Kegarise v. State

Decision Date02 May 2013
Docket NumberSept. Term, 2011.,No. 1992,1992
Citation211 Md.App. 473,65 A.3d 741
PartiesBrentley Glen KEGARISE v. STATE of Maryland.
CourtCourt of Special Appeals of Maryland


Marc A. DeSimone, Jr. (Paul B. DeWolfe, Public Defender, on the brief), Baltimore, MD, for Appellant.

Sarah Page Pritzlaff (Douglas F. Gansler, Atty. Gen., on the brief), Baltimore, MD, for Appellee.

Panel: WOODWARD, ZARNOCH and RAYMOND G. THIEME, JR. (Retired, Specially Assigned), JJ.
RAYMOND G. THIEME, JR. (Retired, Specially Assigned), J.

This case presents the question of whether the trial court erred by failing to propound defense counsel's requested voir dire question, which was to inquire whether all members of the venire panel were citizens of the United States. On September 15–16, 2011, after the trial court declined to ask this question, appellant Brentley Glen Kegarise was tried by jury and convicted of theft, firearm possession and related charges. We shall now hold, based upon Owens v. State, 399 Md. 388, 924 A.2d 1072 (2007), cert. denied,552 U.S. 1144, 128 S.Ct. 1064, 169 L.Ed.2d 813 (2008), that the trial court abused its discretion by failing to ask appellant's requested voir dire question. Given that United States citizenship is a statutory qualification pursuant to Md. Code Ann., Courts and Judicial Proceedings (“CJP”), § 8–103(a)(3) (2006 Supp.), appellant's question was a valid attempt to confirm that all members of the venire panel were qualified to serve as jurors.


Appellant, who had been previously convicted of a felony, was indicted in the Circuit Court for Frederick County with various offenses related to the theft of a handgun. Prior to trial, each party submitted a written request to the trial court proposing several voir dire questions; appellant proposed fourteen and the State proposed nineteen. The trial court began voir dire by instructing the venire panel that he was about to ask them several questions, the purpose of which was “to assist the attorneys in impaneling a fair and impartial jury.” During voir dire, the trial judge posed approximately twenty questions, as well as several follow-up questions to the various panel members who responded.

The following colloquy then took place:

THE COURT: Counsel, I think I've hit every question, or at least the essence of every question that you've each requested. However, if I've missed something or you thought of something, Ms. [Prosecutor], do you have any additional questions you'd like me to, uh, give to this, or ask this panel?

[PROSECUTOR]: No, Your Honor.

THE COURT: Mr. [Defense Counsel]?

[DEF COUNSEL]: Just one other. Could the Court inquire [if] they're all U.S. citizens?

[THE COURT]: I didn't see that on there.

[DEF COUNSEL]: I just thought of it. I don't know if it's included in the questionnaire, but that brings them in or not.

[THE COURT]: That is included in the questionnaire. I think what happened was that person, but I'll ask—any objection to that? I'm not—

[PROSECUTOR]: I don't know if that's permissible.

[THE COURT]: I know I can't ask your, I can't ask the defendant that question, but, which is why I have to form it.

[PROSECUTOR]: We would object for the record.

[THE COURT]: I can't ask—you know I do the voir dire, I can't ask the defendant if they're a U.S. citizen. The question has to be do you understand if you are or not, and I never inquire whether they are, but I don't, and because of the rationale on that, do you know any rationale for me to ask that question or be able to ask that question?

[DEF COUNSEL]: In other words ask were they born in the United States or nationalized in another country since being born in the United States, but I'd ask the Court to inquire.

[PROSECUTOR]: The State would object.

[THE COURT]: I'm not going to ask that.

[DEF COUNSEL]: Thank you.

(Emphasis added).

Both parties then participated in the final selection of the jury, after which the clerk called the roll, and a jury of seven males, five females, and one male alternate was seated.1 In response to the court's question regarding whether there was satisfaction with the selected jury, both prosecutor and defense counsel answered in the affirmative, without any objections.2 The jury was then sworn and seated.


Appellant argues that his convictions must be vacated based on the trial court's error in failing to propound his requested voir dire question regarding whether all potential members of the jury were citizens of the United States. Because statutory law provides that only United States citizens are qualified to serve as Maryland jurors, see CJP § 8–103(a)(2), and trial judges are required “to pose voir dire questions directed at exposing constitutional and statutory disqualifications when requested by a party,” Owens, 399 Md. at 422, 924 A.2d 1072, appellant maintains that the court's “error demands a reversal” of his conviction.

