Erdman v. State, 1535

Citation75 Md.App. 560,542 A.2d 399
Decision Date01 September 1987
Docket NumberNo. 1535,1535
PartiesDavid Allen ERDMAN v. STATE of Maryland. ,
CourtCourt of Special Appeals of Maryland

Mark Colvin, Asst. Public Defender (Alan H. Murrell, Public Defender on the brief), Baltimore, for appellant.

Ann N. Bosse, Asst. Atty. Gen. (J. Joseph Curran, Jr., Atty. Gen., Baltimore, Sandra A. O'Connor, State's Atty. for Baltimore County and Mickey Norman, Asst. State's Atty. for Baltimore County on the brief, Towson), for appellee.


WILNER, Judge.

David Allen Erdman was convicted by a jury in the Circuit Court for Baltimore County of robbery with a deadly weapon, breaking and entering, battery, and false imprisonment, for which he received a substantial prison sentence.

Although there was some quibbling over a few of the details, Mr. Erdman essentially conceded that he, in fact, did most of the things that led to the charges against him: that, on November 10, 1985, he accosted Ms. H in front of her apartment, tied her hands, and, brandishing a gun of some sort--whether toy or real was in dispute--stole her purse; that, on November 17, 1985, he broke into the apartment of Ms. C, but, upon discovery by a friend of Ms. C, left without taking anything; and that, on December 1, 1985, he lured Ms. D to a supposed job interview, tried to persuade her to undress for a physical examination, briefly touched her shoulder, pushed her into a chair, and momentarily prevented her from leaving.

While Mr. Erdman pled not guilty to the charges and did dispute some of them, his principal defense was non-responsibility, i.e., because of a mental disorder, he lacked substantial capacity to conform his conduct to the requirements of law. See Md.Code Ann.Health-Gen. art., § 12-108(a) (Supp.1987). The State did not really dispute that Erdman had a mental disorder. All of the doctors agreed that he suffered from paraphilia, with fetishistic and/or transvestite features. He liked to dress as a woman and had recurrent urges to place women in bondage or in positions of subjugation. 1 The issue, then, centered on whether, by reason of this disorder, he lacked substantial capacity to conform his conduct to the requirements of law.

In furtherance of this defense, Erdman (1) asked for an instruction that:

"If the defendant is found not criminally responsible, the court will commit the defendant to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene for institutional inpatient care. In the future, the defendant will be entitled to [be] release[d] from custody of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene only if this court or a jury finds he will not be a danger to himself or the person or property of another."

(2) renewed that request following the opening portion of the prosecutor's closing argument, and (3) asked for the opportunity to make the final closing argument on the issue of criminal responsibility.

The court denied all three requests; hence, this appeal.

(1) The Instruction--Initial Request

In the circumstances of this case, the proposed instruction appears to be a correct summary of what would have happened to Erdman if he had been found not criminally responsible. The State makes no contrary contention. The issue, then, is not the correctness of the instruction but its relevance.

With limited exceptions, such as in the meting out of capital punishment, it has not been the function of juries to decide upon or concern themselves with the penalty that may be imposed or actually inflicted upon a defendant following conviction. 2 The jury's traditional role is simply to decide guilt or innocence or, where "insanity" or non-responsibility has been asserted, whether the defendant meets the statutory test for that status. Normally, then, juries are not informed and are not required to be informed as to the possible sentences that may be imposed, much less whether they will be concurrent or consecutive to other sentences to which the defendant may be subject, or what the prospects may be either for suspension of all or part of the sentence in favor of probation or for early release on parole.

In keeping with that principle, courts traditionally have declined to instruct juries on the consequences that would follow from a verdict of "insanity" or non-responsibility. See, for example, State v. Wade, 96 Conn. 238, 113 A. 458, 460 (1921):

"The jury determines the guilt or innocence of the accused; the court pronounces sentence. If the jury find[s] an accused guilty as charged, but are not satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt of the sanity of the accused at the time of the charge, their verdict should be, 'Not guilty upon the ground of insanity.' With the rendering of the verdict the duty and responsibility of the jury ends. The enforcement of the verdict by the pronouncement of sentence and the rendition of judgment is a duty resting wholly with the court. It will not help the jury in the performance of their duty to know what the penalty may be, nor what disposition will be made of the accused."

See also State v. Daley, 54 Or. 514, 103 P. 502 (1909), and cf. State v. Barnes, 54 Wash. 493, 103 P. 792 (1909).

