Director of Patuxent Institution v. Daniels

Citation243 Md. 16,221 A.2d 397
Decision Date03 June 1966
Docket NumberNo. 520,520
PartiesDIRECTOR OF PATUXENT INSTITUTION v. Samuel DANIELS. Bradley Arlington AVEY v. DIRECTOR OF PATUXENT INSTITUTION et al.
CourtCourt of Appeals of Maryland

Karl G. Feissner, Rockville (Alpern & Feissner, Rockville, and Daniel Clifford Smith, Washington, D. C., on the brief), for Samuel Daniels and Bradley Arlington Avey.

Robert C. Murphy, Deputy Atty. Gen. and Franklin Goldstein, Asst. Atty. Gen., Baltimore (Thomas B. Finan, Atty. Gen., Baltimore, and Howard Chasanow, Deputy State's Atty., for Prince George's Company, Upper Marlboro, on the brief), for Director of Patuxent Institution and others.

Before PRESCOTT, C. J., HAMMOND, HORNEY, MARBURY, BARNES and McWILLIAMS, JJ., and D. K. McLAUGHLIN, Special Judge.

HAMMOND, Judge.

Samuel Daniels, an appellee and cross-appellant, was found to be a defective delinquent in 1959 by the Circuit Court for Prince George's County pursuant to the provisions of the Maryland Defective Delinquent Act, Code (1964 Supp.), Art. 31B (the Act), and was remanded to Patuxent Institution, the place of confinement, and treatment and rehabilitation if possible, established by the Act for those judicially determined to be defective The present appeal is essentially from the determination of the trial court on remand that the Act in operation and application is constitutional but it comes to us in an unusual posture which requires explanation. Maryland, 334 F.2d 506, in June 1964. and but a day or two before the opinion of the Circuit Court for Prince George's County was to be filed, it was discovered for the first time that, contrary to what was indicated by the docket entries of his criminal trial in 1958, which showed a plea of guilty to storehouse breaking and larceny, Daniels had actually then entered a plea of guilty only of petty larceny and that it was on the conviction following this plea that he was sentenced to not more than three years in the Maryland State Reformatory for Males and subsequently referred to Patuxent for diagnosis as a possible defective delinquent, found to be one and committed to Patuxent. After this discovery, covery, it was realized that there was at least a strong probability that Daniels' conviction of petty larceny was not, under § 6 of Art. 31B, one of the crimes which would serve as a basis for referral to and confinement in Patuxent and Daniel's lawyer on behalf of Bradley Arlington Avey, then in Patuxent for diagnosis as a possible defective delinquent, concededly properly so under The court nevertheless ordered that Daniels be released forthwith for the reason that he had been improperly found to be a defective delinquent in that the supposed basis for his referral to Patuxent under § 6 of Art. 31B did not exist and he had served all sentences imposed upon him. The court held that if legally necessary it would treat Daniels' petition for redetermination as one for the writ of habeas corpus, and cast aside the arguments of the State (a) that the crime of petty larceny was a crime of violence (the commission of which would have justified referral to Patuxent under § 6 of Art. 31B, and (b) that the crime of escape from Patuxent for which he was convicted in Howard County, before he was determined originally to be a defective delinquent, constituted a second crime which was enough under § 6 of Art. 31B ('two or more convictions for any offenses or crimes punishable by imprisonment, in a criminal court of this State') to justify the determination that he was a defective delinquent. The State, through the Director of Patuxent Institution, appealed the order releasing Daniels We agree with the trial court that Daniels had to be released because under § 6 of Art. 31B there can be no referral to Patuxent for a diagnosis of possible defective delinquency until one or more of the five prerequisites of conviction for a specified crime therein set out exists and none did when Daniels was referred, and with its underlying views that the Circuit Court for Prince George's County lacked power to make the referral and, that assuming the Circuit Court for Howard County (as the court which last sentenced the defendant and so under § 6(e) of Art. 31B the only court then with power to do so) could have made the referral after Daniels was convicted of escape, it did not do so.

