Powell v. State

Decision Date15 September 2006
Docket NumberNo. 129, September Term, 2005.,No. 130, September Term, 2005.,129, September Term, 2005.,130, September Term, 2005.
Citation907 A.2d 242,394 Md. 632
PartiesSteven Anthony POWELL v. STATE of Maryland. Tavony Wayne Zylanz v. State of Maryland.
CourtCourt of Special Appeals of Maryland

Argued before BELL, C.J., RAKER, WILNER, CATHELL, HARRELL, BATTAGLIA, and GREENE, JJ.

HARRELL, Judge.

In this consolidated opinion,1 we consider whether the respective trial judges, in the criminal cases of Tavony Wayne Zylanz and Steven Anthony Powell, erred by not making explicit findings on the record regarding the knowing and voluntary waivers of the Petitioners' rights to trial by jury, in accordance with Maryland Rule 4-246(b). In the case of Powell, we consider also, in the context of the record in his case, whether on-the-record questions addressed to him specifically as to the voluntariness of his jury trial waiver were required.

I.
A. Tavony Wayne Zylanz

On 21 June 2004, in a bench trial in the Circuit Court for Baltimore County, at which he was represented by counsel, Tavony Wayne Zylanz was convicted of fourth-degree burglary, felony theft, and resisting arrest, along with other related lesser offenses. The trial court sentenced Zylanz to ten years of incarceration, suspending five years in favor of probation, for the felony theft conviction and twenty-three months of incarceration, to be served consecutively, for the fourth-degree burglary conviction.2

The Court of Special Appeals, in a reported opinion, Zylanz v. State, 164 Md. App. 340, 883 A.2d 257 (2005), affirmed. On appeal, Zylanz argued that because the trial judge failed to make an explicit finding on the record regarding his waiver of a jury trial being knowing and voluntary, the waiver was not valid.3 Zylanz, 164 Md App. at 342-43, 883 A.2d at 258. The intermediate appellate court concluded that Zylanz knowingly and voluntarily waived his right to a jury trial in accordance with Maryland Rule 4-246. Zylanz, 164 Md.App. at 343, 883 A.2d at 258. The court determined that "the rule does not require the court to make a specific finding by the use of certain words or phrases." Zylanz, 164 Md.App. at 352, 883 A.2d at 263. Although the Court of Special Appeals remarked that the record may have been more decisive had the trial court made an explicit statement regarding its finding of the knowing and voluntary nature of the defendant's waiver, the court stated that "while the court's acceptance of the waiver was implicit, it [wa]s nonetheless apparent." Zylanz, 164 Md.App. at 352, 883 A.2d at 263.

We granted Zylanz's Petition for Writ of Certiorari to determine whether the Court of Special Appeals correctly concluded that Powell validly waived his right to a jury trial where the court did not make an explicit finding, on the record, regarding whether the waiver was knowing and voluntary. Zylanz v. State, 391 Md. 577, 894 A.2d 545 (2006).4

B. Steven Anthony Powell

On 4 December 2003, Steven Antony Powell was convicted, following a bench trial in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City, of the second-degree murder of his ex-wife. He was represented by counsel at trial. Powell was sentenced to thirty years of incarceration.

On appeal, the Court of Special Appeals, in an unreported opinion, affirmed the Circuit Court's judgment. The intermediate appellate court concluded that Powell knowingly and voluntarily waived his right to a jury trial in accordance with Maryland Rule 4-246. The court determined that Powell was advised thoroughly of his right to a jury trial and the evidence demonstrated that Powell understood defense counsel's explanation of that right. In addition, the court noted that when Powell was asked if he wished a court or jury trial, Powell elected "[a] court trial." While no specific inquiry was made by the trial judge regarding the voluntariness of Powell's election, the Court of Special Appeals concluded that "the entire inquiry demonstrate[d] that the waiver was made voluntarily."

Powell filed with us a Petition for Writ of Certiorari, which we granted, to determine whether the Court of Special Appeals correctly concluded that he waived validly his right to a jury trial where (1) the court did not make an explicit finding on the record regarding the knowingness and voluntariness of the waiver and (2) there was no specific inquiry into the voluntariness of the waiver. Powell v. State, 391 Md. 577, 894 A.2d 545 (2006).5

II.

A defendant's right to a jury trial is protected by both the U.S. and Maryland Constitutions. See U.S. Const. amend. VI (applying to the states under the Fourteenth Amendment); Md. Const. Declaration of Rights articles 5, 21, and 24. A defendant, however, may choose to waive the right to a jury trial and instead be tried by the court. See Md. Rule 4-246(a) ("In the circuit court a defendant having a right to trial by jury shall be tried by a jury unless the right is waived pursuant to section (b) of this Rule."). Maryland Rule 4-246(b) sets forth the procedure for waiving a jury trial in a criminal proceeding:

A defendant may waive the right to a trial by jury at any time before the commencement of trial. The court may not accept the waiver until it determines, after an examination of the defendant on the record in open court conducted by the court, the State's Attorney, the attorney for the defendant, or any combination thereof, that the waiver is made knowingly and voluntarily.

As we have continued to recognize, ultimately, to waive properly this constitutionally protected right the "trial judge must be satisfied that there has been an intentional relinquishment or abandonment of a known right or privilege." Smith v. State, 375 Md. 365, 379, 825 A.2d 1055, 1064 (2003). The waiver examination depends upon the facts and circumstances of each case. State v. Hall, 321 Md. 178, 182, 582 A.2d 507, 509 (1990). "[T]he questioner need not recite any fixed incantation" when evaluating whether the defendant knowingly and voluntarily waived his or her right to a jury trial. Martinez v. State, 309 Md. 124, 134, 522 A.2d 950, 955 (1987). "The court must, however, satisfy itself that the waiver is not a product of duress or coercion and further that the defendant has some knowledge of the jury trial right before being allowed to waive it." Hall, 321 Md. at 182, 582 A.2d at 509 (citing Martinez, 309 Md. at 134, 522 A.2d at 955).

III.

Zylanz argues that the trial judge erred by not making an explicit finding on the record that his jury trial waiver was knowing and voluntary. Because the trial judge failed to state its conclusions on the record, Zylanz argues that his waiver was not valid. Relying upon language in a footnote in Martinez v. State, 309 Md. 124, 133 n. 9, 522 A.2d 950, n. 9 (1987),6 which this Court later quoted wholesale in Smith v. State, 375 Md. 365, 379, 825 A.2d 1055, 1064 (2003), Zylanz contends that Maryland Rule 4-246(b) requires that the trial court's conclusions as to whether the defendant knowingly and voluntarily waived his or her right to a jury trial must be made on the record.

As we have consistently noted, when interpreting the rules of procedure, we use the same canons and principles of construction used to interpret statutes. State v. Williams, 392 Md. 194, 206, 896 A.2d 973, 980 (2006); New Jersey v. Strazzella, 331 Md. 270, 274, 627 A.2d 1055, 1057 (1993). In Strazzella, 331 Md. at 274-75, 627 A.2d at 1057, we outlined the following standard for interpreting the rules of procedure:

In our effort to discern the meaning of a rule, we look first to the words of the rule. When the words are clear and unambiguous, ordinarily we need not go any further. Only when the language of the rule is ambiguous is it necessary that we look elsewhere to ascertain legislative intent. We are also to give effect to the entire rule, neither adding, nor deleting, words in order to give it a meaning not otherwise evident by the words actually used. Finally, we seek to give the rule a reasonable interpretation, not one that is illogical or incompatible with common sense. (Internal citations omitted).

In Williams, 392 Md. at 207-08, 896 A.2d at 981, we stated further that

the rule is read so that no word, phrase, clause or sentence is rendered surplusage or meaningless. Where the words of a statute, construed according to their common and everyday meaning, are clear and unambiguous and express a plain meaning, the court will give effect to the rule as written. (Internal quotations and citations omitted).

In the present case, we need look no further than the plain language of the Rule. Maryland Rule 4-246(b) states, in part: The court may not accept the waiver until it determines, after an examination of the defendant on the record in open court conducted by the court, the State's Attorney, the attorney for the defendant, or any combination thereof, that the waiver is made knowingly and voluntarily. (Emphasis added). The clause "on the record" modifies "examination." Both the grammatical construction and punctuation (i.e., separation of the operative clause by commas) of the sentence support this conclusion. Therefore, while Maryland Rule 4-246(b) mandates that the examination of the defendant (i.e., the colloquy between the defendant and the court, State's Attorney, defense counsel, or any combination thereof) must be conducted on the record, its language does not...

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