United States District Court, D. Maryland
DAMION A. WILSON, Petitioner.
WARDEN RICHARD MILLER, THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR THE STATE OF MARYLAND, Respondents.
Xinis United States District Judge
before the Court is Damion Wilson's Petition for Habeas
Corpus brought pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Wilson
challenges the validity of his conviction for second degree
murder entered pursuant to his Alford plea. In
compliance with this Court's Memorandum Opinion and Order
directing a Supplemental Response to Petitioner Damion
Wilson's Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus, Respondents
have renewed their Response and filed exhibits not initially
submitted. ECF No. 17. Wilson has also replied. ECF No. 19.
The Court finds a hearing unnecessary. See Loc. R.
105.6; see also Rule 8(a), Rules Governing
Section 2254 Cases in the United States District Courts;
Fisher v. Lee, 215 F.3d 438, 455 (4th Cir. 2000)
(petitioner not entitled to a hearing under 28 U.S.C. §
2254(e)(2)). For the following reasons, the petition is
Alford plea proceedings
September 21, 2000, Petitioner Damion Wilson entered an
Alford plea to one count of second-degree murder in
the Circuit Court for Charles County, Maryland. ECF No. 17-1
at 12- 17 (transcript of Alford plea). Wilson had
been charged with first degree murder, first degree assault
and handgun offenses in connection with the shooting death of
Gale Cooke and threats to kill his then-girlfriend,
Gale's daughter, Katrina Cooke. If Wilson went to trial
and was found guilty of first degree murder, the State's
Attorney intended to pursue a sentence of life without the
possibility of parole. Wilson thus entered an Alford
plea to the lesser charge of second degree murder in exchange
for the State dropping all other charges. Id. at 2.
plea hearing, the State proffered the following evidence that
would have been proven beyond a reasonable doubt at trial:
THE STATE: Your Honor on the 25th of January of the year
2000, Gale Ann Cooke lived in La Plata in Charles County,
Maryland. That evening, about 11:20, Jaqueline Stancliff, her
next door neighbor would testify that she heard a single shot
and called the police. They live in a townhouse development
and their townhouses are next to each other.
Miss Stancliff would also testify that shortly after she
heard the gun, the single gunshot, she then saw a figure
running across the backyard. She would characterize that
figure as slight or of teenage in build.
She would also testify that night it had-there had been a lot
of snow during the day, and that there was a heavy snowfall
on the ground.
Although it was not snowing, the snow had stopped by 11:20
A corporal Bacon of the Charles County Sheriff's office
would testify that he's a K-9 officer. He took his K-9
and tracked from the area indicated by Miss Stancliff, a
trail, that led from that area towards the Old Colony
Apartment Complex which is about a three-minute walk away,
and is also the complex in which the defendant's mother
Emergency personnel arrived to the scene. And when the
emergency personnel employees arrived on the scene of Gale
Cook[e]'s residence, they found Mrs. Cook[e] on the floor
by the foyer with wounds that were later determined by the
medical examiner to be caused by a single shot that went
through her right arm, into her chest, through her heart, and
exiting on the left side. And the medical examiner would say
that that was the cause of death.
One of the residents of Mrs. Cook[e]'s home was her
daughter Katrina Cook[e] who was home that night when the
police arrived and Jaqueline Stancliff would testify that
Katrina Cook[e] came over to her house and asked to use the
telephone. And, in fact, Katrina Cook[e] did call the police,
placing a 911 call, reporting the shooting.
Katrina Cook[e] would testify that she had to go to Miss
Stancliff's home to make the call because there was no
phone in their residence.
Katrina Cook[e] would testify that the defendant came by the
townhome, the residence, about or shortly after 11:00 that
night. She went outside and spoke with him. She knows him. He
is the father of her youngest child. They spoke outside.
And that while he was out speaking with her, she was drinking
orange juice and alcohol out of an orange juice bottle.
Later, when the snow melted, the police would report they
recovered an orange juice bottle from the area, the front
yard of the townhouse.
Miss Katrina Cook[e] would testify that during the course of
their conversation outside, there came a point in time where
the lights on the front porch flashed. She took that to be a
sign from her mother that it was time for her to come inside.
She came inside. And she came inside. The defendant also went
inside with her. She would verify that there was a
conversation, a three-way conversation between her mother,
the defendant, and Katrina Cook[e]. And that in that
conversation Miss Cook[e] advised the defendant that he
wasn't supposed to be there, and that he should leave.
Words were exchanged among the three. There came a point in
time whether [sic] the defendant left the house, door shut.
He apparently thought the better of it, opened the door and
came back in. Everyone was still there at the front of the
house. He had a handgun. Took the handgun and pointed the
handgun at both Mrs. Cook[e] and her daughter, Katrina,
threatening both of them.