delinquents. In 1964 he sought a redetermination of his status in the same trial court, as permitted by the Act, a jury again decided that he was a defective delinquent, and again he was remanded to Patuxent. He sought leave to appeal to this Court in accordance with the procedure provided by the Act. In Daniels v. Director, 238 Md. 80, 206 A.2d 726, we rejected all his contentions save the one that the trial court had denied him the right and opportunity to show that he was not being given treatment for the causes of his defective delinquency as contemplated by the Act, but rather was being punished by being confined indefinitely, probably for life, in a penal institution in violation of his constitutional rights. Leave to appeal was granted as to this claim and the case remanded for a determination of whether the continued detention of Daniels in Patuxent is a violation of his constitutional rights in light of the questions as to the constitutionality of the Act in operation posed by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Sas v. State of Maryland, 223 F.2d 506, in June 1964 the Act, filed a bill for a declaratory judgment that Avey was being held in violation of his constitutional rights, assigning all of the general reasons that had been urged in behalf of Daniels and were under consideration in his case. The State answered the bill and the Avey case was consolidated with the Daniels case upon a stipulation that all of the testimony and exhibits in the Daniels case (except as applied to Daniels individually) 'shall be accepted in evidence in this (the Avey) case and shall be considered by the court to the same extent as if the testimony had been testified to in this case and as if the exhibits had been produced in this case.' Thereupon on December 15, 1965, the court filed its opinion in the consolidated cases that the Act is constitutional and is being constitutionally applied, both generally and specifically as to Daniels and its order as to Avey adopting, to the extent of its general application, its opinion in Daniels 'including the Findings of Fact and conclusions of law,' and ordering 'that it is hereby declared that Article 31B of the Annotated Code of Maryland (1957) is constitutional * * * (and) that no constitutional rights of the plaintiff, Bradley Arlington Avey, are being violated by his confinement at Patuxent Institution * * *.' and Daniels cross-appealed the findings that the Act was constitutional and being constitutionally applied, and Avey also appealed the declaratory order of constitutionality. 1

We pass to further consideration of the merits and of the Sas case, which triggered the consideration of the constitutionality of the Act in actual operation.

In Sas five inmates of Patuxent Institution, one of whom was John Sas, had filed petitions for writs of habeas corpus in the United States District Court in Baltimore, seeking their releases from Patuxent on the ground that the Act, under which they were confined, is unconstitutional, and had appealed when their petitions were denied. In its opinion in the consolidated appeals, the Circuit Court of Appeals found the Act and its statutory definition of a defective delinquent to be facially constitutional but, almost inexplicably, read the decision in Palmer v. State, 215 Md. 142, 137 A.2d 119, to hold that this Court had implanted the term 'psychopath' into the statutory definition as always synonymous with the term 'emotionally unbalanced' and posed the question of whether such an interpretation 'has rendered the definition too vague to be constitutionally acceptable.' The Court went on to reject claims that the Act upon its face violated the equal protection clause of the fourteenth 'An examination of the trial and hearing provisions of the Act can leave no doubt that it places around the accused more procedural safeguards than any of the Acts of a similar nature which have been upheld by the courts against this attack.'

amendment or denied procedural due process, saying on the latter point:

Further on this point, the Court noted and answered the claims of John Sas and his confreres that the Act is unconstitutional because, first, it permits experts to testify over objection to an opinion as to defective delinquency based in part on background hearsay matters, in departure from common law rules of evidence; second, it improperly permits experts to express their opinions on the ultimate issue before the jury, that is, whether the inmate is a defective delinquent within the meaning of the Act; and third, it provides that the State must prove its case only by the civil measure of greater weight of the evidence and not by the criminal rule of beyond a reasonable doubt, saying:

'The answer to all of these objections is that with respect to state action repeated decisions of the Supreme Court have put it beyond the range of further debate that the 'due process' clause of the fourteenth amendment has not the effect of imposing upon the states any particular form or mode of procedure, so long as the essential rights of notice and a hearing, or opportunity to be heard, before a competent tribunal are not interfered with.'

The Sas appellate court thereupon had a further caveat, in spite of the facially adequate procedural safeguards of the Act which it had recognized, whether 'in application these safeguards result in basic fairness of procedure imposed upon the state by the fourteenth amendment.'

The Sas appellate court next chose to concern itself with two further facets of the actual working of the Act. Taking heed of the fact that the Act...

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