Snowden v. State

Decision Date10 November 1976
Docket NumberNo. 188,188
Citation33 Md.App. 659,365 A.2d 321
PartiesAnthony Tony SNOWDEN v. STATE of Maryland.
CourtCourt of Special Appeals of Maryland

Mark Colvin, Asst. Public Defender, with whom were Alan H. Murrell, Public Defender, and George E. Burns, Jr., Asst. Public Defender, on the brief, for appellant.

Alexander L. Cummings, Asst. Atty. Gen., with whom were Francis B. Burch, Atty. Gen., William A. Swisher, State's Atty. for Baltimore City, and Edwin Wenck, Asst. State's Atty. for Baltimore City on the brief, for appellee.

Before GILBERT, C. J., and MOYLAN and LOWE, JJ.

LOWE, Judge.

John Morley's reflection that

'The means prepare the end, and the end is what the means have made it,'

is especially applicable to criminal law. Frequently the law serves only to define the means and limit the extent to which man may go in achieving an otherwise legitimate goal. Sexual relations, for example, are seldom simply illegal vel non; it is the means of achieving that end that distinguish it as rape, assault or a mutually pleasant experience. What is otherwise good and just, if it be sought by force or fraud, becomes bad and unjust. 1 Had Anthony Tony Snowden retained the subtleties of the mood provided by the psychedelic lights and stereo music in his apartment, he would not now be facing seven years imprisonment for having assaulted his young female companion who had accompanied him there to drink wine. Had he spoken seductively instead of shouting threateningly and caressed gently instead of disrobing roughly, she may not have reported it as rape. But she did, and the ensuing indictment for rape loomed so threateningly 2 that appellant agreed to a bargain with the State whereby he would plead guilty to assault in order to obviate the possibility of being convicted of the greater crime of rape.

The bargain offered him by the State became even more attractive when the prosecutor 'agreed to recommend probation, coupled with psychiatric care' as the sentence. The bargain thus struck, 3 the plea was entered and sentencing was deferred to obtain the presentence investigation and medical report ordered by the judge.

When that report was received, it suggested incarceration rather than probation. 4 Thus set aback, appellant's counsel argued strenuously and innovatively against the report, pleading with the court to accept the recommendations of the bargain and to order probation coupled with psychiatric treatment. At the conclusion of that plea, the court thanked him for his remarks and turned to the prosecutor saying:

'Mr. Wenck, is the State adhering to the recommendation that it made at the time of the trial?'

We cannot speculate upon the judge's reason for asking such a question. However, to the prosecutor, who sat silently through appellant's counsel's persuasive attack upon the presentence recommendation, the invitation suggested by the court's question was too suggestive to decline. Although he tried to avoid an obvious breach of the bargain, he sought to convey his message subtly by rehabilitating the report so astutely attacked by defense counsel:

'MR. WENCK: Yes, Your Honor, our word is our bond. Our yes is yes and our no our no. We stick by the recommendation. However, I feel constrained to, if I may simply to point out for the record, that Mr. West, as always, a most eloquent advocate, and very skillfully, just as he was skillful in negotiating a plea on behalf of his client, I find him a formidable advocate every time I meet him at the trial table. But as I'm sure the Court is aware, assertion is not prove. (sic) I'm afraid that Mr. West's infallible style is seeking to poison the-well, suddenly he points out that it was a female psychiatrist, whether that was relevant at all, the sex of the doctor examining, the psychiatrist, I was not aware of any hysterical locating recently with regard to the subject of rape. As Mr. West's words, for the record, would seem to suggest, of course, there has been no supporting data to such an assertion, some of the same kind of conclusions that Mr. West draws with regard, or the guilty finger to which he points to the medical degree, or psychiatric residency, when he talks about the hostility and so on. And he made reference, one phrase that he used really set me off, was that the medical peoples' conclusions were subjective in nature. Well, psychiatry is as much an art as a science, and they are an informed, I would submit to the Court, subjectivity, based on years of medical knowledge and experience, and clinical training, and again, very skillfully, Mr. West has woven to his benefit-to his client's benefit, the best possible statement that one can make in the situation.

But for the record, I just thought it needed to be pointed out. I'm sure the Court is aware, in the advocate's position, he is less than non-subjective himself in evaluating that which we have seen come back in the report.

THE COURT: With all of this, Mr. Wenck, is the State still adhering to its recommendation?

MR. WENCK: Yes, because of our agreement.

THE COURT: Is probation-with out-patient psychiatric treatment, is that your recommendation?

MR. WENCK: I believe we must, I believe we must.

THE COURT: All right.'

