United States District Court, D. Maryland
William M. Nickerson, Senior United States District Judge
matter is before the Court for consideration of Petitioner
Danny Eugene Thompson's Petition for Writ of Habeas
Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §2254. ECF 1. Respondents
have filed an Answer opposing the petition (ECF 5) and
Thompson has filed a Reply (ECF 6). The Court finds no need
for an evidentiary hearing. See Rule 8(a), Rules
Governing Section 2254 Cases in the United States District
Courts and Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2016); see also
Fisher v. Lee, 215 F.3d 438, 455 (4th Cir. 2000)
(petitioner not entitled to a hearing under 28 U.S.C.
§2254(e)(2)). For the reasons that follow, the Petition
shall be denied and a Certificate of Appealability shall not
was convicted of the felony-murder of Carlos Santay in the
Circuit Court for Baltimore County, following a jury trial.
The issue of whether Thompson killed Santay was undisputed;
rather, the trial centered around whether Thompson killed
Santay during the course of robbing him, supporting a
conviction for first-degree felony-murder, or he simply
panicked and killed Santay without intent, supporting a
conviction for second-degree murder or manslaughter.
girlfriend, Claudia Salas, testified that on the day Santay
was killed, May 10, 2008, she was pregnant and in labor with
their first child. She stated that Santay was planning to
drive her to the hospital and left at approximately 4:00
p.m., to put gas in the car at a gas station approximately 2
blocks from their home. She confirmed that Santay had over
500 dollars in his wallet when he left. When he did not
return home, she was transported to the hospital via
ambulance, gave birth to her child the following morning at
3:39 a.m.; and learned of Santay's death at 5:00 a.m.
Salas also identified a wallet and its contents, presented as
evidence in court, as belonging to Santay. ECF 5 at Ex. 2,
pp. 72 - 83. On cross-examination, Salas confirmed that when
Santay's belongings were returned by the police, all of
the cash he had in his wallet was also returned. ECF 5 at Ex.
2, pp. 83 - 84.
Ripple, the medical examiner who performed the autopsy on
Santay, testified that Santay suffered five stab wounds, two
to his chest, two to his arm, and one to the top of his head;
and six smaller cutting wounds, five to his left arm and one
to his right hand. ECF 5 at Ex. 2, p. 96. She further
testified that the wounds were inflicted by a single edged
weapon such as a knife and that the two most serious wounds
were the stab wounds to his chest. Id. at pp. 100 -
101. One stab wound to the front of Santay's chest hit
his heart and the second wound entered his chest cavity and
nicked his lung, causing it to collapse. Id. at pp.
101 - 103. Dr. Ripple further testified that there was
approximately one liter of blood in Santay's chest and
that the wound to his heart filled the sack around his heart
with blood, making it progressively difficult for his heart
to beat due to the pressure of the blood. Id. at pp.
111 - 19.
Ripple described some of the injuries on Santay's arms
and hands as “defensive wounds” during her direct
testimony, but admitted she could not determine how Santay
was positioned in relation to his assailant. Id. at
p. 111. On cross-examination, Dr. Ripple admitted that some
of the wounds on Santay's hand and face could have been
the result of a “terminal collapse” which she
described as a fall that occurs when a person is either
wounded so badly or so ill that they can no longer stand.
Id. at p. 126 - 27. Further, Dr. Ripple admitted
under cross-examination that some of her explanations as to
how Santay incurred some of the “defensive
wounds” could not be derived from her examination of
the body. Id. at pp. 123 - 24.
Stokes (ECF 5 at Ex. 2, pp. 131 - 153; 155 - 167) and Nicole
Harris (ECF 5 at Ex. 2, pp. 169 - 90; Ex. 3, pp. 5 - 37)
testified for the State. Stokes and Harris drove into the gas
station where Santay and Thompson were. Stokes testified that
she got out of her car, leaving the three passengers in it,
one of whom was Harris. ECF 5 at Ex. 2, pp. 131 - 33. She
stated that upon approaching the cashier's booth she saw
a “commotion” between two men, like they were
fighting, but at first thought nothing of it. Id.
Upon moving within approximately 10 to 15 feet of the affray,
Stokes said she saw more of what was going on and heard
Thompson saying “give it to me, just give it to
me” and Santay replying, “you are not getting
this.” Id. at p. 139. Stokes then saw the
knife in Thompson's hand and saw that Thompson was
stabbing Santay. Id. According to Stokes's
testimony, the assault lasted five to six minutes and
Thompson was holding onto something Santay was holding in his
hand. Id. at p. 143. Thompson then ran across
Baltimore National Pike, the road where the Carroll Gas
Station was located. Id. at p. 147.
cross-examination, Stokes admitted that she did not include
in her written statement to the police that she had heard
words exchanged between Santay and Thompson. Id. at
pp. 157, 161. Stokes confirmed that the words she heard
spoken by Santay were in English. Id. at p. 164.
testified that after leaving the car, Stokes returned
“hysterical” and told them “he is stabbing
him.” ECF 5 at Ex. 2, pp. 172 - 74. Harris then looked
and saw two men, one of whom was wearing a tan hooded
sweatshirt and whose arm was moving in a stabbing motion.
