State v. Crawford

Citation239 Md.App. 84,196 A.3d 1
Decision Date31 October 2018
Docket NumberNo. 1605, 1606, 1607, 1608, 1609, 1610, 1611, 1612, 1613, 1798, 1799, Sept. Term, 2017,1605, 1606, 1607, 1608, 1609, 1610, 1611, 1612, 1613, 1798, 1799, Sept. Term, 2017
Parties STATE of Maryland v. Siyyaha CRAWFORD, et al.
CourtCourt of Special Appeals of Maryland

Argued by: Kathleen A. Ellis (Brian E. Frosh, Attorney General, on the brief) Baltimore, MD, for Appellant.

Argued by: Wyatt Feeler (Paul B. DeWolfe, Public Defender, on the brief) Baltimore, MD, for Appellee.

Panel: Meredith, Graeff, Beachley, JJ.*

Graeff, J.

In this appeal, the Maryland Department of Health ("the Department" or the "State"), appellant, challenges the order of the Circuit Court for Baltimore City finding it, and several of its officials, in constructive civil contempt.1 The contempt findings were based on the failure to comply with court orders to admit the 11 appellees, individuals who had been charged with a crime, to a Department hospital. The court found that the Department and its officials violated: (1) orders to commit some of the appellees for inpatient competency evaluations; and (2) orders to commit appellees after a finding that they were not competent to stand trial.

On appeal, the State presents the following questions for this Court's review, which we have modified slightly as follows:

1. Did the circuit court err in refusing to dismiss the show cause orders as moot because all appellees had been admitted to the Department facility before the court's contempt finding on August 24, 2017, and the entry of the court's corrected order on October 4, 2017?
2. Did the circuit court err in finding the Department and five of its officials and employees in contempt when (a) all of defendants had been admitted to a Department facility before the finding of contempt; (b) the Department had no ability to comply with the commitment orders before the date of the defendants' admissions because it did not have available beds; (c) the Department did not act willfully; and (d) the orders were not sufficiently specific to support a contempt finding?
3. Did the circuit court err in imposing purging provisions that were unrelated to the underlying commitment orders and that would not have the effect of bringing the Department into compliance with those orders?
4. Did the circuit court err in entering orders that violated Article 8 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights?
5. Did the circuit court err by questioning all the witnesses extensively as if the court were the prosecutor rather than a neutral decision maker?

For the reasons set forth below, we shall reverse the judgments of the circuit court.


Before addressing the specifics of the case, we will briefly address the procedures governing competency evaluations and commitment orders. As the Court of Appeals recently explained:

A criminal prosecution may not proceed against a defendant who is not competent to stand trial. For that reason, a defendant may not be continued in pretrial detention unless the government is taking steps to provide treatment to restore the defendant to competence or to have the defendant civilly committed. Maryland law provides for a trial court to determine whether a defendant is competent, is dangerous to self or others, and, if competent, has the potential to be restored to competence.

Powell v. Md. Dep't of Health , 455 Md. 520, 527, 168 A.3d 857 (2017).

A person is "not competent to stand trial" if he or she is unable "(1) to understand the nature or object of the proceeding; or (2) to assist in one's defense." Md. Code (2017 Supp.), § 3-101(f) of the Criminal Procedure Article ("CP"); State v. Dixon , 230 Md. App. 273, 282, 146 A.3d 1223 (2016). When a defendant "appears ... to be incompetent," the court "shall determine, on evidence presented on the record," whether the defendant is "incompetent to stand trial" ("IST"). CP § 3-104. To aid in this determination, a court may "order the [Department] to examine the defendant," and it "shall set ... the conditions under which the examination is to be made." CP § 3-105(a).

A defendant may be "confined in a correctional facility until the [Department] can conduct the [competency] examination." CP § 3-105(c)(1). If, however, "the court finds that, because of the apparent severity of the mental disorder ..., a defendant in custody would be endangered by confinement in a correction facility," the court may order that the Department confine the defendant at a "medical facility that the [Department] designates as appropriate" or "immediately conduct a competency examination of the defendant by a community forensic screening program or other agency that the [Department] finds appropriate." CP § 3-105(2)(i). See Dixon , 230 Md. App. at 285–87, 146 A.3d 1223 (Where a court determines that a defendant needs to be confined in a psychiatric facility for his own safety pending a competency evaluation, it may order that the Department admit the defendant to such a facility.). Accord Powell , 455 Md. at 529, 168 A.3d 857 (A trial court is "charged with determining whether a defendant is in fact incompetent to stand trial and, if so, what to do about it.").

CP § 3-106(b) governs the process for committing a defendant to a Department facility. It states, in pertinent part, as follows:

(1) If, after a hearing, the court finds that the defendant is incompetent to stand trial and, because of mental retardation or a mental disorder, is a danger to self or the person or property of another, the court may order the defendant committed to the facility that the Health Department designates until the court finds that:
(i) the defendant no longer is incompetent to stand trial;
(ii) the defendant no longer is, because of mental retardation or a mental disorder, a danger to self or the person or property of others; or
(iii) there is not a substantial likelihood that the defendant will become competent to stand trial in the foreseeable future.

Thus, "the three criteria for commitment and retention of a criminal defendant in a psychiatric hospital under this provision can be understood as incompetence, dangerousness, and restorability." Powell , 455 Md. at 530, 168 A.3d 857.

Once a defendant is committed to a Department facility, the court is required to hold a hearing to determine whether the defendant continues to meet the criteria for commitment:

(i) every year from the date of commitment;
(ii) within 30 days after the filing of a motion by the State's Attorney or counsel for the defendant setting forth new facts or circumstances relevant to the determination; and
(iii) within 30 days after receiving a report from the [Department] stating opinions, facts, or circumstances that have not been previously presented to the court and are relevant to the determination.

CP § 3-106(c). The Department is required to issue periodic reports on the condition of a defendant who has been committed. CP § 3-108.

As the Court of Appeals has explained, Maryland has several psychiatric hospitals. Powell , 455 Md. at 532, 168 A.3d 857 ; Md. Code (2017 Supp.), § 10-406 of the Health General Article ("HG"). Four of the hospitals are regional hospitals. Id.2 Persons charged with serious crimes "generally are committed to Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center ("Perkins"), regardless of the location of the court that ordered the commitment." Id.

With this background in mind, we turn to the specific facts and issues presented in this case.


The contempt findings at issue here were based on orders relating to each of the 11 appellees. The circuit court ordered that appellees be committed to the Department: (1) for a competency evaluation; or (2) based on a finding that the defendant was IST and dangerous to self or another.3 We summarize below the orders for each appellee.

I.Individual Commitment Orders

Siyyaha Crawford was charged with first degree arson, second degree malicious burning, and second degree assault. On April 5, 2017, the court, finding good cause to believe that Mr. Crawford might be IST, ordered him committed to the Department for a competency examination, providing that he be confined at the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services ("DPSCS"), and be seen by the Circuit Court Medical Office ("CCMO").4 On April 19, 2017, based on the preliminary report it received, the court ordered that the commitment to the Department be continued, and based on a finding that Mr. Crawford would be endangered by confinement in a correctional facility, it ordered that DPSCS transport Mr. Crawford to a facility of the Department's choice on April 24, 2017, for an inpatient competency evaluation.

On April 26, 2017, the court issued an order stating that, because Mr. Crawford had been found incompetent to stand trial ("IST") and dangerous, he be committed to the Department for confinement until he was no longer IST.5 It further ordered that, "upon receipt of the order," DPSCS transport Mr. Crawford immediately to Perkins or "such other facility" designated by the Department. Mr. Crawford was not admitted to a Department hospital until June 29, 2017.

Walter Randle was charged with robbery with a dangerous weapon, wearing and carrying a dangerous weapon, robbery, and theft. On May 24, 2017, the circuit court found Mr. Randle to be IST and a danger. The court ordered that Mr. Randle be committed to the Department, and that, upon receipt of the order, DPSCS transport him immediately to Perkins or another facility the Department designated. He was not admitted until June 28, 2017.6

Corey Carroll was charged with attempted murder and related offenses. On May 10, 2017, the circuit court ordered that the CCMO conduct a competency evaluation of Mr. Carroll. On May 24, 2017, based on the report of the CCMO, the court ordered that the Department conduct an extended, inpatient competency evaluation of Mr. Carroll at Perkins or "such other facility" designated by the Department. It further ordered that DPSCS "shall immediately transport" Mr. Carroll to Perkins. The Department failed to admit Mr....

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