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Horton v. State

Court of Special Appeals of Maryland

January 28, 2016

RICKY HORTON
v.
STATE OF MARYLAND

Page 1003

         Appeal from the Circuit Court for Baltimore City, Videtta Brown, JUDGE.

         SUBMITTED BY: Deborah S. Richardson (Paul B. DeWolfe, Public Defender on the brief) all of Baltimore, MD, FOR APPELLANT.

         SUBMITTED BY: Gary E. O'Connor (Brian E. Frosh, Attorney General on the brief) all of Baltimore, MD, FOR APPELLEE.

          Meredith, Woodward, Wright, JJ.

          OPINION

Page 1004

         [226 Md.App. 385] Meredith, J.

         Following a jury trial in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City, Ricky Horton, appellant, was found guilty of a number of charges arising from two separate shooting incidents that took place on January 13, 2013. He was sentenced to two consecutive life terms, plus ninety years. In this appeal, appellant challenges two evidentiary rulings. He also asserts that the trial judge erred in failing to give one of his requested jury instructions, and erred in considering impermissible matters when imposing the sentences.

         QUESTIONS PRESENTED

         On appeal, appellant asks this Court to review the following questions, which we have reordered:

1. Did the trial court err in allowing into evidence Tia Grannison's prior consistent statement?
2. Did the trial court err in allowing the prosecutor to impermissibly cross-examine appellant?
3. Did the trial court err in refusing to propound a jury instruction on the testimony of an accomplice?
4. Did the trial court rely on an impermissible sentencing consideration?

         For the reasons stated herein, we perceive no reversible error, and affirm the judgments of the Circuit Court for Baltimore City.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         In the early morning hours of January 13, 2013, two couples -- Sean Rhodes and his girlfriend, Shanelle Hopkins, along [226 Md.App. 386] with Rudy Hyman and his girlfriend, Joy Darden -- were at an after-hours club in Baltimore City called 007s. When the group left that club, they went to another after-hours club on North Avenue called Rasta's.

         This foursome was unaware that they had been noticed by the appellant and his group while they were at 007s. Appellant was also visiting clubs during the early morning in question. Appellant's group included some unnamed associates and Tia Grannison, a woman with whom he had a relationship. According to the testimony of Grannison, appellant spotted Sean Rhodes at 007s and expressed his belief that Rhodes had, at some earlier time, shot one of appellant's friends.

         Appellant and his group followed Sean Rhodes's group to Rasta's. When the Rhodes group left Rasta's, appellant walked up to Rhodes as he was getting into his car, and shot him in the head at close range. Rudy Hyman stepped in front of his sister -- Shanelle Hopkins -- and Hyman was then also shot.

         The evidence reflected that, at the time of the shootings, Tia Grannison and another associate of appellant's were sitting in the car her group had taken to Rasta's. After the shots were fired, appellant ran back to the car. Grannison shouted to her co-occupant: " open the door," and appellant and his friend then entered the back seat of the car, with Grannison seated in the middle of them. The car traveled a few blocks, and stopped in an alley. Appellant ordered everyone out of the car. Appellant announced: " If you are not a Blood then you've got to die." He then shot Grannison in the stomach and face. She played dead, and he fled. But she lived, and testified for the prosecution at appellant's trial.

Page 1005

          Grannison testified that, on January 13, 2013, she went to 007s with the appellant, whom she knew as " Purple." She and appellant had known each other for " a month or two," and had a relationship she described as " friendly" and " somewhat" romantic. Once they arrived at 007s, appellant met up with some of his friends, whose names Grannison once knew but [226 Md.App. 387] she claimed to have forgotten by the time of trial. Grannison first saw Sean Rhodes outside of 007s, while she was sitting in a car with appellant and his friends. She heard appellant say that Sean Rhodes had shot appellant's friend, and appellant said he wanted to shoot Sean Rhodes.

