Hutchins v. State, 141

CourtCourt of Appeals of Maryland
Writing for the CourtArgued before MURPHY; CHASANOW
Citation663 A.2d 1281,339 Md. 466
PartiesRichard Lee HUTCHINS v. STATE of Maryland. ,
Docket NumberNo. 141,141
Decision Date01 September 1994

Page 466

339 Md. 466
663 A.2d 1281
Richard Lee HUTCHINS
STATE of Maryland.
No. 141, Sept. Term, 1994.
Court of Appeals of Maryland.
Aug. 25, 1995.

[663 A.2d 1282]

Page 467

Gary S. Offutt, Asst. Public Defender (Stephen E. Harris, Public Defender, on brief), Baltimore, for petitioner.

David P. Kennedy, Asst. Atty. Gen. (J. Joseph Curran, Jr., Attorney General, on brief), Baltimore, for respondent.



In the instant case, we must determine whether the trial court in a criminal case erred in permitting the rebuttal

Page 468

testimony of expert witnesses who had not been disclosed to the defendant prior to trial and in refusing to permit the defendant a continuance in order to prepare rebuttal to the expert testimony. We hold that the trial judge erred in admitting such testimony. We further find that the admission of the testimony was not harmless error.


This case arises out of the 1993 conviction of Richard Lee Hutchins (Hutchins) for theft of an automobile valued over $300. Testimony at trial established that, on October 24, 1992, in an attempt to sell the vehicle, Scott Hanson (Hanson) parked his 1986 Nissan Maxima on a grassy strip across from the Paris Oaks Shopping Center in Calvert [663 A.2d 1283] County. 1 Hanson placed a "for sale" sign on the vehicle. Hanson left the car at that location for about four days, stopping on the way home from work each night and driving the car back to his home. On the morning of October 29, 1992, Hanson stopped to pick up some personal items he had left in the trunk of the car and to remove some papers from the glove compartment. At that time, the license plates were on the front and rear of the automobile and both the emergency brake and the car's alarm system were working properly. On his way home, Hanson saw that the car was missing. Hanson then returned home and notified the Sheriff's Department that the car had been stolen. The car was later located and recovered by the District of Columbia police. When the car was recovered, the license plates had been removed and placed in the trunk, the brake cable had been broken, and the alarm system was damaged.

The State produced evidence indicating that on October 28 and 29, 1992, Hutchins had contacted Sherbert's Towing Inc. (Sherbert's) by phone, identifying himself as Richard Johnson, and requested that they pick up a 1986 Nissan Maxima at the Paris Oaks Shopping Center. Hutchins asked Sherbert's to

Page 469

tow the car to his place of business, Richard's Auto Sales, located on Marlboro Pike, where he would meet the tow truck driver. He informed Sherbert's that the brake was off and the wheels were straight, so they did not need the keys to the car to tow it. After meeting the tow truck operator at Richard's Auto Sales on Marlboro Pike, Hutchins had the driver follow him and tow the car to a lot in Washington, D.C. where the car was ultimately recovered. Hutchins paid the tow truck operator with a check that was later returned due to insufficient funds.

In his defense, Hutchins admitted that he had had the car towed, but argued that he had purchased the car from a man named Chris Joblonski (Joblonski). 2 Hutchins stated that he operated Richard's Auto Sales and also sold cars at the D.C. lot where the car was recovered. He testified that he was at Paris Oaks Shopping Center when he noticed the Nissan parked nearby. He saw Joblonski showing the car so he approached Joblonski about purchasing it. Hutchins testified that Joblonski had a key to the vehicle and that Joblonski indicated that the vehicle had been purchased by his company, Day's Auto Sales, at a police auction. Hutchins later met Joblonski at the Paris Oaks Shopping Center and exchanged $3,000 for the car. At that time, Hutchins alleged that Joblonski gave him the keys to the automobile as well as paperwork concerning the automobile, which included: (1) a notarized document purportedly issued by the Arlington County, Virginia Police Department stating that vehicle # 91 04 16 094, a 1986 Nissan Maxima 4-door with VIN number JN1HU1158GT131413 was sold for $3,000 to Day's Auto Sales; (2) a Maryland dealer's Bill of Sale; (3) a Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration Notice of Exclusion or Modification of Implied Warranty; and (4) Joblonski's business card indicating that he worked for Day's Auto Sales. Although required

Page 470

by law, the paperwork did not contain the vehicle's mileage. Hutchins's counsel conceded that the paperwork turned out to be fake, but argued that Hutchins did not realize that at the time and he therefore believed he had entered into a valid business transaction.

Hutchins testified that he discovered the car was missing when he attempted to show his business partner the vehicle and found that it was no longer on the lot. When he saw that the car was gone, he went to the D.C. Police Station, where he learned that it had been confiscated and that there was a Calvert County warrant out for his arrest. Hutchins then turned himself in to the Calvert County police, presenting the paperwork that he alleged represented the sale of the car to him by Joblonski.

