Griffin v. State, 2518

CourtCourt of Special Appeals of Maryland
Writing for the CourtOpinion by Salmon, J.
Docket NumberNo. 2518,2518
Decision Date04 May 2015


No. 2518


September Term, 2013
May 4, 2015


Krauser, C.J., Zarnoch, Salmon, James P. (Retired, Specially Assigned), JJ.

Opinion by Salmon, J.

*This is an unreported opinion, and it may not be cited in any paper, brief, motion, or other document filed in this Court or any other Maryland Court as either precedent within the rule of stare decisis or as persuasive authority. Md. Rule 1-104.

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A jury in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City, Maryland convicted appellant, Michael Griffin, of five counts of sexual child abuse. After appellant was sentenced to five consecutive terms of twenty years, he timely appealed, presenting two questions:

1. Did the trial court err in failing to comply with the requirements of Md. Rule 4-215(e)?

2. Did the trial court err in denying the motion to dismiss for lack of a speedy trial?

We agree with appellant's contention that the trial court failed to comply with the requirements of Rule 4-215(e) and that reversal on that ground is required. We conclude, however, that the trial judge did not err in denying appellant's motion to dismiss on speedy trial grounds. This case will therefore be remanded to the Circuit Court for Baltimore City for a new trial.


Because appellant does not challenge the sufficiency of the State's evidence, we shall not discuss in detail the underlying facts proven by the State at trial. See Cure v. State, 195 Md. App. 557, 561 (2010) (observing that only a brief summary is necessary), aff'd, on other grounds, 421 Md. 300 (2011); see also Teixeira v. State, 213 Md. App. 664, 666 (2013) ("It is unnecessary to recite the underlying facts in any but a summary fashion because for the most part they [otherwise] do not bear on the issues we are asked to consider") (citations and internal quotation marks omitted).

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Appellant was charged in this case with sexually abusing Iesha H., the daughter of his former live-in girlfriend, Judith H. The State proved that the abuse began when Iesha was 13 and continued until she was 17-years-old. The sexual acts between appellant and Iesha included acts of vaginal intercourse, resulting in two pregnancies that resulted in abortions. According to Iesha, appellant was responsible for these pregnancies because she was not having sexual relations with anyone else during the relevant time periods. In addition to Iesha's testimony, the jury heard a tape-recorded statement of a conversation between appellant and Judith H. In that conversation, appellant said "I didn't want to do anything to Iesha," but "the opportunity just overwhelmed me, and I took advantage of it, and I shouldn't have." In the taped conversation, appellant also asked Ms. H. to forgive him.

A. First Issue Presented

Maryland Rule 4-215(e) provides:

If a defendant requests permission to discharge an attorney whose appearance has been entered, the court shall permit the defendant to explain the reasons for the request. If the court finds that there is a meritorious reason for the defendant's request, the court shall permit the discharge of counsel; continue the action if necessary; and advise the defendant that if new counsel does not enter an appearance by the next scheduled trial date, the action will proceed to trial with the defendant unrepresented by counsel. If the court finds no meritorious reason for the defendant's request, the court may not permit the discharge of counsel without first informing the defendant that the trial will proceed as scheduled with the defendant unrepresented by counsel if the defendant discharges counsel and does not have new counsel. If the court

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permits the defendant to discharge counsel, it shall comply with subsections (a) (1)-(4) of this Rule if the docket or file does not reflect prior compliance.

Appellant contends that he expressed dissatisfaction with his attorney, from which the court should have reasonably concluded was an indication that he wanted to discharge his counsel, and therefore the court erred in not conducting the inquiry mandated by Maryland Rule 4-215(e). The State argues that, because appellant did not expressly state that he wanted to discharge counsel, the requirements of Rule 4-215(e) were never triggered.

In the case sub judice, the indictment was filed on February 1, 2011, and Robert Ness, an Assistant Public Defender, entered his appearance for appellant on March 2, 2011. Because Ness was ill, other attorneys from the Public Defender's Office appeared on appellant's behalf at hearings on May 6, 2011, July 18, 2011, and January 25, 2012.

On March 23, 2012, a new attorney from the Public Defender's Office advised the court that Ness was no longer with the public defender's office, and that she needed a postponement because she had just been assigned the case. Good cause was found, and the case was postponed until May 15, 2012. Additional postponements were granted on May 15, 2012, July 16, 2012, and September 11, 2012.

