the "Cold Case Unit," traveled to that state and, on October 8, 2002, obtained a tape-recorded statement from Geralene. That afternoon, they interviewed the appellant at the Wilkes County Sheriff's Department in Wilkesboro.

The appellant gave oral and tape-recorded statements during that interview. After he was charged, in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City, with murder and conspiracy to commit murder in the death of his father, he moved to suppress the statements, on the ground that they were not voluntarily made. At the suppression hearing, Francis testified as follows about the interview of the appellant and the statements he made.

The interview took place in a 6x9 room. The appellant was sitting in a chair at the table in the room. He was not handcuffed. Francis ascertained that the appellant was not under the influence of alcohol or drugs and that he was a high school graduate.

Francis advised the appellant of his Miranda rights.4 The appellant initialed and signed the appropriate places on the "Explanation of Rights" form to indicate that he understood them. He waived his rights and agreed to answer questions without having an attorney present.

According to Francis, neither he nor Brown threatened or coerced the appellant into waiving his rights or giving a statement. During the interview, they did not make any promises to the appellant, or say or do anything to make him think they would advocate for him with the Maryland or North Carolina authorities. They did not otherwise suggest that they might recommend the appellant's release if he waived his rights and gave them a statement. They did not threaten to use or use physical force. During the interview, the appellant never asked to use the bathroom, for medicine, or for food or beverages. The entire interview lasted one hour and 30 minutes, from when the appellant waived his Miranda rights through the conclusion of his tape-recorded statement.

At the outset of the interview, Francis told the appellant the detectives were there to discuss Lincoln, Sr.'s murder. He placed two large files for the case on the table in front of the appellant. He told the appellant he was "willing to discuss the contents of the case files" with him. The appellant denied having any knowledge about the murder.

Francis removed three photographs from the files and showed them to the appellant. The first was a photograph of the appellant. On the back was written, in messy script that looks to have been written using an opposite writing hand: "That's Junior whose father he and I killed for Ms. Geralene." The statement was signed, "John Ulrich, 9-6-02." Although worded as if written by Ulrich, the statement, signature, and date all were written by Francis.

The second photograph was of John Ulrich. On the back was written, in print, "This is John[.] Junior Said He Hit Junior's Father in the Head, While They Smoked Weed With Him And Killed Him[,]" followed by the signature and date, "Monique Peterson, 8-22-02." Although seeming to have been written by Peterson, the statement, signature, and date all were written by Francis.

The third photograph was of the appellant's mother. On the back was written, in the same messy script on the reverse of photograph one: "That's Ms. Geralene. She set up the murder of Junior's dad." The statement was unsigned, but was dated 9-6-02. This statement and date also were written by Francis. The appellant did not ask Francis who wrote the statement and Francis did not identify the writer.

Francis made plain on direct examination that the writings on the reverse sides of the photographs were "fake," in that, at least for photographs one and two, the statements, signatures, and dates were made to look like they were written by Ulrich and Peterson, respectively, when in fact they were written by him. He testified that the writings were "true," in that the information they conveyed was "[b]ased on what was done in determining the investigation." He acknowledged, however, that Ulrich had not admitted to killing Lincoln, Sr.

According to Francis, after the appellant was shown the photographs and writings on their reverse sides, he continued to deny knowing anything about the murder. He did not make any admissions and his demeanor did not change.

Francis then played for the appellant excerpts of the tape-recorded statement the appellant's mother had given earlier that day. The excerpts did not implicate the appellant in the murder. Francis told the appellant that Geralene in fact had given a statement confessing to the murder and implicating him and Ulrich, however. According to Francis, at that point, the appellant's "shoulders slumped," he "appeared defeated," and he said he wanted to talk about the murder.

The appellant proceeded to tell Francis that, on the night of the murder, he and Ulrich went to Lincoln Sr.'s house, where all three smoked marijuana. Ulrich then produced a wooden ax handle and hit Lincoln, Sr. on the head with it. The appellant left the house, walked outside, and waited for Ulrich to come out.

After making the oral statement, untaped, the appellant made a statement that was tape-recorded, to the same effect. In the taped statement, the appellant said he was speaking freely and voluntarily and that he had not been made any promises or coerced or threatened. The tape-recorded statement was moved into evidence at the hearing.

The appellant testified about the interview. Much of his version of what happened was rejected by the hearing judge. For example, the appellant complained that he repeatedly requested a lawyer, to no avail, and that Francis told him if he cooperated by giving a statement he would "get to walk." The court discredited that testimony. The appellant acknowledged that he had "freely and willingly provid[ed] the statement," but said he had thought the police considered his involvement in the murder to have been minimal and that Ulrich was their true target.

The appellant testified that Francis showed him his own picture and the picture of Ulrich; and he had thought that the writing on the reverse side of his photograph was by Ulrich and the writing on the reverse side of Ulrich's photograph was by Peterson. He claimed not to have been shown the photograph of his mother or the writing on its reverse side. When asked why he made the oral and taped statements about the murder, he did not cite the writings on the photographs as a reason.

On cross-examination, the appellant acknowledged that he had a prior conviction of possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine.

The hearing court made its ruling the day after the hearing ended, and after the judge had had an opportunity to listen to the tape-recorded statement. The court found that Francis had engaged in "a form of a ruse" that involved "a series of clever misrepresentations" designed to mislead the appellant by "suggesting things to him that ... were sort of consistent with the State's theory of what had occurred[,]" but were not true, and at the same time...

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