King v. State Roads Commission of State Highway Administration, No. 79

CourtCourt of Appeals of Maryland
Writing for the CourtArgued before MURPHY; DIGGES
Citation284 Md. 368,396 A.2d 267
PartiesWilliam Lawson KING et ux. v. STATE ROADS COMMISSION OF the STATE HIGHWAY ADMINISTRATION.
Decision Date22 January 1979
Docket NumberNo. 79

Page 368

284 Md. 368
396 A.2d 267
William Lawson KING et ux.
v.
STATE ROADS COMMISSION OF the STATE HIGHWAY ADMINISTRATION.
No. 79.
Court of Appeals of Maryland.
Jan. 22, 1979.

[396 A.2d 268]

Page 369

R. Edwin Brown, Rockville (Brown & Sturm, Rockville, on the brief), for appellants.

Frank W. Wilson, Sp. Atty., Gaithersburg (Francis B. Burch, Atty. Gen., and Nolan H. Rogers, Asst. Atty. Gen., Baltimore, on the brief), for appellee.

Argued before MURPHY, C. J., and SMITH, DIGGES, ELDRIDGE, ORTH and COLE, JJ.

DIGGES, Judge.

Coming before this Court pursuant to our issuance of a writ of certiorari, petitioners William L. and Cordelia E. King challenge the manner in which they were required to select the jury that was impaneled to hear their case. Although we agree with the petitioners' basic contention that the method of jury selection utilized here was improper as not conforming to the requirements of the Maryland Rules, because the trial transcript fails to reflect whether a timely objection was made, we will remand the case to the trial court without affirmance or reversal for resolution of this issue and then for such further appropriate action as is later indicated in this opinion.

This action was instituted by respondent State Roads Commission when it filed separate petitions of condemnation against two parcels of land owned by the Kings. A court order consolidated the two petitions for trial and the case was called for hearing on the merits in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County on March 13, 1978. A jury trial was requested and a panel of twenty-eight citizens, chosen from a properly selected array, was subjected to voir dire questioning by the presiding judge. As a result of their answers, three of the prospective jurors were dismissed for cause and a list containing the names of the remaining twenty-five veniremen was submitted to the parties for their consideration. From the persons named on that jury roster each side peremptorily

Page 370

challenged four as it was entitled to do under Maryland Rule 543 a 3. To reduce this list of seventeen veniremen to the required twelve who would constitute the special jury panel hearing the case, the trial judge struck five additional names. At this point, the record shows there were two bench conferences, the content of the second being unreported, and thereafter the panel was sworn and the trial commenced.

The evidence at trial consisted almost entirely of the expert testimony of several different appraisers as to the value of the [396 A.2d 269] parcels. The jury by its inquisition awarded what amounted to $1.10 per square foot for each tract. Following this verdict, petitioners filed a timely motion for a new trial in which their principal contention of error was the method by which they were required to select the jury. The trial judge denied the motion and the landowners filed a timely appeal to the Court of Special Appeals. We granted certiorari prior to that court's consideration of the matter.

No citation of authority is needed to support the proposition, which is intrinsic to the American concept of justice, that when a jury trial is authorized, the panel should be composed of fair and impartial individuals selected from among one's peers. In insuring that such an impartial jury is chosen, a reasonable peremptory challenge right plays a vital role because it permits a party to eliminate a prospective juror with personal traits or predilections that, although not challengeable for cause, will, in the opinion of the litigant, impel that individual to decide the case on a basis other than the evidence presented. See Swain v. Alabama, 380 U.S. 202, 219, 85 S.Ct. 824, 13 L.Ed.2d 759 (1965). But see People v. Wheeler, 22 Cal.3d 258, 148 Cal.Rptr. 890, 583 P.2d 748 (1978). In so stating, however, we recognize that neither the federal constitution, Swain v. Alabama, supra, nor our State constitution requires that a litigant be granted peremptory challenges in the course of jury selection. Nonetheless, in light of the importance of the peremptory challenge, it is not surprising that this State, since at least 1797, See 1797 Md.Laws, ch. 87, § 9, has provided for such challenges and established orderly procedures to guarantee that litigants

Page 371

have a full opportunity to utilize the right. 1 Further, the importance of the peremptory challenge requires that any significant deviation from the prescribed procedure that impairs or denies the privilege's full exercise is error that, unless waived, ordinarily will require reversal without the necessity of showing prejudice. Swain v. Alabama, supra, 380 U.S. at 219, 85 S.Ct. 824.

