Duvall v. State, 77

CourtCourt of Appeals of Maryland
Writing for the CourtGREENE, J
Citation923 A.2d 81,399 Md. 210
PartiesJuwaughn Alexander DUVALL v. STATE of Maryland.
Docket Number2006.,No. 77,77
Decision Date15 May 2007

923 A.2d 81
399 Md. 210

Juwaughn Alexander DUVALL
STATE of Maryland.

No. 77, Sept. Term, 2006.

Court of Appeals of Maryland.

May 15, 2007.

923 A.2d 82


923 A.2d 83

Brian L. Zavin, Asst. Public Defender (Nancy S. Forster, Public Defender, on brief), for petitioner.

Steven L. Holcomb, Asst. Atty. Gen. (Douglas F. Gansler, Atty. Gen., on brief), for respondent.

Argued before RAKER, CATHELL, HARRELL, BATTAGLIA, GREENE, JOHN C. ELDRIDGE (Retired, Specially Assigned), and ALAN M. WILNER (Retired, Specially Assigned), JJ.


This matter arises from the administrative judge's denial of defense counsel's request for a continuance prior to trial because of defense counsel's conflict of interest. Juwaughn Alexander Duvall ("Petitioner") was convicted in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County, after a jury trial, of first degree burglary, conspiracy to commit first degree burglary, attempted robbery with a dangerous and deadly weapon, and first degree assault.

We conclude that a conflict of interest existed in this case. Petitioner denied the charges filed against him. He informed his defense counsel that another individual, who was represented by the Montgomery County Office of the Public Defender, on unrelated charges, was in fact responsible for the crimes for which Petitioner had been charged. Because there existed a conflict of interest and defense counsel requested a continuance prior to trial, the administrative judge erred, as a matter of law, in failing to grant the postponement to allow defense counsel a reasonable time to resolve the conflict. Petitioner is therefore entitled to a reversal of his convictions and a new trial. Because of this holding, we need not address the propriety of the trial court's actions during the trial.

923 A.2d 84


For approximately one year, Alidad Chacon had been selling marijuana from the basement of a house that he shared with his mother, sister, and nephew in Montgomery County, Maryland. He stored the marijuana in a safe behind a curtain in his bedroom, which was located in the basement, and sold the marijuana only to close friends. In June, 2003, two men broke into the house with the intent to steal the marijuana. Chacon's nephew, Ruben Mesones, saw the intruders when he went to the laundry room in the basement of the house. Mesones described one of the men as bald or nearly bald, approximately 5'6" tall, in his 20s, and wearing a camouflage mask, camouflage gloves, and a black t-shirt. At trial, Mesones identified this man as Petitioner. The other man was taller, heavier, had darker skin and was wearing a "do-rag" and a cap.

The man wearing the mask tried to throw Mesones down on the ground so Mesones shouted to his aunt to call the police. When trying to stand up, Mesones was hit on the head twice with a gun by the man wearing the cap. The man with the cap broke down Chacon's door, pointed a gun at him, and asked where the safe was, while the man with the mask ran upstairs. Chacon subsequently opened the safe. The man with the cap took the contents of the safe — a digital scale and approximately two ounces of marijuana — and fled into the yard through the basement door.

Mesones chased after the man with the mask and caught him on the stairs. Mesones's aunt helped Mesones restrain the individual and then removed his mask. The man exclaimed that he knew them. Mesones's aunt told Mesones to let the man go and the man ran out the front door. Mesones and his aunt went to a police officer's house who lived nearby and described to the officer the man with the mask. The officer called the police station and the aunt told the 911 operator that she knew the name of the man with the mask because he was the father of her friend's baby; she identified him as Petitioner. The aunt explained that she had met him only once, at a nightclub, a few years prior and had photographs from that night. She showed the photographs to the police.

Chacon told the police that this was not the first time that someone had stolen drugs from him. He explained that Adam Muse, an acquaintance who was familiar with the safe and its contents, had stolen the drugs from Chacon's bedroom on an earlier occasion. Chacon, Mesones, and Mesones's aunt, who also knew Muse, claimed that Muse was not the man in the mask on the night in question.

Petitioner was arrested on August 25, 2003 and was interrogated by the police. He asked why he was arrested and thought that it was because he owed $12,000 in child support. Petitioner's mother testified that Petitioner and his friend had driven from Virginia to Germantown, Maryland to help her move into her new home on the date of the incident. She testified that they were with her all day and, further, that her son had never shaved his head bald.

