Six New Maryland Certiorari Grants, January 9, 2017

The Court of Appeals of Maryland has posted six new certiorari grants. Five are criminal cases. The one civil case involves a Court of Special Appeals opinion, authored by Judge Arthur, with facts that read like a Trusts & Estates exam. On the criminal side, Savage v. State presents interesting questions regarding a defense expert’s neuropsychological examination and DSM-IV diagnosis.

The Court of Appeals is likely to issue any additional grants for this month on a rolling basis between now and January 20 (the day after its January 19 conference).The six grants, with questions presented, appear after the jump.

Sadie M. Castruccio v. The Estate of Peter A. Castruccio et al. – Case No. 79, September Term, 2016Issues – Estates & Trusts – 1) Is a Will validly executed if (a) the witnesses did not sign on the same page as the testator, or on one physically connected to it, (b) the Will contained no proper attestation clause, and (c) the Will was not otherwise regular on its face because it expressly stated the pages were initialed but they were not? 2) Can a presumption of due execution attach to such a Will, where the only confirmation that the witnesses signed in the presence of the testator is a common font and consecutive page numbering? 3) Can summary judgment as to the validity of the Will properly be granted where two of the witnesses testified the Will was stapled when they signed, and one testified the pages were initialed, but the Will submitted for probate was never stapled or initialed?

Bashawn Montgomery Ray v. State of Maryland – Case No. 81, September Term, 2016

Issues – Criminal Law – 1) Under this Court’s decisions in Cuffley v. State, 416 Md. 568 (2010) and Baines v. State, 416 Md. 204 (2010), which require that a plea agreement is construed according to what a reasonable lay person in the defendant’s position would have understood it to mean, would a reasonable lay person understand a “cap of four years on executed incarceration” to mean that the court could impose suspended time in addition to a four-year term of non-suspended incarceration? 2) Where the trial court bound itself to a “cap of four years on executed incarceration,” but the term “executed” was never explained to Petitioner and he was never informed that the court could impose suspended time in addition to incarceration for up to four years, and the court sentenced him to ten years’ incarceration, with six years suspended, is the sentence imposed on Petitioner illegal?

Eddie Lee Savage, Jr. v. State of Maryland – Case No. 82, September Term, 2016

Issues – Criminal Law – 1) Did CSA err when it concluded that the defense expert’s neuropsychological examination and DSM-IV diagnosis based on a standard battery of tests were subject to Frye-Reed? 2) Where the unrefuted evidence presented at the Frye-Reed hearing established that the defense expert’s methodology consisted of “validated measures that have scientific acceptance and approval within the community of neuropsychologists” and Petitioner was diagnosed under the DSM-IV, did CSA err when it concluded that the defense failed to meet the Frye-Reed standard? 3) Did CSA err when it affirmed the trial court’s exclusion of the defense expert’s conclusion that Petitioner “views the world through an untrusting and suspicious perspective, and often is hyper-vigilant to possible threats”? 4) Did CSA err when it permitted the State in closing argument to impeach Petitioner’s testimony based on his failure to tell the police at any time prior to trial that he acted in self-defense?

Stephanie L. Smith v. State of Maryland – Case No. 80, September Term, 2016

Issues – Criminal Law – 1) Do the holdings in Cuffley v. State, 416 Md. 568 (2010) and Baines v. State, 416 Md. 204 (2010), under which a plea agreement is construed according to what a reasonable lay person in the defendant’s position would have understood it to mean, apply when the State challenges a sentence allegedly imposed in violation of Md. Rule 4-243(c)? 2) Would a reasonable lay person in Petitioner’s situation have believed that probation before judgment was precluded by the plea agreement where the agreement was silent as to probation before judgment and required Petitioner to pay restitution? 3) Under Md. Rule 4-243(c), which provides in part that “if [the guilty plea] is accepted, [the judge] may approve the [plea] agreement or defer decision as to its approval or rejection until after such pre-sentence proceedings and investigation as the judge directs,” is the court bound to the plea agreement upon accepting the guilty plea or may it reject the agreement after accepting the plea, and if the latter, did the trial court reject the agreement after accepting Petitioner’s guilty plea? 4) Did CSA err in holding that Petitioner’s sentence was imposed in violation of Rule 4-243(c)?

State of Maryland v. Robert L. Copes, Jr. – Case No. 84, September Term, 2016

Issue – Criminal Law – Did the trial court err in excluding the evidence recovered by the police?

State of Maryland v. Otis Rich – Case No. 83, September Term, 2016

Issue – Criminal Law – Where the trial court denied Respondent’s coram nobis petition challenging his 2001 conviction without a hearing, in light of Smith v. State, 443 Md. 572 (2015), did CSA err in not remanding this matter to the trial court for a hearing to determine whether Respondent was, in fact, unaware of the nature of a conspiracy charge at the time of his plea?

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