Although the bargain, as understood by the court, was that 'the State is unequivocably recommending probation', it is apparent that the prosecutor was urging the judge to comply with the presentence report rather than to adhere to his own 'recommendations'. Appellant contends that this violates the sanctity of a plea bargain as described in Santobello v. New York, 404 U.S. 257, 92 S.Ct. 495, 30 L.Ed.2d 427.

In Miller v. State, 272 Md. 249, 253, 322 A.2d 527, 529, Judge Eldridge vividly described a similar prosecutorial equivocation as just such violation:

'When the prosecuting attorney said this, he was advising or suggesting to the judge that the conditional probation recommendation not be completely accepted. This constituted a 'recommendation' by the prosecuting attorney as to the 'disposition' of the case. Moreover, the prosecuting attorney certainly appeared to be recommending that imprisonment instead of conditional probation be imposed. Absent some further explanation by the prosecuting attorney, the only logical inference that could be drawn from his statement is that he was urging imprisonment rather than probation. The prosecutor's statement was inconsistent with his undertaking to make 'no recommendation."

The State had agreed to take affirmative action, i.e., to recommend probation, and it is apparent that such recommendation by the State was an inducement to obtain appellant's plea. Santobello, supra, 404 U.S. at 262, 92 S.Ct. 495; United States v. Brown, 4 Cir., 500 F.2d 375, 377. Despite the reluctant concession of conformity to the bargain at the conclusion of the prosecutor's apologia for the presentence recommendations, it is apparent that probation was the last thing he 'recommended' to the court:

'I believe we must, I believe we must.'

The appellant promptly moved to withdraw his guilty plea contending that the bargaining had been violated, 5 and with apparent good reson since, just before sentencing appellant to 7 years imprisonment, the judge himself acknowledged that the State's position had the appearance of something less than a recommendation of probation:

'. . . one could possibly read into what Mr. Wenck had to say, perhaps some reluctance that it had agreed to the arrangement which had been made, perhaps some feeling that although the State is recommending probation, it still might not be the best thing for all concerned.'

Seemingly beguiled by appellate opinions lauding judicial superiority over mere laymen, 6 the judge pointed out that even if the bargain was breached, it had not affected his thinking because he had been predisposed to reject it anyhow:

'I want to make it very clear for the record that my disposition is going to be contrary to the recommendation of the State, and contrary to the recommendation of defense counsel. But, that my decision not to accept the recommendation of the State was made with finality before Mr. Wenck addressed the Court. It was made with finality at the conclusion of the defense presentation, here this morning, which consisted of forty minutes worth of argument by defense counsel and testimony by the defendant. That, at that stage, I firmly concluded that I would not follow...

To continue reading

Request your trial
16 cases
  • U.S. v. Pollard
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — District of Columbia Circuit
    • May 28, 1992
    ...though he had "some problems" with this sentence, violates agreement to recommend no more than three years); Snowden v. State, 33 Md.App. 659, 365 A.2d 321 (1976) (promise to recommend probation breached by prosecutor who did so but, when asked by the judge whether he still adhered to this ......
  • Rojas v. State, 1664
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • September 10, 1982
    ...to rescind the plea agreement and withdraw his plea if it is induced by a State promise that is unfulfillable. Snowden v. State, 33 Md.App. 659, 365 A.2d 321 (1976); Johnson v. State, 40 Md.App. 591, 392 A.2d 1157 (1978); United States v. Hammerman, 528 F.2d 326 (4th Cir. 1975); Smith v. Un......
  • State v. Pittmon
    • United States
    • Wisconsin Court of Appeals
    • June 11, 2013
    ...adhesive cannot mend the prosecutor's broken promise.’ ” Poole, 131 Wis.2d at 363, 394 N.W.2d 909 (quoting Snowden v. State, 33 Md.App. 659, 365 A.2d 321, 325 (Md.1976) (citing Santobello )). Simply stated, the case law is clear that influence, or lack thereof, on the sentencing judge is di......
  • Brown v. State
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • June 8, 1978
    ...only to define the means and limit the extent to which man may go in achieving an otherwise legitimate goal." Snowden v. State, 33 Md.App. 659, 659-660, 365 A.2d 321, 322.5 In her testimony, Ms. Gorman indicated that appellant was under pressure to have the clubhouse demolished expeditiousl......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • Non-Compliance with the Terms of A Plea Agreement
    • United States
    • Maryland State Bar Association Warnken's Maryland Criminal Procedure (MSBA) Chapter 18 Plea Bargaining and Pleas
    • Invalid date
    ...told the court, at sentencing, that the case was very serious, and it took everything in him to remain silent. Id. In Snowden v. State, 33 Md. App. 659 (1976), the Court of Special Appeals held that, when the State agreed to recommend probation, the State breached the agreement by recommend......

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT