Sangster v. State, 751

CourtCourt of Special Appeals of Maryland
Citation70 Md.App. 456,521 A.2d 811
Docket NumberNo. 751,751
PartiesSigismund Nathaniel SANGSTER v. STATE of Maryland. ,
Decision Date01 September 1986

Page 456

70 Md.App. 456
521 A.2d 811
Sigismund Nathaniel SANGSTER
STATE of Maryland.
No. 751, Sept. Term, 1986.
Court of Special Appeals of Maryland.
March 5, 1987.

[521 A.2d 812]

Page 459

Arthur A. DeLano, Jr., Asst. Public Defender (Alan H. Murrell, Public Defender, on brief), Baltimore, for appellant.

Richard B. Rosenblatt, Asst. Atty. Gen. (Stephen H. Sachs, Atty. Gen., Baltimore, Arthur A. Marshall, Jr., State's Atty. for Prince George's County and David M. Simpson, Asst. State's Atty. for Prince George's County, on brief, (Upper Marlboro), for appellee.

Page 460

Argued before WEANT, ALPERT and ROSALYN B. BELL, JJ.

[521 A.2d 813] ALPERT, Judge.

Being disinclined to spend the next one hundred eleven years behind bars, appellant, Sigismund Nathaniel Sangster, asserts, among other things, that he was denied his constitutional right of confrontation at the hearing in which it was determined that he was mentally competent to stand trial. This case began with a "drug bust" which ended in a shootout between the police and the appellant. Evidence at trial in the Circuit Court for Prince George's County revealed the following.

On the morning of May 2, 1985, police officers from the Prince George's County Police Department's Vice Control Section and Emergency Service's Team executed a search and seizure warrant at 5725 Chillum Heights Drive, Apartment 101. The affidavit in support of the search warrant alleged that individuals were selling "nickel bags" of marijuana through a peephole in the apartment door.

The police went to the apartment, yelled "county police," and then broke down the front door with a battering ram. They secured the living room, kitchen and bathroom of the apartment, and then sought access to the bedroom. The door to the bedroom was barricaded. After Officer Sinton hit it with his shoulder and shield, Officer Magruder followed up with a battering ram. With the aid of the battering ram, the door would open approximately two inches, but it would shut tightly once the ram was removed.

No sounds were heard from inside the bedroom until shots were fired. This gunfire hit Officers Sinton and McKimmie. The police returned the gunfire by firing a shotgun through the unopened door. After gunfire was exchanged, Officer McKimmie tried to engage the occupant of the room in conversation. He told the occupant that "this is the county police, throw the gun out the window, go to the window, put your hands out the window, put your

Page 461

hands on the glass, or put them out the window." At first, there was no response, but later the occupant yelled, "Come in and get me, man." Gunfire was again exchanged and the police heard a yell from inside the room, indicating that the occupant had probably been injured. The police then ceased their fire, and the occupant remained barricaded in the room for approximately five hours (at which time the occupant told police negotiators he had been shot and needed medical attention).

When appellant came out of the bedroom, he was "leaning over slightly" with "both hands secreted in his jacket." Sergeant William Spalding ordered the appellant to stop and take his hands out of his jacket and put them up in the air so that they were in plain sight. The appellant did not respond and instead made a motion with his hand which appeared to move from his jacket toward the police. Sergeant Spalding ordered Officer McKimmie to fire an Arwen 1 to disarm and disable Mr. Sangster. The Arwen was shot, projecting a rubber projectile which struck the appellant, knocked him back, and caused his hands to move from his jacket.

At the conclusion of the State's case, the appellant moved for a judgment of acquittal. This motion was denied and the defendant began to present his case.

Appellant produced four witnesses who testified that they were residents of appellant's building present during the incident, but had not heard the police announce who they were before entering appellant's apartment. Mr. Sangster's next-door neighbor testified that appellant had previously been beaten by the police, and his apartment had also been broken into shortly before the raid.

In addition, appellant testified on his own behalf. He stated that on May 13, the date of the incident, that he was sitting in his bedroom when he heard somebody walking in

Page 462

the living room of his apartment who said, "[E]verybody come out with their hand up." Appellant testified that he called out, "it's just me alone inside." He then said:

[521 A.2d 814] So while I was going to the front door, I got shot and I--and I say--they still say everybody come out with their hand up. So I said I ain't coming out here.

Q. What did you do after you were shot?

A. I went back where I was sitting down. And I take up--

Q. Can you speak slower please?

A. Yeah. I went where I was sitting down first. And pick up--I went where I was sitting after they shoot me. And take a gun I did have and shoot the door back to them. And they still shooting and shooting again.

Q. What did you see out the window?

A. I see somebody outside with a gun on me. I shoot at them.

Q. Did you know that was a policeman?

A. I don't know who he was. I saw one person first, after that I saw about three people knocking on the window.

Q. So then what did you do?

A. Well, the person that have a gun on me, I was shooting on him. I shoot at him one time. The they knock on the window. While they was pushing the gun through the window I was trying to help myself by moving the--some furniture inside trying to keep bullets off me.

