Dashiell v. State, 485

Citation214 Md.App. 684,78 A.3d 916
Decision Date04 November 2013
Docket NumberNo. 485,Sept. Term, 2012.,485
PartiesBrenden DASHIELL v. STATE of Maryland.
CourtCourt of Special Appeals of Maryland

214 Md.App. 684
78 A.3d 916

STATE of Maryland.

No. 485, Sept. Term, 2012.

Court of Special Appeals of Maryland.

Nov. 4, 2013.

[78 A.3d 918]

Anne K. Olesen (George Washington University Law School, Jacob Burns Community Legal Clinics, on the brief) Washington, DC, for appellant.

Daniel J. Jawor (Douglas F. Gansler, Atty. Gen., on the brief) Baltimore, MD, for appellee.



[214 Md.App. 688]Convicted, by a jury, sitting in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County, of involuntary manslaughter, Brenden Dashiell, appellant, noted this appeal, raising three issues. Re-ordered to facilitate review, they are:

I. Whether the circuit court erred in instructing the jury that self-defense is not a defense to affray;

II. Whether the circuit court erred in allowing the jury to consider affray as an unlawful underlying act for involuntary manslaughter because the State failed to show that the fight occurred in public or caused terror to the people; and

III. Whether the circuit court erred in refusing to instruct the jury that defense of property may be a defense to assault and affray.

Because the circuit court erred in instructing the jury that self-defense is not a defense to affray, we reverse and remand. We shall, however, briefly address the two remaining issues, as they are likely to arise again if there is a retrial of this case.


On Saturday, July 2, 2011, Justin Carter and his wife, Evelyn Carter, held a cookout on the back porch of their home in Gaithersburg, Maryland, to kick off the July 4th weekend. Among the guests were Susie Palencia, Mrs. Carter's sister. Ms. Palencia and appellant were, at that time, a couple and together the parents of two daughters. Sometime that evening,

[78 A.3d 919]

appellant called the Carters' home, looking for Ms. Palencia. Upon learning that the Carters were hosting a [214 Md.App. 689]cookout and that Ms. Palencia and his daughters were there, appellant drove, on his moped, over to the Carters' home. At some point after appellant arrived, Ms. Palencia left the party, taking their two children with her, but appellant stayed behind.

The witnesses to the tragic occurrence that followed provided accounts of that incident, which, while consistent in some respects, varied as to others, reflecting perhaps the divided loyalties of the witnesses or the significant amounts of alcohol consumed by them at the cookout, a consumption in which both appellant and the victim, Justin Carter, were not reluctant participants.

Undisputed by all accounts, however, is that what began at the cookout as a “playful” wrestling match between appellant and Carter escalated into a fistfight; that, after that fight was broken up, it was revivified when Carter's wife tripped and fell, a fall that Carter attributed to appellant; and that, after that confrontation ended, it re-erupted when Carter, enraged over the refusal of appellant to shake his hand, kicked appellant's parked moped and walked towards him and took the first swing. Several punches later, Carter fell unconscious to the ground and died that night from blows he had received to his head.

The next day, appellant was arrested and was thereafter charged, in a single-count indictment, with involuntary manslaughter. In March 2012, he was tried by a jury in the Montgomery County circuit court and convicted of that offense. After receiving a “flat sentence” of five years' imprisonment, he noted this appeal.


We begin our review of the three issues before us by first defining an “affray.” An “affray,” a common law offense, has been defined as “the fighting together of two or more persons, either by mutual consent or otherwise, in some public place, to the terror of the people.” 2 Joel Prentiss Bishop, Bishop on [214 Md.App. 690]Criminal Law § 1, at 1 (9th ed.1923). Accord Hickman v. State, 193 Md.App. 238, 248, 996 A.2d 974 (2010).

The “public place” and “terror to the people” elements of affray are closely related. Indeed, evidence that a fight occurred in a “public place” may be sufficient to establish, ipso facto, that the fight resulted in “terror to the people.” But the next question is, whether a fight in a public place, where the only witnesses to the fight are those participating in it, may constitute “terror to the public.” Hickman, 193 Md.App. at 247–48 n. 7, 996 A.2d 974.

To answer that question, we turn to Briscoe v. State, 3 Md.App. 462, 240 A.2d 109 (1968). Though not precisely on point, Briscoe provides a compelling analogy. In that case, the crime at issue was not “affray” but the common law offense of “riot,” which, in Briscoe, occurred on the grounds of a Maryland prison. As an affray, the crime of riot requires that the conduct in question poses a terror to others. Specifically, that offense is defined as “three or more persons ‘unlawfully assembled to carry out a common purpose in such violent or turbulent manner as to terrify others.’ ” Schlamp v. State, 390 Md. 724, 737, 891 A.2d 327 (2006) (quoting Cohen v. State, 173 Md. 216, 221, 195 A. 532 (1937)).