Among the procedural requirements established by the Maryland Rules to govern the exercise of peremptory challenges, of particular moment in this case are those of subsections 1 and 3 of Rule 543 a. They provide:

a. Petit Jury.

1. Lists of Twenty.

In an action in which a jury shall be necessary, twenty persons from the panel of petit jurors shall be drawn by the clerk under the direction of the court, and their names shall be written upon two lists, and one of said lists forthwith delivered to the respective parties.

3. Peremptory Strikes Number.

Each party may peremptorily strike, without cause, four persons from the lists of twenty provided for in paragraph 1 of section a of this Rule, and the remaining twelve persons shall thereupon be immediately empaneled and sworn as the petit jury in the action. Several defendants or...

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41 practice notes
  • Whitney v. State, No. 158
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • September 9, 2004
    ...cause, will, in the opinion of the litigant, decide the case on the basis other than the evidence presented. King v. State Roads Comm'n, 284 Md. 368, 370, 396 A.2d 267 Such challenges are afforded by state law, and are not required by the Constitution.2 Ross v. Oklahoma, 487 U.S. 81, 89, 10......
  • Goren v. U.S. Fire Ins. Co., No. 791
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • September 1, 1996
    ...opposing party's challenges and significantly impairs that party's full exercise of peremptory challenges. See King v. State Roads Comm'n, 284 Md. 368, 371, 396 A.2d 267 Page 701 Certainly, the purpose of allowing co-parties to obtain additional peremptory challenges is not to enhance the a......
  • Pietruszewski v. State, No. 209, Sept. Term, 2018
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • April 7, 2020
    ...is chosen.’ " Collini v. State , 227 Md. App. 94, 101, 132 A.3d 397 (2016) (quoting King v. State Roads Comm'n of State Highway Admin. , 284 Md. 368, 370, 396 A.2d 267 (1979) ). Parties have "wide latitude in making peremptory challenges," which they may exercise for any reason that does no......
  • People v. Escobedo, No. 84-2620
    • United States
    • United States Appellate Court of Illinois
    • December 31, 1986
    ...See, e.g., Vaughn v. State (1985), 173 Ga.App. 716, 327 S.E.2d 747; King v. State Roads Commission of State Highway Administration (1979), 284 Md. 368, 396 A.2d 267; Lee v. Colson (1976), 277 Md. 599, 356 A.2d 558; Vaccaro v. Caple (1976), 33 Md.App. 413, 365 A.2d 47; Coburn v. State (Tex.C......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
41 cases
  • Whitney v. State, No. 158
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • September 9, 2004
    ...cause, will, in the opinion of the litigant, decide the case on the basis other than the evidence presented. King v. State Roads Comm'n, 284 Md. 368, 370, 396 A.2d 267 Such challenges are afforded by state law, and are not required by the Constitution.2 Ross v. Oklahoma, 487 U.S. 81, 89, 10......
  • Goren v. U.S. Fire Ins. Co., No. 791
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • September 1, 1996
    ...opposing party's challenges and significantly impairs that party's full exercise of peremptory challenges. See King v. State Roads Comm'n, 284 Md. 368, 371, 396 A.2d 267 Page 701 Certainly, the purpose of allowing co-parties to obtain additional peremptory challenges is not to enhance the a......
  • Pietruszewski v. State, No. 209, Sept. Term, 2018
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • April 7, 2020
    ...is chosen.’ " Collini v. State , 227 Md. App. 94, 101, 132 A.3d 397 (2016) (quoting King v. State Roads Comm'n of State Highway Admin. , 284 Md. 368, 370, 396 A.2d 267 (1979) ). Parties have "wide latitude in making peremptory challenges," which they may exercise for any reason that does no......
  • People v. Escobedo, No. 84-2620
    • United States
    • United States Appellate Court of Illinois
    • December 31, 1986
    ...See, e.g., Vaughn v. State (1985), 173 Ga.App. 716, 327 S.E.2d 747; King v. State Roads Commission of State Highway Administration (1979), 284 Md. 368, 396 A.2d 267; Lee v. Colson (1976), 277 Md. 599, 356 A.2d 558; Vaccaro v. Caple (1976), 33 Md.App. 413, 365 A.2d 47; Coburn v. State (Tex.C......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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