Q. Why didn't you just walk out the door?

A. Because they shoot. I didn't reach the front door--I didn't reach the door and they shoot me.

Q. Why didn't you open the door and walk on out?

A. They going to shoot me.

Thus, appellant asserted that he didn't know who was in his apartment when he fired the first three shots (the shots which injured the policemen), and thereafter, he did "not know what to do." Although the police had told him to

Page 463

come out of his apartment, appellant feared that if he came out he would be shot again. In fact, when he did come out of the bedroom, he was shot in the eye (an injury which caused him to lose the eye).

At the conclusion of his case, appellant renewed his motion for judgment of acquittal. This motion was denied and the case was submitted to the jury, which convicted appellant and found him criminally responsible for assault with intent to murder, use of a handgun in the commission of a crime of violence, battery, assault, and possession of marijuana. Appellant was also convicted of, but found not criminally responsible for, assault with intent to avoid lawful apprehension. On May 21, 1986, appellant was committed to the custody of the Commissioner of Corrections for a period of one hundred and eleven years.

A timely appeal was filed on June 5, 1986, and the following questions presented:

I. Did the trial judge fail to determine competency upon testimony and evidence presented on the record [and did the trial judge err in denying appellant the right to confrontation]?

II. Did the trial judge err in refusing to instruct the jury that assault and battery were not crimes of violence under Article 27 § 36B?

III. Did the trial judge err in instructing the jury on the elements of assault with intent to murder?

IV. Did the trial judge err in refusing to give an instruction on the "castle doctrine?"

I. Competency

Section 12-103 of the Health General Article states that:

If, before or during a trial, the defendant in a criminal case appears to the court to be incompetent to stand trial or the defendant alleges incompetence to stand trial, the court shall determine, on evidence presented on the

Page 464

record, whether the defendant is incompetent to stand trial.

Md. Health-Gen. Code Ann. § 12-103 (1982 and 1986 Cum.Supp.). The provisions of this section are mandatory, Jones v. State, 280 Md. 282, 372 A.2d 1064 (1977), and dictate that the court take affirmative action to determine the competency of a defendant to stand trial once the issue is raised. Hill v. State, 35 Md.App. 98, 369 [521 A.2d 815] A.2d 98 (1977); Rozzell v. State, 5 Md.App. 167, 245 A.2d 917 (1968); Strawderman v. State, 4 Md.App. 689, 244 A.2d 88 (1967).

The test for determining competency is whether an accused is able to (1) understand the nature of the proceedings against him and (2) assist in his own defense. Langworthy v. State, 46 Md.App. 116, 416 A.2d 1287 (1980), cert. denied, 450 U.S. 960, 101 S.Ct. 1419, 67 L.Ed.2d 384 (1981). Both parts of the competency test must be established before the accused can be tried. Raithel v. State, 280 Md. 291, 299-300, 372 A.2d 1069 (1977). All doubts and ambiguities are resolved in favor of incompetency. Langworthy, 46 Md.App. at 129-30, 416 A.2d 1287. One of the "primary purposes of the [competency] laws [is] to prevent an insane person from being tried for an alleged criminal offense until he has recovered his reason...." Jones, 280 Md. at 289, 372 A.2d 1064; Rowe v. State, 234 Md. 295, 309, 199 A.2d 785, cert. denied, 379 U.S. 924, 85 S.Ct. 281, 13 L.Ed.2d 336 (1964).

In the case sub judice, appellant raised the issue of his competency to stand trial. He presented evidence from a psychiatrist, 2 Dr. Richard Epstein, that he suffered from a chronic schizophrenic disorder and that because of this

Page 465

mental disorder he could neither understand the nature of the proceedings nor assist in his defense.

The State called no witnesses in rebuttal, but apparently submitted a report 3 from Clifton T. Perkins State Hospital in which it was concluded that the appellant was competent to stand trial. The appellant objected to the trial judge's consideration of the Perkins report since it only contained the doctor's conclusions without any supporting facts. He contended that he should have had an opportunity to cross-examine the Perkins staff as to the basis of their...

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  • Manuel v. State
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • November 14, 1990
    ...with applying. Therefore, Aniunoh's instruction was not required. As to the two instructions regarding acquittal, Sangster v. State, 70 Md.App. 456, 521 A.2d 811 (1987), aff'd., 312 Md. 560, 541 A.2d 637 (1988), is enlightening. In Sangster, the trial court properly refused the defense's re......
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    ...judge must instruct the jury on every essential point of law supported by the evidence when requested to do so." Sangster v. State, 70 Md.App. 456, 473, 521 A.2d 811 (1987) (citations omitted). When appropriate, the court may supplement its instructions at a later time, and the extent of su......
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    ...Criminal Law § 1117 (1989) (citing People v. Williams, 123 Mich.App. 752, 333 N.W.2d 577 (1983)). Accord Sangster v. State, 70 Md.App. 456, 464-68, 521 A.2d 811, 815-17 (1987), aff'd, 312 Md. 560, 541 A.2d 637 (1988); Villarreal v. State, 860 S.W.2d 529 "`Theoretically, there appears to be ......
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