Articles Posted in Maryland Court of Appeals

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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

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At issue was whether, at a criminal trial on drug charges, the introduction of valid prescriptions for controlled substances are barred by the rule against hearsay or if, instead, they are non-hearsay and admissible as a “verbal act.” The circuit court in this case granted the State’s motion to suppress introduction of any supposed prescriptions for controlled substances on hearsay grounds. The Court of Special Appeals reversed each of Defendant's convictions except for his two convictions for possession of heroin and possession with intent to distribute heroin on the basis that “[v]alid prescriptions provide the basis of a statutory defense to the charges for possession of and possession with intent to distribute methadone, alprazolam, and oxycodone.” The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that evidence of a valid prescription can fall under the category of “verbal acts,” admissible not for the truth of the matter asserted but as the basis of a statutory defense under Md. Code Ann. Crim. Law 5-601(a) and 602(2). View "State v. Young" 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 that precluded Defendant from playing video excerpts of trial court testimony during closing argument, holding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in prohibiting the use of video excerpts of trial testimony during closing argument. The Court of Special Appeals concluded that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by excluding the video excerpts because of the genuine concern of undue delay, waste of time, and juror confusion. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the trial court’s stated concerns regarding waste of time and juror confusion were well within the bounds of its sound discretion and reason to justify the exclusion of the video excerpts. View "Cagle v. State" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the Court of Special Appeals affirming the judgment of the trial court admitting an audio-recorded conversation recovered from Defendant’s cell phone during trial and convicting him of drug- and firearm-related offenses, holding that the trial court did not err in admitting the audio-recorded conversation over Defendant’s objection. On appeal, Defendant argued that the Maryland Wiretap Act, Md. Code Ann. Cts. & Jud. Proc. 10-402, prevented admission of the recording because the unidentified speaker with whom Defendant was communicating in the recording did not consent to its interception. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that where a party to a communication consents to or participates in the interception of a communication, section 10-402(a) of the Maryland Wiretap Act does not render the intercepted communication inadmissible against the consenting party. View "Agnew v. State" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the circuit court affirming the administrative law judge ruling that Petitioner was fully advised of the sanctions imposed upon him after refusing a chemical test, holding that Petitioner received his statutory right to full advisement. Specifically, the Court of Appeals held (1) Defendant’s due process rights were not violated, nor was full advisement of the administrative penalties that shall be imposed for refusing a breath test pursuant to Md. Code Ann. Transp. 16-205.1 negated when, after reading the Motor Vehicle Administration’s DR-15 advice form, a police officer’s oral restatement of the penalties for failing and refusing a breath test omitted the most severe mandatory penalty for refusal; and (2) the DR-15 is unambiguous regarding the duration of participation in the Interlock Program and is consistent with Petitioner’s right to due process and the statutory right to full advisement under section 16-205.1. View "Owusu v. Motor Vehicle Administration" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the Court of Special Appeals concluding that the circuit court was permitted to order Appellant to pay restitution in a theft case without a request from the victim or State, holding that the restitution requirement in Md. Code Ann. Crim. Law 7-104 authorizes a court in a theft case to award restitution, regardless of whether the State or the victim requests that relief. The restitution order in this case stemmed from Appellant’s theft conviction and required him to pay his victim the value of the goods he stole in the amount of $18,964.55. On appeal, Appellant argued that restitution was improper because Md. Code Ann. Crim. Proc. 11-603(b)(1) contains a provision that obliges the victim or State to request restitution in order to trigger a presumed right to receive restitution. The Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the order of restitution, concluding that the sentencing judge was obliged to order restitution pursuant to section 7-104(g)(1)(i)(2). The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that section 7-104(g)(1)(i)(2) exists as an exception to section 11-603(b)(1). View "Ingram v. State" on Justia 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

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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

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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

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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