Jackson v. State, 62

CourtCourt of Appeals of Maryland
Writing for the CourtBELL, Chief.
Citation358 Md. 259,747 A.2d 1199
PartiesValentino Maurice JACKSON v. STATE of Maryland.
Docket NumberNo. 62,62
Decision Date13 March 2000

747 A.2d 1199
358 Md. 259

Valentino Maurice JACKSON
STATE of Maryland

No. 62, Sept. Term, 1998.

Court of Appeals of Maryland.

March 13, 2000.

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

Ann N. Bosse, Asst. Atty. Gen. (J. Joseph Curran, Jr., Atty. Gen., on brief), Baltimore, for respondent.


BELL, Chief Judge.

The issues this Court is called upon to resolve on this appeal are whether, when the defendant has performed as required, the State's refusal to honor its agreement to dismiss the charges against the defendant is appealable under the collateral order doctrine and whether the agreement between the State and the defendant, the subject of the appeal, must be enforced. The Court of Special Appeals answered

747 A.2d 1200
"yes" to the first question. Jackson v. State, 120 Md.App. 113, 127, 706 A.2d 156, 163 (1998). As to the second, the court concluded that the agreement was of the type that the trial court could enforce, id. at 137, 706 A.2d at 168, but held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in refusing to do so. Id. at 137, 706 A.2d at 168. Thus, the intermediate appellate court affirmed the judgment of the Circuit Court for Howard County. We shall hold, consistent with the Court of Special Appeals that the order under review is appealable and enforceable, but, unlike the holding of that court, also that it should have been enforced. Accordingly, we shall reverse


The petitioner, Valentino Maurice Jackson, was charged with child sexual abuse and related charges. He was arraigned and appearance of counsel was entered on March 14, 1997; consequently, absent a finding of good cause by the county administrative judge, or that judge's designee, for the postponement of the case beyond the time prescribed by Maryland Code (1971, 1996 Repl.Vol.), Article 27, § 5912 and Maryland Rule 4-271,3 commonly referred to as the Hicks Rule, an eponym of the seminal case, State v. Hicks, 285 Md. 310, 403 A.2d 356, on motion for reconsideration, 285 Md. at 334, 403 A.2d at 368 (1979),4 the latest that the petitioner's trial could commence was April 28, 1997. The petitioner's trial date had been set more than a month before that deadline, for March 24, 1997. Ten days before the trial date, the parties were in court in connection with certain motions filed by the petitioner. On that date, although not disclosed to the court or placed on the record, the petitioner and the State entered into an agreement calling for the State to dismiss the charges against the petitioner if DNA testing of a stain on a white fitted bed sheet, identified by the victim and her mother as the sheet on the victim's bed when the alleged sexual abuse occurred, excluded the petitioner, provided that the petitioner did not oppose the State's request for postponement of the trial date.

During the court's consideration of the petitioner's motions for a bill of particulars and to review the child/victim's Department of Social Services records, the court ruling on the former, the State requested and was granted a postponement of the

747 A.2d 1201
trial date to May 5, 1997, a date agreed upon by the parties. The petitioner did not oppose the postponement, rather he waived "Hicks," his right to be tried within 180 days, consistent with the parties' agreement

On April 14, 1997, the State moved to advance the trial to a date prior to April 28, the Hicks deadline. At the hearing on the motion, held on April 25, 1997, the State acknowledged that an agreement between it and the petitioner had been entered into pursuant to which "if the information came back on the—on the white fitted sheet which excluded the Defendant, the State would dismiss the case." It also acknowledged that the results of DNA testing excluded the petitioner. Rather than a failure of the petitioner to perform as agreed, the State explained its refusal to honor the agreement as follows:

"When I met with the victim's mother on the 8th of April and I advised the Defendant I was—Defense attorney I was going to meet with the victim's mother, it was determined for the first time, the State's Attorney's Office got additional information, that this white fitted bed sheet which had been alluded to in police reports much earlier as being identified by the victim as her bed sheet and as being the bed sheet that was on her bed when various crimes against her had been committed by the Defendant it had come to the State's attention—State's Attorney's Office's attention on April 8th that this sheet had been used somewhere else. It had been used on the sofa. The sofa had been used by the victim's mother and someone who she had been seeing at the time."