         Appellant and his group followed the Rhodes group to Rasta's. Appellant drove and parked around the corner from the club. Appellant and one of his friends got out of the car. Grannison described what happened next:

Q. [BY THE STATE]: Did you hear any gunshots?
A. [BY TIA GRANNISON]: Yes.
Q. Do you know how many?
A. No.
Q. What, if anything, happened next?
A. Then they came back to the car.
Q. Who's they?
A. Purple and his friend.
Q. And then what happened?
A. He got in the back seat and the other boy got in the other side.
Q. And where were you seated?
A. In the middle.
Q. And then what, if anything, happened?
A. And then they pulled off.
Q. Do you know where they went?
A. I'm not sure of the street name.
Q. Did it take a while to get there, if you know?
A. No.
Q. Then what happened?
A. Then he said, Come on. Everybody go get in my car.
Q. Whose car was he referring to, if you know?
A. His car, Purple's car.
[226 Md.App. 388] Q. The car that he came to North Avenue with was not his car?
A. No.
Q. And then what happened?
A. He waited until they pulled off and then --
Q. Are you all right?
A. Mm-hmm. He waited until they pulled off and he said, if you're not --
Q. Did you get out?
A. Yeah.
Q. Who got out with you?
A. Purple and this other boy.
* * *
Q. Ms. Grannison, can you just tell us what you heard from Purple?
A. He said, um, leave no witnesses to the scene if you're not a Blood. If you're not a Blood then you've got to die.
Q. And then what happened?
A. And then he shot me.
Q. Where did he shoot you?
A. In my stomach and my face.
Q. Is that all? What happened next?
A. I mean, he was going to shoot me again, but I guess the gun got jammed --
[BY APPELLANT'S COUNSEL]: Objection.
[BY THE COURT]: Overruled.
[BY TIA GRANNISON]: -- and -- the gun got jammed and he ran. I laid there like I was dead. I got up and ran the other way. I ran on somebody's

Page 1006

door and I fell on their, I fell in their doorway.
[BY THE STATE]: And then what happened?
A. I don't remember.
[226 Md.App. 389] Q. Do you remember telling anybody at the hospital who did this to you?
A. I think it was the police.
Q. And what did you say?
[BY APPELLANT'S COUNSEL]: Objection.
[BY THE COURT]: Overruled.
[BY TIA GRANNISON]: I told them Purple shot me.

         Grannison identified appellant as her assailant when the police interviewed her at the hospital on January 16. Although her jaw was wired shut and she could not speak, she was able to put an " X" next to appellant's photo in a photo array presented to her by detectives. On February 6, after her discharge from Shock Trauma, she gave police a recorded statement identifying appellant as the person who shot her. She also identified him in open court, and pointed him out for the jury in surveillance video from a local business. Grannison was consistent in stating that appellant was the person who shot her.

         Appellant testified in his defense at trial. He agreed that he had been in a group partying and clubbing that night, and that he had been at 007s and Rasta's. He agreed that it was him depicted in the surveillance footage from which Grannison identified him. But he denied knowing Sean Rhodes or Rudy Hyman, and claimed that, when they were shot, he was standing on the sidewalk, smoking a cigarette. He testified that he heard the gunshots and ran back to the car where Grannison was waiting. He also claimed to know nothing about how Tia Grannison ended up getting shot. He gave this account of what took place when he and his group were outside Rasta's, near the intersection of North Avenue and Smallwood Street:

[BY APPELLANT]: I was standing on North Avenue and Smallwood Bottle Bar [sic], smoking a cigarette, taking a cigarette break and I heard gun shots. And when I heard [226 Md.App. 390] gun shots I got scared and I ran to the car and jumped in the car.
* * *
Me and my friend, we ran back to the car and we jumped in the car. And then we left. And as I left, as we left it was just enough for me that night, it was just too much that night, gun shots, partying and all that, and I wanted to leave and I just told dudes to drop me off where my car was at, and that's where I got dropped off and I left. And I left Tia with them guys because Tia wanted to, basically they was going to give Tia a ride home.

         The jury convicted appellant of first-degree murder of Sean Rhodes; using a firearm in the commission of a crime of violence; wearing, carrying, or transporting a handgun; conspiracy to murder Sean Rhodes; first-degree assault of Rudy Hyman; using a firearm in the commission of that crime; wearing, carrying, or transporting a handgun, as to the assault on Mr. Hyman; attempted murder of Tia Grannison; using a firearm in the commission of that crime; and wearing, carrying, or transporting a firearm in the commission of that crime. It had also been stipulated that appellant was prohibited from being in possession of a firearm, and he was found guilty of being a prohibited person in possession.

         On April 14, 2014, the court sentenced appellant to two consecutive life sentences, plus ninety years. This appeal followed.

