Taylor v. State

Citation182 A.3d 201,236 Md.App. 397
Decision Date02 April 2018
Docket NumberNo. 2190, Sept. Term, 2016,2190, Sept. Term, 2016
Parties Devon Jordan TAYLOR v. STATE of Maryland
CourtCourt of Special Appeals of Maryland

236 Md.App. 397
182 A.3d 201

Devon Jordan TAYLOR
STATE of Maryland

No. 2190, Sept. Term, 2016

Court of Special Appeals of Maryland.

April 2, 2018

Argued by: Helki Philipsen (Paul B. DeWolfe, Public Defender, on the brief), Baltimore, MD, for Appellant

Argued by: Jessica V. Carter (Brian E. Frosh, Atty. Gen., on the brief), Baltimore, MD, for Appellee

Panel: Wright, Kehoe, Glenn T. Harrell, Jr. (Senior Judge, Specially Assigned), JJ.

Harrell, J.

182 A.3d 206
236 Md.App. 405

"Lucy, you got some 'splainin' to do."1

Desi Arnaz (as Ricky Ricardo) to Lucille Ball, "I Love Lucy." (CBS, 1951–57)

Appellant, Devon Taylor, condemns the Circuit Court for Wicomico County for abusing its discretion during his 4 December 2008 criminal trial. The principal vehicle of abuse was the giving preemptively and sua sponte by the trial judge of an "anti-CSI effect"2 instruction to the jury, which had the now asserted effect of relieving the State of meeting its high burden of proof. As a result, he maintains that the instruction invaded the province of the jury and deprived him of a fair trial. Moreover, the trial judge abused his discretion further by "coercing the jury to come to a verdict," and by relying impermissibly on certain considerations in sentencing Taylor.

236 Md.App. 406

Appellee, the State of Maryland, responds that Taylor failed to preserve properly his challenge to the CSI effect jury instruction because his objection "failed to state distinctly the matter to which he objected and the grounds of the objection," as required by Md. Rule 4–325(e). Furthermore, the State maintains that the trial judge adhered to the language of the Maryland Pattern Jury Instructions (MPJI) when instructing the jury regarding the unanimity requirement, and sentenced properly Taylor.

At the end of the day, although we shall hold that the trial judge abused his discretion in propounding to the jury the CSI effect instruction, the error was harmless, beyond a reasonable doubt, on this record. Moreover, we hold that Taylor waived his challenge to the trial judge's continuing deliberation instruction to the jury. Finally, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in considering evidence of Taylor's adult and juvenile records during sentencing. Consequently, we affirm the judgment of the circuit court.

The Facts

The following evidence was adduced by the State at trial. On the morning of 13 June 2008, the victim was alone in her apartment in Salisbury. At approximately 1:00 a.m., someone knocked on her front door. She opened the door "just a crack" and saw a nude man masturbating, while standing to the left on her patio and looking at, but not facing directly, her. As she was shutting the door, the man tried unsuccessfully to push his way in. The victim locked the door and dialed 9–1–1. The man broke the lock on the door and entered the apartment. He wore only a t-shirt hanging around his neck, which he pulled over the lower part of his face upon entering the apartment. The shirt, according to the victim, fell to his neck and revealed his full face during the encounter.

182 A.3d 207

The victim ran to her kitchen and retrieved a 12–inch knife. The man approached her and "grabbed or touched her arm" holding the knife. She was able to twist her arm free, which, in the process, caused the knife to make contact with the intruder,

236 Md.App. 407

without inflicting apparent injury.3 The victim was able to see clearly the man's face because her living room lights, and possibly her kitchen lights, were on during the encounter in the apartment.

The man backed-off when the knife touched him. Then, he noticed the victim's purse on the kitchen counter. He seized the purse, containing the victim's wallet, and fled the apartment. The victim testified that the incident lasted "three to four minutes."

Officer Baker arrived at the scene at 1:03 a.m., shortly after the man fled. He observed "golf-ball sized holes or dents" in the victim's apartment door. The victim told Officer Baker that the intruder was "medium skinned with no tattoos or scars, and that he had a grey t-shirt around his neck."4 The officer did not seize the knife from the crime scene for forensic testing.