In support of its argument that appellant is not entitled to a reversal of his convictions, the State argues that the trial court properly exercised its discretion because it was “not likely” to reveal cause for disqualification based upon citizenship. The State further contends that, had the court asked appellant's requested question, it could have “compelled an incriminating response,” and, even if the court abused its discretion, appellant failed to establish any prejudice. In response, appellant maintains that a non-citizen's residency status cannot be presumed to be that of an illegal alien, and the court's error caused prejudice by forcing him to “select a jury without knowing whether the venire persons [were] qualified to serve as jurors.” Appellant is correct.

Every criminal defendant has the constitutional right to a trial by an impartial jury pursuant to the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution, and Article 21 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights, which guarantees, [t]hat in all criminal prosecutions, every man hath a right ... to a speedy trial by an impartial jury, without whose unanimous consent he ought not to be found guilty.” The Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution similarly guarantees a criminal defendant, inter alia, “the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed[.] Voir dire is the means by which the defendant may identify and challenge unqualified jurors. Owens, 399 Md. at 402, 924 A.2d 1072;Tetso v. State, 205 Md.App. 334, 368, 45 A.3d 788cert. denied,428 Md. 545, 52 A.3d 979 (2012); Williams v. State, 394 Md. 98, 106, 904 A.2d 534 (2006) (The potency of the guarantee to an impartial trial relies on the promise that the fact-finder will depend solely on the evidence and argument introduced in open court); Rosales–Lopez v. United States, 451 U.S. 182, 188, 101 S.Ct. 1629, 68 L.Ed.2d 22 (1981) (“Without an adequate voir dire the trial judge's responsibility to remove prospective jurors who will not be able impartially to follow the court's instructions and evaluate the evidence cannot be fulfilled.”).

In Maryland, we have adopted and continue to adhere to “limited voir dire.” Dingle v. State, 361 Md. 1, 13, 759 A.2d 819 (2000). By “limited” we mean that “the sole purpose of voir dire is to ensure a fair and impartial jury by determining the existence of cause for disqualification, and not as in many other states, to include the intelligent exercise of peremptory challenges.” Washington v. State, 425 Md. 306, 312, 40 A.3d 1017 (2012). “Critical in ensuring that the guarantee is meaningful is the voir dire of the venire, the purpose of which is to exclude from the venire potential jurors for whom there exists cause for disqualification [.] Williams, 394 Md. at 107, 904 A.2d 534.

“Undergirding the voir dire procedure and, hence, informing the trial court's exercise of discretion regarding the conduct of the voir dire, is a single, primary, and overriding principle or purpose: ‘to ascertain “the existence of cause for disqualification.”

Id. ( quoting Hill v. State, 339 Md. 275, 279, 661 A.2d 1164 (1995), in turn quoting McGee v. State, 219 Md. 53, 58, 146 A.2d 194 (1959)) (further citation omitted). The trial court “need not make any particular inquiry of the prospective jurors unless that inquiry is directed toward revealing cause for disqualification.” Dingle, 361 Md. at 13–14, 759 A.2d 819. If a party fails to challenge an unqualified juror during the process of voir dire, that challenge is considered to be waived. Owens v. State, 170 Md.App. 35, 73, 906 A.2d 989 (2006), aff'd399 Md. 388, 924 A.2d 1072 (2007), cert. denied,552 U.S. 1144, 128 S.Ct. 1064, 169 L.Ed.2d 813 (2008) (Issue waived where appellant never asked the court to pose a single voir dire question aimed at verifying that all members of the venire panel were qualified based on the statutory criteria of citizenship.”).

The Court of Appeals has identified only “two broad areas of inquiry that may reveal cause for a juror's disqualification: (1) examination to determine whether the prospective juror meets the minimum statutory qualifications for jury service, and (2) examination to discover the juror's state of mind as to the matter in hand or any collateral matter reasonably liable to have undue influence over him.” Washington, 425 Md. at 313, 40 A.3d 1017 (citing Davis v. State, 333 Md. 27, 35–36, 633 A.2d 867 (1993)). Appellant's request to inquire whether all venire panel members were United States citizens concerns the first area of inquiry set forth in Washington because the posed question deals solely with whether all jurors satisfied the minimum statutory qualifications for service, as set forth in CJP § 8–103(a)(2). An example of the second area of inquiry can be found in State v. Shim, 418 Md. 37, 59, 12 A.3d 671 (2011), in which the trial court was held to have abused its discretion by refusing to ask whether any panel member had such strong feelings about criminal charges that it would be difficult...

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    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • August 31, 2015
    ...trial court's failure to ask the requested voir dire question by ultimately accepting the empaneled jury. See Kegarise v. State, 211 Md.App. 473, 477 n. 2, 65 A.3d 741 (2013) ; see also State v. Stringfellow, 425 Md. 461, 471, 42 A.3d 27 (2012) (stating that “unqualified acceptance” of jury......
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