Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Fullwood v. State

Court of Special Appeals of Maryland

August 31, 2017

TAVON FULLWOOD
v.
STATE OF MARYLAND

         Circuit Court for Baltimore County Case No. 03K01001300 Hon. Ruth A. Jakubowski

          Meredith Friedman Raker, Irma S. (Senior Judge, specially assigned), JJ.

          OPINION [*]

          Raker, J.

         Tavon Fullwood, appellant, was convicted by a jury in the Circuit Court for Baltimore County on April 19, 2002, of attempted first-degree murder, first-degree rape, first-degree sexual offense, and attempted sodomy. In this post-conviction appeal, appellant presents one question for our review:

"Did the post-conviction court abuse its discretion in denying appellant's petition for post-conviction relief on the grounds that defense counsel did not provide ineffective assistance in failing to investigate and call an expert witness to testify regarding the evidence of sexual assault, and that this contention 'has been finally litigated on appeal?'"

         We shall hold that defense counsel's failure to investigate and call an expert witness to testify regarding the evidence of sexual assault did not constitute ineffective assistance and shall affirm the judgment.

         I.

         Appellant was convicted by a jury on April 19, 2002, in the Circuit Court for Baltimore County of attempted first-degree murder, first-degree rape, first-degree sexual offense, and attempted sodomy. The court sentenced appellant to a term of life imprisonment for the attempted murder; a consecutive term of life imprisonment for the rape, with the balance suspended; a concurrent term of life imprisonment for the sexual offense; and a concurrent term of ten years' imprisonment for the attempted sodomy. Appellant filed a timely appeal to the Court of Special Appeals which affirmed the conviction in an unreported opinion on June 7, 2004. Fullwood v. State, September Term 2002, No. 2197 (filed June 7, 2004). The Court of Appeals denied appellant's petition for writ of certiorari on September 21, 2004. On November 7, 2012, appellant filed a Petition for Post Conviction Relief. The State filed an Answer on December 3, 2013. Judge Ruth A. Jakubowski held the post-conviction hearing on December 19, 2013 and continued and concluded it on May 27, 2015. Judge Jakubowski denied the post-conviction Petition on September 3, 2015. Appellant filed a timely Application for Leave to Appeal and this Court granted appellant's Application on December 1, 2016.

         Because appellant is arguing in this appeal that his counsel provided ineffective assistance by failing to investigate and call an expert witness to testify regarding the evidence of sexual assault, we set out the relevant factual background: On March 15, 2001, at around 3:00 a.m., Baltimore County Police found Ms. Luzer at her apartment. Police responded to a call from residents of the apartment located below Ms. Luzer. The neighbor testified she heard screams, woke up her boyfriend, and then called the police. She heard window blinds moving and thought she saw a person's shadow drop from above and flee. The boyfriend also heard screaming but thinks he saw two shadows fall past the apartment. Officers found Ms. Luzer naked and face down on her bed. She was covered in blood and had been stabbed several times in the chest, torso, and arms. While waiting for an ambulance to arrive, an officer administered first aid to Ms. Luzer and asked if she had been sexually assaulted. She said no. A detective on the scene requested that the sexual assault forensic examiner collect evidence.

         Police discovered potential blood stains along the handrail of the outside hallway which led from Ms. Luzer's apartment building to the apartment building where appellant's cousin, Melvin Fullwood, sometimes resided with his girlfriend, Chantal Veanie, and their three-year-old daughter. A detective questioned residents who lived adjacent to the handrail, including Melvin, who answered the door at Veanie's apartment. Because Melvin's statement was inconsistent with that of other neighbors, the detective sought a search warrant for Veanie's apartment. Veanie later consented to the search, and both she and Melvin cooperated with police. Based on the information they gave, an arrest warrant for appellant was issued and appellant turned himself in to police headquarters. Melvin and appellant's account of the night differ. Melvin recounted being at Veanie's apartment with appellant. Both Melvin and Veanie recall that appellant had an angry conversation with someone on the telephone shortly after Veanie returned home at 11:30 p.m. with her daughter, then appellant left the apartment, and returned between 2:45 and 3:00 a.m. Melvin answered the door and appellant entered screaming and yelling about being in a fight with "some guys" and Melvin saw blood on his hands. According to Melvin, appellant showered upstairs, they argued, appellant left, returned, and left again. Veanie and Melvin testified they did not clean the upstairs bathroom.

         Soraya Sina, a Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner nurse (SAFE witness), testified that she examined Ms. Luzer in the Shock Trauma Unit.[1] The examination was interrupted when Ms. Luzer's blood pressure dropped and she had to be rushed to surgery. Ms. Sina later continued the examination where she determined, and later testified at trial, that Ms. Luzer had contusions, tears, and abrasions to her vagina; tears and swelling around her anus; and bruising, blood, and a small laceration three to four inches inside her vaginal cavity. There was some blood and tearing on her hymen, but it was intact. Ms. Sina also conducted a "pubic combing" in an effort to collect trace evidence or semen. There were no condoms at the scene and no semen was detected on any of the items tested.

         Appellant testified in his own defense at the trial. He admitted to being in Ms. Luzer's apartment on the night of the attack. Appellant testified that he was at Veanie's apartment with Melvin and, after Veanie fell asleep with her daughter, Melvin asked him to come with him to what turned out to be the victim's apartment. Appellant said that he followed Melvin into Ms. Luzer's apartment and waited in the living room while Melvin went back into Ms. Luzer's bedroom. Appellant then heard muffled noises and screams and when he entered the bedroom, he saw Melvin on top of Ms. Luzer's naked body. Melvin stabbed Ms. Luzer, appellant wrestled with him for the knife, and then Melvin left the apartment by jumping out of the window. Appellant testified that he went to the kitchen to call 911 but decided not to call because he was covered in blood. Appellant heard someone at the door and because he thought it might be the police he left through the same window as Melvin. Appellant went back to Veanie's apartment where Melvin was showering upstairs, they argued, Melvin gave appellant clothes to change into, and he left.

         DNA evidence from Ms. Luzer's apartment confirmed appellant's presence during the attack. No fingerprints were determined conclusively to belong to Melvin, although appellant testified that Melvin wore gloves. Multiple blood samples recovered from the upstairs bedroom of Veanie's apartment tested positive for Ms. Luzer's DNA. An empty can of Ajax cleaner was found in the upstairs bathroom by forensic examiners and they noticed a strong odor of cleaning solution as well.

         The State advanced a theory of the case with rape as the motive for the attack and the attempted murder an effort to get rid of the witness. At trial the defense did not challenge the occurrence of a sexual assault but focused its ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.