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Prince v. State

Court of Special Appeals of Maryland

February 26, 2014

Joshua Gabriel PRINCE
STATE of Maryland.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Aaron J. Johansen (Neal Guy and Sidley Austin LLP) Washington, DC, for appellant.

Sarah P. Pritzlaff (Douglas Gansler, Atty. Gen., on the brief) Baltimore, MD, for appellee.



[216 Md.App. 182] I shot an arrow into the air, It fell to earth, I knew not where ...
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, The Arrow and the Song [1]

In this appeal, we have not an arrow but a " trajectory rod," which a police officer used to show the path a bullet took when the appellant, Joshua Prince, fired a rifle from above at his ex-girlfriend as she cowered behind the rear bumper of her car in a parking garage. Mr. Prince was charged with attempted murder and other charges, tried before a jury in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County, and convicted. On appeal, he challenges the circuit court's decision to allow the State to introduce the testimony about the rifle's firing pattern and the bullet's trajectory through the roof and interior of her car. He also contends that the trial court improperly denied his counsel's request for a

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continuance to allow him to develop expert testimony regarding his mental state. We affirm.


Mr. Prince moved into the Bethesda apartment complex of his then-girlfriend, Allanna Garbe on August 28, 2010. Ms. Garbe had discouraged the move; she felt their relationship should move more slowly, but he apparently saw things differently and took an apartment one floor up from hers in the same building. The transition went badly and, as we shall see, spiraled quickly from there: Mr. Prince felt " disappointed and upset" when Ms. Garbe did not help him move in, and Ms. Garbe expressed discomfort at how quickly he viewed the relationship as progressing. On the evening of September 1, 2010, she went to his apartment and, in a conversation that lasted thirty to forty minutes and that she later characterized [216 Md.App. 183] as " peaceful," she told him that she no longer wanted to be in a relationship.

A few nights later, on September 3, 2010, Mr. Prince saw Ms. Garbe leave her apartment with a male friend. He sent her a series of text messages beginning around 10:00 p.m. asking what she was doing and telling her that he loved her. His behavior escalated from there: he showed up at Ms. Garbe's apartment within moments after she and her friend returned to her apartment (around midnight), and when she came out to speak with him, he seemed not to understand that she had broken up with him, then remained in the hallway twenty minutes after their conversation ended. Ms. Garbe felt uncomfortable and afraid, so her friend remained in her apartment with her through the night. Mr. Prince continued to send text messages that night and through the morning, finally culminating in a 4:46 a.m. text in which he stated, " You told me you loved me and hoped we could get married one day. You brought another man in your bed tonight. How could you live with yourself?" Mr. Prince also had a conversation in the parking garage in the early morning hours with two other residents of the complex (whom he had never met), telling them in depth about the relationship and his dismay that Ms. Garbe chose to end it.

The next morning, Ms. Garbe discovered that someone had vandalized her car during the night. The doors, trunk, roof, and hood of the car were dented and both the side mirrors had been ripped off. On the recommendation of police officers who responded to her call, she obtained a no-contact order against Mr. Prince that same day. When Mr. Prince learned about the order, he asked Ms. Garbe by text to withdraw it. He said he did not believe that she had no other romantic interest, and he continued texting her throughout the evening. [2] For the remainder of Labor Day weekend, September 5 and 6, though, the two did not communicate.

[216 Md.App. 184] Sometime between 7:00 and 7:30 a.m. Tuesday morning, September 7, Ms. Garbe went to her car, which was parked on the third floor of the parking garage. She climbed in the driver's side, but before closing the door she sensed movement, looked up, and saw Mr. Prince on a ramp between the third and fourth floors of the garage, where he " had just stooped down and had a rifle pointed at me." [3] When

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asked to describe the rifle, she explained it was " [j]ust a very large gun that he had over one shoulder directly pointed at me. " (Emphasis added.) Ms. Garbe scrambled out of the car and hid behind the rear bumper. The two or three times she looked up, she " saw [Mr. Prince] with the gun just pointed directly at [her], taking full aim at [her]."

After she heard a gunshot, Ms. Garbe looked again and saw that Mr. Prince was no longer aiming at her, so she ran into the apartment building and called 911. Minutes later, she received a new series of texts from Mr. Prince:

• " I never would have hurt you honestly" ;
• " I pictured my life without you and you with another man and I snapped" ;
• " I know I can't take this back" ; and
• " I know I just threw away my life."

Ms. Garbe responded (having been told by the police to do so), and encouraged Mr. Prince to turn himself in, which he did. An investigation of the fourth-floor ramp in the garage uncovered a garment bag, a live round of ammunition, and a cartridge casing. Police also searched Mr. Prince's apartment and found an open rifle case by his bedside. Moreover, after hearing a recorded conversation between Mr. Prince (incarcerated at the time) and a friend, police interviewed the friend, [216 Md.App. 185] who produced a box of ammunition that Mr. Prince had asked him to hide and from which three rounds were missing.

