Massey v. State, 0546, Sept. Term, 2005.

Citation173 Md. App. 94,917 A.2d 1175
Decision Date07 March 2007
Docket NumberNo. 0546, Sept. Term, 2005.,0546, Sept. Term, 2005.
PartiesRichard Jay MASSEY, Jr. v. STATE of Maryland.
CourtCourt of Special Appeals of Maryland

David P. Kennedy (Nancy S. Forster, Public Defender, on brief), for appellant.

Gregory D'Alesandro (J. Joseph Curran, Jr., Atty. Gen., on brief), for appellee.

Panel EYLER, JAMES R., SHARER, and WOODWARD, JJ.

SHARER, J.

Richard Jay Massey, Jr., appellant, was convicted of possession with intent to distribute a controlled dangerous substance (cocaine) and possession of cocaine, following a bench trial in the Circuit Court for Wicomico County.1

Massey moved for a new trial and to correct an illegal sentence. After these motions were denied, he noted this appeal, raising four questions, which we have recast and reordered:2

1. Whether the suppression court erred in denying Massey's motion to suppress.

2. Whether the trial court erred by not directing the State to provide the defense with a witness's report.

3. Whether the trial court erred by considering evidence outside of the record.

4. Whether the trial court erred in accepting Massey's jury trial waiver.

For the reasons that follow, we shall vacate Massey's convictions and remand for a new trial. We hold that the suppression court did not err in denying Massey's motion to suppress. We shall also hold, however, that the State was obligated to provide the defense with any report that was prepared by a police officer who testified as a State's witness, and that the trial court erred by not directing the State to disclose this report. We choose to discuss the remaining issues for guidance only.

BACKGROUND

The charges against Massey arise from his arrest on June 18, 2004, for possession with intent to distribute cocaine and possession of cocaine. A criminal information formally charging Massey with these offenses was filed on September 24, 2004. Unsuccessful in pretrial motions to suppress evidence, Massey elected a bench trial and, as we have noted, was convicted.

We shall develop the facts as they relate, first, to the suppression issue and then to the evidentiary issues as they arose at trial.

1. Whether the suppression court erred in denying Massey's motion to suppress.
Standard of Review

In reviewing the court's disposition of a motion to suppress, "we look only to the record of the suppression hearing and do not consider the evidence admitted at trial." In re Tariq A-R-Y, 347 Md. 484, 488, 701 A.2d 691 (1997). In this limited review, we consider the evidence and reasonable inferences drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to the prevailing party, in this instance the State. Id. We review the factual findings of the motions court for clear error. Byndloss v. State, 391 Md. 462, 477, 893 A.2d 1119 (2006). Although we defer to the hearing judge's findings of fact, we must make a de novo constitutional evaluation by "review[ing] independently the application of the law to those facts to determine if the evidence at issue was obtained in violation of the law[.]" See Whiting v. State, 389 Md. 334, 345, 885 A.2d 785 (2005).

Suppression Evidence

A hearing on Massey's motion to suppress was conducted on January 21, 2005.3 Detective Ronald Marzec of the Delmar Police Department, who for over seven years has been assigned to a narcotics enforcement task force operated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, was conducting an investigation of Room 123 at the Delmarva Inn and Convention Center in Delmar. As a result of this investigation, officers arrested Takoma Griffith at about 4:00 p.m. on June 18, 2004, and charged him with possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine.

During the course of his post-arrest interview with Griffith, Marzec learned that Massey "would deliver a quantity of crack cocaine to Room 123." With Marzec sitting next to him, Griffith telephoned Massey at about 4:30 p.m. Marzec could hear "partial voices" on the other end of the call as Griffith spoke, but he acknowledged that he did not know the identity of the person to whom Griffith was speaking. He also admitted that no details regarding any type of drug transaction were mentioned during the telephone conversation. Griffith said "I'm ready" and the other party responded "I'm on my way." Marzec described the telephone conversation:

[P]rior to the telephone call being placed Mr. Griffith advised me that the logistics of the phone call would just basically . . ., that Mr. Griffith would state that he was ready. And upon him saying that, Mr. Massey would go en route to Mr. Griffith's location to deliver the crack cocaine.

Griffith told Marzec that this was "the normal course of business between the two of them[,]" and that they had dealt that way at least several times in the past.

