Nazarian, Shaw Geter, JJ.
Michael Hall, Tywan Cummings, and Daquawn Lubin were tried
together and convicted in the Circuit Court for Prince
George's County of first-degree burglary, first-degree
assault, use of a firearm in a crime of violence, and related
offenses. All three challenge a variety of the court's
evidentiary decisions; Mr. Hall also contends that the trial
court erred by failing to merge multiple convictions for
conspiracy and denying his motion for mistrial, and Messrs.
Cummings and Lubin argue that the evidence was insufficient
to support their convictions. We hold that the trial court
erred when it precluded defense counsel from introducing
Raymond Clark's prior manslaughter conviction for
impeachment purposes and in prohibiting the defense from
cross-examining Mr. Clark and another witness about the
conviction and their possible motives to lie. And after
determining that the evidence was sufficient to convict
Messrs. Cummings and Lubin, we reverse and remand for further
March 28, 2015, Janise Ray and Mr. Clark returned by car to
their home in the Shady Side Garden Apartment Complex. They
were arguing on the drive and arrived around 7:00 PM. Mr.
Clark got out of the car first and headed to the apartment.
Ms. Ray stayed behind.
minutes later, Ms. Ray gathered all of the items in the
car-including her purse, a pizza, a two-liter bottle of soda,
and a brown bag that had been behind the passenger seat-and
walked to the apartment. Along the way, she saw two men
sitting on a bench, one of whom got up and walked in front of
her toward her building. The other man got up and walked
behind her, and then both men went down the stairs to the
lower-level apartments while Ms. Ray walked up the stairs
she got to top of the stairs, Ms. Ray turned around and saw
the two men standing behind her. They wore black ski masks
and held guns. The men motioned toward the door with the guns
and told Ms. Ray to go inside. As one of them opened the
door, the other pushed her inside and onto the couch. Ms. Ray
screamed for Mr. Clark and curled up in a ball.
Clark heard Ms. Ray's screams and ran into the living
room, where he saw several masked men brandishing guns. Mr.
Clark grabbed one of the men's arms and the two struggled
over the gun, and Mr. Clark ultimately wrestled it away.
Gunfire was exchanged, and one man (later identified as
Dexter Manigault) was shot and fell to the ground. Mr.
Manigault got back up, and he and the others made their way
out the door as more shots flew. Police later recovered
twenty shell casings from the apartment, as well as the gun
that Mr. Clark claimed that he had taken from one of the
Manigault was badly wounded from the gunfire, and he fell to
the ground in the apartment complex's courtyard. Krystal
Moon, a volunteer emergency medical technician who lived
nearby, offered to render first aid and called 911. But the
men ignored her offer and instead carried Mr. Manigault to a
black SUV, loaded him in the backseat, and drove to a nearby
fire station. They also dropped Mr. Cummings off at his home
on the way. Once at the fire station, the men got out of the
vehicle, and one yelled that "there was a guy shot from
an attempted robbery." Mr. Lubin fled and was later
apprehended by police. Mr. Manigault succumbed to his gunshot
wounds. The other three, Messrs. Cummings, Lubin, and Hall,
were arrested and tried together.
trial, Mr. Hall testified on his own behalf and Mr. Clark
testified for the State. Mr. Hall testified that there was no
attempted robbery, but that he and the other men went to the
apartment complex to buy drugs from Mr. Clark, whom Mr.
Manigault knew but the others did not. Mr. Clark was upset
because Mr. Manigault had brought a stranger to his house,
but Mr. Manigault "vouched" for Mr. Hall, and the
three of them went inside to complete the drug transaction.
The situation soured, though, when they made the exchange.
Mr. Manigault gave Mr. Clark $1,200, $800 of which was
counterfeit; in return, Mr. Clark handed Mr. Manigault a
brown paper bag that he slid into the waistband of his pants.
As Mr. Clark began counting the money, he realized some of it
was counterfeit and started shooting. Mr. Manigault fell to
the ground and fired back, and Mr. Hall began to run. But
after realizing that Mr. Manigault was on the ground, Mr.
Hall returned to help Mr. Manigault walk; this effort
ultimately failed because Mr. Manigault was too badly
wounded. Mr. Hall returned to the SUV and asked Mr. Lubin to
help him carry Mr. Manigault to the vehicle. They then drove
to a nearby fire station to get medical aid for Mr.
Manigault, but stopped before arriving to let Mr. Cummings
Mr. Clark testified, the State moved in limine to
preclude the defense from impeaching him with his prior
manslaughter conviction. Mr. Hall's attorney argued that
the conviction was relevant for impeachment and for evidence
of motive to fabricate a false story because Mr. Clark's
conviction prohibited him from possessing a gun, and thus Mr.
