Circuit Court for Allegany County Case No. K-16-17362
Shaw Geter, Kenney, James A., III (Senior Judge, Specially
two groups engaged one another in anticipation of a
fight, shots were fired, but no one was struck. A jury in the
Circuit Court for Allegany County convicted appellant
Marquise Holt of two attempted first-degree murders, a
first-degree assault, conspiracy, and related crimes for his
role in the incident.
presents two questions for our review:
1. Did the trial court comply with the requirements of
Maryland Rule 4-215(e)?
2. Did the trial court err in refusing to instruct the jury
on imperfect self-defense? We answer "yes" to the
first question and "no" to the second, and affirm
judgment of the circuit court.
engagement took place on the evening of March 30, 2016 at the
Fort Cumberland Homes ("Homes") in Cumberland,
Maryland. Earlier that afternoon, appellant and Nickoli
Cakus,  while driving near the Homes, encountered
Malachi Thornton and Shawn Hamlette. Cakus had had "a
problem with [Hamlette] for over a year, " and they had
physically fought the previous summer. Appellant and Cakus,
now joined by appellant's cousin Marcus Brown and another
man, exited their cars and approached Malachi and Hamlette.
When Hamlette pulled out a gun and pointed it at him, Cakus
punched Hamlette. According to Cakus, Malachi was "loud
and aggressive, " and he had asked Hamlette for his gun.
After appellant and Malachi engaged in a fight, Cakus saw
Malachi on the ground holding his face.
Malachi and Hamlette retreated, appellant and Cakus went to a
friend's house to socialize. While they were there,
appellant told Cakus that someone had been yelling at their
girlfriends, both of whom were visiting an apartment in the
Homes. He also told Cakus that Mikey Thornton wanted to
fight, and commented that he (appellant) had "never been
a hard person to find."
Washington testified that she had been in an apartment at the
Homes with Alexis Fischer (appellant's girlfriend), Janay
Bristol (Cakus's girlfriend), and Janya Bristol
(Janay's sister). While they were there, they heard
rumors that there was going to be a fight. A message sent
from Washington's Facebook account to Cakus's read,
"Mikey said that you and Buck are going to get in. Bruh,
where you at because they ain't touching my best
information left Cakus with the impression that "there
was supposed to be a fight" and that Mikey was looking
for him and appellant. Appellant and Cakus drove to
Brown's house, where two other men, Kesler and Rideout,
joined them. According to Cakus, Kesler had a "tiny
revolver" with him. Having decided to go to the Homes
after it was dark, they left together in Rideout's
vehicle around 8:00 p.m. Despite having seen Kesler with a
revolver, Cakus thought the ensuing fight would be
weapon-free. Appellant and Brown did not appear to him to be
armed when they left Brown's house, but after they
arrived at the Homes, Cakus noticed that they both were
holding their waists as if they were carrying weapons.
arriving at the Homes and meeting briefly with Fischer,
Washington, and the Bristols, the Holt group advanced within
the housing complex grounds with appellant and Brown in
front, and Cakus, Kesler, and Rideout behind them. As they
proceeded, the Thornton group of about six people, including
Malachi, Mikey, and Zaira Stubbs, jumped over a fence and ran
towards them. Cakus did not know the others.
followed happened within a span of seconds, and witnesses
provided conflicting accounts of what occurred. According to
Cakus, members of the Thornton group were armed with, at
least, a knife and a baseball bat. And, almost immediately and
without any words being exchanged, appellant and Brown
pointed handguns at the other group. Cakus saw Brown fire
several shots, but he did not see appellant fire any shots.
other witnesses testified that at least one person in the
Holt group fired on the Thornton group. They disagreed on
whether appellant had a gun or was a shooter.
Stubbs's mother, Tremaina Bullett, testified that she was
standing outside on the telephone when she saw Malachi,
Mikey, and Stubbs come out of the backdoor to an apartment,
hop a fence, and run towards the Holt group; only one of the
men in the Holt group had his face covered. She denied that
any members of the Thornton group were armed with weapons.
When the Thornton group was within four feet of the Holt
group, appellant and Brown pointed guns at the Thornton group
and both fired several shots. After the shots were fired,
were inconsistencies between Bullett's testimony and her
prior statements to police regarding whom she saw during the
engagement and who fired gunshots. For example, in her prior
statements to police and prosecutors, she did not say that
appellant pointed or fired a gun. She explained that any
inconsistency was because "everything happened so fast,
" and that she was worried about her daughter.
Stubbs testified that the Holt group came "out of
nowhere" and "just stood there." Only one
person in the Holt group had a gun, and it was pointed at
her; she heard only one shot. Because the shooter was wearing
black and had something covering his face, she did not
recognize the person who fired that shot. She did not recall
anyone in her group having a baseball bat.
witnesses heard shots fired, but did not see who fired them.
The police investigation led to the arrest of Cakus on the
was indicted on April 21, 2016, and his jury trial was
scheduled to begin on July 27, 2016. On July 14, 2016,
appellant's private counsel filed a motion to withdraw
his appearance. Appended to the motion was a hand-written,
signed note from the appellant that read:
I have decided that I no longer wish you to represent me and
I am going to have to discharge you.
Thank you for all you have done. And please withdraw your
appearance at once
[/S/ Marquise Holt]
status hearing on Friday, July 22, 2016 ("the July 22nd
hearing"), the motion to withdraw was first discussed
without either appellant or his counsel present. On that
occasion, a representative of the Public Defender's
Office, in addition to advising the court that it would be a
problem for a public defender to represent appellant because
of conflicts arising from the representation of five other
co-defendants in the case and the lack of panel attorneys,
Your Honor, I could make a proffer as to what  Mr.
Holt's testimony would be concerning [counsel] and the 
financial arrangements, and how he came to sign that letter
indicating his desire to discharge him.
[Counsel] got into this case originally quoting a fee of  5
thousand dollars. [O]f that fee, approximately  3, 280
dollars . . . has been paid. This matter was always going to
trial. No question about it, Mr. Holt was from Day 1, was
going to trial in this matter. Recently, [counsel] has said,
since it's going to trial, my fee is going to be 10
thousand dollars rather than 5 thousand dollars.
[Counsel's] performance in this matter has been
despicable. He indicated to Mr. Holt that if he didn't
receive his 10 thousand dollar fee, then maybe he
couldn't put so much time in this matter, and maybe he
wouldn't do a very good job at trial. Then the letter
issued that Mr. Holt wanted to fire [counsel].
[T]his is a common practice with [counsel]. He gets a client
in his office. He quotes a fee. He collects some money. He
spends all of trial preparation time trying to squeeze more
money out of the Defendant, and when it comes close to trial
time he moves to strike his appearance. I believe actually
it's very likely unethical.
* * *
[Counsel] went to Mr. Holt and said eh, I want 10 thousand
dollars now more, rather than 5 thousand dollars. If I
don't get that money, then maybe ...