Singh v. State, No. 3365, Sept. Term, 2018

CourtCourt of Special Appeals of Maryland
Writing for the CourtArthur, J.
Citation247 Md.App. 322,236 A.3d 720
Docket NumberNo. 3365, Sept. Term, 2018
Decision Date26 August 2020
Parties Raghbir SINGH v. STATE of Maryland

247 Md.App. 322
236 A.3d 720

Raghbir SINGH
v.
STATE of Maryland

No. 3365, Sept. Term, 2018

Court of Special Appeals of Maryland.

August 26, 2020


Argued by: Brian M. Saccenti (Paul B. DeWolfe, Public Defender on the brief), Baltimore, MD, for Appellant.

Argued by: Zoe Gillen White (Brian E. Frosh, Attorney General on the brief), Baltimore, MD, for Appellee.

Berger, Arthur, James R. Eyler (Senior Judge, Specially Assigned), JJ.

Arthur, J.

247 Md.App. 326

On July 11, 2017, Jennifer Johnson died from a drug overdose. In March of 2018, a Montgomery County grand jury indicted Raghbir Singh for the murder of Johnson, distribution of heroin, and conspiracy to distribute heroin. In December of 2018, the grand jury issued a superseding indictment with additional charges related to the distribution of carfentanil.1 The State subsequently withdrew the original indictment.

247 Md.App. 327

Singh moved to dismiss the charges against him, contending that the State had violated his constitutional right to a speedy trial. The Circuit Court for Montgomery County denied the motion, based on the premise that the period of delay did not begin until the grand jury issued the superseding indictment. Singh entered a conditional guilty plea, reserving his right to seek appellate review of the denial of his motion to dismiss.

In this appeal, Singh contends that the circuit court erred when it denied his motion to dismiss on speedy trial grounds. As explained in this opinion, we conclude that the court evaluated that motion based on an erroneous premise. Pursuant to Maryland Rule 8-604(d), we shall remand the case without affirming, reversing, or modifying

236 A.3d 723

the judgment. The purpose of the remand proceedings is for the court to reevaluate the alleged violation of Singh's right to a speedy trial.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

A. The Death of Jennifer Johnson

On June 11, 2017, Jennifer Johnson was found dead inside her apartment in Montgomery County. Near her body, the police recovered drug paraphernalia (a syringe and a burnt spoon with residue) and her cell phone.

Shortly before her death, Johnson had exchanged text messages with Amy Bormel. The text messages indicated that Bormel had arranged for a male acquaintance to deliver heroin to Johnson's workplace in exchange for $40 in cash.

A medical examiner later concluded that Johnson died as a result of a combined intoxication of carfentanil (an analogue of the synthetic opioid fentanyl ), alprazolam (an anti-anxiety medication), and free morphine. According to the State's discovery disclosures, "heroin breaks down to free morphine" inside the human body.

247 Md.App. 328

B. Controlled Purchase of Heroin from Bormel

On June 12, 2017, the day after Johnson's death, police officers worked with a confidential informant to arrange a controlled purchase of heroin from Bormel.

The officers observed Bormel leaving her residence with Raghbir Singh, who drove Bormel into Baltimore City. Later, on a phone call, Bormel told the informant that she was taking her "man" to a doctor's appointment. Bormel asked to meet the informant at a shopping center near the doctor's office. Bormel alone met the informant and exchanged heroin for cash.

Afterwards, the officers arrested Bormel and recovered another bag of heroin from her person. Based on its appearance, the officers believed that the heroin was mixed with carfentanil. The officers also arrested Singh while he was standing outside the doctor's office and seized a cell phone from his person.

Separately, Bormel and Singh made recorded statements in custody. The officers obtained a warrant to search Bormel's residence, where they seized phones and electronic devices. A few weeks later, the officers obtained a warrant to search the devices for evidence of the distribution of heroin or carfentanil.

C. Charges Associated with the Controlled Purchase from Bormel

On June 13, 2017, one day after the arrests, the State brought charges against Bormel and Singh in the District Court of Maryland for Montgomery County. Bormel was charged with distribution of a controlled dangerous substance, possession of a controlled dangerous substance with intent to distribute it, and possession of a controlled dangerous substance. Singh was charged with conspiracy to distribute a controlled dangerous substance and conspiracy to possess a controlled dangerous substance with intent to distribute it. At the State's request, Singh was held without bond.

247 Md.App. 329

The district court forwarded both sets of charges to the Circuit Court for Montgomery County, where the State obtained indictments against Bormel and Singh. The indictment against Bormel charged her with two counts of distribution of a controlled dangerous substance, three counts of possession of a controlled dangerous substance with intent to distribute it, and one count of possession of a controlled dangerous substance.2 The indictment

236 A.3d 724

against Singh alleged that he had conspired with Bormel to distribute heroin, to distribute carfentanil, and to possess heroin with intent to distribute it.

At the time of his arrest, Singh had been released on bond pending a trial on unrelated burglary charges. On February 13, 2018, Singh entered a guilty plea in that case to one count of second-degree burglary. Singh received a sentence of 10 years of imprisonment, with all but three years suspended. Singh began serving the remainder of that sentence at a correctional facility in Washington County.

The circuit court scheduled the trial on the charges against Singh to begin on February 28, 2018. Singh moved to suppress physical evidence seized upon his arrest (i.e., his cell phone) and the statement that he made in custody. At a hearing on February 23, 2018, the court determined that police officers had arrested Singh without probable cause, and thus that the evidence obtained as a result of the arrest must be suppressed.