It does not appear, even in the early days, that this was a rule absolutely forbidding such an instruction but rather one making clear that the instruction was not required. Some courts, under some circumstances, did tell the jury that a finding of insanity would not necessarily result in the defendant's release from restraint, and the giving of such an instruction was not held to be error. The Connecticut Court in Wade, supra, for example, noted the giving of such an instruction where both the guilt and the insanity of the defendant seemed clear and observed, 113 A. at 460:

"Usually where this instruction is given it is with the purpose on the part of the judge that the jury may not find an insane person guilty, but guilty [sic, not guilty?] on the ground of insanity. Whether such an instruction shall be given is for the trial judge to determine in the exercise of his sound discretion."

In 1955, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit began somewhat of a countermarch on this issue. In Taylor v. United States, 222 F.2d 398 (D.C.Cir.1955), an appellant, whose sole defense was insanity, claimed that the judge improperly told the jury that, if acquitted, he would go free. Although finding no merit to that claim, the Court, without benefit of either precedent or extended reasoning, held, at 404:

"[W]e think that when an accused person has pleaded insanity, counsel may and the judge should inform the jury that if he is acquitted by reason of insanity he will be presumed to be insane and may be confined in a 'hospital for the insane' as long as 'the public safety and ... [his] welfare' require. Though this fact has no theoretical bearing on the jury's verdict it may have a practical effect."

(Emphasis added.)

Two years later, in Lyles v. United States, 254 F.2d 725 (D.C.Cir.1957), cert. denied 356 U.S. 961, 78 S.Ct. 997, 2 L.Ed.2d 1067 (1958), the same court, in a 6-3 en banc decision, confirmed the Taylor holding and provided a more detailed basis for it. The trial court in Lyles had given the disputed instruction, telling the jury that, if found insane, the defendant would be committed to St. Elizabeth's Hospital where he would remain until cured "and it is deemed safe to release him." Id., 728. As Lyles was, in fact, convicted of the charges against him and made no challenge to the correctness of the instruction, it is not altogether clear why the Court chose to consider the instruction, but it did clearly announce its views on the matter.

The Court began by acknowledging the doctrine "well established and sound, that the jury has no concern with the consequences of a verdict..." but concluded that that doctrine did not apply in the context of an insanity plea:

"The issue of insanity having been fairly raised, the jury may return one of three verdicts, guilty, not guilty, or not guilty by reason of insanity. Jurors, in common with people in general, are aware of the meanings of verdicts of guilty and not guilty. It is common knowledge that a verdict of not guilty means that the prisoner goes free and that a verdict of guilty means that he is subject to such punishment as the court may impose. But a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity has no such commonly understood meaning. As a matter of fact its meaning was not made clear in this jurisdiction until Congress enacted the statute of August 9, 1955. It means neither freedom nor punishment. It means the accused will be confined in a hospital for the mentally ill until the superintendent of such hospital certifies, and the court is satisfied, that such person has recovered his sanity and will not in the reasonable future be dangerous to himself or others. We think the jury has a right to know the meaning of this possible verdict as accurately as it knows by common knowledge the meaning of the other two possible verdicts."

(Footnote omitted.) Id.

Though eschewing any prescribed form of instruction, the Court discouraged any "recitation of the statutory procedure in great detail" and opted instead for simply explaining that, in the event of a finding of insanity, the defendant would be confined in a hospital until the court was satisfied that he had recovered his sanity and was no longer dangerous, whereupon he would be released, either conditionally or unconditionally. The Court's final conclusion, expressed at 728-29, was:

"Sometimes a defendant may not want such an instruction given. If that appears affirmatively on the record we would not regard failure to give it as grounds for reversal. Otherwise, whenever hereafter the defense of insanity is fairly raised, the trial judge shall instruct the jury as to the legal meaning of a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity in accordance with the view expressed in this opinion."


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7 cases
  • Clark v. State
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • 2 Octubre 1989
    ...of not criminally responsible? 1 Consistent with the teachings of Erdman v. State, 315 Md. 46, 553 A.2d 244 (1989), rev'g, 75 Md.App. 560, 542 A.2d 399 (1988), we answer that question in the affirmative and, so, reverse appellant's conviction and remand for new Since the sole issue with whi......
  • McCloud v. State
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Maryland
    • 6 Octubre 1989
    ...he should have been allowed to argue last on the issue of criminal responsibility, it relied on its decisions in Erdman v. State, 75 Md.App. 560, 579, 542 A.2d 399, 408 (1988), rev'd on other grounds, 315 Md. 46, 553 A.2d 244 (1989), and Treece v. State, 72 Md.App. 644, 661, 532 A.2d 175, 1......
  • Perkins v. State
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • 1 Septiembre 1989
  • Erdman v. State, 79
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Maryland
    • 1 Septiembre 1988
    ...A substantial term of imprisonment was imposed. On appeal, the Court of Special Appeals affirmed the judgments. Erdman v. State, 75 Md.App. 560, 542 A.2d 399 (1988). Erdman questioned two rulings of the trial court relating to the plea of not criminally responsible. The first was the court'......
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