Court for Anne Arundel County Case No. C-02-CR-15-33
Graeff, Berger, Krauser, Peter B. (Senior Judge, Specially
a jury trial in the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County,
appellant David Leander Ford ("Ford") was convicted
of second degree murder and was sentenced to twenty-five
years in prison with all but twenty years suspended. The
circuit court further ordered that Ford be placed on
probation for five years following his release.
appeal, Ford raises four questions for our review, which we
have rephrased as follows:
1. Whether the circuit court erred in denying Ford's
motion to suppress his statements to police.
2. Whether the circuit court abused its discretion in
allowing the State's witnesses to testify regarding the
victim's character for peacefulness.
3. Whether the circuit court erred or abused its discretion
in allowing a State's witness to testify regarding
Ford's reaction to being told that he had to leave her
4. Whether the circuit court abused its discretion in
limiting Ford's cross-examination of a State's
reasons stated herein, we shall affirm.
forth the facts in the light most favorable to the prevailing
party below. On the evening of July 8, 2015, Mohamed Eltahir
("Eltahir") was sitting on a park bench with
Everett Kane ("Kane"). Ford arrived holding some
grocery bags, which he put down at the end of the walkway
before sitting on the bench with Eltahir and Kane. Eltahir
and Kane were drinking alcohol, but Kane testified that
Eltahir did not appear to be drunk. Barbara McQueen
("McQueen") and her friend, Kathy, were sitting on
women walked by the bench where Ford was sitting, and Ford
made a lewd comment about Eltahir's sister. An argument
ensued and quickly escalated. Ford hit Eltahir first, and
Eltahir struck back. At some point during the altercation,
Ford drew a knife and stabbed Eltahir in the chest. Ford
asked Kane to grab his bags, and the two of them fled the
scene. Although Ford had a cut on his arm, nobody had seen
Eltahir use a knife, and there was no evidence that Eltahir
was in possession of a knife. Eltahir died from the wound in
his chest inflicted by Ford.
Ford went to the house of Sheila Brown ("Brown"),
his former girlfriend, to avoid the police. Brown let him
stay the night, but the next morning she told him to leave.
Ford cursed her and left, slamming the front door. When he
exited the building, he was tackled by police in the front
Ford was arrested, he was placed in the unmarked vehicle of
Detective William Ballard ("Detective Ballard").
Detective Ballard did not ask Ford any questions about the
reasons for his arrest. As detectives approached Brown's
residence, Ford said that "they had nothing to do with
this, " that the detectives were "not going to find
anything, " and that he "hid the knife in the
county." When Ford told Detective Ballard that he had
not eaten and that he had low blood sugar, Detective Ballard
stopped to get Ford some food. Later, Ford began to talk
about the incident again, saying, "[h]e cut me, "
at which point Detective Ballard advised Ford of his
Miranda rights. Ford did not say anything else to
Ballard took Ford to an interrogation room at the Criminal
Investigation Division ("CID"). Ford was left in
the room, where he ate his breakfast and fell asleep. One
hour and nine minutes later, Detective Kelly Harding
("Detective Harding") and Detective Jason McNemar
("Detective McNemar") entered the room. Ford told
the detectives that he was cold, and they turned down the
air-conditioning. When Detective Harding asked Ford about the
cut on his arm, he told her that he needed stitches.
Detective Harding read Ford his Miranda rights and
began to question him. At one point, Ford told the detectives
that he is "schizophrenic with bipolar, seizures, and
everything" and that he had not taken his medication.
The detectives also learned that Ford had not taken his
medication for diabetes in a couple of days. Ford made a
number of incriminating statements to Detectives Harding and
McNemar. Indeed, Ford exclaimed, "Lord, forgive me for
what I've done, help me." Recounting the altercation
with Eltahir, Ford said, "That's when I told him,
'You done messed up, ' and I cut him." Ford also
told the detectives where he hid the knife.
shall set forth additional facts as necessitated by our
discussion of the issues on appeal.
The Circuit Court Did Not Err In Admitting Ford's
Statements to Police.
argues that the statements he made in custody were
involuntary due to his "weakened and distressed mental
and physical state." Ford further contends that the
confession he made during his interrogation at CID was
improperly induced in exchange for medical treatment.
Although Ford waived his Miranda rights, Ford claims
that his waiver was neither knowing nor voluntary. Based on
our review of the record, we hold that Ford spoke voluntarily
to the police at all times and that the waiver of his
Miranda rights was knowing and voluntary.
reviewing the denial of a motion to suppress evidence,
"we confine ourselves to what occurred at the
suppression hearing, " which we view "in a light
most favorable to the prevailing party on the motion."
Lee v. State, 418 Md. 136, 148 (2011); see also
Daniels v. State, 172 Md.App. 75, 87 (2006). Although we
defer to the trial court's factual findings "unless
they are shown to be clearly erroneous, " we will
undertake "our own independent constitutional appraisal,
by reviewing the relevant law and applying it to the facts
and circumstances of this case." Id. at 148-49.
The constitutional question of voluntariness is a mixed
question of law and fact and, therefore, subject to de
novo review on appeal. Smith v. State, 220
Md.App. 256, 272 (2014); see also State v. Tolbert,
381 Md. 539, 557 (citing Winder v. State, 362 Md.
275, 310 (2001)), cert. denied, 543 U.S. 852 (2004).
Maryland, when the State intends to use a confession or
admission given by the defendant to the police during
custodial interrogation, the prosecution must, upon proper
challenge, establish by a preponderance of the evidence that
the statement satisfies the mandates of Miranda v.
Arizona, and, that the statement is voluntary."
Tolbert, supra, 381 Md. at 557. A
suspect's waiver of Miranda rights is valid if
"the totality of the circumstances surrounding the
interrogation reveals both an uncoerced choice and the
requisite level of comprehension." Lee,
supra, 418 Md. at 150 (internal quotations marks
omitted) (citing Moran v. Burbine, 475 U.S. 412, 421
(1986)). In Lee, the Court of Appeals articulated
the standard as follows:
First, the relinquishment of the right must have been
voluntary in the sense that it was the product of a free and
deliberate choice rather than intimidation, coercion, or
deception. Second, the waiver must have been made with a full
awareness of both the nature of the right being abandoned and
the consequences of the decision to abandon it.
Id. (citing Moran v. Burbine, 475 U.S. 412,
Ford's Unsolicited Remarks to Detective Ballard Were
concedes that his remarks to Detective Ballard were
unsolicited and, therefore, not subject to Miranda.
Ford contends, however, that his remarks were involuntary due
to his "weakened and distressed mental and physical
state." In our view, the record of the suppression
hearing does not support this conclusion.
federal and Maryland constitutional law, a statement is
involuntary if it results from "police conduct that
overbears the will of the suspect and induces the suspect to
confess." Lee, supra, 418 Md. at 159.
Under Maryland non-constitutional law, a statement is
involuntary when a suspect "is so mentally impaired that
he does not know or understand what he is saying, or when the
confession is induced by force, undue influence, improper
promises, or threats." Rodriguez v. State, 191
Md.App. 196, 224 (2010) (internal quotation marks omitted)
(quoting Hoey v. State, 311 Md. 473, 482-83 (1988)).
To determine whether a suspect's statement was voluntary,
the trial court must consider the totality of the
circumstances, including, inter alia, "the
length of the interrogation, the manner in which it was
conducted, the number of police officers present throughout
the interrogation, and the age, education and experience of
the suspect." Winder v. State, 362 Md. 275, 307
case sub judice, Ford's remarks to Detective
Ballard were voluntary notwithstanding his mental and
physical ailments. Although Ford suffers from mental illness,
the circuit court found that Ford was not exhibiting any
symptoms on the day of the arrest. Detective Ballard observed
Ford walking on the street and testified that he was
"walking fine." Later, Ford had no trouble walking
from the patrol car into CID. Although Ford complained of low
blood sugar, Detective Ballard testified that Ford was
responsive and appeared to be "coherent and awake."
Indeed, Ford stopped talking after receiving his
Miranda warnings from Detective Ballard, suggesting
that he could understand the information and act accordingly.
The record reflects that Ford knew what he was saying and
that his will was not overborne by Detective Ballard's
Ford's Statement to the Police at CID Was Voluntary.
also claims that his statement to the detectives at CID was
involuntary. We disagree. As a preliminary matter, we observe
that the general location and manner of Ford's
interrogation was neither intimidating nor coercive. The
interrogation room at CID is seven feet by ten feet in size,
with three chairs, a table, and a window. Ford was
handcuffed, and one of his ankles was shackled to the ground.
The detectives were unarmed, and Detective Harding was
dressed in business attire. The interrogation lasted about an
hour, and Ford concedes that Detective Harding did not
mistreat him or threaten him.
argues that his physical and mental condition at the time of
the interrogation rendered his statement involuntary.
Detective Harding and Detective McNemar testified, however,
that Ford appeared coherent. Although Ford reported feeling
cold -- a possible symptom of low blood sugar -- he was
provided with soda upon request. As for his injured arm, Ford
did not report any pain until much later in the interview,
when the detectives were already preparing to call a
paramedic. Based on the video of the interrogation and the
detectives' testimony, the circuit court found that Ford
"was coherent and aware" during the interrogation
and that he "had a basic understanding of his
rights." The circuit court further found "no signs
that [Ford] was experiencing any side effects from low blood
sugar" or "that he was so impaired at the time of
the interrogation that he was unaware of what he was
saying." Because we cannot say that these findings were
clearly erroneous, we hold that Ford's confession at CID
contends, nonetheless, that his confession at CID was the
result of improper inducement. A statement obtained by threat
or promise of advantage is involuntary under Maryland law
regardless of the other circumstances, "unless the State
can establish that such threats or promises in no way induced
the confession." Hill, supra, 418 Md.
at 75-76. An improper inducement occurs when the following
conditions are satisfied:
(1) any officer or agent of the police force promises or
implies to a suspect that he will be given special
consideration from a prosecuting authority or some other form
of assistance in exchange for the suspect's confession,
and (2) the suspect makes a confession in apparent reliance
on the police officer's explicit or implicit inducement.
Id. at 76 (citing Hillard v. State, 286 Md.
145, 153 (1979)).
to the case at hand, the record shows that Detective Harding
and Detective McNemar made no threats or promises during
their interrogation of Ford. Ford rests his ...