Maryland Court of Appeals Criminal Decisions, 2019 Term

By Steve Klepper (Twitter: @MDAppeal)

To follow up on last year’s post, I’ve continued to track merits-stage decisions by the Court of Appeals of Maryland in criminal cases.  

During the September 2019 Term (9/1/2019 to 8/31/2020), the Court of Appeals decided 27 criminal appeals following argument.[1] Below is my categorization of those decisions.

Aff’dRev’d*OtherState
Win±
Def.
Win±
All
(27)
15
(54%)
9
(33%)
1 DIG
1 Vac’d
1 QA
14
(52%)
12
(44%)
OPD
Pet’r
(10)
8
(80%)
1
(10%)
1 QA8
(80%)
2
(20%)
Private
Pet’r
(10)
4
(40%)
6
(60%)
None4
(40%)
6
(60%)
State
Pet’r
(7)
3
(43%)
2
(29%)
1 DIG
1 Vac’d
2
(29%)
4
(57%)
All
COSA
Ops.
(25)
15
(60%)
8
(32%)
1 DIG
1 Vac’d
14
(56%)
10
(40%)
Rep.
COSA
Op. (11)
7
(64%)
4
(36%)
None8
(73%)
3
(27%)
Unrep.
COSA
Ops.
(14)
8
(57%)
4
(29%)
1 DIG
1 Vac’d
6
(43%)
7
(50%)
SPUD††
(6)
3
(50%)
1
(17%)
1 DIG
1 Vac’d
1
(17%)
4
(67%)

* Reversals include partial reversals
† “DIG” refers to certiorari dismissed as improvidently granted; “QA” refers to a certified question answered
± These measures are sometimes subjective, and are measured by the judgment in that particular case, not by the broader legal consequences. The vacatur in State v. Alexander had no prevailing party.
†† “SPUD” refers to State petitions from unreported opinions.

A few themes repeated from last year:

  1. There is no clear pro-State or pro-defendant lean overall. The State prevailed slightly more than half the time, and defendants prevailed slightly less than half the time.
  2. The Court of Special Appeals was affirmed about twice as often as it was reversed.
  3. The State again had a low rate of success at the merits stage on what I call SPUDs (State petitions from unreported decisions).  

The State’s record on SPUDs is striking, given the State’s discretion whether to petition for certiorari in the first place. Before the Court of Special Appeals, the State nearly always prevails when it exercises its right to appeal certain evidentiary rulings in criminal cases, or when it applies for leave to appeal from a grant of post-conviction relief.[2] But, at least for the last two terms, the State has more often than not turned a non-precedential loss into a precedential loss when the Court of Appeals grants its petition from an unreported opinion.

To allow you to check my work, I’ve included a list of the 25 cases below. Please leave a comment or send me an email if you think I’ve gotten anything wrong.

CaptionPet’rCOA Op.ResultPrevailingVoteCOSA Op.
Trotman v. StatePrivate10/18/19Aff’dState7 to 0Unrep’d
State v. MannState12/19/19Rev’dState5 to 2Rep’d
Tunnell v. StateOPD1/16/20Aff’dState6 to 1Unrep’d
Kazadi v. StateOPD1/24/20Rev’dDef.4 to 3Rep’d
Simms v. StateOPD1/30/20Aff’dState7 to 0Rep’d
Johnson v. StateOPD2/28/20Aff’dState6 to 1Rep’d
State v. AlexanderState3/26/20Vac’dNeither7 to 0Unrep’d
Peterson v. StatePrivate3/31/20Aff’dState7 to 0Unrep’d
Rogers v. StatePrivate3/31/20Rev’dDef.4 to 3Rep’d
State v. ZadehState4/3/20Aff’dDef.5 to 2Unrep’d
Shannon v. StateOPD4/24/20Aff’dState7 to 0Rep’d
Faulkner v. StatePrivate4/27/20Rev’dDef.7 to 0Unrep’d
Smith v. StatePrivate4/27/20Rev’dDef.7 to 0Unrep’d
Bratt v. StateOPD4/28/20Aff’dState7 to 0Rep’d
State v. SampleState5/11/20Rev’dState7 to 0Unrep’d
Greene v. StatePrivate6/9/20Aff’dState7 to 0Rep’d
Hemming v. StateOPD6/26/20Aff’dState7 to 0Unrep’d
Aleman v. StateOPD6/30/20Aff’dState5 to 2Rep’d
Funes v. StatePrivate6/30/20Rev’d in PartDef.7 to 0Circuit Court Appeal
State v. DayState7/10/20DIGDef.7 to 0Unrep’d Order
State v. FrazierState7/14/20Aff’dDef.7 to 0Unrep’d
Lewis v. StatePrivate7/27/20Rev’dDef.7 to 0Rep’d
State v. MorrisonState7/28/20Aff’dDef.4 to 3Unrep’d
Franklin v. StateOPD8/13/20Aff’dState7 to 0Unrep’d
Podieh v. StatePrivate8/14/20Rev’dDef.7 to 0Unrep’d
Vigna v. StatePrivate8/18/20Aff’dState7 to 0Rep’d
Brown et al. v. StateOPD8/24/20QADef.7 to 0Certified Question

[1] I’ve made a few judgment calls. By limiting the analysis to argued cases, I exclude the COVID-related extraordinary-writ petitions that the Court denied or dismissed, and one summary vacatur in light of Kazadi. I also count the Faulkner and Smith cases separately because, although they were decided in a single opinion, they involved different Court of Special Appeals decisions, different petitions, and different counsel for the petitioners.

[2] I do not yet have statistics to back up this point, but I am beginning to keep them.

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