At a November 9, 2012 hearing, which was one week before the date set for trial, appellant expressed his dissatisfaction with his new defense counsel's representation in the following exchange he had with the court and his counsel:

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THE DEFENDANT: Can I say something to the Court, please?

THE COURT: You can, but be sure your - you say it to your lawyer first. You don't want to say something here that jeopardizes your situation.


[DEFENSE COUNSEL]: Okay. That's fine. Why don't you go ahead and tell the judge.

THE DEFENDANT: Your Honor, I had her come over to see me. She said that she would go and talk to the - the witnesses. I gave her several questions to ask them. And she came - she went to see the State and made a deal with her, and then come to me and saying, "Well, this is the deal."

And I asked her what did she say to them. She said they was crying and stuff like that, and a whole lot of papers saying - she read off the first paper - I don't want to say what was on it, but she - I go [sic] so much on my mind - she just lied to me.

I asked her what did she say, what did they talk about, and she couldn't tell me. She just kept saying, "Take the deal. Take the deal. Take the deal."

I told her several times that I had a witness, two witnesses. One passed away, which I told her to go and talk to. She never did. I asked her to check about my Hicks and everything. She says nothing. She says, "Don't worry about it. Don't worry about it."

THE COURT: Yeah. So the question is what are we doing today? Are we going to continue the case?

THE DEFENDANT: I would like to - I just want her to do her job.

THE COURT: Well, --

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[DEFENSE COUNSEL]: Well, for the record, I don't plan to do any more investigation over this weekend. But if you want the opportunity to speak with your family, --

THE DEFENDANT: Can we get a postponement? Because she has not properly prepared for my case. I know this is going on for a long time, but -

THE COURT: May I have the file - files?


THE COURT: You basically got two choices. The case can go to trial or we can continue it to next week so you can have the discussions that counsel indicated that you wish to have with your family.

But it has been postponed and postponed and postponed. And I'm not sure exactly, and I'm not making any findings with regard to your assertion that your attorney is not doing what she would be obligated to in defending you. I'm not making any finding about that.

It's your opinion that she's not.

THE DEFENDANT: She hasn't.

THE COURT: We're not going to have a hearing about that. But it's - you know, we can - we can continue the case - what was it asked for; Tuesday?

[PROSECUTOR]: At two o'clock, yes, Your Honor.

THE COURT: Tuesday at two o'clock, or I can make arrangements to have the case sent to a trial court.

THE DEFENDANT: I don't know what to do. I don't - you know, she didn't do anything I asked her. She didn't do nothing - Ms. [defense counsel].

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[DEFENSE COUNSEL]: You can speak to the judge right now, sir.

THE DEFENDANT: I'm talking to you, though. You haven't done anything.

THE COURT: Talk to me. Go ahead. You'd ask - talk to me. The problem is sometimes the things which people ask - because as part of the plea litany, for example, people ask are you generally satisfied with your attorneys.

We don't ask if you are totally satisfied, completely satisfied, or totally happy with the outcome. Because frankly in terms of pleas, and I'm not talking about you, we're not taking any plea, people don't like to admit that they've done something that would result in them being found in violation of the criminal laws regarding what the law may be.

But that doesn't mean that had their attorney done something else, it would be possible for them to have been found not guilty of that same offense to which they are pleading guilty.

But you can have your - if you want to think about it a little bit, we can hold it over until Tuesday at two o'clock.

THE DEFENDANT: I would like to do it.

THE COURT: Is that what you'd like to do?


THE COURT: All right.

The matter will be continued till Tuesday -

(Emphasis added).

The next hearing concerning this case occurred on Friday, November 16, 2012. At that time, appellant rejected a plea offer and, because no courtroom was available, trial was

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postponed until January 29, 2013. On January 11, 2013, appellant filed, pro se, a pleading entitled "Motion to Dismiss Due Process and Ineffective Assistance of Counsel" (hereafter "the motion to dismiss"). The dismissal motion states, in relevant part, the following:

Defendant Michael Griffin, pose [sic] se move to dismiss the above captioned charging document(s), (Pursuant to Maryland Rules of Procedure 4-252, the due process clause of the Fifth, Six, and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution of Rights and Article 21 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights and the Attorney(s) Maryland Rules of Professional conduct).

1. The above captioned has

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