The State charged Mr. Prince with attempted first-degree murder, first-degree assault, carrying a dangerous weapon with intent to injure, and failing to comply with a peace order. He underwent a mental health evaluation at Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center by psychologist Inna Toller. In January 2011, Dr. Toller rendered a report in which she found him competent to stand trial and criminally responsible. Although she acknowledged that Mr. Prince suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (" PTSD" ) from his military experience in Iraq as a medic, Dr. Toller concluded that it played no role in his conduct: " [T]here is no evidence that [his PTSD] symptoms caused him to have significant impairment in every day function." She opined, based on how Mr. Prince acted on the morning of the incident, that " the PTSD and the adjustment disorder did not cause him to lack substantial capacity either to appreciate the criminality of his conduct or to conform his conduct to the requirements of the law."

Trial was scheduled to begin on Monday, March 26, 2012. On the afternoon of Friday, March 23, 2012, Mr. Prince moved for a continuance. He argued that he had obtained a preliminary report from a psychologist, Rona Fields, Ph.D. (the " Fields Report" ), in which, he said, she opined that Mr. Prince " most likely suffered" from PTSD at the time of the incident (emphasis added).[4] According to the motion, Mr. Prince had only recently been able to gather funds for Dr. Fields's preliminary evaluation and she needed more time to complete testing and determine whether he might suffer organic brain damage or whether his PTSD contributed to the incident. The State opposed the motion, citing the facts that the incident had taken place over a year and a half earlier, that there had already been an aborted plea

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deal, that the case had been continued twice already, and that Ms. Garbe objected strongly [216 Md.App. 186] (even at the time of trial, Mr. Prince apparently still was attempting to contact her).

The trial court denied the motion on the morning of trial, explaining (over five pages of transcript) that Dr. Toller had reviewed all the relevant history and documents, and had concluded Mr. Prince's mental health issue had nothing to do with the events in question:

the PTSD and the adjustment order did not cause him to lack substantial capacity either to appreciate the criminality of his conduct or to conform his conduct to the requirements of the law. Therefore, to a reasonable degree of medical certainty, Prince was found [by Dr. Toller] to be criminally responsible.

The court noted that Dr. Toller believed Mr. Prince " had a clear secondary gain to avoid incarceration and be found not criminally responsible," and, as a result, had diagnosed him with malingering. For these reasons, the court found no good cause to continue the trial and it went forward as scheduled.

The State presented seven witnesses in its case-in-chief, beginning with Ms. Garbe and including two police officers whose testimony Mr. Prince challenges here. Detective Brian Stafford, who responded to the 911 call, interviewed Ms. Garbe, videotaped the scene, and documented the area where Mr. Prince stood at the time of the shooting. Officer Ryan Costello examined Ms. Garbe's car after it was brought in to police for processing and, as part of his examination, placed " trajectory rods" through the bullet holes in the car and photographed the rods in place.[5]

Neither Officer Costello nor Detective Stafford was offered or qualified as an expert witness. The State had notified counsel for Mr. Prince two weeks before trial that it planned to call expert witnesses " in crime scene and trajectory" (Officer [216 Md.App. 187] Costello) and " in weapons and ballistics" (Detective Stafford), but counsel for Mr. Prince moved in limine to preclude the testimony based on the State's lack of formal or timely notice of the experts. At a hearing on the morning of trial, the State informed the court that it had intended to call Officer Costello as an expert, but had changed its mind: " [i]n reality, his testimony is really factual, so we have no problem ... we don't need to qualify him as an expert, so we won't." In response, counsel for Mr. Prince acknowledged voluntarily that his motion was moot. The parties did not discuss Detective Stafford's testimony at that point (the whole colloquy occupies less than a page of transcript), either by naming him or by talking generically about any ballistics testimony.

When the time came for Detective Stafford to testify, he offered a detailed account— without objection from Mr. Prince's counsel— about the live round found on the scene:

Q. And could you please describe what type of ammunition that is?
A. It's a 7.62 NATO full metal jacket round, standard military loading.
Q. You say that like we should all know. Give us the numbers that you first said?
A. 7.62 NATO.
Q. What does that mean? What is the 7.62?

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A. The 7.62 refers to the diameter of the bullet.
Q. Okay.
A. It's basically a 30 caliber bullet. NATO, it refers to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. In the 1950s, NATO wanted to come up with a common round for all the member countries to use. This is the ammunition they standardized, largely because the United States insisted on a 30 caliber cartridge.
Q Okay. And what is the significance of the markings on here?
A. These are what are called head stamp markings. They're on the head of the case. This one says NATO [216 Md.App. 188] on it. There is a letter on there, F, and then there's a number, which is 81.81 would be for the year of manufacture, the year that this ammunition was manufactured.
Q. So in 1981?
A. Yes. And the F would identify the armory or the factory where it was made.
Q. Okay, anything ... that you note of significance ...

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