Id. at p. 175. She further testified that when
Thompson, the man she saw in the tan sweatshirt, was running
across the road he dropped something, turned to pick it up,
appeared to change his mind, left the item there, and
continued to run away. Id. at p. 180. Harris told
police about the dropped item when they arrived on the scene.
Id. at pp. 189 - 90. On cross-examination, Harris
confirmed that she saw Santay holding his wallet after
Thompson had fled the scene. ECF 5 at Ex. 3, p. 24.
Utley testified for the State and explained he was driving
down Baltimore National Pike when he saw a man running across
the highway, ducking in and out of cars on the road. ECF 5 at
Ex. 3, pp. 39 - 45; p. 41. He pulled into the gas station and
ran over to Santay, who he described as an Hispanic male
standing near the cashier's booth, clutching his chest.
Id. at p. 42. Utley testified that he was attempting
to render assistance to Santay, but did not know what had
occurred or how he was injured. Id. He described the
women who were also there, among them Stokes and Harris, as
screaming hysterically and not making sense. Id. at
p. 43. Utley then noticed there was blood on his hands as he
was attempting to keep Santay on his feet and reassuring him
that help was on the way. Id. at p. 44. He stated
that someone else came over to assist Santay and confirmed on
cross-examination that the person who assisted was
Congressman Elijah Cummings. Id. at pp. 45 and 54.
Utley stated during redirect that Cummings had taken a phone
from one of the women, gave their location, and gave the
phone back. Id. at pp. 64 - 65. Both Stokes and
Harris stated during their testimony that they had been
angered by news reports during which Cummings had stated he
had been on the scene and tried to render assistance because
neither of them recalled he was there. ECF 5 at Ex. 2, pp.
167 - 68; Ex. 3, p. 33.
Robinson, the first uniformed police officer to respond to
the scene, testified for the State. ECF 5 at Ex. 3, pp. 66 -
73. Robinson rendered first aid to Santay and described him
as covered in blood, gasping for air, and unable to
communicate Id. at pp. 68 - 69. After the paramedics
arrived, Robinson spoke with the bystanders at the scene and
was directed by Nicole Harris to the area of the sidewalk
where Thompson had dropped something. Id. at p. 70.
Robinson retrieved the item, later described as a piece of
Santay's wallet, and moved it to the hood of the police
car in order to preserve it. Id. at pp. 70 - 71; 83.
Matthew Walsh was the primary homicide detective assigned to
investigate Santay's death and also testified for the
State. ECF 5 at Ex. 3, pp. 130 - 177; Ex. 4, pp. 4- 5. He
testified that Thompson was developed as a suspect following
retrieval of surveillance video from a pawn shop located in
the shopping center across the street from the gas station
and interviews with two people who identified Thompson from
still photographs taken from the video. Id. at pp.
138 - 40. Thompson was arrested on May 15, 2008, following a
search of his house, located three-quarters of a mile from
the crime scene. Id. at pp. 140 - 42. Walsh
described Thompson's demeanor as upset and visibly
shaken. Id. at p. 143; see also Ex. 4, pp.
7 - 28 (cross-examination). After Thompson was advised of his
rights, he confessed to the crime.
confession Thompson explained he went to the gas station to
sell music CDs he had made and was standing by the
cashier's booth. ECF 5 at Ex. 3, p. 158. When Santay
walked to the booth, Thompson asked him if he wanted to buy a
CD and Santay declined. Id. Santay then removed his
wallet to pre-pay for gas and Thompson stated he saw a lot of
twenty-dollar bills inside his wallet. Id. He
claimed that this angered him because he was broke and he
grabbed the wallet. Id. When Santay would not let go
of the wallet a struggle ensued and Thompson stated that he
remembered he had a knife so he removed the knife and stabbed
Santay several times. Id. Thompson's confession
was video recorded and the statements he made when Walsh and
his partner drove him to the scene in an effort to locate the
knife were audio recorded; the video and audio records were
played for the jury. Id. at pp. 167 - 174.
cross-examination of Walsh it was established that Thompson
had told police that Santay would not let him go during the
struggle. ECF 5 at Ex. 4, pp. 5 - 6. It was further developed
that Thompson was in tenth grade, enrolled in special
education classes, and had never been arrested prior to this
incident. Id. at pp. 7 - 8. Walsh also agreed that
Thompson was at times during his interview crying so hard his
speech could not be understood and that he had told Walsh he
had prayed for Santay following the incident. Id. at
pp. 13; 16 - 18; 23. Walsh also related that Thompson found
out that Santay died from his injuries the day before his
arrest. Id. at p. 24. Defense counsel established
through cross-examination of Walsh that Thompson was
cooperative with police and that he had never been identified
by witnesses at the scene as the person who committed the
crime. Id. at pp. 5 - 28.
