Stratton v. State, 010919 MDSCA, 2044-2017

Docket Nº:2044-2017
Opinion Judge:RAKER, J.
Party Name:MICHAEL STRATTON v. STATE OF MARYLAND
Judge Panel:Meredith, Graeff, Raker, Irma S. (Senior Judge, Specially Assigned), JJ.
Case Date:January 09, 2019
Court:Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
 
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MICHAEL STRATTON

v.

STATE OF MARYLAND

No. 2044-2017

Court of Special Appeals of Maryland

January 9, 2019

Circuit Court for Baltimore County Case No. 03-K-16-005543

Meredith, Graeff, Raker, Irma S. (Senior Judge, Specially Assigned), JJ.

OPINION [*]

RAKER, J.

Appellant Michael Stratton was convicted by a jury in the Circuit Court for Baltimore County of robbery, second degree assault, and theft between $1, 000 and $10, 000. Appellant presents the following questions for our review, which we reorder and rephrase slightly: 1. Did the trial court err in admitting a GPS tracking map where the probative value of that evidence was substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice to appellant?

2. Did the trial court err in admitting a bank balance screen where that evidence lacked a proper foundation under Maryland's business records hearsay exception yet was a key piece of evidence that the State needed to prove certain of the crimes charged?

3. Did the motions court err when it denied appellant's motion to exclude references to shots fired by the police?

4. Did the trial court err in denying appellant's Motion for New Trial where appellant was prejudiced at trial by repeated references to shots fired by the police?

5. Did the trial court err in admitting a video surveillance video when the State failed to satisfy the chain of custody?

6. Did the cumulative errors of the motions and trial courts deprive appellant of his right to a fair trial?

Finding no error, we shall affirm.

I.

Appellant was convicted by a jury in the Circuit Court for Baltimore County of robbery, second degree assault, and theft between $1, 000 and $10, 000. The court merged the assault and theft convictions into the robbery conviction and sentenced appellant to a term of incarceration of twenty-five years for the robbery conviction.

Before trial, appellant moved in limine to exclude the fact that a police officer fired shots at the vehicle in which the police apprehended him, arguing that the shooting was substantially more prejudicial than it was probative. With the parties' agreement, the court excluded all evidence that the police killed the driver of the vehicle, but nevertheless denied appellant's motion to exclude the fact that a police officer fired at the vehicle. The court found that the relevance and prejudice would depend upon the evidence offered at trial and that it would "go with the State on the admissibility generally of a gunshot."

We state the following facts as set forth at trial. On September 23, 2016, appellant approached Kendra Perry, a bank teller working at a Wells Fargo bank in Pikesville, Maryland. Appellant handed her a note that read, "this is a robbery." Ms. Perry gave appellant approximately $1, 900 from her drawer, including two twenty-dollar bills with a GPS tracker hidden between them. Appellant left the bank, and the GPS tracker began transmitting its location to the bank's security contractor, 3SI Security Systems. Moving ahead of the tracker, police officers stopped traffic in front of appellant's vehicle. Officer Stallings walked past a tan Ford Taurus without seeing appellant on the floor in the vehicle's back seat. Returning to that vehicle based on updated location information from the GPS tracker, Officer Stallings saw money in the back seat and appellant on the floor. He ordered the two people in the vehicle to show their hands, but the driver accelerated across the street into the oncoming traffic lane. Officer Bortner fired at the vehicle when it accelerated toward him. The vehicle entered a nearby intersection and crashed into another vehicle that was stopped at a traffic light.

Police officers removed and arrested appellant, who was lying on the floor in the back of the stopped Ford Taurus. At the time of his arrest, appellant wore clothing and carried a cell phone that each matched the bank robber seen on the bank's security footage. He had in his possession $1, 861 in cash, the GPS tracker, and a note in his pocket that read, "this is a robbery." At trial, the court admitted into evidence a list of the GPS tracker's coordinates after the robbery. The court also admitted a map produced by 3SI Security that displayed the GPS tracker's coordinates as a line on the map, with the start of the line labeled "robbery" and the end of the line labeled "apprehension." The court admitted the bank surveillance video of the robbery and a printout of a balance screen from the bank that showed $1, 990 missing from a teller's drawer on September 23, 2016, with Ms. Perry's name in a time stamp at the bottom of the document.

As indicated, the jury convicted appellant, the court imposed sentence, and this appeal followed.

II.

Before this Court, appellant argues that the circuit court erred in four evidentiary rulings at trial and that these errors warrant reversal. Appellant argues first that the circuit court erred in admitting 3SI Security's GPS tracking map. Relying on Maryland Rule 5-403, appellant argues that the court should have excluded the map because it was substantially more prejudicial to him than it was probative. Appellant focuses his argument on the use of the word "apprehension." Appellant contends that the label of "apprehension" led the jury to conclude that appellant was the bank robber because he was "apprehended" at the end of the line on the map. Because the list of GPS coordinates and various witness' testimony established essentially the same facts as the map, appellant contends, the map had minimal probative value, and the trial court should have excluded it on the basis of Rule 5-403.1 Appellant argues that the error is not harmless because the State used it repeatedly at trial and in closing arguments.

Appellant's second argument refers to a printout of a bank balance screen admitted at trial as a Wells Fargo business record. Appellant argues that of the four requirements to admit a hearsay document as a record of regularly conducted business activity, the State did not elicit testimony sufficient for the second requirement, that the record "was made by a person with knowledge or from information transmitted by a person with knowledge." Appellant notes...

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