Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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The Court of Appeals vacated all of Petitioner’s sentences and remanded the case for resentencing, holding that, under the circumstances of this case, it was appropriate for the Court to exercise its discretion to vacate all of Petitioner’s sentences. Specifically, the Court held (1) the law of the case doctrine does not bar a trial court from considering under Maryland Rule 4-345(a) an issue as to a sentence’s legality that an appellate court has not resolved, and the Court of Special Appeals erred in concluding that the law of the case doctrine barred the circuit court from considering Defendant’s second challenge to his sentence for conspiracy to commit false imprisonment because the Court of Special Appeals did not resolve that challenge in the first appeal in this case; (2) under CR 1-202, where a defendant is convicted of both a crime and conspiracy to commit that crime, a trial court cannot impose for the conspiracy a sentence that exceeds the maximum sentence that the trial court imposed for the crime that the person conspired to commit; and (3) under CR 12-702(b), an aggregate sentence of a certain number of years of imprisonment is more severe than a sentence of life imprisonment, with all but a lower number of years suspended. View "Nichols v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Court of Appeals held that the trial judge abused his discretion in directing the State to reopen its case-in-chief to recall an expert witness after the defense moved for judgment of acquittal, and therefore, Respondent was entitled to a new trial. A jury convicted Respondent of murder. The Court of Special Appeals vacated the trial court’s judgment and remanded the case for a new trial, holding that the trial court abused its discretion when it reopened the State’s case before ruling on Respondent's motion for judgment of acquittal. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that Respondent’s right to a fair trial was compromised because the trial judge (1) impermissibly weighed the nature of the charges brought against Respondent; (2) exceeded the bounds of judicial impartiality when he effectively assumed the role of prosecutor in directing the state to fix a perceived defect in its case; and (3) acted in contravention to caselaw when he permitted the State to reopen its case to avoid granting Respondent an acquittal. View "State v. Payton" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Court of Appeals reversed the judgment of the Court of Special Appeals and directed the remand of this matter to the circuit court for a hearing on the merits of Petitioner’s motion for a new trial under Maryland Rule 4-331(c) based on newly discovered evidence, holding that because the trial court failed to consider whether Petitioner presented a prima facie case based on the newly discovered evidence, the trial court erred in summarily denying the motion without a hearing. Petitioner was convicted of first degree murder and other offenses. Approximately two weeks after his sentencing, Petitioner filed a motion for a new trial under Rule 4-331(c) based on newly discovered evidence. The circuit court summarily denied the motion. The Court of Appeals upheld the denial of the motion. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that Petitioner alleged a prima facie basis for newly discovered evidence in his motion for a new trial, and therefore, the trial court erred when it denied Petitioner’s request without holding a hearing. View "Cornish v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the circuit court convicting Defendant of second-degree murder, holding that the trial court erred in admitting certain evidence, but the error was harmless, and the court did not err in admitting other evidence. Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) the trial court erred in concluding that defense counsel had “opened the door” for the State to present evidence of the victim’s trait of peacefulness under Maryland Rule 5-404(a)(2)(C) and in permitting the State to elicit testimony in its case-in-chief from State’s witnesses that the victim was a peaceful person, but the error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt; and (2) the trial court properly permitted Defendant’s ex-girlfriend to testify about Defendant’s post-crime conduct as evidence of consciousness of guilt. View "Ford v. State" on Justia Law

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