One week later, when the trial was scheduled to begin, the State entered a nolle prosequi as to the charges against Singh. The prosecutor stated that the State was unable to proceed because it had lost contact with the informant.

Based on her sale of heroin to the informant, Bormel entered a guilty plea to one count of distribution of a controlled dangerous substance on April 18, 2018. The court

247 Md.App. 330

sentenced Bormel to 10 years of imprisonment and suspended all but one year of that sentence.

D. Original Indictment for the Killing of Johnson

On March 29, 2018, a Montgomery County grand jury issued indictments against Bormel and Singh for the killing of Johnson and for heroin distribution.

The indictment against Singh included three counts. The first count alleged that Singh "feloniously killed Jennifer Johnson[.]" This count used the statutory short form of an indictment for murder or manslaughter.3 The second count alleged that Singh unlawfully distributed heroin. The third count alleged that Singh conspired with Bormel to distribute heroin.

At the State's request, the circuit court issued a bench warrant authorizing Singh's arrest in Montgomery County. The State later asked the court to recall that warrant because Singh was incarcerated in Washington County, serving the sentence for his burglary conviction. The State secured Singh's presence for subsequent court appearances by obtaining writs directing the Maryland Correctional Transportation Unit to transport him to the Montgomery County courthouse.

Counsel entered an appearance on behalf of Singh and filed, among other things, a written demand for a speedy trial. During discovery, the State disclosed an autopsy report, in which the medical examiner concluded that Johnson died from a combined intoxication of carfentanil, alprazolam, and free morphine.4

Over the State's objection, the court ordered the State to submit a bill of particulars. In response, the State alleged that, on July 11, 2017, Singh "caused the death of Jennifer Johnson" through "his involvement in the sale of heroin and

247 Md.App. 331

carfentanil to Ms. Johnson." The State alleged that, on that date, Singh and Bormel had "conspired to distribute heroin and carfentanil to Johnson" and that Singh had "provided heroin and carfentanil" to Johnson. The State wrote that Singh was "charged with

236 A.3d 725

murder under the theory of depraved heart murder[,]" based on the allegation that he "acted with extreme disregard for the life of Ms. Johnson and the potential consequences of the distribution of heroin and carfentanil."

The State initially...

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6 practice notes
  • Fogleman v. Hubbard, Civil Action 1:20-CV-12-HSO-RPM
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of Mississippi
    • January 25, 2022
    ...is no greater than it is upon anyone openly subject to a criminal investigation.” Id. at 8-9, 102 S.Ct. 1497. See also Singh v. State, 236 A.3d 720, 731-32 (Md. Ct. Spec. App. 2020). In short, after indictment or arrest, the Sixth Amendment speedy trial clock continues to run until, inter a......
  • White v. State, No. 1232, Sept. Term, 2019
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • May 26, 2021
    ...accusation and to limit the possibilities that long delay will impair the ability of an accused to defend himself.’ " Singh v. State , 247 Md. App. 322, 347, 236 A.3d 720 (2020) (quoting United States v. Loud Hawk , 474 U.S. 302, 312, 106 S.Ct. 648, 88 L.Ed.2d 640 (1986) ). The second body ......
  • White v. State, No. 1232
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • May 26, 2021
    ...and to limit the possibilities that long delay will impair the ability of an accused to defend himself.'" SinghPage 13 v. State, 247 Md. App. 322, 347 (2020) (quoting United States v. Loud Hawk, 474 U.S. 302, 312 (1986)). The second body of law is established by statute and rule. It require......
  • Downer v. Balt. Cnty., No. 2498, Sept. Term, 2017
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • August 26, 2020
    ...similar stress in their employment. Ms. Downer, as a paid EMT employed by the Baltimore County Fire Department, is subject to the same 236 A.3d 720 types of unusual hazards, stresses, and strains in her daily work as Baltimore County's paid paramedics. We conclude that Ms. Downer should hav......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
6 cases
  • Fogleman v. Hubbard, Civil Action 1:20-CV-12-HSO-RPM
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of Mississippi
    • January 25, 2022
    ...is no greater than it is upon anyone openly subject to a criminal investigation.” Id. at 8-9, 102 S.Ct. 1497. See also Singh v. State, 236 A.3d 720, 731-32 (Md. Ct. Spec. App. 2020). In short, after indictment or arrest, the Sixth Amendment speedy trial clock continues to run until, inter a......
  • White v. State, No. 1232, Sept. Term, 2019
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • May 26, 2021
    ...accusation and to limit the possibilities that long delay will impair the ability of an accused to defend himself.’ " Singh v. State , 247 Md. App. 322, 347, 236 A.3d 720 (2020) (quoting United States v. Loud Hawk , 474 U.S. 302, 312, 106 S.Ct. 648, 88 L.Ed.2d 640 (1986) ). The second body ......
  • White v. State, No. 1232
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • May 26, 2021
    ...and to limit the possibilities that long delay will impair the ability of an accused to defend himself.'" SinghPage 13 v. State, 247 Md. App. 322, 347 (2020) (quoting United States v. Loud Hawk, 474 U.S. 302, 312 (1986)). The second body of law is established by statute and rule. It require......
  • Downer v. Balt. Cnty., No. 2498, Sept. Term, 2017
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • August 26, 2020
    ...similar stress in their employment. Ms. Downer, as a paid EMT employed by the Baltimore County Fire Department, is subject to the same 236 A.3d 720 types of unusual hazards, stresses, and strains in her daily work as Baltimore County's paid paramedics. We conclude that Ms. Downer should hav......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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