Bodeau v. State, No. 1365, Sept. Term, 2019

CourtCourt of Special Appeals of Maryland
Writing for the CourtKehoe, J.
Parties Edward Andre BODEAU v. STATE of Maryland
Decision Date01 October 2020
Docket NumberNo. 1365, Sept. Term, 2019

248 Md.App. 115
239 A.3d 865

Edward Andre BODEAU
v.
STATE of Maryland

No. 1365, Sept. Term, 2019

Court of Special Appeals of Maryland.

October 1, 2020


Argued by Michael T. Torres (Paul B. DeWolfe, Public Defender, on the brief) Baltimore, MD, for Appellant.

Argued by Brenda Gruss (Brian E. Frosh, Atty. Gen., on the brief) Baltimore, MD, for Appellee.

Panel: Kehoe, Leahy, Sally D. Adkins (Senior Judge, Specially Assigned), JJ.

Kehoe, J.

248 Md.App. 122

Contents

Introduction...869

Background...870

Analysis...873

A. The State's laches defense...873

1. The writ of error coram nobis...875

2. The laches defense...877

3. The standard of review...878

4. The challenged laches conclusions...878

a. Unreasonable delay...878

b. Prejudice to the State...885

5. Bodeau's add-on arguments...886

B. Whether to reach the merits of Bodeau's petition...887

248 Md.App. 123

C. The State's add-on argument...888

Conclusion...889

Introduction

Almost five decades after his 1971 conviction for daytime burglary, appellant Edward Bodeau sought to vacate the conviction by filing a petition for a writ of error coram nobis in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County. He asserted that the daytime-burglary conviction was constitutionally infirm, obtained after the trial court explained to the jury that its instructions on applicable legal principles were "advisory only." Bodeau also alleged that even though he had long since served his sentence for the 1971 conviction, he was suffering collateral consequences: The conviction had been used as a predicate offense for the mandatory life-without-parole sentence that he has been serving since he was convicted of armed robbery in 1989.

After a hearing, the circuit court denied Bodeau's coram nobis petition. The court's decision was not based on the petition's merits. Instead, the court ruled that coram nobis relief was barred by the equitable doctrine of laches—that Bodeau had unreasonably delayed in bringing his challenge to the advisory-only instructions, prejudicing the State's ability to reprosecute Bodeau for the daytime burglary should a new trial be awarded.

Bodeau's appeal asks us to decide whether the circuit court erred in denying his coram nobis petition on laches grounds. In concluding that the court did err, we add a footnote to the "tortured history" of advisory-only instructions in Maryland. State v. Adams-Bey , 449 Md. 690, 695, 144 A.3d 1200 (2016). We address the extent to which a petitioner in Bodeau's situation can be said to have unreasonably delayed in challenging his conviction before the Court of Appeals held in Unger v. State , 427 Md. 383, 48 A.3d 242 (2012), that a failure to have objected to advisory-only instructions in a pre-1981 criminal trial would not amount to a waiver of the issue. We will hold that Bodeau's failure to file a petition for a writ of error coram

248 Md.App. 124

nobis was not unreasonable until, at the earliest, Unger was filed. It was only then that the Court of Appeals held that a failure to have objected to advisory-only instructions in a pre-1981 criminal trial did not amount

239 A.3d 870

to a waiver of the issue. This was critical for Bodeau because his 1971 trial counsel had not objected to the advisory only instruction. We will reverse the circuit court's judgment and remand the case for further proceedings.

Background

Bodeau's life sentence without parole

In August 1971, a Montgomery County jury tried Bodeau on charges of daytime burglary and theft of property valued at $100 or more. At the time, daytime burglary (or housebreaking) was considered a crime of violence in Maryland.1 Before sending the jury to deliberate, the trial court told the jurors that, under Maryland's constitution, they were "the sole judges of the law" and that, accordingly, its instructions were "advisory only" and "not binding." The court then instructed the jury on several legal principles, including the applicable burden of proof and the elements required to meet that burden for each of the offenses charged. Bodeau did not object to any of these instructions.

The jury convicted Bodeau on both counts, and the court sentenced him to concurrent seven-year terms of incarceration for each offense. Bodeau unsuccessfully appealed his convictions to this Court, and the Court of Appeals denied his petition for a writ of certiorari. Bodeau's subsequent petition

248 Md.App. 125

for post-conviction relief was also denied. None of Bodeau's contentions in either proceeding were based on the trial court's advisory-only instructions.

Eighteen years later, in November 1989, Bodeau faced another Montgomery County jury. This time, he was convicted of armed robbery. The prosecution sought a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. This sentence was mandated by a four-strikes statute, Md. Code (1957, repl. vol. 1992), art. 27, § 643B(b),2 which then provided:

Any person who has served three separate terms of confinement in a correctional institution as a result of three separate convictions of any crime of violence shall be sentenced, on being convicted a fourth time of a crime of violence, to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. Regardless of any other law to the contrary, the provisions of this section are mandatory.

At the time of his 1989 sentencing, the State asserted that Bodeau had been convicted

239 A.3d 871

of seven at least arguably predicate offenses for the purposes of § 643B(b).3 There were two

248 Md.App. 126

issues before the sentencing court, neither of which appears to have been fully resolved. The first was the degree to which Bodeau's federal and Virginia convictions could be treated as predicate offenses in light of differences between the elements of the offenses as established by the laws of those jurisdictions, and the elements of the offenses that were then considered "crimes of violence" for purposes of Art. 27, § 643B(b). The second was whether Bodeau had actually served separate terms of confinement for each predicate conviction. Ultimately, the sentencing court concluded that there were at least three predicate convictions (one being the 1971 daytime burglary conviction), and that Bodeau had served separate terms for each of them. On this basis, Bodeau received a life sentence without the possibility of parole.