There came a point in time where during the course of
threatening them, he pointed the gun and fired it. It was -
all three were standing in the foyer area. It is a very - it
is a small townhouse. The [foyer] area is quite small. Miss
Cook[e] was - she would testify that when the shot rang out
her mother fell to the floor.
Miss Cook[e], Katrina Cook[e], would testify that the
defendant then pointed the gun at her telling her that since
she had just witnessed her mother being killed that she was
witnessing he would have to kill her as well. They had a
discussion in which she begged him not to kill her.
She would testify that eventually he relented after she
assured him that she would not report him to the police.
She would testify that he then fled the apartment with a
handgun running out the front and going in a direction past
Miss Stancliff's. She then went over and made the 911
call at Miss Stancliff's.
Bernard Patrick Cole, Junior, would testify that he knows the
defendant and that he was walking through the townhouse
development that evening about a quarter after 11. And that
at that time he saw Katrina Cook[e] in front, and that he
knows Katrina Cook[e]. He saw Katrina Cook[e] in front of her
mom's townhouse and that Katrina Cook[e] was talking to
someone who he recognized as fitting the physical appearance
of the defendant. He did not have any conversation with them.
He continued on his way.
Jessica Powell would testify that she saw the defendant
earlier in the day. And that when she saw the defendant he
was drinking alcohol and OJ, orange juice, and that he
appeared to be intoxicated to her, and that he brandished a
semiautomatic handgun and said words to the effect that, I am
going to kill that bitch, not specifying any particular
individual, but that she saw the handgun and that she heard
him say those words.
Another individual also saw him that evening with a handgun.
The coroner would testify that Gale Cook[e] died as a result
of the single shot that went through her right arm into her
chest cavity piercing her heart, and then exiting the other
This all happened in Charles County. That would be some of
the evidence that the State could present.
ECF No. 17-1 at 12-17.
withdrew his plea of not guilty and his plea of not
criminally responsible (NCR), and acknowledged that the state
possessed sufficient evidence to demonstrate beyond a
reasonable doubt Wilson's guilt to second degree murder.
Id. at 6. At the time of the hearing, Wilson was
17-years old and had a ninth-grade education. Id. In
response to questions from the presiding judge regarding his
mental status, Wilson indicated that he suffered from stress
and depression, for which he was under a doctor's care,
and that he had not taken the medication prescribed for his
condition on the day of sentencing. Id. at 8-9.
attorneys and the prosecutor confirmed that Wilson had been
deemed competent after evaluation. Id. at 4. The
Court also fully reviewed with Wilson his constitutional
trial rights and secured that Wilson understood that he was
waiving the same. Id. at 9-12. Defense counsel also
confirmed receipt of discovery supporting the proffer.
Id. at 17. The trial court found that Wilson's
plea was knowing and voluntary, and that he understood the
nature of the charges and the rights that he was giving up by
entering an Alford plea. Id. at 18. The
Court imposed the agreed upon sentence of 30 years
imprisonment. Id. at 31.
in a post-conviction petition, moved to set aside his
conviction, arguing that his trial counsel provided
constitutionally ineffective assistance and that the State
withheld exculpatory evidence. The Circuit Court for Charles
County held a two-day evidentiary hearing on the petition.
See ECF Nos. 17-2, 17-3.
hearing, Wilson testified that prior to the plea, he was
unaware that Katrina Cooke's three-year-old daughter,
Alura Brown, had pointed to a torn, black-and-white
photograph of her father, Sean Brown, when asked by a police
officer on the night of the shooting to identify who she had
seen in the house when her grandmother “fell.”
ECF No. 17-2 at 24-26. Wilson claimed he only became aware of
this evidence after receiving a response to his request under
the Maryland's Public Information Act. Id. at
24. Wilson also testified that trial counsel, Betty Stilt and
Elizabeth Cawood, began talking to him about taking a plea
one-month after his arrest and never advised him they had
received a tape-recorded message from Katrina Cooke
establishing his innocence. Id. at 17, 20. He
described the discovery documents he had been provided by
trial counsel as about fifty pages that did not include
Medical Examiner's autopsy report. Id. at 21-22.
Wilson testified this report would have influenced his
decision to enter an Alford plea because, contrary
to the State's representations, the autopsy report
concluded that the shooting was not at “close
range.” Id. at 23.
explained that he took the plea because his trial counsel
“advised me of false evidence concerning my case and I
believed what they was telling me because I didn't see
the, any reports concerning the evidence, really, but I was
just going off what they was telling me.” Id.
at 27. He also claimed that counsel told him he would only
have to serve 12 years on the sentence ...