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DONALD GEORGE PEOPLES, JR. v. STATE OF MARYLAND

Criminal procedure — Motion to suppress evidence — Jailhouse letters

Appellant Donald George Peoples, Jr., was charged with a variety of offenses arising out of the kidnapping and execution-style shooting of 15-year-old Sterling Watts. After an eight-day trial in the Circuit Court for Howard County, a jury found Peoples guilty of attempted murder in the first degree, attempted murder in the second degree, conspiracy to commit attempted murder in the first degree, conspiracy to commit attempted murder in the second degree, kidnapping, first-degree assault, use of a firearm in the commission of a crime of violence (attempted first-degree murder), use of a firearm in the commission of a crime of violence (kidnapping), and robbery. The court sentenced Peoples to a total executed time of life in prison plus 85 years.

On appeal, Peoples raises six issues, which we restate as follows:

1. Did the trial court err in admitting jailhouse letters from Peoples to his former girlfriend, who was his accomplice?

2. Did the trial court erroneously permit a police officer to testify as an expert in cell phone location and mapping, using cell phone and cell tower records?

3. Did the trial court abuse its discretion in denying a defense motion for a mistrial based on the State’s rebuttal closing argument?

4. Did the trial court abuse its discretion in overruling a defense objection that redirect testimony about a photo array went beyond the scope of cross -examination?

5. Did the trial court abuse its discretion in overruling a Md. Rule 5-403 objection that a photograph of Peoples recovered from an accomplice’s cell phone was more prejudicial than probative?

6. Did the trial court abuse its discretion in admitting a photo array over a defense objection that the photograph of Peoples was an unduly prejudicial “mug shot”?

Read the opinion here: