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Holt v. State

Court of Special Appeals of Maryland

April 5, 2018

MARQUISE HOLT
v.
STATE OF MARYLAND

          Circuit Court for Allegany County Case No. K-16-17362

          Leahy, Shaw Geter, Kenney, James A., III (Senior Judge, Specially Assigned), JJ.

          OPINION

          KENNEY, J.

         When two groups[1] 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.

         Appellant 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 the

judgment of the circuit court.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         The 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, [2] 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.

         When 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."

         Aireana 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[3] are going to get in. Bruh, where you at because they ain't touching my best friend."[4]

         This 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.

         Upon 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.

         What 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.[5] 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.

         Two 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.

         Zaira 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, everyone scattered.

         There 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.

         Zaira 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.

         Other witnesses heard shots fired, but did not see who fired them. The police investigation led to the arrest of Cakus on the following morning.

         PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Appellant 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]

         At a 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, stated:

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 ...

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