Page 1007

         DISCUSSION

         I. Tia Grannison's prior consistent statement

         Appellant contends that the trial court erred in permitting the prosecutor to play for the jury a recording of the investigating officers' February 6 interview of Tia Grannison. The recording was played, over appellant's objection, during the State's redirect examination of Grannison. Leading up to the trial court's ruling that the recording could be played, the following transpired.

          [226 Md.App. 391] On direct examination during the State's case, Tia Grannison testified to the following: she was with her friend " Purple" -- i.e., appellant -- during the early morning hours of January 13; some friends of Purple's whose names she did not recall at the time of trial were also with them; she overheard Purple say that Sean Rhodes had shot Purple's friend, and Purple therefore wanted to shoot Sean Rhodes; the whole group with Purple followed Sean Rhodes's group to Rasta's, and Purple and one of his friends then exited the car; she then heard gunshots; Purple and his friend ran to, and reentered, the car; the group then drove to an alley; the other men left; Purple turned to Grannison and said, " Leave no witnesses to the scene if you're not a Blood. If you're not a Blood then you've got to die" ; and Purple then shot her in the face and stomach and ran away.

         She testified that she was interviewed by police on January 16, while she was still in the hospital with her jaw wired shut. She was nevertheless able to identify appellant from a photo array on that date. The photo array procedure was videotaped, and the videotape and the photo array were both admitted into evidence, without objection. The State also played surveillance video from a business near the shootings of Rhodes and Hyman, and Grannison pointed out for the jury the vehicle in which she and Purple and his friends arrived at Rasta's, and, in a later clip, she pointed out appellant falling down trying to get back in the car after she heard gunshots.

         Appellant's counsel began cross-examination byquestioning Ms. Grannison about the recorded statement she gave police on February 6 -- the same statement which he argues on appeal, should not have been admitted into evidence.[1] Appellant's cross-examination included questions that suggested Grannison was not telling the complete truth about the extent of her prior knowledge of, and participation in, the shootings [226 Md.App. 392] of Sean Rhodes and Rudy Hyman. The questions suggested that she was not being totally forthcoming regarding the identities of appellant's associates who were present on the evening of the shooting, and further suggested that, in light of the fact that she had never been charged with any crime, Grannison may have been promised some deal in return for her testimony against appellant. A representative excerpt of the cross-examination of Grannison is as follows:

[BY APPELLANT'S COUNSEL]: All right. Ma'am, you were interviewed by Detective Robert Ross on February 7, 2013, [sic] correct?
[BY TIA GRANNISON]: Yes.
Q. And your memory was better at that time, when it was closer to the incident, wasn't it?
A. Yes.

Page 1008

Q. Ma'am, isn't it true that at the time you gave the statement to Detective Ross you said you never saw Purple shoot anybody?
A. Yes, I said I didn't see him shoot anybody.
Q. Okay. So then what you said on direct examination, that you saw Purple shoot the guy is not true, correct?
[BY THE STATE]: Objection.
[BY TIA GRANNISON]: I didn't say that.[2]
[BY THE COURT]: That's answered.
[BY APPELLANT'S COUNSEL]: You said Purple shot him, right?
[BY TIA GRANNISON]: Yes.
Q. You didn't see him shoot him, correct?
A. Mm-hmm.
* * *
Q. So you were parked, actually, around the corner from where Rasta's was, correct?
[226 Md.App. 393] A. Yes.
Q. All right, and then the person that we see running back to the car and slipping, that you say is Purple, that's at 5:51, correct?
A. Yes.
Q. Okay. So between 5:26 and 5:51 the car had turned around and you were sitting in the car, right?
A. Yes.
Q. And it was you and one other boy, correct?
A. And there was another boy in the front.
Q. Okay so there were two in the car with you and two had gotten out, correct?
A. Yes.
Q. And there was also another car that was with you, isn't that correct? That's what you told Detective Ross?
A. Yes.
Q. You told Detective Ross there was another car, and that was the car that was behind you, right?
A. I think --
Q. You have to answer.
A. I think so.
Q. Okay. And, in fact, there was a third car, isn't that correct? The one that was parked across the street, on the corner?
A. The little gold car?
Q. The little gold car.
A. I'm not sure if it was with us.
Q. Okay, well, what time did you ...

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