Winder v. State

Decision Date09 January 2001
Docket NumberNo. 51,51
Citation362 Md. 275,765 A.2d 97
PartiesEugene Edward WINDER v. STATE of Maryland.
CourtMaryland Court of Appeals

Nancy S. Forster, Asst. Public Defender (Stephen E. Harris, Public Defender, and Julia Doyle Bernhardt, Asst. Public Defender, on brief), Baltimore, for appellant.

Annabelle L. Lisic, Asst. Atty. Gen. (J. Joseph Curran, Jr., Atty. Gen. of Md., on brief), Baltimore, for appellee.

Argued before BELL, C.J., and ELDRIDGE, RODOWSKY,1 RAKER, WILNER, CATHELL, and HARRELL JJ. HARRELL, Judge.

On 19 February 1998, firefighters discovered the bodies of John Mainor, Geraldine Mainor (his wife), and Christine Lee Mainor (the couple's granddaughter), after extinguishing a fire in their home in Fruitland, Wicomico County, Maryland. Maryland State police officers arrested Eugene Edward Winder, Appellant, on 24 February 1998, on account of the Mainors' deaths. He was charged with three counts of first-degree murder, two counts of first-degree burglary,2 and a single count of arson. Upon Appellant's request for removal, his case was transferred from the Circuit Court for Wicomico County to the Circuit Court for Baltimore County. Appellant's trial proceeded on 17 May 1999, as a bench trial, on a not guilty plea with an agreed statement of facts. The trial judge ultimately found Appellant guilty of all charges. Appellant requested to be sentenced by a jury as to the murder convictions. See Maryland Code (1957, 1996 Repl.Vol., 1999 Cum.Supp.), Article 27, § 413(a) & (b). The jury sentenced him to death on each of the murder counts. The trial judge sentenced Appellant to twenty years imprisonment for the first-degree burglary conviction, and a consecutive term of thirty years for the arson conviction. This case is before this Court on automatic appeal pursuant to Maryland Code (1957, 1996 Repl.Vol.), Article 27, § 4143 and Maryland Rule 8-306(c).4

ISSUES

In this appeal, Appellant presents the following six issues for our consideration:

I. Did the lower court err in denying Appellant's motion to suppress?

II. Did the lower court err in refusing to grant a mistrial after engaging in an ex parte communication with the jury?

III. Did the lower court err in refusing to redact that portion of the presentence investigation report stating that Appellant "does not have any psychological or emotional problems?"

IV. Is the evidence sufficient to convict Appellant of first-degree burglary?

V. Did the lower court err in restricting, at sentencing, the defense presentation of relevant evidence?

VI. Did the lower court err in refusing to propound Appellant's requested voir dire question?

Because we shall reverse the judgments based on our analysis of Issue I, we need address additionally only Appellant's issue IV. Notwithstanding that, we choose to comment briefly on issue II as well.

BACKGROUND

Around 4:15 a.m. on 19 February 1998, Mr. and Mrs. Emery Revelle were driving through Wicomico County en route to Florida. As they drove past 501 North Division Street (the Mainors' home) in Fruitland, the Revelles noticed heavy smoke rising from the house. The Revelles reported the fire to the authorities. The fire department arrived at 4:31 a.m. After the fire was extinguished, firefighters discovered the bodies of Geraldine Mainor (age 70), Christine Lee Mainor (age 20), and John Mainor (age 71) in the family room of the house.5

Later that morning, at approximately 7:00 a.m., Allan Mainor, the son of Geraldine and John Mainor, observed Appellant at the fire scene. He noticed that Appellant had a bandage on his hand and a cut on his nose. Appellant spoke briefly with Sergeant Matthew Brown of the Fruitland police department. He identified himself as the boyfriend and fiancé of Christine Mainor.

The following day, Sergeant Brown telephoned Appellant and requested that he come to the police station. Appellant voluntarily complied and met there with the police at 6:00 p.m. While at the station, Winder agreed to have a cut on his hand photographed and gave the police clippings from his fingernails. With Appellant's consent, the police also searched his vehicle, finding blood spots on its interior. The police kept the vehicle for testing. Additionally, Appellant voluntarily turned over the clothing that he wore the morning of the fire. After a three-hour interview with Lieutenant George Truit, Appellant left the police station at 11:00 p.m.

