Hunt v. State

Decision Date28 December 1990
Docket NumberNo. 110,110
Citation583 A.2d 218,321 Md. 387
PartiesFlint Gregory HUNT v. STATE of Maryland. Sept. Term 1989.
CourtMaryland Court of Appeals

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Jose Felipe Anderson, Asst. Public Defender and George E. Burns, Jr., Asst. Public Defender (Alan H. Murrell, Public Defender, all on brief) Baltimore, for appellant.

Valerie J. Smith, Asst. Atty. Gen. (J. Joseph Curran, Jr., Atty. Gen., Mary Ellen Barbera, Asst. Atty. Gen., all on brief) Baltimore, for appellee.

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Appellant, Flint Gregory Hunt, was convicted by a jury in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City of the first degree murder of Officer Vincent Adolfo. The jury also convicted Hunt of using a handgun in the commission of a felony or a crime of violence and unlawfully wearing, carrying, or transporting a handgun. The jury sentenced him to death for the murder. This Court affirmed the murder conviction, but vacated the sentence of death and remanded the case to the circuit court for a new capital sentencing hearing. Hunt v. State, 312 Md. 494, 511, 540 A.2d 1125, 1133 (1988). We also affirmed the conviction for use of a handgun and vacated the conviction for wearing of a handgun.

The jury in Hunt's second sentencing hearing imposed the death penalty. The jury found the existence of two aggravating circumstances: that the victim was a law enforcement officer murdered while in the performance of his official duties; and that Hunt committed the murder in an attempt to escape lawful arrest. Some jurors, but not a majority, found two mitigating circumstances: Hunt's childhood experiences, and a stabbing Hunt suffered while incarcerated on another conviction before Officer Adolfo's murder occurred. The jury found that the aggravating circumstances outweighed the mitigating circumstances, and sentenced Hunt to death. Hunt appeals that sentence on many grounds, which we will address in turn. Before doing so, it would be appropriate to reiterate the facts surrounding the murder.

"While on patrol the evening of November 18, 1985 at approximately 5:20 p.m., Officer Vincent Adolfo noticed a new Cadillac with a missing window covered with plastic.

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In addition to the driver, the vehicle contained three other occupants. The officer, following a routine stolen car inquiry, learned that the car had been stolen. He broadcast a description of the occupants of the car and noted that the driver was 'not breaking any laws right now.'

Two officers in separate patrol cars, responding to Officer Adolfo's request for back-up, attempted to block the path of the on-coming Cadillac. Upon nearing the road-block, the driver, later identified as Hunt, jumped out of the car while it was still moving and ran up a nearby alley. The Cadillac then struck one of the parked patrol cars and stopped; an officer detained the three passengers who were still in the car.

Officer Adolfo pursued Hunt into the alley. Upon apprehending him, the officer positioned him against a wall and tried to handcuff Hunt. Hunt pushed away, knocking the officer off balance. Hunt then pulled a .357 Magnum from his jacket and shot Officer Adolfo in the chest at close range. Within seconds, as the officer reeled from the first shot, Hunt shot him again, this time in the back. Hunt fled the scene of the crime. Officer Adolfo was pronounced dead at the hospital at 6 p.m.

In the meantime, Hunt had called his friend, Angelo Williams, and asked him to keep the gun for him, saying that he had just shot a policeman. Hunt and his girl friend, Deborah Powell, then went to his sister's house, only to leave when a television broadcast indicated that Hunt was being sought in connection with the murder.

* * * * * *

The next day, Hunt and Powell drove to Camden, New Jersey. En route, Hunt admitted to Powell that he had shot the policeman. Hunt then boarded a bus to Santa Monica, California, leaving Powell behind. He was apprehended at a Tulsa, Oklahoma bus station five days later."

Hunt, 312 Md. at 498-99, 540 A.2d at 1126-27. Hunt was returned to Baltimore, where on June 30, 1986, he was convicted of murdering Officer Adolfo, of using a handgun

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in the commission of a felony or a crime of violence, and of unlawfully wearing, carrying, or transporting a handgun.

Following his conviction and first sentencing hearing, Hunt was assigned to the Maryland Penitentiary to serve his prison sentence and await the decision on his appeal. While in prison, Hunt committed a series of violations which led to his being isolated from other prisoners and to the loss of good time credits. Guards twice found Hunt in possession of knives. On one occasion the guards found a homemade weapon in a light fixture in Hunt's cell. On another, prison guards saw a knife fall out of Hunt's underwear. Hunt also feigned an illness so that he would be transported to the hospital. He later wrote to a fellow inmate that he had pretended to be ill to "see what my chances for freedom were."