Following the close of the defense case, the State called two expert witnesses in rebuttal, [663 A.2d 1284] Melvin Richards (Richards) of Colonial Auction Services and Fred Hardin (Hardin), President of Marlow Motors. Richards, an auctioneer, was accepted by the court as an "expert auctioneer which includes the buying and selling of automobiles." The State proffered that Richards would testify that in his opinion the documents produced by Hutchins as evidence of the sale of the vehicle were not authentic. Hardin was called to testify as an "expert as to the sales of autos between dealers." Defense counsel objected to the expert testimony stating:

"I have filed a motion that if they were going to use any kind of expert witness, I'm required to--the State is required to give me who the expert witnesses are and proffer on what they're supposed to testify to.

* * * * * *

I had given the State copies of my documentation. The first time that I found out that they supposedly had an expert witness was fifteen minutes ago from the State's Attorney. I'm clearly completely unprepared after receiving nothing despite my request to--if they're going to have an expert

Page 471

testimony, I want to know who the experts are and what they're going to testify to.

* * * * * *

[W]e have no chance of bringing in our own experts, no knowledge of what [the expert] has already told the State's Attorney or one of the State's Attorney agents. And this is the most unfair situation that I can imagine."

The State argued that the experts were on call and that it could not have anticipated whether it was going to call the experts to testify until it knew whether the defendant would testify. The trial judge admitted the expert testimony, finding that although disclosure of the expert would be required if the State was to use the expert in its case in chief, it was not required when the expert is called in rebuttal:

"[The State doesn't] know whether the Defendant is ever going to testify. If the Defendant comes in and testifies, then I think the answer is that they would have a right to bring somebody in and try to rebut that particular testimony, particularly in a specialized field."

Richards and Hardin each testified that they had sold automobiles to Hutchins in the past and that they had never heard of Day's Auto Sales. They also testified that Maryland law prohibits dealers from selling automobiles outside of their lots other than at authorized areas and Richards testified that the law requires that the odometer reading be listed on the documents that Hutchins had produced as evidence of the sale of the automobile. They both further stated that the exclusion of implied warranty form produced by Hutchins is not filled out in transactions between dealers. Richards also introduced documentation indicating that a 1979 Dodge two door with the same reference number 910416094 as that on the documentation provided by Hutchins was sold at auction by Arlington County. Additionally, during Hardin's testimony, the State produced a document Hardin had obtained which indicated that a company named C & S Auto Sales, for which Hutchins had worked, had purchased another automobile with the reference number 910416094 from Arlington County. Richards

Page 472

also testified as to how one can get a key made for a car if one does not have the keys. During the testimony of these expert witnesses, defense counsel complained that he had not previously been shown any of the exhibits used by the experts during their testimony.

At the close of the State's rebuttal case, defense counsel sought a suspension of the proceedings for one or two weeks so that he could rebut the testimony of Hardin and Richards. The court denied this request as well as a request by the defense for a judgment of acquittal. The trial judge then rendered a verdict of guilty against Hutchins.

Hutchins appealed to the Court of Special Appeals, which affirmed the trial judge. See Hutchins v....

To continue reading

Request your trial
38 cases
  • Joyner v. State, 1173
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • November 29, 2012
    ...purpose of the discovery rules is to “assist the defendant in preparing his defense, and to protect him from surprise.” Hutchins v. State, 339 Md. 466, 473, 663 A.2d 1281 (1995) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). [208 Md.App. 529]On February 17, 2011, the State's discovery res......
  • Rosenberg v. State, 1772
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • December 3, 1999
    ...purpose of the discovery rules is to "assist the defendant in preparing his defense, and to protect him from surprise." Hutchins v. State, 339 Md. 466, 473, 663 A.2d 1281 (1995) (quoting Mayson v. State, 238 Md. 283, 287, 208 A.2d 599 (1965)). On appeal, we are limited to determining whethe......
  • Simpson v. State, 2833
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • September 25, 2013
    ...his or her defense and to protect the defendant from surprise.” Ragland, 385 Md. at 717, 870 A.2d 609.See also Hutchins v. State, 339 Md. 466, 473, 663 A.2d 1281 (1995). The question we must resolve is whether Officer Kaleda's testimony at trial regarding his observations of a canine that h......
  • Smith v. State , 1178, Sept. Term, 2008.
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • December 28, 2010
    ...was not informed of the substance of any oral reports Dr. Arden would provide at trial. Appellant primarily relies on Hutchins v. State, 339 Md. 466, 663 A.2d 1281 (1995) and former Maryland Rule 4-263(b)(4), which requires the State to provide the defense with written reports made by exper......
  • 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