After Appellant left the police station, the Fruitland police chief called in the Maryland State Police to assume control of the investigation. After executing search warrants for Appellant's home, on the evening of 23 February 1998, Sergeant Kim Collins (Collins) and Corporal Robert McQueeney (McQueeney) of the Maryland State Police requested that Appellant accompany them to their Salisbury Barrack. Appellant consented to the officers' request.

Appellant arrived at the state police barracks at approximately 10:00 p.m. on 23 February 1998. The interrogation that followed spanned a twelve-hour period. At least four members of the State Police participated in the questioning. Near the end of the interrogation, at approximately 6:00 a.m. on 24 February 1998, Appellant confessed to murdering the Mainors and setting fire to their home.

In the initial stage of the interrogation, Appellant was placed in a conference room with Collins, McQueeney, Sergeant Leone Fisher (Fisher), and Sergeant William Benton (Benton). The officers told Appellant that he was not under arrest and that he was free to go at any time. The officers offered Appellant a drink and advised him of his Miranda rights.6 Appellant signed a form waiving his Miranda rights and agreed to have the interrogation audio tape recorded.7 The interrogation began at approximately 10:35 p.m.

Sergeants Fisher and Benton handled the questioning in the beginning. Appellant initially answered basic background questions regarding his job, education level, and his relationship with Christine. In response to a question inquiring when he last saw Christine alive, Appellant stated that he met with her at 6:30 p.m. on 19 February 1998. The officers also asked Appellant to explain the nature of his relationship with the grandparents. Commenting on Appellant's answers, Sergeant Benton interjected:8

[w]e need you to be honest with us man so we can understand what's going on inside of you. Right now, your sitting there shaking to death, we see it. I'm going to tell you something. There is a lot bothering you and we know you want to talk. That's why we're here to talk to you tonight, okay. The only way we can help you and get things off your chest is for you to talk to us and open up to us...

Throughout the early stages of the interrogation, Sergeant Benton repeatedly asked Appellant to tell him about the murders, but Appellant stated that he knew nothing about the crimes and denied any involvement. After the Officers shared with Appellant their personal theories why he committed the murders, the following exchange occurred:

Benton: ... let me ask you a question. What did you think would happen if you told us the truth about that night? Let me ask you that.
Winder: I'd go to jail.

* * * * *

Benton: Eugene, can I say something to you. You just admitted to us that you killed them. Do you know why? I asked you. I said Eugene, what do you think what happened if you told us the truth. You said I'd go to jail. So, you just told us you killed them. Winder: No, I didn't kill them.
Benton: Eugene, you just admitted it. We'll play the tape. I said Eugene what do you think what happened if you told us the truth. You said I would go to jail. I said okay. So, you think you would go to jail if you told us the truth. You said yeah, that's exactly what you said. Why don't you tell us what happened? Christy and her grandparents are [sic] deserve to know the truth about what happened. Nobody is going to think you are an animal. What we want to know is why this happened. It is a crime of passion, but we need to know from you, did she come at you with a weapon while you were in that house?

Winder: I wasn't there.

Sergeant Benton, professing to believe that he had secured a confession, continued to bring up that he thought Appellant had admitted to committing the murders. After Sergeant Fisher left the room, the following occurred:

Benton: She's gone, let's talk man to man. Let's be honest. You admitted to me a little while ago. You told me that if you told me the truth you would go to jail. People have committed a crime and they haven't gone to jail especially for the rest of their life. Let's just sit here and think. If there comes a time when you have to stand trial for this case, how do you think the people in the community are going to react if you continue to fight it, to fight it, to fight it, to say you never did it, and the state presents evidence to the contrary. How do you think that's going to look?
Winder: Not good.

* * * * *

Benton: Eugene, you've admitted to us that you did it, right here on this tape. I said Eugene what would happened if you told us the truth, and you said I'd go to jail. I said so if you told us the truth of what happened that night you would go to jail and you said yes I would. Eugene, your there. Think of how much better your going to feel once you get if off. You need to be honest with us. Think of the community. The community is [in] an uproar. They think they've got a person out there whose killed these people and set their house on fire. They have no idea who it is. You think we're the only ones right now that are looking for you. Why do you think we wanted so much to look for you tonight?

Winder: I don't know.

After informing Appellant that the police found blood-stained clothing in his residence, Sergeant Benton informed Appellant that:

We're not interested in sending you to jail for the rest of your life, Eugene we told you that. We think the person who committed these needs help. I think you
...

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