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Easter v. State

Court of Special Appeals of Maryland

May 27, 2015

HARRY EASTER
v.
STATE OF MARYLAND

Meredith, Graeff, Leahy, JJ.

OPINION

Graeff, J.

Harry Easter, appellant, was convicted by a jury in the Circuit Court for Prince George's County of three counts of manslaughter by vehicle, one count of causing a life threatening injury while operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol, driving under the influence of alcohol, reckless driving, speeding, and other related offenses. The court sentenced appellant to an aggregate term of thirty years' incarceration.

On appeal, appellant presents the following questions for our review, which we have rephrased slightly, as follows:

1. Did the circuit court err in permitting the State to introduce the results of a blood alcohol test where the State failed to establish a proper chain of custody between the blood obtained from appellant and the blood tested to obtain those results?
2. Did the circuit court err in permitting the State's expert to offer testimony relating to the data acquired from the air bag control module of appellant's vehicle where the State failed to establish the accuracy and validity of the methodology used to acquire that data?

For the reasons that follow, we shall affirm the judgment of the circuit court.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

On June 5, 2011, appellant drove his sport utility vehicle ("SUV"), at a speed of approximately 89 miles per hour, into the rear of another vehicle. Appellant struck the car with such force that the two rear-seat occupants were ejected through the rear window of the car and killed. The driver also was killed when the car struck a tree. The front seat passenger survived, but he sustained a fractured back, a fractured pelvis, an ankle injury, a concussion, and other serious and debilitating juries.

When the surviving front seat passenger got out of the vehicle to look for his wife and the driver's wife, he saw appellant standing there. He asked appellant for help, but appellant just continued to stand there, offering no assistance. Appellant's blood alcohol content was .24 grams per 100 ml of blood, three times the legal limit to operate a vehicle.

We shall incorporate additional facts, relevant to each of the questions presented by appellant, in our discussion.

DISCUSSION

I.

Admission of Results of the Blood Test

Appellant first contends that the circuit court "erred in allowing the State to offer blood test results because the State failed to establish the chain of custody between the blood taken from [appellant] and the blood tested to produce [the] test result." The State disagrees, asserting that "the trial court acted within its discretion in admitting the results of [appellant's] blood test."

A.

Proceedings Below

Officer Thomas Crosby, a member of the Prince George's County Police Department, testified that, on June 5, 2011, he transported appellant from the scene of the accident to Fort Washington Hospital Center. He observed a phlebotomist draw blood from appellant to measure his blood alcohol level.

Corporal Stephen Fox supplied the hospital with a blood collection kit. He described a blood collection kit as a sealed cardboard box containing vials for blood collection, a preparatory product to clean the skin at the collection site, and security seals and integrity seals. Once the blood is collected, the vials are secured with the seals and then repackaged in the cardboard box, which is then sealed. The blood collection kit that he provided to the hospital was "new, unopened, and it was still within its expiration time period."

Corporal Fox observed the phlebotomist draw blood from appellant. After the blood was in the vials from the blood collection kit, the phlebotomist sealed the vials with integrity seals and signed the chain of custody form, which was admitted as State's Exhibit #14. This form contained the phlebotomist's signature, appellant's name, ...


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