Justia Maryland Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Criminal Law
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The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the Court of Special Appeals holding that a police-initiated procedure resulting in the identification of Defendant was not governed by constitutional criminal procedure law concerning out-of-court identifications made by an eyewitness, holding that the identification of Defendant was a "confirmatory identification" not subject to constitutional scrutiny. Shortly after a murder, investigating detectives focused on Defendant as the suspected killer. The detectives were aware that the murder victim's current girlfriend, Jennifer McKay, knew Defendant and until recently had been in an intimate relationship with him. When interviewing McKay at the police station the detectives asked her to review camera footage captured with a surveillance camera mounted on a building adjacent to the apartment where the murder occurred. McKay did so and determined that a person depicted on the footage looked like Defendant. Defendant moved to suppress McKay's identification of him, arguing that the identification was obtained during an impermissible suggestive process. The circuit court granted the suppression motion. The Court of Special Appeals reversed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the identification at issue in this case did not implicate the constitutionally-based identification law paradigm. View "Greene v. State" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed Defendant's conviction of attempted robbery with a dangerous weapon and other crimes, holding that the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in admitting social media evidence because there was sufficient circumstantial evidence under Maryland Rule 5-901(b)(4) for a reasonable juror to find that Facebook profiles belonged to Defendant and to Defendant's alleged accomplice. During trial, a detective testified that Defendant unfriended his accomplice on Facebook the day after the attempted armed robbery, in which the accomplice was fatally shot. On appeal, Defendant argued that there was insufficient circumstantial evidence for a reasonable juror to find that the Facebook profile belonged to him and that he used his profile to unfriend the profile purportedly belonging to his accomplice. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that, under the circumstances, there was sufficient circumstantial evidence for the trial court to allow the Facebook-related evidence to be presented to the jury. View "Sample v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the Court of Special Appeals reversing the judgment of the circuit court granting Petitioner's motion to correct an illegal sentence after Petitioner's earlier filed petition for credit had been granted and his commitment record was adjusted to reflect credit for time served, holding that the trial court did not impose an inherently illegal sentence because the failure to award credit is not an illegality that lies within the sentence itself. In his motion to correct an illegal sentence Petitioner argued that the amendment to his commitment record applying the appropriate credits for time served was of no legal force in the absence of a hearing. Thus, Petitioner argued, his original sentence was still in effect, and that sentence constituted an illegal sentence. The trial judge found that the original sentence was indeed illegal and that the later amendment was insufficient to correct the illegal sentence because the required hearing was not held. The Court of Special Appeals reversed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the trial court erred in granting the motion to correct an illegal sentence because it was not the appropriate mechanism for challenging the failure to award credit against a sentence. View "Bratt v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Court of Appeals reversed the decision of the Court of Special Appeals affirming the circuit court's judgment denying the petitions for writs of actual innocence filed by David Faulkner and Jonathan Smith under Md. Code Ann., Crim. Proc, 8-301, holding that new trials were warranted for both Smith and Faulkner. More than a dozen years after Adeline Wilford was murdered and the case had gone cold, the Maryland State Police reopened the investigation and charged Faulkner and Smith with burglary, murder and related offenses. Both Smith and Faulkner were convicted and sentenced to life in prison. Several years later, Smith and Faulkner filed petitions for writs of actual evidence, contending that, if newly discovered evidence had been provided to their juries, there was a substantial or significant possibility that the juries would have reached different results. The lower courts denied relief. The Court of Appeals reversed and ordered new trials for both petitioners, holding that, in light of the newly discovered evidence discussed in this opinion, Smith and Faulkner were entitled to new trials. View "Faulkner v. State" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed Defendant's conviction for, among other charges, unlawful possession of a regulated firearm by a person who had previously been convicted of a predicate offense, holding the indictment provided Defendant with sufficient notice of the crime charged in that count and adequately described the specific conduct on which that charge was based. While the relevant count of the indictment accurately stated information about a prior conviction that prohibited Defendant from possessing a firearm, it inaccurately referred to that conviction as a crime of violence. The error went unnoticed in the circuit court. On appeal, Defendant argued that the additional language in the firearms count meant that he was not charged with a crime and that the trial court lacked jurisdiction to adjudicate that count. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) the firearm count charged a cognizable crime and showed the jurisdiction of the trial court; and (2) to the extent the drafting error in the indictment could be a basis for objection, Defendant waived any objection by failing to raise it below. View "Shannon v. State" 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 of second-degree murder, holding that non-mutually admissible evidence was admitted at trial, prejudicing Defendant, and the seizure of a cell phone from Defendant's person exceeded the parameters of the Fourth Amendment and Article 26 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights. Defendant was tried in the circuit court along with a co-defendant for murder. Both defendants were convicted of second-degree murder. On appeal, Defendant argued that his trial should have been severed from that of his co-defendant since a substantial amount of the evidence against the co-defendant was not admissible against him. Defendant further argued that the trial court erred in failing to suppress a cell phone that was seized from his pocket. The Court of Appeals agreed, holding that (1) the trials should have been severed because the joint trial unfairly prejudiced Defendant, and the resulting prejudice could not be cured; and (2) in the absence of a valid search and seizure warrant for the search of Defendant's person or an applicable exception to the warrant requirement, the seizure of the cell phone was unlawful. View "State v. Zadeh" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the Court of Special Appeals affirming the ruling of the circuit court denying both Appellant's request for post-conviction relief under the Post-Conviction Procedure Act (UPPA) and his petition for writ of error coram nobis, holding that Appellant was not entitled to the relief he sought. The circuit court found Appellant guilty to two counts of second-degree assault and determined that he was "not criminally responsible" (NCR). Appellant later filed a pro se petition for post-conviction relief under the UPPA, arguing that his NCR plea was the functional equivalent of a guilty plea and was invalid because he did not understand the nature of the charges. He also filed a petition for writ of error corm nobis seeking to vacate the NCR judgment. The circuit court denied relief as to both petitions. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) Appellant was not eligible for relief under the plain language of the UPPA; and (2) Appellant was not entitled to coram nobis relief because he did not suffer significant collateral consequences. View "Peterson v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Court of Appeals reversed the judgment of the Court of Special Appeals reversing the order of the circuit court declaring that Defendant, who pled guilty to sex trafficking, was not required to register as a Tier II Sex Offender on the ground that the victim's age had not been proven, holding that the circuit court properly granted declaratory judgment in favor of Defendant. At issue was whether a person like Defendant, who was convicted of human trafficking under Md. Code Ann. Crim. Law (CR) 11-303(a), was required to register as a Tier II Sex Offender where the victim's age was not established during the guilty plea proceeding. The Court of Special Appeals reversed and remanded the case for a determination of the victim's age. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding (1) CR 11-303(a) is an offense whose elements do not require proof of the victim's age; (2) where no proof of the victim's age was established at the plea proceeding, Defendant was not required to register as a Tier II Sex Offender; and (3) the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services lacks the authority to make a factual determination as to the victim's age for purposes of determining whether registration as a Tier II Sex Offender is required. View "Rogers v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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In this case concerning the discretion of a court to dismiss a probation violation petition and to terminate probation the Court of Appeals held that the circuit court had discretion to terminate Defendant's probation before it would otherwise expire and remanded the case to the circuit court for any necessary proceedings in which the court may either exercise its discretion, indicate that it had already done so, or take any other appropriate action. Defendant pled guilty to theft and was sentenced to three years supervised probation. Defendant was later charged with violating the conditions of his probation. After noting that Defendant had already been incarcerated for longer than the presumptive sanction of fifteen days' imprisonment the court dismissed the probation violation petition without determining whether Defendant had committed the alleged probation violations. The court never declared that Defendant's probation had "expired" and was "over." Because the record did not indicate that the circuit court in fact exercised its discretion to terminate Defendant's probation before it would otherwise expire, the Court of Appeals remanded the case to the circuit court for any necessary proceedings in which the court may either exercise its discretion, indicate that it had already done so, or take any other appropriate action. View "State v. Alexander" 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 of volume possession of a controlled dangerous substance under Md. Code Crim. Law (CR) 5-612, holding that CR 5-612 is unambiguous and that Defendant's sentence was not illegal because the maximum term of imprisonment under the statute is twenty years. In connection with his conviction, Defendant was sentenced to a total sentence of fourteen years' imprisonment, the first five years without the possibility of parole. On appeal, Defendant argued that his sentence was illegal because the express language of CR 5-612 failed to state a maximum potential term of imprisonment. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that Defendant's sentence was legal because it fell within the permissible range of years for which an individual may be sentenced - five to twenty years' of imprisonment. View "Johnson v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law