The Maryland Court of Appeals upheld the murder conviction of a man who argued that it was improper for prosecutors to use at trial parts of a police interview after he’d invoked his right to remain silent.
The state’s highest court held that a Montgomery County Circuit Court judge decided correctly during the trial that the statements by Clement Reynolds could not be used during the prosecution’s case, but could be used as impeachment evidence against Reynolds if he testified.
Reynolds did testify and he was confronted with the statements during cross-examination.
The case is one with many twists and turns.
Reynolds was arrested at John F. Kennedy International Airport on April 14, 2014, for the murder of Wesley King more than a decade earlier at his apartment complex outside of Silver Spring.
King was killed outside the Parkford Manor Terrace apartments on Nov. 18, 2002. King’s daughter, Nickesha, who was 11 years old at the time, said that two men dressed in black approached her and her father outside their apartment that evening. One man pulled Nickesha aside, while the other pinned down her father and shot him. The men fled in a white van.
Nickesha identified Reynolds as the shooter. A warrant for his arrest was issued in March 2003.
When Reynolds was arrested at the airport in 2014, he was carrying a United States passport, a Connecticut driver’s license and other documents with the name Dennis Graham.
Reynolds was taken to a New York City Police precinct, where he was held until detectives from Montgomery County could come to interview him. Reynolds was read his Miranda rights at 2:17 a.m. Reynolds would not acknowledge any name other than Graham during the interview. At one point during the detectives’ questioning, Reynolds said “There’s nothing I have to say.”
A Montgomery County Circuit Court judge concluded that the statement meant Reynolds had invoked his right to remain silent and anything he said after that point in the interview could not be used in trial.
But the interrogation had continued. Reynolds had said he was in the Virgin Islands in November 2002 and also told detectives that he came to the United States and settled in New Jersey where he sold cars and dated a woman named Rose Lopez.
On April 30, the detectives attempted to interview Reynolds again, but he immediately revoked his right to counsel and the interview was not used at trial.
At Reynolds’ trial in January 2015, the Montgomery County Circuit Court judge allowed Reynolds’ statements during the April 14 interview to be used by prosecutors as impeachment evidence after Reynolds elected to testify.
At trial, he testified about his life, saying he was born in Jamaica, adopted by a prominent family and had completed two years of college before he came to the United States in 1998 and reconnected with King, who he knew as a former employee of his family’s business. Reynolds also admitted that he dealt drugs with King and lived in an apartment in Maryland, taking marijuana to New York in a minivan. Reynolds also said that he and King had a positive relationship at the time of King’s death and provided an alibi for his whereabouts on the night of the killing.
After King’s murder, Reynolds learned he was a suspect. He created an alias and left for Jamaica in December 2002, coming back to the United States at various times over the next decade.
On cross-examination, prosecutors pressed Reynolds about inconsistencies in his testimony and the police interview, over the objection of Reynolds’ lawyer. During the cross-examination, Reynolds said he didn’t mention his alibi to police during the interview and said it was to preserve his identity as Dennis Graham, the pseudonym under which he’d become a successful music promoter.
“Like I said, at that time, I was preserving my identity as Dennis Graham. So, I was answering in the capacity of Dennis Graham,” Reynolds testified.
Reynolds appealed after he was found guilty by a jury, arguing that the use of his statements from the police interview were in violation of his due process rights.
In appellate court, prosecutors have argued that their use of Reynolds’ statements after he invoked his Miranda rights was for impeachment only.
The Court of Special Appeals upheld Reynolds’ conviction last year.
In an opinion handed down this week, the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, also upheld the conviction in a unanimous opinion.
“Allowing statements elicited in violation of Miranda for impeachment purposes, but not as substantive evidence, strikes a ‘pragmatic balance between two competing public policies— the exclusionary rule precluding the use of confessions obtained in violation of Miranda, on the one hand, and not giving defendants a free ride to commit perjury,’ ” Judge Michele D. Hotten wrote.
Reynolds has been in custody since his arrest. He is serving a life sentence at a state prison in Cumberland for King’s murder.
After the trial for murder, he was also charged with attempting to bribe King’s daughter in exchange for not testifying.
He pleaded guilty in November 2015 to obstruction of justice and received a five-year sentence.