Martin v. State, 2413

CourtCourt of Special Appeals of Maryland
Citation218 Md.App. 1,96 A.3d 765
Docket NumberSept. Term, 2010.,No. 2413,2413
PartiesCharles Brandon MARTIN v. STATE of Maryland.
Decision Date30 July 2014


William A. Mitchell (Brennan, Sullivan, McKenna, Manzi & Shay), Greenbelt, MD (Gary E. Bair, Bennett & Bair, LLC, Greenbelt, MD, on the brief), for appellant.

Robert Taylor, Jr. (Douglas F. Gansler, Atty. Gen., on the brief) Baltimore, MD, for appellee.



Convicted, after a jury trial in the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County, of attempted first-degree murder,1 Charles Brandon Martin, appellant, presents seven issues for our review. Divested of argument, they are:

I. Whether the circuit court erred in failing to suppress text message evidence obtained by law enforcement officers from the victim's cell phone;

II. Whether the circuit court erred in allowing a State's DNA expert to testify regarding the results of DNA tests she did not personally perform;

III. Whether the circuit court erred in not requiring the State to provide the defense with a bill of particulars after the State purportedly changed its prosecution theory;

IV. Whether the circuit court erred in finding that there was sufficient evidence to convict appellant of attempted first-degree murder;

V. Whether the circuit court erred in instructing the jury that appellant was charged with being an accessory before the fact rather than an aider and abettor;

VI. Whether the circuit court erred in accepting purportedly inconsistent verdicts; and

VII. Whether the circuit court erred in considering evidence of a letter allegedly written by appellant and then purportedly sentencing appellant for a crime of which he had been acquitted.

After argument before this Court, the parties filed a joint motion to stay any further action by this Court, until Williams v. Illinois, No. 10–8505, had been decided by the Supreme Court, and Dzikowski v. State, No. 15, September Term, 2011, by the Court of Appeals, as those pending decisions might affect the resolution of the issues presented in the instant case. Because those cases did, in fact, involve many of the same issues presented by this appeal, we granted their motion and deferred a decision in this matter.

Subsequently, the Supreme Court rendered a decision in Williams, 567 U.S. ––––, 132 S.Ct. 2221, 183 L.Ed.2d 89 (2012), as did the Court of Appeals in Dzikowski, 436 Md. 430, 82 A.3d 851 (2013). We therefore now consider the issues raised by this appeal in light of those decisions.2


On October 27, 2008, Jodi Lynne Torok, the victim, was found at her home in Crofton, Maryland, with a gunshot wound to her head. Having survived that wound, the victim testified, at the trial below, that she had been in a romantic relationship with Martin, who was married to someone else, and that about eight or nine weeks before the shooting, she had become pregnant with his child. After the victim informed Martin of her condition, he angrily demanded that she obtain an abortion. Although she had, at first, agreed to do so, she later changed her mind and decided to have the baby. Upon informing Martin of her change of mind, the victim advised him of her intention “to go to court and take him for child support.” Predictably, that advisement led to cooling of their relationship.

Subsequently, on the day of the shooting, at about 3:00 p.m., the victim was talking on the phone, at her home, with a close friend, Blair Wolfe,4 when a man, purporting to be a salesman, knocked on her front door. She then ended the call to respond to the “salesman,” but thereafter never called Ms. Wolfe back or answered any of Wolfe's subsequent telephone calls. Growing increasingly concerned but unable to take any action on her own,5 Ms. Wolfe telephoned Jessica Higgs, the victim's roommate, and requested that she leave work and return home to make sure that the victim was safe. Upon arriving at the residence that she shared with the victim, Ms. Higgs found the front door unlocked and the victim lying on the foyer, unconscious and bleeding from a gunshot wound to her head. Higgs immediately called “911.”

When the first police officer arrived at the victim's residence, he secured the scene. Then, upon entering the residence, he found the victim, Ms. Torok, “laying in the doorway,” “fully clothed,” still breathing, but unresponsive. There were no signs of forcible entry or that the victim's personal property had been disturbed.

When paramedics arrived at the scene, they transported the victim to the Shock Trauma Center at the University of Maryland Hospital in Baltimore City, where she remained for nearly a month. As a result of the gunshot wound, the victim's pregnancy was terminated, and she suffered severe and disabling injuries. Neither during that time nor thereafter could she recall the events that took place, from the end of her telephone conversation with Ms. Wolfe on October 27th until Thanksgiving, one month later.