Later, Detective Corporal Richard Kaiser became the lead investigator regarding the incident. During his review of the police case file compiled to that point, he noticed that the apartment door had not been processed for fingerprints or the holes/dents photographed. Detective Kaiser contacted the property manager for the apartment complex and learned that a maintenance person had replaced the victim's door, moving her former door to another apartment in the complex. He went to the location of the "suspect" door and dusted its knob for prints. No usable fingerprints were recovered. Detective Kaiser noted also that the door had several large "golf ball size[d]" dents in it. He too did not seize the victim's kitchen knife5 for forensic examination nor attempt to secure any fingerprints from inside the apartment.

236 Md.App. 408

On 12 July 2008, one month after the incident, Detective Scott Elliott requested the victim look at a photo array to see if she could identify anyone as the person who exposed himself to and robbed her. She identified Taylor after "4 seconds."

The State charged Taylor in the circuit court with first, third, and fourth-degree burglary, attempted second-degree rape, robbery, second-degree assault, indecent exposure, malicious destruction of property, and theft less than $100. At the close of the evidence at his trial, during jury instructions, the following occurred:

[The Court to the jury]: There is no legal requirement that the State offer scientific evidence as part of its case, such as DNA, fingerprinting, blood typing, fiber analysis, hair follicle analysis, or anything of that nature.6

* * *

[At the close of all instructions]

[The Court to counsel]: Any additions or exceptions?

[Taylor's Counsel]: We would except, [y]our Honor.

[The Court]: Yes.

* * *
182 A.3d 208
[Taylor's Counsel]: Your honor, I would just except to the Court's scientific evidence instruction.

[The Court]: All right.

The jury convicted Taylor of all charges, save attempted second-degree rape.7 The trial court "sentenced [Taylor] to [seventeen] years for count one, first-degree burglary; ten years for count four, robbery; and three years for count seven, indecent exposure. The sentences were to run consecutively, for a total of [thirty] years executed time. The remaining convictions merged."

No appeal was filed timely. Appellant filed a pro se petition for post-conviction relief on 9 June 2016, alleging that his trial

236 Md.App. 409

attorney's performance was ineffective and prejudiced Taylor's rights by failing to "file both a notice of appeal and an application for review of his sentence by a three-judge panel." On 1 December 2016, Taylor's recently-acquired post-conviction public defender (joined by the State and accepted by the circuit court) entered into "a consent order that [among other forms of relief] allowed [Taylor] to file a belated notice of appeal [from his 2008 conviction] and [an] application for review of his [2008] sentence in exchange for waiving his right to pursue any further post-conviction relief." Accordingly, Taylor filed, on 29 December 2016, a Notice of Appeal. This is the posture in which the matter reaches us.

In this appeal, Appellant frames the following questions:

I. Did the trial court err when propounding to the jury an anti-CSI effect instruction;

II. Did the trial court commit reversible error by coercing the jury to come to a verdict; and

III. Did the trial court consider evidence impermissibly in sentencing Taylor to thirty years executed time where the sentencing guidelines called for 1–5 years?


I. The CSI Effect Jury Instruction.

a. Appellant's Argument.

Taylor maintains that the trial judge committed reversible error when, over Taylor's objection , he propounded preemptively and spontaneously a CSI effect instruction to the jury. Relying on Stabb v. State , 423 Md. 454, 31 A.3d 922 (2011) and Atkins v. State , 421 Md. 434, 26 A.3d 979 (2011), Taylor asserts that the trial judge's CSI effect jury instruction invaded the province of the jury, relieved the State of its burden of proof, and deprived Taylor of his right to a fair trial. Although Taylor's trial occurred in 2008 (before the Court of Appeals decided Stabb and Atkins ), the case is before us as a belated appeal from his convictions because of the consent order granting his post-conviction petition, which transmogrified the proceeding into a direct appeal from the final judgment entered

236 Md.App. 410

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