DIMONIQUE S. ANDERSON
STATE OF MARYLAND
Meredith, Berger, Thieme, Raymond A., Jr. (Retired, Specially Assigned), JJ.
A jury in the Circuit Court for Harford County convicted Dimonique S. Anderson, appellant, of robbery with a dangerous weapon, robbery, conspiracy to commit robbery, theft of property valued under $1, 000, and second degree assault. He presents the following question for our review:
Did the court err in precluding defense counsel from arguing that the jurors should put themselves or one of their family members in the place of the defendant in determining whether the State had met its burden of proof beyond [a reasonable doubt]?
Because we conclude that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in precluding that closing argument, we shall affirm appellant's convictions.
FACTS AND LEGAL PROCEEDINGS
In a six-day trial, the State presented evidence that appellant conspired to rob Austin Nierwinski and Noah Davis, who were fellow guests at a house party, then provided "the muscle" as his accomplices completed the crime. Because much of that evidence is not pertinent to the issue raised in this appeal, we shall summarize it briefly.
Nierwinski and Davis testified that during a June 8, 2012 party at the home of a high school acquaintance in Jarrettsville, they were accosted by a group of fellow guests, one of whom was appellant. There was evidence, including appellant's own statements, that Gino Abt, appellant, and several others were aware that before Nierwinski arrived at the party, he received cash as high school graduation gifts. A group led by Abt, who testified for the State, planned to steal the money, with appellant saying, "I got your back." Abt pulled a knife on Nierwinski and Davis, took the keys to Nierwinski's car, removed Nierwinski's wallet, and took $355 in cash that Nierwinski had received as graduation gifts. Although appellant admitted being present, he disputed the State's evidence that he knew about, encouraged, aided in, and received cash from the robbery.
Near the end of his closing argument, appellant's defense counsel made the following comments regarding the reasonable doubt standard, prompting the State to object:
[DEFENSE COUNSEL]: The State has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt. And is this reasonable doubt on any point? You decide. Again, if this in your mind you think well, maybe he's involved, State hasn't proven its case. Fairly convincing, State hasn't proven its case. Is there no reasonable doubt in your mind? That's the question. That's the question.
Anybody, anybody could be in that chair. Anybody in this courtroom. Would you feel as if justice were done i[f] your family member or you were in that chair based on this evidence?
[PROSECUTOR]: Objection, Your Honor.
In a bench conference, the prosecutor argued that defense counsel was improperly "personalizing the case, " comparing his argument to prohibited "golden rule" arguments asking jurors to put themselves or family ...