Clark had a motive to lie about the provenance of the guns
involved in the incident. The court ruled that the conviction
could not be used for impeachment because it was not an
infamous crime and did not bear on Mr. Clark's
credibility, and directed the defense to approach the bench
before asking about it. As Mr. Hall's counsel prepared to
ask Ms. Ray whether she knew that Mr. Clark was prohibited
from possessing a gun, he asked to approach the bench and was
told by the court that he could only ask Ms. Ray whether Mr.
Clark had a gun, not whether she knew he was prohibited from
having one. Later, when cross-examining Mr. Clark, Mr.
Hall's attorney attempted to question him about the fact
that he was prohibited from possessing a gun, and the court
precluded any questions on the subject. At the conclusion of
the jury trial, all three defendants were found guilty. This
timely appeal followed.
the contentions in this consolidated appeal overlap and
others are unique to each individual. Messrs. Cummings and Lubin contend that
the trial court erred by prohibiting the defense from using
Mr. Clark's prior conviction for manslaughter for
impeachment. Messrs. Hall and Cummings contend that the trial
court erred in prohibiting their attorneys from
cross-examining Ms. Ray and Mr. Clark about their common
motive to provide false testimony. Mr. Hall contends
separately that the trial court erred in permitting the State
to cross-examine him about his pre-arrest silence, refusing
to give a requested self-defense jury instruction, failing to
merge multiple convictions for conspiracy when the State only
offered proof of a single conspiracy, and denying his motion
for mistrial. Mr. Lubin contends that the trial court erred
by sentencing him for an offense for which he was not
convicted and complains as well that the evidence was not
sufficient to sustain his conviction. And Mr. Cummings
contends that the evidence was not sufficient to sustain his
conviction. As it turns out, we don't need to address all
of these contentions.
The Trial Court Erred When It Precluded The Defense From
Impeaching Mr. Clark's Credibility With His Manslaughter
three appellants contend, in slightly different ways, that
the trial court erred by precluding them from introducing Mr.
Clark's prior manslaughter conviction for impeachment
purposes. The State doesn't dispute that the court erred
in the way it characterized the conviction, but counters that
the issue is not preserved because Messrs. Cummings and Lubin
never joined in Mr. Hall's preliminary attempt to
introduce the conviction, nor did they object to the
court's ruling to exclude it. We hold that the issue is
preserved because the trial court's categorical
declaration that manslaughter is not an impeachable offense
served as a final ruling on the matter and that the error
compels us to reverse the convictions.
The defense preserved its objections.
Ms. Ray was cross-examined by the defense, and before Mr.
Clark testified, the State moved in limine to
exclude any reference to Mr. Clark's prior manslaughter
conviction. The State argued that the conviction should not
be admitted into evidence because it was not an impeachable
offense, and the court agreed:
[THE STATE]: I know there is a prior conviction but not
THE COURT: What is the prior conviction?
[THE STATE]: Manslaughter.
THE COURT: I think everyone probably is in agreement. If they
ask something that you feel is inappropriate, just object.
[THE STATE]: Yes. I'm addressing it now because I would
like to try to avoid the jury even hearing it.
[MR. HALL'S COUNSEL]: I do think in a way it is relevant
in that -- I think some of the evidence will show, it is
our theory that Mr. Clark actually had a firearm
there that evening. He is prohibited from possessing a
firearm because of the prior conviction. So to the extent
that is -- that was the point I was going to try to make as a
motive to lie about the firearm.
THE COURT: Even assuming all that is true, and I do. That is
neither an infamous crime, nor a crime that would bear on
credibility. The law says you can't do it. There is
nothing inherently evil or wrong about it.
[MR. HALL'S COUNSEL]: Our position is that is
why they are not saying that he used his weapon that evening.
That is why they are making up this version of events to
avoid responsibility for him admitting to having a firearm.
[THE STATE]: Again, I think that any mention of a prior
conviction that is not a crime that goes towards moral
turpitude or would be relevant for purposes of determining
[credibility] should be prohibited. They should be prevented
from mentioning it.
THE COURT: [Mr. Hall's counsel], if you feel it is
relevant, if you decide you will inquire. Obviously you
wouldn't be inquiring of this witness, would you, Ms.
[MR. HALL'S COUNSEL]: To the extent that I did think they
are agreeing to make up a version of events. She, obviously,
knows him and has known him for some time.
[THE COURT]: Ask to approach the bench before you ask any
questions and I will rule, okay?
[MR. HALL'S COUNSEL]: Okay.
the discussion of Mr. Clark's prior conviction, the State
re-called Ms. Ray. Mr. Hall's counsel was the first on
the defense side to cross-examine her, and, as instructed by
the court, asked to approach the bench before asking about