Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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At issue was three crimes that were committed when each of three Petitioners was a juvenile and whether each Petitioner was effectively serving a sentence of life without parole because the laws of Maryland do not provide him with a “meaningful opportunity to obtain release based on demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation.” See Graham v. Florida, 560 U.S. 48 (2010). None of the sentences imposed in these cases was explicitly “life without parole.” In all three cases each Petitioner filed a motion to correct an illegal sentence. The Court of Appeals concluded that one Petitioner was entitled to be resentenced to a legal sentence, holding (1) with respect to the two Petitioners serving life sentences, their sentences are legal under the laws governing parole of inmates serving life sentences in Maryland; but (2) with respect to the Petitioner serving a 100-year sentence, the sentence is effectively a sentence of life without parole in violation of the Eighth Amendment. View "Carter v. State" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the Court of Special Appeals granting Respondent’s motion to dismiss and dismissing the State’s appeal from the circuit court’s grant of Respondent’s motion to correct illegal sentence for want of a final judgment, holding that the circuit court’s grant of Respondent’s motion correct an illegal sentence and vacation of Respondent’s sentence was an interlocutory order that will not become a final judgment triggering the State’s right to appeal until the circuit court imposes a new sentence. The circuit court vacated the sentence imposed in connection with Respondent’s convictions for three counts of first-degree murder and other crimes after granting Respondent’s motion to correct illegal sentence under Maryland Rule 4-345(a) based on recent United States Supreme Court precedent involving life sentences for juvenile offenders. The State appealed. The Court of Appeals granted Respondent’s motion to dismiss, holding that the mere grant of a motion to correct an illegal sentence, without imposition of a new sentence, is not an appealable final judgment from which the State has the right to appeal. View "State v. Clements" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the Court of Special Appeals finding that the trial court did not deny Petitioner due process by permitting the State to question him about his failure to disclose an alibi defense after he invoked Miranda. Petitioner was convicted of first degree murder and other crimes. On appeal, Petitioner argued that the trial court denied him due process by allowing the prosecutor to question him about “what he did not tell the police about his alibi defense, even though the omissions were a result of [Petitioner’s] post-arrest, post-Miranda invocation of silence and were not inconsistencies with his trial testimony.” The State countered that even statements taken in violation of Miranda can be used to impeach a witness’s prior inconsistent statement. The Court of Appeals held that an invocation of Miranda does not preclude the State from impeaching a witness concerning prior inconsistent statements, even after a suspect invokes his right to remain silent. View "Reynolds v. State" on Justia Law

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At issue in this criminal case was (1) whether a witness’s statement that another witness “would not tell the truth about certain things[,]” was admissible as a personal opinion about that witness’s character for truthfulness; and (2) whether the trial court erred by prohibiting a witness’s testimony about out-of-court threats the complainant made during an argument with Defendant. A jury found Defendant guilty of sexual abuse of a minor and second-degree assault. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed the conviction. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding (1) the trial court erred by prohibiting a witness’s testimony regarding the complainant’s truthfulness because character evidence was relevant to the proceeding, and the witness had an adequate basis to offer the opinion; and (2) the trial court erred in excluding the witness’s testimony that the complainant, during a fight, was saying things that she could do to get Defendant in trouble because it was offered as nonhearsay impeachment evidence offered for the fact that the statement was made. View "Devincentz v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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At issue was whether a circuit court’s exercise of its coercive powers to incarcerate a drug court program participant is subject to appellate review and can violate a participant’s right to due process. Respondents in the two underlying cases participated in the circuit court’s drug court program as a special condition of probation. Each respondent violated the program conditions, and the circuit court imposed immediate sanctions. The Court of Special Appeals concluded that Respondents had the right to seek appellate review of the incarceration sanction and held that the circuit court’s procedure did not comply with due process requirements. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) a participant in a drug court program seeking to appeal from the circuit court’s imposition of sanctions may do so by filing an application for leave to appeal pursuant to Md. Code Ann. Cts. & Judgment. Proc. 12-302(g); (2) when a circuit court administering a drug court program considers imposing a sanction involving the loss of liberty or termination from the program, it must provide minimum due process protections; and (3) the process followed by the circuit court in imposing sanctions violated constitutional due process guarantees. View "State v. Brookman" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the post-conviction court’s denial of Appellant’s post-conviction motion for DNA testing under Md. Code Crim. Proc. 8-201, holding that the post-conviction court did not err when it concluded that there was no reasonable probability that DNA testing could produce exculpatory or mitigating evidence. After a fifth trial, Appellant was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life without parole. Appellant subsequently filed a pro se petition for post-conviction DNA testing under section 8-201. The circuit court denied the petition, concluding that there was no reasonable probability that the testing could produce exculpatory or mitigating evidence. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in denying Appellant’s petition for post-conviction DNA testing. View "Givens v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Testimony of a forensic examiner that the daughter of Petitioner, who was accused of sexually abusing his daughter, showed “no signs of fabrication” and that the examiner had no concerns about fabrication when the daughter made certain out-of-court statements implicating Defendant impermissibly intruded on the responsibility of the jury to assess the credibility of witnesses. After a retrial, Defendant was found guilty of sexual abuse of a minor and other sexual offenses. The court of special appeals affirmed, concluding that some of the evidence had been admitted in error but that the error did not require reversal of Defendant’s convictions. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the prosecution elicited what amounted to an endorsement of the credibility of an out-of-court statement by its main witness that the jury did not see and could not evaluate for itself, and the error required reversal. View "Fallin v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The trial court properly admitted into evidence a bank statement record and a compact disk (CD) containing video surveillance footage because the evidence was properly authenticated under the Maryland Rules of Evidence. Defendant was convicted of first-degree assault and theft of at least $1,000 but less than $10,000. The court of special appeals affirmed, holding that the disk segment containing the surveillance footage was properly authenticated by a bank employee and that the bank statements satisfied the four requirements of the business record hearsay exception and thus were properly authenticated. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the court of special appeals did not err when it concluded that the CD was properly authenticated and that the bank statements were admissible under the business records exception to the hearsay rule. View "Jackson v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The trial court abused its discretion by choosing to wait until Defendant testified before ruling on the admissibility of Defendant’s prior conviction for purposes of impeachment. Defendant was convicted for possession with intent to distribute a controlled dangerous substance. During trial, defense counsel advised Defendant of his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and informed him that because he had a prior conviction for possession with intent to distribute a controlled dangerous substance, counsel would ask the court to conduct a balancing test under Maryland Rule 5-609 to determine whether the State would be allowed to use that prior conviction against him. The trial court declined to conduct the balancing test prior to Defendant’s election not to testify. On appeal, Defendant argued that the trial court failed to exercise its discretion when it chose not to give an advance ruling on the admissibility of his prior conviction. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed, concluding that it would have been “premature” for the trial court to engage in a balancing test without observing Defendant’s testimony first. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the trial judge did not need to wait to hear Defendant’s testimony before ruling on the Rule 5-609 motion, and the court’s failure to exercise its discretion constituted an abuse of discretion. View "Burnside v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Under the totality of the circumstances of this case, Petitioner knowingly and voluntarily pleaded guilty to first-degree murder. Petitioner pleaded guilty to first-degree murder. After unsuccessfully seeking leave to appeal his conviction following guilty plea and failing to obtain requested postconviction relief, Petitioner requested that his postconviction matter be reopened pursuant to Md. Code Ann. Crim. Proc. 7-104. As grounds for his petition, Petitioner claimed that the Supreme Court’s decision in State v. Daughtry, 18 A.3d 60 (Md. 2011), required reopening his case in the interests of justice. The postconviction hearing judge agreed, reopened the case, and vacated Petitioner’s guilty plea. The Court of Special Appeals reversed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) the record of the plea hearing demonstrated that Petitioner entered his guilty plea knowingly and voluntarily; and (2) procedural distinctions precluded Daughtry’s application to the present case. View "Tate v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law