Marzec learned that Massey would be coming from the "Bridgeville, Coverdale area" of Delaware in either a Ford Explorer or by motorcycle. Marzec queried the Delaware Criminal Justice Information System computer and obtained a photograph of Massey and registration information about Massey's vehicles. The detective printed out the photograph and showed it to Griffith, who confirmed Massey's identity. Griffith said that Massey usually took one of two routes—southbound on Route 13 or the Old Stage Road. The trip was expected to take about 25 minutes.

As a part of the investigation, a "road unit" was positioned north of the state line in Delaware to look out for Massey. That "road unit" was Sergeant Michael Bond of the Delmar Police Department, who spotted Massey heading south on Route 13 and alerted Marzec. Bond told Marzec that he would attempt to follow the vehicle and "develop probable cause for a traffic stop at that location on the highway prior to Mr. Massey arriving." Bond was unable to justify a traffic stop, so he followed Massey while Massey first stopped for gas and then drove to the Delmarva Inn. Massey parked near Room 123, left the Explorer, and approached the door. Marzec looked out of the room's window and saw Massey arrive and get out of the Explorer. Armed with the photograph from the Delaware computer, Marzec confirmed Massey's identity. Marzec said also that Bond confirmed that the Explorer's tag number matched the registration to Massey's Explorer.

It was shortly after five o'clock when Massey knocked on the door to Room 123. He was greeted by Marzec and other officers, who took him into custody. The officers searched Massey incident to the arrest and recovered a plastic baggie with about "three and a half grams of crack cocaine." Bond was assigned to search the Explorer and, within ten minutes, recovered another baggie "containing approximately two and a half grams of suspected crack cocaine."

In asserting that the evidence should have been suppressed, Massey contends that the information supplied by Griffith did not provide probable cause for his arrest. We disagree, and conclude that there was ample probable cause to arrest Massey as he appeared at the door to Room 123.

DISCUSSION

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides that the "right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated[.]" U.S. CONST., amend. IV. "A warrantless arrest of an individual in a public place for a felony, or a misdemeanor committed in the officer's presence, is consistent with the Fourth Amendment if the arrest is supported by probable cause." Maryland v. Pringle, 540 U.S. 366, 370, 124 S.Ct. 795, 157 L.Ed.2d 769 (2003). Put another way, "[t]he legality of a warrantless arrest is measured by the existence of probable cause at the time of the arrest." Collins v. State, 322 Md. 675, 678, 589 A.2d 479 (1991).4

"[T]he probable-cause standard is a `"practical, nontechnical conception"' that deals with `"the factual and practical considerations of everyday life on which reasonable and prudent men, not legal technicians, act."'" Pringle, supra, 540 U.S. at 370, 124 S.Ct. 795 (quoting Illinois v. Gates, 462 U.S. 213, 231, 103 S.Ct. 2317, 76 L.Ed.2d 527 (1983) (additional citations omitted)). Probable cause exists when the police possess reasonably trustworthy information, drawn from the totality of the facts and circumstances of each case, which supports the fair probability that contraband or evidence of a crime will be found in a particular place or that the suspect has committed a crime. See Beck v. Ohio, 379 U.S. 89, 91, 85 S.Ct. 223, 13 L.Ed.2d 142 (1964); State v. Wallace, 372 Md. 137, 147-48, 812 A.2d 291 (2002), cert. denied, 540 U.S. 1140, 124 S.Ct. 1036, 157 L.Ed.2d 951 (2004). "Probable cause does not demand the certainty we associate with formal trials." Illinois v. Gates, 462 U.S. at 246, 103 S.Ct. 2317.

A law enforcement officer "may draw inferences based on his own experience in deciding whether probable cause exists." Ornelas v. United States, 517 U.S. 690, 700, 116 S.Ct. 1657, 134 L.Ed.2d 911 (1996). "To determine whether an officer had probable cause to arrest an individual, we examine the events leading up to the arrest, and then decide `whether these historical facts, viewed from the standpoint of an objectively reasonable police officer, amount to' probable cause." Pringle, supra, 540 U.S. at 371, 124 S.Ct. 795 (quoting Ornelas, supra, 517 U.S. at 696, 116 S.Ct. 1657).

The issue before us, therefore, is whether the information supplied by Griffith to Marzec was sufficient to establish probable cause for Massey's arrest. Massey asserts that the suppression court clearly erred in concluding that the informant was "trustworthy" and takes issue with the motions court's rationale that the informant Griffith was known to the police and was motivated to cooperate.

"In testing the sufficiency of probable cause for an officer's action even without a warrant, [the Supreme Court has] held that he may rely upon information received through an informant, rather than upon direct observations, so long as the...

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