Pointing out that the State had “offered no direct evidence to show that any of the witnesses, inmates of the penitentiary, or residents of the City of Baltimore were placed in fear or terror as a result of the riot,” Briscoe claimed that the evidence did not support his conviction for that offense. We rejected that claim, observing that “there may be a riot, even though no person

[78 A.3d 920]

or persons are actually terrified, if the violent and turbulent execution of any unlawful act committed by a sufficient number of persons tends to alarm and terrify law-abiding citizens.” Id. at 468–69, 240 A.2d 109. In Schlamp v. State, 390 Md. 724, 891 A.2d 327 (2006), the Court of Appeals cited Briscoe with approval, asserting that “it was not necessary to prove that any particular persons were placed in fear or terror,” and reversed Schlamp's conviction for “riot” because “there was no evidence of other tumultuous [214 Md.App. 691]behavior that struck terror or was likely to strike terror in anyone.” Id. at 736–37, 891 A.2d 327.

We reach the same conclusion as to an affray, as there is no rational basis for drawing a distinction between “riot” and “affray,” for purposes of establishing “terror to the people,” a point a leading treatise makes when it states that, to establish the “terror” element of affray, “[t]error need not actually exist among the people”; rather, “[i]n a legal sense, fighting in public is to the terror of the people.” Lewis Hochheimer, The Law of Crimes and Criminal Procedure, ch. 36, § 243, at 281 (2d ed.1904) (citing State v. Sumner, 36 S.C.L. (5 Strob.) 53 (S.C.Ct.App.1850)). Hence, to establish an affray, the State need only show that the acts and surrounding circumstances were “likely to strike terror in anyone,” Schlamp, 390 Md. at 737, 891 A.2d 327, not that it actually has in any specific individual. We turn next to appellant's three claims of error.


Appellant's first claim is that the circuit court erred in instructing the jury that self-defense is not a defense to affray. Although the State acknowledges that self-defense is generally a defense to affray, it insists that appellant, in his opening statement, “conceded” that the fighting which took place was mutual, thereby negating self-defense; and that, in any event, the evidence showed that he invited Carter to step off the patio to fight. In other words, the facts of this case were, according to the State, “inconsistent” with self-defense and, hence, the circuit court arrived at the correct result (though for the wrong reason) and therefore committed no reversible error.

To begin with, self-defense, in our view, may be invoked as a defense to affray. An affray, by its very definition, involves “fighting.” And as we said in Bryant v. State, 83 Md.App. 237, 574 A.2d 29 (1990), where we contemplated whether self-defense could be used as a defense to maiming, a form of aggravated assault, “the simple and frequently neglected[214 Md.App. 692]larger truth is that the defense of self-defense applies to assaultive crimes generally.” Id. at 245, 574 A.2d 29. Consistent with that line of reasoning, the Court of Appeals subsequently, in Jones v. State, 357 Md. 408, 745 A.2d 396 (2000), concluded that self-defense is also a defense to reckless endangerment, reasoning that “the elements of self-defense necessarily negate a required element of reckless endangerment,” to wit, “that a reasonable person would not have engaged in the conduct at issue.” Id. at 430, 745 A.2d 396. That same reasoning applies to an affray, where fighting is an essential element of the offense.

But we may be merely stating what was, at one time, commonly understood. 1See Hamlin v. State, 67 Md. 333, 338, 10 A. 214 (1887) (observing that “where two persons

[78 A.3d 921]

are indicted for an affray; if the breach of the peace has been proved, the effort of each traverser would be to show that he was acting in self-defence against the attack of the other”) (Bryan, J., dissenting).2

Moreover, the appellate courts of other states have reached the same conclusion. In Coyle v. State, 72 S.W. 847 (Tex.Crim.App.1903), a case that presents the very same issue now before us, that is, whether a defendant charged with both assault and affray was entitled to a self-defense jury instruction as to both charges, the Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas considered whether a trial court erred in refusing to [214 Md.App. 693]instruct a jury that self-defense is a defense to affray. In that case, “there was a quarrel between the parties” and conflicting evidence as to whether Coyle or his opponent “occasioned the quarrel.” Id. at 848. Coyle was subsequently charged with two counts: aggravated assault and affray. At the conclusion of his trial, the court “gave a charge on self-defense as applicable to the first count on aggravated assault, but failed to give a charge on self-defense as...

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  • Ford v. State, 2193, Sept. Term, 2016
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    ...the trial evidence has fairly generated self-defense as an issue. As Chief Judge Krauser explained for this Court in Dashiell v. State, 214 Md. App. 684, 696, 78 A.3d 916 (2013):"If there is any evidence relied on by the defendant which, if believed, would support his claim that he acted in......
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