The petitioner opposed the advancement of the trial date. His counsel pointed out that the agreement between the parties was reached only after fully discussing the case, the strengths and weaknesses on both sides. He denied seeking a postponement, noting that they "came into court fully prepared to go to trial." According to counsel, there was only "one circumstance and one circumstance alone" which prompted the agreement to postpone the case: "that if the D.N.A. on the white fitted bed sheet comes back and excludes our client you will dismiss the case."

The court denied the State's motion to advance the trial date, concluding that there was good cause to postpone the case beyond the 180 day limit quite apart from the parties' agreement. It noted: "[t]he postponement had to occur for several reasons, not the least was the D.S.S. records," the review of which "was occasioned by the Defense request." The court added: "There is no Hicks problem. Defendant did in fact waive Hicks but it wouldn't have been a problem anyway in my opinion because there was sufficient good cause to have the trial date on May 5." The court specifically did not address whether there was an agreement, commenting:

"Now, whether or not there was an agreement between Defense and State, I don't know. There's going to have to be a full, perhaps, evidentiary hearing on that issue. But the fact of the matter was, I think it's kind of [naive], frankly for Counsel to think that if the State comes back with one piece of information that says it exculpates your client that they're not going to go forward. They could have said that on the record, Your Honor, we're waiting for some D.N.A. information. If in fact it comes back negative on Mr. Jackson, we don't have a case. They could have said that. They didn't. They apparently have other information."

The petitioner moved both to dismiss the indictment and to enforce his agreement with the State. The hearing on the motion was held on the trial date, May 5, 1997. Following the taking of testimony on the relevant issues including the testimony of counsel for the petitioner and the State with respect to the existence and terms of their agreement, the court denied the petitioner's motion. Although the court found that there was an agreement

747 A.2d 1202
between the State and the petitioner with the terms alleged by the petitioner and that the State breached the agreement, it concluded that the petitioner was not prejudiced. Specifically, the court reasoned that, with respect to the DNA test results, the petitioner ended up in a more favorable position than he was in before the test results were in—that evidence, having excluded the petitioner, could then be used as exculpatory evidence. Nor was the court impressed by the petitioner's argument that he was prejudiced by the delay in the trial date. As to that, it said
"The Court notes, in this Court's view, and the Court finds that it is very likely that even without the defendant having supplied the Hicks waiver that it is very likely that this case would have been—if not put beyond Hicks for the good reasons that Judge Gelfman has specified on the record of both the March 14th and the April 25th hearings but at a minimum if not pushed beyond Hicks to a date like today, it would have been put in a posture where it would have been right up against the Hicks deadline."

The acting administrative judge having granted the petitioner a postponement for the purpose of appealing the court's ruling, and the petitioner noted an appeal to the Court of Special Appeals. The State moved to dismiss the appeal as a non-appealable interlocutory order, arguing that, because this is a criminal case and in criminal cases, a final judgment consists of both the verdict and the sentence, Greco v. State, 347 Md. 423, 432 n. 4, 701 A.2d 419, 423, n. 4 (1997); Telak v. State, 315 Md. 568, 575, 556 A.2d 225, 228 (1989), a ruling denying enforcement of a plea bargain is not a final judgment, the prerequisite to appealability. See Maryland Code (1974, 1995 Repl.Vol. § 12-301 of the Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article). The petitioner took the contrary view, contending that the appeal is permitted under the collateral order doctrine. As we have seen, the Court of Special Appeals agreed with the petitioner as to appealability, but affirmed the trial court, albeit for different reasons on the enforcement issue. Both the State and the petitioner sought certiorari, the State as to the appealability issue and the petitioner as to the enforcement issue. We granted both the petition and the cross petition. Jackson v. State, 350 Md. 280, 711 A.2d 871 (1998).


Maryland Code (1974, 1995 Repl.Vol.) § 12-301 of the Courts & Judicial Proceedings Article provides:

"Except as provided in § 12-302 of this subtitle, a party may appeal from a final judgment entered in a civil or criminal case by a circuit court. The right of appeal exists from a final judgment entered by a court in the exercise of original, special, limited, statutory jurisdiction, unless in a particular case the right of appeal is expressly denied by law. In a criminal

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