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Williams v. State

Court of Special Appeals of Maryland

October 1, 2014


Woodward, Zarnoch, Rodowsky, Lawrence F. (Retired, Specially Assigned), JJ.


Woodward, J.

On March 30, 2011, DeAndre Ricardo Williams, appellant, was arrested in Washington, D.C. concerning a fatal shooting in the College Park area in January 2011. After arriving at the homicide unit in a District of Columbia police station, appellant was charged and then placed into an interrogation room, along with two Prince George's County police officers, Detective Harris[1] and Sergeant Gregory McDonald. Immediately prior to being advised of his Miranda rights, appellant made the comment, "I don't want to say nothing. I don't know, —". The police then gave appellant his Miranda rights, after which he confessed to shooting the victim.

Appellant's subsequent motion to suppress his confession was denied by the Circuit Court for Prince George's County. Thereafter, appellant and the State agreed to proceed via a not guilty plea on an agreed statement of facts. The court convicted appellant of first degree murder and use of a handgun in the commission of a crime of violence.[2] Appellant was sentenced to life imprisonment, with all but forty-nine years suspended for first degree murder, and a concurrent twenty years' incarceration for use of a handgun in the commission of a crime of violence.

On appeal to this Court, appellant presents two questions for our review, which we have combined into one:[3]

Did the suppression court err by denying appellant's motion to suppress the inculpatory statement that he made to the police?

For the reasons we shall explain, we answer this question "no" and, therefore, we affirm the judgments of the circuit court.


The Underlying Incident

For context to our review of the suppression hearing and the trial court's ruling, we shall summarize the agreed statement of facts presented to the circuit court on February 10, 2012, when appellant entered his not guilty plea.

On or about January 10, 2011, appellant and Stephan Weaver[4] agreed to rob Justin DeSha-Overcash of marijuana and money, at gunpoint. The next day, Weaver picked up appellant at a Super Fresh Market in the Glendale area and drove to 38th Avenue in College Park. After Weaver parked across the street from the house where DeSha-Overcash was living, appellant got out of the car alone and put on a ski mask. Brandishing a black ten-millimeter handgun, appellant entered the residence at 8809 38th Avenue and announced a robbery.

Inside the house, a physical struggle ensued between DeSha-Overcash and appellant. DeSha-Overcash resisted the robbery by throwing a glass jar at appellant's head. When the two of them struggled for the gun, appellant shot DeSha-Overcash. Appellant fled the house and ran back to the car where Weaver was waiting. As Weaver drove off, his car was captured by a speed camera fleeing from the scene.

Inside the car, Weaver asked appellant what happened. Appellant told Weaver that he shot "him, " meaning the victim, "down low." Appellant later told the police that he eventually threw the gun that he used during the shooting into the Anacostia River.

During the subsequent investigation, the police recovered three fired ten-millimeter cartridge casings from the scene of the incident, all of which were determined to have been fired from the same unknown firearm. However, no physical evidence recovered from the scene of the incident was ever linked to appellant.

Additionally, an autopsy of Justin DeSha-Overcash was conducted by Dr. Russell Alexander of the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Baltimore. As part of the autopsy, Dr. Alexander recovered a ten-millimeter bullet, as well as a base jacket fragment from a fired ten-millimeter bullet, from the victim's abdomen. Dr. Alexander determined that the cause of death was multiple gunshot wounds to the abdomen and that the manner of death was homicide.

On March 26, 2011, the police arrested Weaver. After being advised of his rights, Weaver confessed to conspiring with appellant to rob the victim at gunpoint by helping to orchestrate the attempted armed robbery.

Appellant's Police Interview

On March 30, 2011, appellant was brought in for questioning at the District of Columbia homicide unit. Prior to being questioned by Detective Harris and Sergeant McDonald, appellant was charged with twelve criminal offenses, including first degree murder and use of a handgun in the commission of a crime of violence. The interview took place in an interrogation room and was videotaped by a single camera placed in a corner of the room. It is undisputed that appellant was in police custody at the time of his being questioned.