Walsh's testimony the State rested its
case. ECF 5 at Ex. 4, p. 37. Defense counsel
moved for judgment of acquittal on the charges of first
degree murder and felony murder. Id. at pp. 40 - 51.
With respect to the felony-murder count, counsel argued that
the evidence, viewed in a light most favorable to the State,
did not legally support robbery with a deadly weapon.
Id. at pp. 43 - 50. Rather, she argued that there
was no specific intent to commit robbery in this case because
Thompson did not use the knife to threaten Santay prior to
grabbing his wallet, making the case more akin to a
“snatching” case. Id. at p. 45 - 46. Had
Thompson intended to rob Santay, in defense counsel's
view, he would have brandished the knife he had with him
first or in concert with the course of conduct to obtain the
property. Id. at pp. 47 - 48. She further argued
that this case was a snatching that only escalated due to
Thompson's desire to get away from Santay because he
would not let Thompson go. Id. at p. 49. Counsel
offered her view that the evidence provided at trial showed
that Santay not only resisted Thompson's effort to take
his wallet, but also held onto Thompson because he wanted
“this person caught.” Id. at p. 46.
Counsel relied on West v. State, 312 Md. 197, 539
A.2d 231 (1988) for the proposition that snatching property
where there is asportation of the property without force or
threat of force, is not robbery. Id. at p. 45.
rebuttal, the State agreed that the crime began as a
snatching of Santay's wallet, but it did not end that
way. Id. at pp. 51 - 53. The State relied on
Thompson's statement to the police that he thought about
the knife and “as soon as [he] remembered [he] had it .
. . [he] went for it and used it” to support a finding
of premeditation in support of first degree murder.
Id. at p. 52. The State also agreed that the
West decision was instructive as it held that where
a victim of a snatching resists, no matter how slight, the
offense is robbery. Id. The asportation element of
robbery, according to the State, was supported in this case
by the evidence that Santay's wallet was torn into two
pieces. Id. at p. 53.
denying the motion for judgment of acquittal the trial court
noted that the evidence was sufficient for all counts to go
to the jury and that the issues raised by defense counsel
were questions of fact for the jury. ECF 5 at Ex. 4, p. 53.
Upon renewal of the motion, the trial court observed that
defense counsel's theory of the case would require the
jury “to disregard the testimony of the witnesses who
indicated that there was a discussion between Santay and
Thompson.” Id. at p. 58. The trial court again
indicated that it was for the jury to decide whether the
witness who said she heard the two men exchanging words
actually heard those statements. Id.
waived his right to testify in his own defense. Id.
at p. 56. The defense presented no further evidence.
Id. at pp. 57 and 60.
jury was instructed as follows regarding attempted robbery
with a dangerous weapon and robbery with a deadly weapon:
In order to convict the Defendant of attempted robbery with a
dangerous weapon, the State must prove all of the elements of
robbery and must also prove that the Defendant committed the
robbery by using a dangerous weapon.
Robbery is the taking and carrying away of the property from
someone else by force or threat of force with the intent to
deprive the victim of the property. In order to convict the
Defendant of robbery, the State must prove theft, that is,
that the Defendant took the property by force or threat of
force, and that the Defendant intended to deprive the victim
of the property.
If there is any injury to the person of the owner in the
taking of the property or if he resists the attempt to rob
him and his resistance is overcome, there is sufficient
violence to make the taking robbery however slight the
resistance. In other words, sufficient force must be used to
overcome resistance and the mere force that is required to
take possession when there is no resistance is not enough.
Attempt. Attempt is a substantial step beyond mere
preparation toward the commission of a crime. In order to
convict the Defendant of attempted robbery with a dangerous
weapon, the State must prove that the Defendant took a
substantial step beyond mere preparation toward the
commission of the crime of robbery with a dangerous weapon
and that the Defendant intended to commit the crime of
robbery with a dangerous weapon.
In order to convict the Defendant of robbery with a dangerous
weapon the State must prove all of the elements of robbery
and must also prove that the Defendant committed the robbery
by using a dangerous weapon.
In order to convict the Defendant of first degree felony
murder the State must prove that the Defendant attempted to
commit the felony of robbery with a dangerous weapon, that
the Defendant killed the victim and that the act resulting in
the death of the victim occurred during the attempted