Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the Court of Special Appeals affirming the judgment of the circuit court denying Petitioner coram nobis relief, holding that Petitioner waived the grounds underlying both claims supporting his petition. Petitioner pleaded guilty to third degree sexual offense and was required to register as a sex offender. In his second petition for a writ of coram nobis Petitioner argued that he was deprived of the effective assistance of counsel and that his guilty plea was involuntary. The circuit court denied relief. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed after reaching the merits of Petitioner's claims. The Supreme Court affirmed, albeit on a different ground, holding that Petitioner's claims were waived. View "Hyman v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Court of Appeals vacated the judgment of the Court of Special Appeals affirming the postconviction court's grant of Defendant's petition for postconviction relief and remanded with instructions to remand the case to the postconviction court for further fact finding, holding that the record lacked the factual determinations necessary to rule on the state's motion to correct the record. Defendant was convicted of first degree murder and other crimes. In his motion for postconviction relief, Defendant raised several claims of ineffectiveness of trial counsel. The postconviction court granted Defendant's petition, finding that trial counsel provided deficient assistance by not objecting to an improper jury instruction. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed. The State appealed and, prior to oral argument, filed a motion to correct the record pursuant to Maryland Rule 8-414. The State's motion, if granted, would resolve the merits of the State's appeal by eliminating the sole ground for Defendant's postconviction relief. The Supreme Court held that a remand to the postconviction court was required because, given the nature of the parties' dispute and the facts available, the Court was not in the position to rule upon the State's motion to correct the record. View "State v. Christian" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the Court of Special Appeals affirming Defendant's convictions, holding that this Court had jurisdiction to reach the merits of this appeal and that the trial court erred in excluding a witness' prior convictions for committing a violent crime in aid of racketeering (VICAR offense) for impeachment purposes but that the exclusion of those convictions was harmless. Defendant was found guilty of retaliation against a witness and participation in a criminal gang. The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the trial court, holding that the trial court properly excluded a witness' prior VICAR offenses for impeachment purposes because those convictions involved violent crimes that were not relevant to credibility and were non-impeachable crimes. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) a witness' prior convictions for VICAR offenses are admissible for witness impeachment; and (2) although the trial court erred in excluding the witness' prior convictions for impeachment purposes, the court's error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. View "Rosales v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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In this criminal case, the Court of Appeals reversed the judgment of the Court of Special Appeals affirming Defendant's conviction, holding that the circuit court abused its discretion by asking compound "strong feelings" questions during voir dire and refusing to ask properly-phrased "strong feelings" questions.. The Court of Criminal Appeals reaffirmed its holding in Pearson v. State, 86 A.3d 1232, 1235 (2014), that, on request, a trial court is required to ask a properly-phrased "strong feelings" question during voir dire and that it is improper for a trial court to ask the "strong feelings" question in compound form. The Court then held that, in this case, the circuit court abused its discretion by asking compound "strong feelings" during voir dire and that the circuit court did not cure its abuse of discretion by asking the jury properly-phrased "strong feelings" questions after the conclusion of voir dire and opening statements. View "Collins v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's decision to admit text messages that Defendant sent to his wife's cell phone, holding that the confidential martial communications privilege does not attach to communications relating to child abuse. Defendant was convicted of first-degree murder, first-degree child abuse, and neglect of a minor child. On appeal, the Court of Appeals remanded the case for a new trial, holding that the trial court abused its discretion in admitting text messages between Defendant and his wife because the State did not rebut the presumption of confidentiality. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding (1) courts should narrowly construe privileges, including the marital communications privilege; (2) text messages between spouses are presumed to be confidential unless the party advocating for their admission can establish that they were not; (3) because individuals are under a legal duty to report child abuse, communications made to a spouse concerning child abuse cannot be reasonably presumed confidential; and (4) the text messages in this case were properly admitted against Defendant. View "State v. Sewell" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the Court of Special Appeals reversing Defendant's conviction for accessory after the fact to murder and remanding the case for a new trial, holding that application of whether particular evidence may be admitted based on the legal principle of "opening the door" is reviewed de novo, that Defendant opened the door to otherwise inadmissible evidence, but that the State used the evidence at issue in a manner that exceeded the scope of the doctrine. In reversing, the Court of Special Appeals held that the trial court erred in permitting the State to question Defendant regarding his participation in a previous, unrelated incident during which a knife had been brandished because the door had not been opened for questioning by the State. The Court of Appeals affirmed on other grounds, holding that, in applying a de novo standard of review, defense counsel opened the door for the State to introduce rebuttal evidence but that the State's questioning during cross-examination exceeded the scope of the open door doctrine. View "State v. Robertson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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In this prosecution under environmental laws the Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the Court of Special Appeals finding that Defendant was deprived of the right to the effective assistance of counsel, holding that counsel's failure to object to a non-pattern jury instruction violated the standard set forth in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984). Defendant was charged with and convicted of "disposing of sewage in any manner which may cause pollution" and "failing to dispose of sewage in accordance with an approved permit" in violation of Md. Code Ann. Env. 9-343(a)(1) and (3) and former COMAR 26.04.0202.E, now D and former COMAR 26.04.02.02.F, now E. Defendant filed for post-conviction relief alleging that he received ineffective assistance of counsel based on trial counsel's failure to object to a "continuing violation" instruction. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the language of the statute and regulations were so plainly contrary to the State's theory that counsel's failure to object to the instruction at issue violated the Strickland standard. View "State v. Shortall" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Court of Appeals reversed the judgment of the Court of Special Appeals vacating in part the juvenile court's order and determining that the juvenile court erred in ordering $65 in restitution to rekey three household locks where the corresponding keys were stolen during an armed robbery, holding that, pursuant to the "direct result" requirement of Md. Crim. Proc. (CP) 11-603(a), the restitution award was proper. G.R. pleaded involved to charges of robbery, second-degree assault, and openly carrying a dangerous weapon. The circuit court found G.R. liable for $120 in restitution, including $65 to rekey the locks of three homes of which the keys were stolen. The Court of Appeals vacated the restitution order, concluding that the costs of rekeying the locks was not a direct result of the underlying robbery. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that G.R.'s robbery directly resulted in a substantial decrease of value of the locks because it brought into question the underlying security of the homes the stolen house keys belonged to, and therefore, the decision to rekey the locks was not an intervening act but a necessary action taken to maintain the security of the homes to which the keys belonged. View "In re G.R." on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals reversed the judgment of the court of special appeals affirming in part and reversing in part the judgment of the post-conviction granting Respondent a new trial, holding that certain actions on the part of Respondent’s trial counsel did not violate Respondent’s constitutional right to effective assistance of counsel. Respondent was convicted of first-degree murder, robbery, kidnapping, and false imprisonment. Respondent later filed a petition for post-conviction relief alleging that he received ineffective assistance of counsel. The post-conviction court denied relief. The intermediate appellate remanded the case. On remand, the post-conviction court concluded that Respondent’s trial counsel’s performance was deficient and that this deficiency prejudiced Respondent. As a result, the post-conviction court vacated the convictions and granted Respondent a new trial. The court of appeals reversed in part, but the court’s ultimate disposition left the new trial granted by the circuit court in place. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that trial counsel’s deficient performance in one aspect of her representation did not prejudice Respondent within the meaning of Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984). View "State v. Syed" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals reversed the judgment of the Court of Special Appeals affirming the trial court’s denial of Petitioner’s motion for a new trial, holding that the trial court’s error of supplying the jury with an instruction that was an incorrect statement of the law was not harmless. Petitioner was convicted of first-degree child abuse. Petitioner subsequently filed a motion for new trial on the grounds that the trial court gave a pattern jury instruction that erroneously omitted an element of the sole offense for which Petitioner was convicted. The circuit court denied the motion, concluding that the erroneous jury instruction did not have an impact on the defense’s theory of the case. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the erroneous jury instruction was prejudicial error and warranted a new trial. View "Williams v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law