Articles Posted in Maryland Court of Appeals

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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At issue was whether the circuit court erred in admitting controlled dangerous substances into evidence at trial in the absence of strict compliance with Md. Code Ann. Cts. & Jud. Proc. 10-1001, 10-1002, and 10-1003. Prior to his criminal trial, Defendant made a timely demand pursuant to Cts. & Jud. Proc. 10-1003 for the presence of all the members in the chain of custody at trial. The State was unable to call the “packaging” officer as a witness, but the court admitted the suspected controlled dangerous substances, concluding that the State properly established the chain of custody. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) where there has been an invocation of the right to have all witnesses produced pursuant to section 10–1003, the State may not proceed under the streamlined procedure for establishing the chain of custody pursuant to Cts. & Jud. Proc. 10-1001 to -1003 and instead must establish a proper chain of custody that negates a reasonable probability of alteration or tampering; and (2) because the State produced the officer who originally recovered the drugs and the chemist who tested them, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in admitting the evidence. View "Wheeler v. State" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the Court of Special Appeals affirming the trial court, which convicted Petitioner of rape and sentenced him to a term of seven years incarceration and five years of supervised probation. Before the Court of Appeals, Petitioner argued that the trial court erred in allowing the State to admit redacted portions of telephone calls Petitioner made to his mother while in pre-trial detention. The Court disagreed, holding that the trial court’s exclusion of the entire jail call transcript did not violate the common law doctrine of verbal completeness. View "Otto v. State" on Justia Law

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Jurisdiction under the Maryland Uniform Postconviction Procedure Act (UPPA), Md. Code Ann., Crim. Proc. 7-101 to -109, is determined upon the filing of a petition for postconviction relief and, barring a procedural default, is not defeated upon the petitioner’s release from custody prior to completion of full review of the case, including any appellate review. After Petitioner filed an application for leave to appeal the denial of his petition for postconviction relief, Petitioner completed his sentence, including a three-year probationary period. The Court of Appeals dismissed the appeal, concluding that it lost jurisdiction to entertain the appeal once Petitioner was no longer in custody. The Court of Appeals vacated the Court of Appeals’ judgment and remanded to that court to consider the merits of Petitioner’s appeal, holding that whenever a timely petition for postconviction relief is filed, absent the petitioner’s procedural default, Maryland courts retain jurisdiction throughout consideration of the petition, including appellate review, despite any intervening release from custody. View "Kranz v. State" on Justia Law