State v. Armstead, 1148, Sept. Term, 2016

CourtCourt of Special Appeals of Maryland
Writing for the CourtHarrell, J.
Citation235 Md.App. 392,178 A.3d 556
Parties STATE of Maryland v. Kevin ARMSTEAD
Docket NumberNo. 1148, Sept. Term, 2016,1148, Sept. Term, 2016
Decision Date01 February 2018

235 Md.App. 392
178 A.3d 556

STATE of Maryland

No. 1148, Sept. Term, 2016

Court of Special Appeals of Maryland.

February 1, 2018

Argued by: Edward J. Kelley (Brian E. Frosh, Atty. Gen., on the brief), Baltimore, MD, for Appellant.

Argued by: Akiva Y. Gross (Paul B. DeWolfe, Public Defender, on the brief), Baltimore, MD, for Appellee.

Panel: Kehoe, Nazarin, Glenn T. Harell, Jr., Senior Judge, Specially Assigned, JJ.

Harrell, J.

235 Md.App. 397
"Ninety-nine bottles of beer on the wall, Ninety-nine bottles of beer. You swab one down and run it through CODIS, Ninety-eight bottles of beer on the wall."

Lines spoken by the character Greg Sanders on "CSI" Season 3, Episode
178 A.3d 559
19 "A Night at the Movies" (CBS–TV. Episode aired 10 April 2003)

At the core of this post-conviction case is the rectitude of the failure of trial counsel for Appellee, Kevin Armstead, to

235 Md.App. 398

object to a so-called "anti-CSI effect"1 voir dire question propounded on 25 March 2009 to the venire by a trial judge of the Circuit Court for Baltimore City. Armstead contends that that failure amounts to ineffective assistance of trial counsel because he would have had a reasonable probability of success on direct appeal had a challenge to the propriety of the voir dire question been preserved. The circuit court granted Armstead a new trial in 2016 in this post-conviction proceeding, which Armstead initiated in 2014.

Appellant, the State of Maryland, complains that the award of a new trial is inappropriate because, on 25 March 2009, Maryland common law (such as it was) approved of such a CSI question. Mistakenly, according to the State, the 2016 post-conviction court relied on contrary, subsequently-decided case law to justify ordering a retrial. The State maintains that Armstead's trial counsel was not obligated in 2009 to "see into the future" and anticipate the outcomes in the later-decided cases. Moreover, Armstead "did not call his trial defense counsel, or any other attorney, as a witness [in the post-conviction phase] to testify concerning the propriety of trial counsel's deliberate [trial strategy] decision not to object to the voir dire question." Thus, "there is no basis in which the post-conviction court could conclude that Armstead's [t]rial counsel was ineffective as alleged." Armstead failed, therefore, to satisfy his burden under the factors in Strickland v. Washington2 to prove ineffective assistance of counsel. The State argued also that Armstead failed to demonstrate satisfactorily how he was prejudiced by the lack of an objection, the second factor in the Strickland analysis.

In this appeal, Appellant poses one question:

235 Md.App. 399
I. Did the post-conviction court err when it determined, based on case law that issued after Armstead's trial, that Armstead's trial counsel was ineffective for failing to object to the circuit court's issuance of a CSI voir dire question?

We hold that the post-conviction court erred when it granted Armstead's petition and ordered a new trial. Armstead's trial counsel was not ineffective for failing to object to the CSI voir dire question. Even if we assumed his trial counsel's omission constituted ineffective representation, the claimed error was harmless, beyond a reasonable doubt, on the circumstances of this record.

Statement of Facts

We, like the post-conviction court, adopt in relevant part the summary of the evidence presented at Armstead's 2009 trial, as stated in our opinion regarding Armstead's direct appeal, Armstead v. State , 195 Md. App. 599, 605–09, 7 A.3d 169, 172–75 (2010), cert. denied , 418 Md. 191, 13 A.3d 798 (2011) :

On [20 March 2007], Ricardo Paige was found lying dead on the living room floor of his residence at 502 East 43rd Street in Baltimore City, Maryland, having
178 A.3d 560
suffered multiple gun shot wounds. He was discovered by his daughter, Deneen Woods, and his grandson, Ricardo McDonald.

Woods testified at trial that she had seen [Armstead], also known as "Muggs," on the block on prior occasions with [Jamal] Fulton, who she knew as "Nube," and with Trendon and Tremaine Washington, twin brothers, both of whom she knew as "Twin." Fulton lived in the house next door, 500 East 43rd Street. Drugs were a "big problem" with Fulton. On the Friday before Woods's father was murdered, Fulton came to 502 East 43rd Street and argued with Paige. Fulton told Woods that her father was "making his spot hot." Woods responded by telling Fulton that she did not want any drugs to be around her father, and Fulton replied that "he would not say nothing else to [her] dad."

