Court for Montgomery County REPORTED Case No. 128270
Nazarian, Friedman, Harrell, Glenn T., Jr. (Senior Judge,
breaking into a house in Silver Spring, Ibrahim Brown injured
his hand and left a smudge of blood on the inside of a
basement window. The police investigating the case sent a
sample of the blood for comparison against the FBI's DNA
database. Mr. Brown's blood sample matched two records of
Mr. Brown's DNA from samples collected in Washington,
D.C. The D.C. samples were collected legally under District
law, but their collection would not have complied with the
Maryland DNA Collection Act (the "Act") if
Brown was tried in a bench trial in the Circuit Court for
Montgomery County and convicted of first-degree burglary and
theft. He argues on appeal that DNA samples that would be
illegal if collected in Maryland should be excluded under the
Act, even if they were collected legally in another
jurisdiction. He contends as well that the evidence was
insufficient to support his convictions. We disagree with
both sets of arguments and affirm.
Holleyman returned to his home in Silver Spring on August 16,
2014 to discover that his home had been burgled. He noticed
that his basement window had been opened and that there was a
smudge of blood on the inside of the window. He testified at
trial that approximately $12, 000 of belongings had been
stolen, including a bicycle he kept in the basement. He
testified as well that the deadbolt on the exterior door of
the basement, which he always left in the locked position,
was unlocked when he returned home that evening.
police officers came to the house in response to Mr.
Holleyman's 911 call. They took a sample of the blood
smudged on the inside of the opened basement window. They
cross-checked the sample against the FBI's DNA database,
known as "CODIS" (the Combined DNA Index System).
CODIS came back with two matches, both of which pointed to
Mr. Brown. Both of the CODIS samples the window smudge
matched had been collected in the District of Columbia: one
for a prior conviction for misdemeanor sexual assault, the
other from a separate investigation of first-degree sexual
assault for which no charges were filed. Based on the match
between the window smudge and the CODIS hits, the State
obtained a warrant to take a buccal swab from Mr. Brown. The
DNA from the swab matched the blood smudged on the window.
October 22, 2015, the State indicted Mr. Brown on charges of
first-degree burglary and theft between $1, 000 and $10, 000.
On April 20, 2016, Mr. Brown filed a motion in
limine to exclude all DNA evidence at trial. On May 13,
2016, the circuit court heard Mr. Brown's motion. He
argued that because neither of the biologic samples
underlying the CODIS DNA matches would have been eligible for
collection and use under the Act had the alleged crimes
occurred in Maryland, they could not form probable cause to
take the buccal swab. The circuit court denied Mr.
Brown's motion on May 19, 2016.
circuit court conducted a bench trial on May 31 and June 1,
2016. Mr. Brown testified on his own behalf that he went to
the Silver Spring house with an acquaintance after agreeing
to "check [the house] out" in exchange for
marijuana. He testified that he opened the basement window,
got his fingers caught between the inside and outside windows
(which caused him to bleed onto the window), but managed to
pry his hand free and close the window. He denied entering
the house or stealing property. He claimed to have implored
his partner to leave with him instead of entering the house,
and then left.
circuit court announced its findings and verdict from the
bench on June 9, 2016. The court found the prosecution's
witnesses (the two officers who responded to Holleyman's
initial call, one of whom had specialized forensic training)
a police fingerprint examiner, the detective assigned to the
case, and two analysts from the DNA lab that analyzed Mr.
Brown's DNA swabs) to be "very credible" and
Mr. Brown to be "substantially less credible." The
court stated that it did not believe Mr. Brown's
testimony that he did not enter the home and was only there
to "check out" the home. The court also found that
Mr. Brown had entered the house with an intent to steal:
[T]he defendant was inside the home in part at least for the
upper part of his body to the point where he could have
grabbed the . . . wall inside. I am persuaded beyond a
reasonable doubt that by having made the arrangement that he
did with [his accomplice], by having looked inside the home,
by having seen a bicycle and because of all of the evidence
generally that h[is] inten[t], was in fact to ste[a]l.
trial court's findings included two comments about Mr.
Brown seeing a bicycle in the house from outside of the
breached window, and one comment about Mr. Brown testifying
about seeing the bicycle from outside of the house. But
although Mr. Brown did say at one point that he "took a
couple of looks [into the window] to see if anybody was in
there and it was real dark, " at no point during the
trial did he actually testify to having seen a bicycle.
announcing the verdict, the court expressed doubt that Mr.
Brown was the person who actually removed the stolen items
from the house. But the court explained that even if he
didn't physically remove the items from the house, he
still was liable as an accomplice:
[T]he defense claimed that the defendant closed the window. .
We went back and listened very carefully to the testimony.
That was not the case from what I could tell. My
understanding is what happened outside on the street is what
I've already said. That [Mr. Brown] told [his accomplice]
that the window was open.
. . . I don't think the defendant did enough to eliminate
himself from the criminal venture to have avoided ...