Johnson v. Warden, Md. Penitentiary, 62

Decision Date24 October 1972
Docket NumberNo. 62,62
Citation16 Md.App. 227,295 A.2d 820
PartiesJerome JOHNSON v. WARDEN, Maryland Penitentiary.
CourtCourt of Special Appeals of Maryland

Floyd L. Parks, Chestertown, for appellant.

Francis B. Burch, Atty. Gen., for State of Maryland, Baltimore, Raymond G. Thieme, State's Atty., for Anne Arundel County, Annapolis, for appellee.

Presented to ORTH, POWERS, and GILBERT, JJ.

ORTH, Judge.

In Maryland the punishment upon conviction of rape is prescribed by statute. Code, Art. 27, § 461 provides:

'Every person convicted of a crime of rape or as being accessory thereto before the fact shall, at the discretion of the court, suffer death, or be sentenced to confinement in the penitentiary for the period of his natural life, or undergo a confinement in the penitentiary for not less than eighteen months nor more than twenty-one years; * * *.'

The statute applies to all cases in which a jury trial has been waived and the conviction rendered by the court as the trier of fact. It applies also to cases tried before a jury but there is a proviso which limits the discretion generally vested in the sentencing judge. 'The jury which finds any person guilty of rape * * * may add to their verdict the words 'without capital punishment,' in which event the sentence of the court shall not exceed twenty years in the penitentiary; and in no such case in which the jury has returned a verdict including the words 'without capital punishment' shall the court in imposing sentence, sentence the convicted person to pay the death penalty or to be confined in the penitentiary for more than twenty years.' Code, Art. 27, § 463.

On 29 June 1972 the Supreme Court of the United States decided three cases upon grant of certiorari. In Furman v. Georgia, 408 U.S. 238, 92 S.Ct. 2726, 33 L.Ed.2d 346, it reviewed two decisions of the Supreme Court of Georgia, Furman v. Georgia and Jackson v. Georgia, affirming impositions of the death penalty on defendants convicted of murder and rape, and a judgment of the Court of Appeals of Texas, Branch v. Texas, affirming imposition of the death penalty on a defendant convicted of rape. 1 The judgment in each case was reversed 'insofar as it leaves undisturbed the death sentence imposed' and the cases were referred for further proceedings. The holding of the Court was that 'the imposition and carrying out of the death penalty in these cases constitutes cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments.' 92 S.Ct. 2726, at 2727. The decision was rendered in a short per curiam opinion but each of the nine Justices wrote his own opinion. Five supported the judgments 2 and four dissented. 3 The net result appears to be that the death penalty is unconstitutional when its imposition is not mandatory. 4 In the light of Furman, there is no doubt that the authorization for the imposition of the death penalty upon conviction of rape as provided in § 461 must be deemed unconstitutional. See Moore v. Illinois, 408 U.S. 786, 92 S.Ct. 2562, 2570-2571, 33 L.Ed.2d 706.

Jerome Johnson was charged with rape. His trial was removed from the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County to the Circuit Court for Kent County. On 26 August 1969 he was found guilty by a jury, who did not add the words 'without capital punishment.' He was sentenced to life imprisonment. He did not appeal. On 2 February 1972 he collaterally attacked the judgment through post conviction procedures. On 7 June 1972 there was a hearing on his petition and on 23 June relief was denied. Timely application was made for leave to appeal.

One of the allegations of error raised below was 'that his sentence was illegal in that he was sentenced to life imprisonment when the maximum amount allowed by statute is twenty (20) years imprisonment when the Death Penalty is not an issue which can be considered by the Jury or the Court.' At the hearing Johnson stated that the issue was predicated upon the Supreme Court finding capital punishment to be unconstitutional 'and that unless and until this should occur the question raised is at best premature.' His counsel conceded in a Memorandum in Support of the Petition that 'clearly at this writing the law is otherwise.' The hearing judge disposed of the issue by stating that 'the sentence to life imprisonment was allowable and legal.' Furman was decided six days after the denial of relief.

Johnson pursues the point in applying for leave to appeal: 'that his sentence was illegal because the death penalty, clearly recently held to be 'cruel and unusual' by the Supreme Court of the United States, could not have been constitutionally considered by the Jury; thus their Verdict would have to have been 'without capital punishment' and this would place a 20 year limit on his sentence * * *.'

As above pointed out the provision of Code, Art. 27, § 461 that a person convicted of a crime of rape or as being an accessory thereto before the fact shall, at the discretion of the court, suffer death, is void as unconstitutional. Therefore, the permissible punishment under that statute on conviction of those crimes is confinement in the penitentiary for life, or for a period of not more than 21 years, at the discretion of the court. We think that Furman has no effect on § 463. It is true that the court could not impose the death penalty whether or not the jury added the words 'without capital punishment' to their verdict, but by adding those words the jury limits the maximum punishment which may be imposed to imprisonment for not more than 20 years. This may be explained to the jury. In other words it was the obvious intent of the legislature that by adding the words of limitation to their verdict the jury could preclude the imposition not only of the death penalty but also of life imprisonment. That intent may still be fulfilled. We hold that Code, Art. 27, § 463 is in full force.

It follows that Johnson's contention is without merit. The life sentence he received stands constitutionally valid in the face of Furman. The jury did not add the limiting words. Had they done so not only capital punishment but a life sentence would have been prohibited. They were content to leave the sentence to the discretion of the court. The sentence it imposed was legal then and is legal now.

Johnson's other reasons why the order of the lower court should be reversed afford no basis to grant his application.

The judge below found that Johnson's trial counsel was not incompetent 'in his failure to ask for a void dire question specifically on racial prejudice when he was requested to do so' by Johnson. Johnson admitted he did not request his lawyer to propound such a question. It was stipulated that the trial court told the jurors that the victim was white and the defendant was black and then asked the jury 'whether they harbored any racial or other prejudice which would prevent them from rendering a fair and impartial verdict based upon the evidence.' It was shown that the jury included 'four regular black jurors and one alternate black juror.' The hearing judge found no error nor do we.

The question as to the voluntariness of a confession was waived under post conviction procedures. It could have been presented on direct appeal. Johnson did not meet his burden of proving the existence of special circumstances to excuse the failure to make such allegation nor to rebut the presumption that he intelligently and knowingly failed to make it. Code, Art. 27, § 645A (c); Maryland Rule BK 48. Code, Art. 27, § 645A (d) is not here applicable. In any event the judge below found that the confession was constitutionally obtained; it was voluntarily given after Johnson had been informed of his...

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9 cases
  • Johnson v. State of Maryland, Civ. No. 73-576-W.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Maryland
    • December 15, 1976
    ...decision. The Court of Special Appeals denied his application on October 24, 1972 in a thorough and reported opinion, Johnson v. Warden, 16 Md.App. 227, 295 A.2d 820 (1972). In the instant action, Johnson has petitioned the Court for a writ of habeas corpus. Construing his complaint in the ......
  • England v. State
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • May 28, 1974
    ...imposed for a conviction for rape is twenty years. Such, however, is not the law. We need do not more than refer to Johnson v. Warden, 16 Md.App.227 [320 A.2d 73] at 231, 295 A.2d 820, at 822 (1972), in which Chief Judge Orth rejected a somewhat similar contention by '. . . Therefore, the p......
  • Hopkins v. State
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • November 26, 1973
    ...denied, 409 U.S. 897, 93 S.Ct. 87, 34 L.Ed.2d 155 (1972); Powell v. State, 16 Md.App. 685, 299 A.2d 454 (1973); Johnson v. Warden,16 Md.App. 227, 295 A.2d 820 (1972). Our perusal of the record discloses that no demand was made at trial, following Freeman's direct testimony, for a copy of hi......
  • Younie v. State
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • November 28, 1973
    ...and to produce his own evidence, if he thought it would be material to his defense. Similarly, we rejected, in Johnson v. Warden, 16 Md.App. 227, 232-234, 295 A.2d 820, a defense contention that the State had unconstitutionally suppressed the fact that the defendant there had syphilis (an o......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • Prosecutorial Misconduct
    • United States
    • Maryland State Bar Association Warnken's Maryland Criminal Procedure (MSBA) Chapter 33 Collateral Review
    • Invalid date
    ...defendant's guilt. See Strosnider v. Warden, Maryland Penitentiary, 228 Md. 663, 667 (1962); Johnson v. Warden, Maryland Penitentiary, 16 Md. App. 227, 232-34 (1972); Smith v. Warden, Maryland Penitentiary, 7 Md. App. 579, 581 (1969). B. Mitigation evidence Mitigation evidence is evidence t......

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