Petitioner was represented by an attorney from the Office of the Public Defender located in Montgomery County. His counsel's theory was that Petitioner was not the man with the mask who broke into Chacon's home, but that Muse was that man. Petitioner argued that he was not at the scene of the crime and that it was a case of mistaken identity. Further, he asserted that Muse fit the physical description that Mesones had given of the man in the mask, had committed a similar

923 A.2d 85
crime at that exact location on a previous occasion, and had knowledge of the marijuana in the basement safe. In addition, Petitioner is approximately 6 feet tall, while Muse is approximately 5'6" tall

When Petitioner's attorney learned that Muse was being represented by another attorney from the Montgomery County Office of the Public Defender in a pending robbery case, she filed a motion for a continuance with the court, on January 15, 2004, more than two months in advance of the 180 day deadline.1 The administrative judge denied the written motion on January 23, 2004. The motion was renewed on the scheduled trial date, January 27, 2004. At the hearing before the administrative judge on that date, defense counsel explained that she filed the motion for a continuance "for the purpose of securing a panel attorney to represent Petitioner and that a Status Conference be set to set a trial date."2 At the hearing, defense counsel stated to the judge that "the problem arises, Your Honor, in the fact that my office represents both Petitioner at this time and a man named Adam Muse." Defense counsel explained that the case was one of mistaken identity and that Adam Muse is very possibly the man who actually committed the crimes, not Petitioner. Defense counsel then explained the nature of the conflict. She said:

My office represents Mr. Muse. Therefore, I could not ask — sic Ron Gottlieb represents him for a trial that's set next week. I could not ask for permission to speak with him because even doing that would be a conflict. I could not review our file on the case because that would be a conflict. I could not review the picture of Mr. Muse in our file because that would be a conflict, and I could not in any way talk with Mr. Muse. I'm not saying Mr. Muse would absolutely talk to me in this case. Obviously, he could decide not to. But I hadn't, I don't even have the opportunity to ask him.
* * * * * *
I very infrequently in 11 years have thought that something was a conflict.
923 A.2d 86
There are people I know who find conflicts out of nothing. I don't.

The administrative judge denied the continuance. She stated:

Okay. Well, this is why I ruled that way. Your trial is first . . . If there's a conflict, then Mr. Gottlieb can move to continue Muse's case and remove himself from that case3. . . . But I don't want to get into Catch-22 sic where you both point fingers at the other — and both try to move cases . . . .

Petitioner's attorney then reiterated that she felt there existed a conflict of interest. The administrative judge asked Petitioner whether he wanted the case continued. Petitioner explained that he did not want a continuance and would proceed without counsel because he has five children and "a good job waiting on him." He stated that he was "ready to go without counsel" because he knew where he was on the date in question. The judge asked Petitioner whether he understood the charges against him and he explained that he did. The judge announced the charges and their mandatory sentences and Petitioner again explained that he understood the charges. He stated, however, that he did not understand "all these postponements and continuances." The court thereafter told Petitioner that his attorney was requesting a continuance to talk to someone who she felt she could not speak to because someone in her office represented him in another case.

The State argued that defense counsel's request for a continuance was improper and not relevant to the case. The State explained that each witness would testify that Muse was not the man in the house and argued that defense counsel was therefore making a "last-second attempt to get a postponement." The administrative judge responded by stating:

Well, I think defense counsel is doing what she is supposed to do, and that's zealously represent the interests of her client. She has made her motion and this, sic basically she is renewing it today on the day of trial. I'm going to deny the motion to continue. She is still counsel of record, and I'll find out who is available and send you for trial.

Petitioner's attorney again renewed her motion before the judge assigned to preside at Petitioner's trial. The trial judge denied defense counsel's motion for a continuance.4 The trial proceeded and, after a jury trial, Petitioner was convicted of first degree burglary, conspiracy to commit first degree burglary, attempted robbery with a dangerous and deadly weapon, and first degree assault. Petitioner filed a motion for a new trial, which the court denied. Thereafter, Petitioner was sentenced to a concurrent 10-year term of imprisonment for...

To continue reading

Request your trial
37 cases
  • State v. McKinley, 13–1226.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • March 13, 2015
    ...determining whether a conflict of interest exists, substantial weight is given to defense counsel's representations.”); Duvall v. State, 399 Md. 210, 923 A.2d 81, 95 (2007) (“[D]efense counsel's representations about specific conflicts of interests should be credited.... Lawyers are officer......
  • Woodfolk v. Maynard, 15-6364
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)
    • May 23, 2017
    ...claims based on purported conflicts of interest are appropriate for consideration on direct review. See, e.g. , Duvall v. State , 399 Md. 210, 923 A.2d 81, 98-100 (2007) (recognizing that conflict-of-interest claims may be addressed on direct appeal when counsel timely raised conflict durin......
  • PUBLIC DEFENDER v. State, 9 September.Term
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Maryland
    • April 16, 2010
    ...layers of State and local government and the private Bar, with indigent defendants as mere pawns. 17 See generally Duvall v. State, 399 Md. 210, 923 A.2d 81 (2007), for analysis of conflict of interest situations in a public defender's office 18 There is no suggestion in the record of the p......
  • State v. Armstead, 1148
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • February 1, 2018
    ...21 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights guarantee all criminal defendants the right to the assistance of counsel. Duvall v. State, 399 Md. 210, 220-21, 923 A.2d 81, 88 (2007) (quoting Strickland, 466 U.S. at 686, 104 S. Ct. 2052) (quotation marks omitted). Within both constitutional standa......
  • 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