Appellant admitted during his interview that he entered the house and eventually shot the victim during an attempted robbery. According to appellant, the victim "rushed [him], " at which point appellant "whipped the gun out." During the ensuing struggle, appellant explained, he shot the victim twice.

The Suppression Hearing

Appellant subsequently moved to suppress his inculpatory statements, arguing that he had unambiguously invoked his Miranda right to silence. On December 14, 2011, the circuit court ("the suppression court") held a hearing on appellant's motion to suppress. The DVD containing the interview, and a written transcript of the interview, were admitted into evidence as joint exhibits. At the hearing, appellant testified about his questioning by the police. Neither Detective Harris nor Sergeant McDonald testified at the hearing.

According to the DVD, which the suppression court viewed, and the transcript of the interview, Detective Harris began the interview by asking appellant several ministerial, "icebreaker" questions concerning his address, contact information, and educational background. Appellant stated, among other things, that he had worked "[o]n and off" for Safeway for the past six or seven years, and that he attended college for two years on a football scholarship. The interview proceeded as follows:

DETECTIVE HARRIS: (Inaudible). Heard you was fast as lightning. Lightning. Okay. The reason why me and Sergeant McDonald are here, we are investigating an incident that happened in January. We been working nonstop on it. Through our investigation your name came up, okay?
[APPELLANT]: Uh-huh.
DETECTIVE HARRIS: Now, what we have now are what other people have been saying about it. It was enough for us to get an arrest warrant for you, okay? What we'd like to do is give you an opportunity to answer any questions that we may have, or ask us any questions that you have about the incident. We want to ask you questions. You can stop answering at any time. You don't have to talk to us. We want you to talk to us, to be honest with you. Like I say, it's your prerogative. Like I said, you can talk to us about anything. If you are wondering what we may have to say, this is your opportunity to say, okay.
[APPELLANT]: What's the incident?
[APPELLANT]: I said what's the incident?
DETECTIVE HARRIS: What's the answer to what?
[APPELLANT]: I said what's the incident?
DETECTIVE HARRIS: Well, we'll get into it after I, if you want to know about it, if you want to know what we're talking about, I'm going to have to read you your rights. You have the right to talk to us, you have the right not to talk to us. You have the right to talk to us and stop talking at any time. You understand that? Like I said, we'd like to lay everything out for you and then sit back and listen to what you have to say. We'll listen to anything that you have to say. Anything. You can dispute anything that we might say, and then we'll listen to you.
You understand that? Okay.
Like I said, all we have at this point is what we've heard up to this point. We would love to hear from you. You understand? We're fair. You've probably got two of the fairest people at the Homicide Unit talking to you right now, okay? Like I said, that's your prerogative. Like I said, we'd love to lay it out and get you to talk to us, but like I said, you don't have to. But we would love for you to talk to us, and we can stop so you can see exactly where we're coming from and go from there.
Is that something you'd like to do?
[APPELLANT]: I don't even know what's going on. That's why I ask you what's the incident.
DETECTIVE HARRIS: That's what I said. I can read you your rights. Like I said, after that, we can talk. Like I said, if you don't like what I'm saying you ain't got to say nothing.
[APPELLANT]: I don't know what's going on, so I—
DETECTIVE HARRIS: Okay. This incident happened January in College Park. Through our investigation your name came up. Like I said, this is your opportunity to say, yeah, you were involved or no, you weren't involved.
[APPELLANT]: I don't know anything about what you all are talking about.
SERGEANT MCDONALD: Well, we can get to that. We got to go over your, your rights, first.
[APPELLANT]: I know. I still, I don't know what, —
SERGEANT MCDONALD: I understand that. I understand that. But we got to go through the process. Before we can ask you were you involved, we got to, —
DETECTIVE HARRIS: We got stuff we got to take care of before we, —
[APPELLANT]: Yeah, I understand that. I still don't know, —
SERGEANT MCDONALD: I understand that. But we still got to go through the process, though. You know. We want to talk to you, but we got to go through the process.
DETECTIVE HARRIS: We want to lay everything out to you, but you have to agree to, you want to at least hear what we have to say, and that's fine. But you say you don't, once we read you your rights, if you don't have nothing to do with it, then we just get up and roll. But ...

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