The evidence recovered by the police at the scene of the shooting included a Gatorade bottle, which appeared to be fashioned into a home-made silencer; 6 a spent projectile as well as a spent shell casing; and the victim's Blackberry cell phone.

Gatorade bottle/silencer

From the Gatorade bottle, police evidence technicians extracted “a human hair” of “Negroid origin” 7 and saliva from the mouth of the bottle. DNA testing of both linked the bottle to Martin.8

The victim testified that neither she nor Ms. Higgs drank Gatorade, but that Martin did and often.9 Martin's fondness for Gatorade was later confirmed by the officer who drove him to the Anne Arundel police station, who testified that, on the way to the station, he and Martin stopped at a convenience store, where Martin purchased a bottle of Gatorade to drink.

Granted immunity from prosecution for the shooting and possibly for other unrelated charges, Michael Bradley testified that, on the day of the shooting, he; his brother, Frank Bradley; Martin; and Jerry Burks, an acquaintance of Martin, were together at Maggie McFadden's house “about noon” and that he observed Frank Bradley carrying “some white ... medical tape” and a Gatorade bottle upstairs to McFadden's bedroom, where he was joined by Martin. Then, according to Michael Bradley, Martin and Burks left together, “ approximately 1:30, 2:00” p.m., and returned after 3:00 p.m. but before 6:30 p.m. the same day.10

Finally, Sheri Carter, one of Martin's former girlfriends,11 testified that Martin, approximately one month before the shooting, while at her residence, used a computer to conduct internet research on how to assemble a home-made silencer. She further stated that, during the first week of November 2008, approximately one week after the shooting and shortly after Martin had been questioned by police, Martin took the computer from her apartment, telling her “that [they] had looked up so many crazy things on the internet that in case [Carter's] apartment got searched [Martin] didn't want it found there.” Martin, in her words, then “got rid of” the computer.

Ballistic evidence

The bullet recovered by police, a .380 caliber bullet, and the shell casing that was found, could have been fired, according to a State's expert witness, from a semi-automatic firearm. Such a firearm could have been manufactured by any one of sixteen different manufacturers, which was consistent with Martin's purchase, in 2003, of two .380 caliber semi-automatic handguns made by Bryco Arms, one of those sixteen manufacturers.12 Moreover, Sheri Carter testified that, in September and October of 2008, the time period just before the shooting, she had observed Martin carrying a “small, silver, [black-handled], semi-automatic” handgun.

The firearm itself was never found. The testimony of Michael Bradley suggested why that was so. According to Michael Bradley, when Martin returned to McFadden's home the evening of the shooting, he saw Martin give a brown paper bag to Frank Bradley and tell Bradley to “get rid of this.”

Victim's cell phone

Finally, the last of the four items found at the victim's residence was her Blackberry cell phone. Text messages extracted from that phone by police confirmed that Martin had exchanged several text messages with the victim on the day of the shooting.13

Martin's statement

The day after the shooting, Martin gave a statement to police. During the interrogation, Martin downplayed his relationship with Ms. Torok, the victim, telling detectives that he did not know her last name and that he was unsure where she lived, but he conceded that he had previously been to her house. And, although he was “highly doubt[ful] that he was the father of the victim's baby, since they “hadn't had any contact,” he admitted to police that he had agreed to provide money to her to “help her out.” Finally, Martin claimed that, on the day of the shooting, he was at home with his wife and children until mid-day and that later he had visited “Frankie” and “ Mike” Bradley, who were friends of his, arriving at “around” 1:00 p.m., staying with them until about 4:30 p.m., and then returning home.


Martin contends that the circuit court erred in denying his motion to suppress text messages retrieved by police from the victim's cell phone, in violation of the Maryland Wiretap Act, Maryland Code (1974, 2006 Repl.Vol.), § 10–401 et seq. of the Courts & Judicial Proceedings Article (“CJP”). 14 Specifically, Martin claims that, in reading and, later, recording the text messages from the victim's Blackberry cell phone, the police had “intercepted” those text messages and were therefore required, in accordance with the strictures of the Maryland Wiretap Act, to apply for a court order before doing so, which they did not do. CJP § 10–406(a). Furthermore, the State's use of evidence derived from those text messages, maintains Martin, violated the Maryland Stored Communications Act, CJP § 10–4A–01 et seq.

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