During the second sentencing hearing, when the judge became aware of Hunt's prison behavior, particularly the attempt to "see what my chances for freedom were," he held a hearing and then ordered Hunt to wear leg irons for the duration of the proceeding. The resentencing jury heard evidence regarding the murder of Officer Adolfo and of Hunt's subsequent prison behavior. The jury was given a presentence investigation report detailing Hunt's long criminal history, which included convictions for armed robbery, larceny, and other crimes. Hunt offered evidence of a troubled childhood, a history of drug abuse, the probability that he was high on drugs when he shot Officer Adolfo, and a stabbing he suffered while incarcerated at the Maryland Correctional Institution in Hagerstown. He exercised his right of allocution, and expressed remorse for killing Officer Adolfo. The jury found that the aggravating circumstances outweighed the mitigating circumstances and sentenced Hunt to death.


Hunt contends that the trial judge erred in refusing to either instruct the jury that Hunt had already been sentenced

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to 20 years in prison for using a handgun in the murder of Officer Adolfo, or to reopen the case so that Hunt could offer evidence of the sentence. In the alternative, Hunt argues that his trial counsel was ineffective in failing to offer the evidence during his case in chief.

A defendant in a death penalty sentencing hearing may offer any relevant and competent information that would aid the jury in assessing the legal and practical effect of a sentence less than death. Doering v. State, 313 Md. 384, 411-12, 545 A.2d 1281, 1295 (1988). A separate sentence for another crime might have a mitigating effect on the jury. Harris v. State, 312 Md. 225, 251, 539 A.2d 637, 650 (1988) (Harris V, because this was Harris' fifth appeal in this Court). A jury, concerned that a defendant be properly punished and not have a chance for an early parole, might find a longer prison stay to be an acceptable alternative to the death penalty.

Hunt could have, as part of his evidence of mitigation, offered proof of the handgun sentence. Had he done so, the evidence would have been admissible. In fact, the prosecutor conceded that he would not have objected to such an offer. But Hunt failed to do so, despite ample opportunity throughout his case in chief. Hunt's belated attempt to make the jury aware of the handgun sentence after both sides had rested their cases was subject to the discretion of the judge.

A. Hunt's Request for a Jury Instruction

Hunt first asked that the judge take judicial notice of the handgun sentence and instruct the jury that:

"Mr. Hunt has already received a 20 year sentence for a handgun violation that was related to the offense in this case. That sentence will be served in addition to a sentence of life should your sentence be life imprisonment."

The judge properly refused the requested instruction. The proposed instruction was misleading. It asserted that

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the defendant would serve 20 years in prison in addition to the life sentence the jury might impose for the murder conviction. A consecutive sentence could extend the mandatory minimum time Hunt would have had to serve before being considered for parole; a concurrent sentence would not have the same effect. The judge had no obligation to make the life sentence consecutive to the handgun sentence, and could not declare whether it would be consecutive or concurrent until the defendant had an opportunity to present an allocution. In addition, if the judge had given the proposed instruction, the State would have had no opportunity to rebut or explain the effect of the 20 year sentence. The jury could have only guessed as to the actual impact of the sentence, and its effect on Hunt's parole eligibility. A defendant has no right to an instruction that is inaccurate. Collins v. State, 318 Md. 269, 290, 568 A.2d 1, 11, cert. denied, --- U.S. ----, 110 S.Ct. 3296, 111 L.Ed.2d 805 (1990). Hunt's requested instruction was potentially misleading and the judge did not abuse his discretion in refusing the instruction.

B. Hunt's Request To Reopen His Case

Failing to receive the instruction, Hunt sought to have the judge reopen the case so that he could offer evidence of the sentence. The trial judge has wide discretion in the conduct of a trial. Smith v. State, 299 Md. 158, 179, 472 A.2d 988, 998 (1984). The reopening of a case is within the trial judge's discretion and a denial of a motion to reopen will not be disturbed on appeal unless there is an abuse of discretion. Stansbury v. State, 218 Md. 255, 262, 146 A.2d 17, 22 (1958). See also McCloud v. State, 77 Md.App. 528, 535-36, 551 A.2d 151, 155, modified, 317 Md. 360, 564 A.2d 72 (1989) (within the judge's discretion to...

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