Bodeau's petition for a writ of error coram nobis

Almost thirty years into his life sentence, on January 25, 2019, Bodeau filed a petition for a writ of error coram nobis in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County seeking to invalidate his 1971 daytime-burglary conviction. Bodeau contended that the conviction was constitutionally infirm because the trial judge had given the jury improper "advisory only" instructions. See Stevenson v. State , 289 Md. 167, 180, 423 A.2d 558 (1980) (explaining that, under Article 23 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights, the jury "is the final arbiter of disputes as to the substantive law of the crime, as well as the legal effect of the evidence," but that "all other aspects of law ... are beyond the jury's pale, and that the judge's comments on these matters are binding upon that body"); Montgomery v. State , 292 Md. 84, 91, 437 A.2d 654 (1981) (holding, in light of Stevenson , that the trial court erred in instructing the jury that its instructions on the law were "advisory" and that the jury "could pay no attention" to them). The instructional error, Bodeau contended, was structural and therefore not subject to harmless-error analysis, State v. Waine , 444 Md. 692, 705, 122 A.3d 294 (2015) ; was preserved despite his failure to object, Unger v. State , 427 Md. 383, 391, 48 A.3d 242 (2012) ; and, at least in the context of post-conviction relief, was a "constitutional

248 Md.App. 127

infirmity ... of the sort that will always invalidate the conviction," State v. Adams-Bey , 449 Md. 690, 708, 144 A.3d 1200 (2016) (cleaned up).

Bodeau claimed he was entitled to coram nobis relief because, despite having fully served his sentence for the daytime-burglary conviction, he continued to suffer collateral consequences. As noted above, the 1971 conviction was used by the State to justify the mandatory life-without-parole sentence he received for his 1989 armed robbery conviction. Without the 1971 conviction, Bodeau asserted, he would not have been subject to the four-strikes statute at his 1989 sentencing for armed robbery and instead would have faced a maximum punishment of twenty years in prison without the possibility of parole.

In its answer to Bodeau's petition, the State did not contest the propriety of the advisory-only instructions given at the 1971 daytime-burglary...

To continue reading

Request your trial
9 practice notes
  • White v. State, No. 0891, Sept. Term, 2019
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • October 1, 2020
    ...the Officer is Reasonable, There is No ViolationIII. SANCTION FOR A FOURTH AMENDMENT VIOLATIONA. Exclusionary RuleB. Derivative Evidence248 Md.App. 115 C. Exceptions to the Exclusionary Rule1. Attenuation of Taint2. Independent Source239 A.3d 865 3. Inevitable Discovery--------Notes:1 Shake......
  • Silver v. Greater Balt. Med. Ctr., Inc., No. 3491, Sept. Term, 2018
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • December 21, 2020
    ...circuit court's exercise of this discretion for abuse—not to exercise that discretion on the circuit court's behalf." Bodeau v. State , 248 Md. App. 115, 154, 239 A.3d 865 (2020) (cleaned up). Accordingly, we will vacate the judgment of the circuit court in part and remand the case for the ......
  • Reyes v. State, 1092, Sept. Term, 2020
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • January 26, 2022
    ...in a State prison or on parole or probation, as the petitioner likely could then petition for postconviction relief). Bodeau v. State , 248 Md. App. 115, 134, 239 A.3d 865 (2020) (quoting Jones v. State , 445 Md. 324, 338, 126 A.3d 1162 (2015) ).Collateral consequences In the coram nobis pr......
  • Silver v. Greater Balt. Med. Ctr., Inc., No. 3491
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • December 21, 2020
    ...circuit court's exercise of this discretion for abuse—not to exercise that discretion on the circuit court's behalf." Bodeau v. State, 248 Md. App. 115, 154 (2020) (cleaned up). Accordingly, we will vacate the judgment of the circuit court in part and remand the case for the circuit court t......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
9 cases
  • White v. State, No. 0891, Sept. Term, 2019
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • October 1, 2020
    ...the Officer is Reasonable, There is No ViolationIII. SANCTION FOR A FOURTH AMENDMENT VIOLATIONA. Exclusionary RuleB. Derivative Evidence248 Md.App. 115 C. Exceptions to the Exclusionary Rule1. Attenuation of Taint2. Independent Source239 A.3d 865 3. Inevitable Discovery--------Notes:1 Shake......
  • Silver v. Greater Balt. Med. Ctr., Inc., No. 3491, Sept. Term, 2018
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • December 21, 2020
    ...circuit court's exercise of this discretion for abuse—not to exercise that discretion on the circuit court's behalf." Bodeau v. State , 248 Md. App. 115, 154, 239 A.3d 865 (2020) (cleaned up). Accordingly, we will vacate the judgment of the circuit court in part and remand the case for the ......
  • Reyes v. State, 1092, Sept. Term, 2020
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • January 26, 2022
    ...in a State prison or on parole or probation, as the petitioner likely could then petition for postconviction relief). Bodeau v. State , 248 Md. App. 115, 134, 239 A.3d 865 (2020) (quoting Jones v. State , 445 Md. 324, 338, 126 A.3d 1162 (2015) ).Collateral consequences In the coram nobis pr......
  • Silver v. Greater Balt. Med. Ctr., Inc., No. 3491
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • December 21, 2020
    ...circuit court's exercise of this discretion for abuse—not to exercise that discretion on the circuit court's behalf." Bodeau v. State, 248 Md. App. 115, 154 (2020) (cleaned up). Accordingly, we will vacate the judgment of the circuit court in part and remand the case for the circuit court t......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT