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HESTINA LAKEISHA HARRIS v. STATE OF MARYLAND

Criminal procedure — Closing argument by state — Implicit acknowledgement of guilt

Hestina Lakeisha Harris, appellant, was convicted, by a jury sitting in the Circuit Court for Frederick County, of murdering her grandmother, with whom she lived. At the time the grandmother was discovered lying wounded in the front yard of her home, Harris was the only other adult family member in the house. Harris denied stabbing her grandmother, and told police that she had seen a tall masked man, dressed in black, flee from inside the house. But Harris gave numerous interviews to the police, and inconsistencies in her descriptions of the incident, as well as blood splatter evidence observed in the house and on Harris’s clothing, caused police to target Harris as their only suspect, and she was charged with, and convicted of, first-degree murder. On appeal, Harris combines several questions as follows: Did the court err in allowing the State to (a) question the lead detective and appellant’s family members about whether, after appellant’s arrest, the family members initiated contact with the police, provided additional suspects, or told the detective that he had the wrong person; (b) question the lead detective regarding whether family members of murder victims generally initiate contact with him; and (c) elicit testimony that appellant’s mother said that the victim had forgiven appellant, where the prosecutor used this inadmissible evidence repeatedly in closing argument to ask the jury to overlook the absence of any evidence of motive and find appellant guilty because “implicitly [appellant’s] family has acknowledged her guilt”? We conclude that …

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