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Kouadio v. State

Court of Special Appeals of Maryland

February 15, 2018


         Circuit Court for Montgomery County Case No. 00000128132CR

          Eyler, Deborah S., Kehoe, Wilner, Alan M. (Senior Judge, Specially Assigned) JJ.


          Wilner, J.

         Appellant was convicted by a jury in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County of the second-degree murder of his infant son, Amir, along with three counts of child abuse, for which he was sentenced to 40 years imprisonment. He complains in this appeal that:

(1)the instructions given to the jury on second-degree murder were erroneous;
(2)the evidence was legally insufficient to sustain the convictions;
(3)the court erred in admitting a statement by the child's mother that, when appellant learned that she was pregnant, he wanted her to have an abortion; and
(4)after admitting in evidence testimony regarding part of a statement appellant gave to the police, the court erred in not allowing the introduction of the rest of the statement.
Finding no reversible error, we shall affirm the Circuit Court judgment.


         Amir was born on December 14, 2013. Appellant was his father; Asli Iman was his mother. The couple were not married and, until Amir was born, did not live together. Although the pregnancy was not planned, Ms. Iman was happy with it. When appellant was informed, he told Ms. Iman that "[h]e did not want me to have the baby. He wanted me to have an abortion, " which she refused to do. The pregnancy was uneventful. Ms. Iman received prenatal care, but the delivery was through a C-section. Although appellant was present at the birth, Ms. Iman said that he contributed nothing during her pregnancy and "never bought a single item for the child at all." About two weeks after Amir's birth, the family moved in with appellant's mother. The mother used a bedroom on the first floor of the house. Appellant, Ms. Iman, and the baby used the two bedrooms on the second floor.

         Ms. Iman returned to work three weeks after Amir's birth. Appellant's mother also worked. Appellant, who neither worked nor attended school, watched Amir during the day. Ms. Iman usually left the house around 6:00 a.m. and returned between 6:30 and 7:00 p.m. Upon her return, she watched the baby until she went to bed around 11:00. She would then wake appellant to let him know that the baby was asleep. Ms. Iman testified that the child was in perfect health and had been seen by a pediatrician and a WIC unit.[1]

         During the time the family was together, there were three disturbing incidents involving appellant and Amir. On one occasion, Ms. Iman placed Amir on a downstairs couch while she was folding clothes. She went upstairs to get some more clothes, and, when she returned, appellant acknowledged sitting on Amir, saying he did not see him. The child was not injured. On a second occasion, while on a bus with Amir, Ms. Iman prepared to give him a bottle and noticed that his upper gum was bruised. She texted appellant to inquire and was told that, while sleeping, appellant had "elbowed" the baby.

         Near the end of January, appellant awakened Ms. Iman and told her that, while trying to give Amir a bath, he nearly dropped the baby into the bathtub. Appellant said that, to break the fall, he grabbed Amir by the head or face, with the child's body dangling down, and acknowledged that he "almost killed my son." During that episode, the child's head hit a towel rack. Ms. Iman noticed that the whole left side of Amir's face was bruised. She treated the bruise with an ice pack and a day or two later took him to a health care center where he was examined by a nurse and released.

         The events leading to this case occurred on the evening of February 3-4, 2014, when Amir was seven weeks old. After returning home from work, Ms. Iman fed Amir, gave him a bath, and held him while watching television until 11:00, when she put him in his basinet and informed appellant that she was going to bed. Ms. Iman said that Amir was fine at that time - he was eating and fell asleep as usual.

         Around 2:00 a.m., appellant awakened her. She went to Amir, saw that he was "lifeless, " had blood coming out of his nose, and picked him up. She then noticed that he had on only a diaper and one sock, which were not the clothes she had put him to bed with. His lips were so blue that she put him on the floor and began CPR.[2] She started with infant CPR but when she blew breath in him and pushed on his chest, blood bubbles emerged from his mouth. She then commenced adult CPR while appellant watched. When she asked appellant what had happened, he replied that he was in the shower and didn't know. Eventually, appellant called 9-1-1 and advised Ms. Iman to get dressed. He then took over the CPR.

         The first assistance to arrive was Amos McPherson, an EMT. He picked the baby up, saw no chest rise, and immediately started CPR. He noticed blood and some clear fluid coming from one of the child's nostrils and summoned the paramedics, who were outside. Paramedic Mark Grant entered the home and started CPR. The baby had no pulse, and the paramedics were unable to intubate Amir or establish access for an IV line. When they attempted to insert a laryngoscope, they observed blood in the airway and were unable to see the vocal cords. They transported the child to Holy Cross Hospital.

         Appellant followed the medical unit to the hospital in the back of a fire truck. During the trip, he told one of the firefighters, Russel Miles, that he had fed Amir and, when finished, wrapped him in some blankets and put him in the basinet. The baby made some "whimpering noises" for a while but then was silent. Appellant checked on him about 15 minutes later and saw blood coming from his nose. The baby was unresponsive and not breathing. Appellant said that he then called 9-1-1 and started CPR.[3]

         Amir arrived at the hospital around 4:00 a.m. Dr. Mark Roddy, an attending physician at the pediatric emergency department, observed that Amir was not breathing or moving and appeared to be blue in the face. The staff was able to resuscitate him and get a spontaneous heart rate, but, as the hospital had no intensive care unit for children, it transported Amir to the Children's National Medical Center, where he spent about two months but then was moved for a while to a hospice. He later was transferred back to the Medical Center because he was still on life support and a breathing ventilator.

         Amir received a variety of medications -- to regulate his breathing, to prevent seizure, for muscle spasms and stool softeners, and to regulate his heartbeat and body temperature - and he had a feeding tube. Still, he was not stable. Ms. Iman testified that, during the time Amir was at the Medical Center, appellant "wasn't even in the room . . . [but was] about in the hallway, and then sometimes he would go into the conference rooms on his phone."

         Ms. Iman was shown a CAT scan of Amir's brain so she could see the significant damage to her son's brain. After struggling with the decision and upon the recommendation of the doctors, who believed that Amir would never recover, she agreed to have him taken off life support. Appellant initially objected to that, but he was incarcerated at that ...

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