Metheny v. State

Decision Date24 July 2000
Docket NumberNo. 149,149
Citation359 Md. 576,755 A.2d 1088
PartiesJoe Roy METHENY v. STATE of Maryland.
CourtMaryland Court of Appeals

Julia Doyle Bernhardt, Assistant Public Defender (Nancy S. Forster, Assistant Public Defender and Stephen E. Harris, Public Defender, on brief), Baltimore, for appellant.

Rachel Marblestone Kamins, Assistant Attorney General (J. Joseph Curran, Jr., Attorney General of Maryland, on brief), Baltimore, for appellee.


The State charged Joe Roy Metheny, Appellant, with the first-degree premeditated murder and robbery of Catherine Magaziner in Baltimore City. The State timely filed a notice of intention to seek the death penalty, as well as life without parole.1 On 25 September 1998, Appellant pled guilty to the charges in the Circuit Court for Baltimore County,2 but elected a jury for the sentencing phase. The sentencing proceeding began on 9 November 1998 and, four days later, the jury sentenced Appellant to death based on its apparently unanimous finding of the aggravating circumstance that the murder was committed while Appellant was committing a robbery. The trial judge imposed the death sentence and a concurrent sentence of ten years in prison for the robbery conviction. Execution of Metheny's death sentence was stayed pending appellate review. The case is before us pursuant to the mandatory review provisions of Maryland Code (1957, 1996 Repl. Vol., 1999 Supp.), Article 27, § 4143 and Maryland Rule 8-306(c)(1).4

Appellant advances four issues, which we have rephrased:

I. Did the State prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Appellant robbed Ms. Magaziner?

II. Did the evidence support the jury's finding of an aggravating circumstance under Maryland's death penalty statute or was the death penalty imposed upon Appellant under the influence of an arbitrary factor?

III. Did the trial court commit plain error in its instructions to the jury regarding the statutory aggravating circumstance that Appellant murdered the victim while committing or attempting to commit robbery?

IV. Did the jury's verdict sheet reveal a lack of unanimity as to the existence of the statutory aggravating circumstance, thus requiring that the death sentence be vacated?

Although we affirm the convictions, we shall vacate the sentence of death as to the murder conviction, and remand that matter to the trial court for a new sentencing proceeding. The sentence for the robbery conviction is affirmed. Furthermore, because we reverse on Issue II, we need not address Issues III and IV.


Appellant admitted to murdering and robbing Ms. Magaziner after he was arrested as a suspect in the unrelated murder of Ms. Kimberly Spicer. He agreed to plead guilty to the murder and robbery of Ms. Magaziner, but prayed a jury for the sentencing phase. As part of his guilty plea, Appellant and the State agreed to and signed a Statement of Facts5 that was read into the record during the acceptance of the guilty plea proceeding and later disclosed to the jury during sentence consideration. The agreed facts pertinent to this appeal are as follows:

If this case were tried, the State would present the following facts:
* * * * * *

On December 15, 1996 at approximately 1:40 a.m., members of the Baltimore City Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation Task Force arrested the Defendant Joe R. Metheny, in an unrelated matter in the 1700 Block of Inverness Street, in Baltimore City.6 A Baltimore City Police Officer transported him to the Homicide Unit of the Baltimore City Police Department.

During the course of the unrelated investigation, the Defendant gave several statements to detectives of the Baltimore City Police Department Homicide Division. A review of those statements would indicate that the Defendant met the Victim, Catherine Magaziner[,] one night in July 1994, and he took her to his trailer located at Joe Stein & Son Pallet Company. While in his trailer, he had sex with Ms. Magaziner while she was partially clothed. Ms. Magaziner had been in his trailer approximately one hour when the Defendant strangled her, and robbed her of her purse and clothing. Then the Defendant buried Catherine Magaziner in a shallow grave and buried her purse and clothing in a separate location.
Joe Stein & Son Pallet Company is located at 3200 James Street, which is in the southwest corner of Baltimore City. The Company is situated on a lot, which is adjacent to a wooded area. The Company has a locked entrance gate and is surrounded in part by an eight-foot high chain link fence with barbed wire on top. The lot is approximately the size of a square city block. There is a warehouse/office building that is surrounded by literally thousands of wooden pallets, which are stacked at varying heights throughout the lot. There is no business conducted at this Company or surrounding companies during the evening hours. James Street is a dead-end street where there is very little to no pedestrian traffic. The closest main thoroughfare is Washington Boulevard. The Defendant lived in a small one-room trailer located on the south fence. The nearest residential development to the Pallet Company is approximately two blocks away.
At approximately 3:05 p.m. on December 15, 1996, Defendant Metheny was advised of his rights pursuant to Miranda v. Arizona (hereinafter referred to as Miranda rights) by Detective Homer Pennington and Detective Sergeant Michael Newton, whereupon he waived same. In this statement the Defendant stated that he met a person approximately two years earlier (1994). As detailed later, she was subsequently identified as Catherine Magaziner. He persuaded Ms. Magaziner to go to his trailer at Joe Stein & Son Pallet Company, which is located in the 3200 Block of James Street in Baltimore City. He described Ms. Magaziner as possibly having brown hair; her build was "a little thin;" and, she was a "little tall" in stature. The Defendant stated that he strangled Ms. Magaziner and buried her body. He drew a diagram indicating the location where he buried the body. The Defendant stated that he buried Ms. Magaziner in a shallow grave, approximately two feet deep. He further stated that when he buried Ms. Magaziner, she was not dressed.
* * * * * *
On December 17, 1996 at 3:05 p.m., the Defendant was advised of his Miranda rights, and waived same. The Defendant gave an audio taped statement where he acknowledged that Detective Pennington escorted the Defendant to the 3200 Block of James Street for the purpose of pointing out where he had buried the female victim. The Defendant reiterated that he had strangled and buried the victim. Additionally, the Defendant indicated that after the body had been buried for about six months, he went back to the burial location and dug up and removed the skull. Afterwards, he threw the skull in a trash box. The box containing the skull was later removed to Oxford, Pennsylvania.
* * * * * *

The search team was unsuccessful in locating the body at that time. Due to the defendant's error in pointing out the location of the body, in addition to the topography of the area in question, and the attendant rain drainage, the cadaver dogs picked up the scent of the remains in the wrong locations. Consequently, Detective Pennington obtained a writ and again removed the Defendant from the Baltimore City Detention Center. Detective Pennington transported the Defendant back to Joe Stein & Son Pallet Company to assist in locating the body.

This time, after some hesitation, Metheny indicated to Detective Sergeant Lehmann an area approximately ten feet from the previously identified burial location. Additionally, Metheny indicated to the detectives the area where he had disposed of the buried woman's clothing and pocketbook. However, neither Detective Pennington nor other members of the investigation team were able to locate the Victim's purse or any of her clothing.
William C. Rodriguez, III, Ph.D., and the assembled excavation team conducted an excavation in the area that Metheny pointed out. The team used standard excavation techniques to carefully unearth the remains. [ ] It is notable that at the excavation site, Dr. Rodriguez discovered that the cranium was missing. The skeletal remains of Catherine Magaziner were recovered from a very shallow grave and transported to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.
Dr. William C. Rodriguez is an expert in forensic anthropology. In his report dated February 10, 1997, he indicated the following: [ ] "the absence of the cranium, and position of the mandible and right humerus is indicative of the remains having been disturbed prior to this excavation."
In Dr. Rodriguez's expert opinion, the morphology exhibited by the mandible and the postcranial skeleton is consistent with that of an adult female, and a craniometric analysis indicated that the race is consistent with a Caucasoid. Ms. Magaziner was a Caucasian adult female.
Furthermore, he concluded "(A)dvanced environmental weathering exhibited by the remains are suggestive of a postmortem interval of approximately two to three years."
Dr. Rodriguez's excavation did not reveal any remnants of clothing. According to Dr. Rodriguez, the deterioration of clothing depends largely on the type of clothing, i.e. whether it is cotton or synthetic, as well as the soil composition. Clothing items such as rivets, zippers, seams of jeans, and elastic bands have a longer life span. He would have expected to find such clothing items as previously listed if clothing had been buried with the Victim.
* * * * * *
On December 18, 1996, the Defendant provided an audio taped statement at approximately 3:50 p.m. wherein the Defendant acknowledged having been transported to the 3200 Block of James Street where he did in fact indicate the exact burial location of the female victim.
In the December 18th statement, the

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