At some point after Paige's death, Woods spoke to a person in the neighborhood she knew as "Lurch." Lurch
235 Md.App. 400
provided Woods with some information, and Woods conveyed that information to Detective James Lloyd.

Leroy Simon testified that he is known as "Lurch" and that he knew Paige through Woods. In late March 2007, intending to exchange drugs for sex, he was with a woman behind the victim's residence. At that time, he saw [Armstead], Fulton, known to him as "Nuke," and "Twin" and another unidentified individual near Paige's house.

He observed [Armstead] go into Paige's house first, and then he heard some "tussling." A few minutes later, he saw "Twin" enter the house. Fulton went inside the residence as well. The unidentified person remained outside the residence where he was giving orders.

After [Armstead], Fulton, and "Twin" were inside, Simon heard gunshots. He then heard sounds as if someone was sweeping up some glass and then saw the trio emerge from the residence.

Simon knew both Tremaine and Trendon Washington, and was aware that one of them was incarcerated at the time. He identified a photograph of Trendon Washington as the person he was referring to as "Twin" in his testimony.

After Simon testified that he spoke to Detective Lloyd on three occasions, the State sought to refresh his recollection with a statement, but Simon testified that he could not read or write. Because there was some confusion about whether Simon ever told police that he saw Fulton enter the residence, the jury was excused, and the tape of Simon's third interview was played to refresh Simon's recollection.

After the jury returned, Simon testified that Fulton was standing outside of the house and actually never went inside. Simon admitted he had made a mistake earlier during his testimony when he said Fulton had gone inside.

Simon continued his testimony as follows: While [Armstead], "Twin" (Trendon Washington), and an unidentified third person were inside the residence, Simon heard tussling. After he heard these sounds, Fulton, "who remained outside, hollered, ‘handle your business.’ " Simon then heard
235 Md.App. 401
two to three gunshots. After the shooting, Simon saw all four individuals run from the residence.

Simon identified a photo of [Armstead] as a person who was present at the crime scene and had entered the residence. He also identified both Tremaine and Trendon Washington, distinguishing between them and identifying Trendon Washington as the twin present at the scene. Simon was originally unable
178 A.3d 561
to identify the person who remained outside the residence, but, after refreshing his recollection, recalled that during the third interview with police, he identified a photograph of Fulton, indicating that he was the one who stayed outside and "gave orders."

Asked why he did not go to the police earlier, Simon stated: "It ain't good to snitch, it ain't good to snitch. Snitchers get stitches, that's how I always looked at it." However, when he learned that the victim was Wood[s]'s father, Simon decided to come forward. He learned two days after he saw the individuals at Paige's residence that Paige had died.

On cross-examination, Simon testified that he had not testified in the trial involving Trendon Washington and that he was incarcerated when he first spoke to Detective Lloyd about this case.

Detective Chris Glanville testified that he encountered [Armstead], and both Trendon and Tremaine Washington, on [28 April 2007]. At that time, he recovered a loaded .45 caliber Springfield nineteen eleven model firearm from Trendon Washington. All of the bullets recovered in this case were .45 auto caliber. The ballistics evidence was compared to the recovered firearm, and two of the cartridge casings recovered from the crime scene were fired from that pistol. Other bullet specimens could neither be identified nor eliminated as being fired from the recovered gun. However, three of the five bullets recovered in this case were fired by the same firearm, while the two remaining bullets lacked proper markings for comparison.

Detective Lloyd testified that Trendon Washington, Fulton, and [Armstead] were arrested in connection with this
235 Md.App. 402

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9 cases
  • Taylor v. State, 2190, Sept. Term, 2016
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • April 2, 2018
    ...a fair trial. Stabb , 423 Md. at 472, 31 A.3d at 932.In Robinson , the next most recent appellate decision (before State v. Armstead , 235 Md. App. 392, 178 A.3d 556 (2018) ) addressing significantly a CSI effect message situation, the Court held that the trial court's anti-CSI effect instr......
  • McGhee v. State
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • October 24, 2022
    ...a CSI-effect voir dire question in the context of an ineffective assistance of counsel claim. 284 A.3d 785 State v. Armstead , 235 Md. App. 392, 178 A.3d 556 (2018). After reflecting on Evans , Charles , Atkins , and Stabb , the intermediate appellate court concluded that trial counsel's fa......
  • State v. Christian
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • October 26, 2018 situations where it responds to correct pre-existing overreaches by the defense, i.e., a curative instruction." State v. Armstead, 235 Md. App. 392, 414, cert. denied, 459 Md. 172 (2018). During jury selection at Christian's trial, the court asked the following question:Is there any memb......
  • McGhee v. State
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Maryland
    • October 24, 2022
    ...Appeals considered a CSI-effect voir dire question in the context of an ineffective assistance of counsel claim. State v. Armstead, 235 Md.App. 392 (2018). After reflecting on Evans, Charles, Atkins, and Stabb, the intermediate appellate court concluded that trial counsel's failure to objec......
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