State v. Saul, 335

Decision Date07 May 1970
Docket NumberNo. 335,335
PartiesSTATE of Maryland v. Thomas Everett SAUL.
CourtMaryland Court of Appeals

John J. Garrity, Asst. Atty. Gen. (Francis B. Burch, Atty. Gen., Edward F. Borgerding, Asst. Atty. Gen., Baltimore, and Arthur A. Marshall, Jr., State's Atty., for Prince George's County, Upper Marlboro, on the brief), for appellant.

Howard E. Goldman, Laurel (Barry Silber and Melbourne & Goldman, Laurel, on the brief), for appellee.

Argued before McWILLIAMS, SINGLEY, SMITH and DIGGES, JJ., and RIDGLEY P. MELVIN, Jr., Special Judge.

McWILLIAMS, Judge.

In May 1968 the appellee (Saul) was convicted of murder, abduction and assault with intent to rape. The Court of Special Appeals, two judges dissenting, reversed the convictions and remanded the cases to the Circuit Court for Prince George's County for a new trial. Saul v. State, 6 Md.App. 540, 252 A.2d 282 (1969). We granted the State's application for the writ of certiorari on 2 December 1969.

Saul filed pleas of not guilty and not guilty by reason fo insanity at the time of the commission of the crimes for which he was indicted. His trial generated a transcript of nearly 500 pages, well over half of which is given over to the testimony of five psychiatrists and a clinical psychologist. When the evidence was concluded the court, Powers and Loveless, JJ., instructed the jury. The instructions take up 12 pages of the transcript. We have set out below only the part thereof which is our present concern:

'A question in this case has been raised, and there has been considerable testimony concerning the mental capacity of the defendant.

'Under Article 59, Section 9 of the Code of Public Laws of the State of Maryland, (A) defendant is not responsible for criminal conduct and shall be found insane at the time of the commission of the alleged crime if, at the time of such conduct, as a result of mental disease or defect he lack(s)ed substantial capacity either to appreciate the criminality of his conduct or to conform his conduct to the requirements of law. Then it goes on to say that (A)s used in this section the terms 'mental disease or defect' do not include an abnormality manifested only by repeated criminal or otherwise antisocial conduct. In other words, it is not to be considered a mental disease or defect if the only manifestation is by repeated criminal or antisocial conduct.

'Now, the language in this statute is very important and should be borne in mind by you very carefully. The first consideration on the matter of mental capacity, in other words, whether he should be held responsible for his conduct, is whether or not there was a mental disease or defect. If you conclude from the testimony that there was no mental disease or defect then a necessary element of this defense would be lacking and it would not be proper to find the defendant not guilty by reason of insanity on that alone. There must not only be a mental disease or defect, as distinguished from an abnormality or personality trait or characteristic which fell short of a mental disease or defect, but there first must be found to be a mental disease or defect, and then if you are convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that there was a mental disease or defect, then-no, you must be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that there was not a mental disease or defect, and unless you are convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that there was not a mental disease or defect then you would be justified in concluding that there was. Then you next go on to the question of whether such mental disease or defect caused him to lack substantial capacity either to appreciate the criminality of his conduct or to conform his conduct to the requirements of the law.

'So that there will be no misunder-standing, I will repeat that the burden is on the State to convince you beyond a reasonable doubt, in addition to the matter of the offenses with which he is charged, but also that he had the mental capacity. And you must be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that there was not a mental defect or disease which resulted in his lacking substantial capacity either to appreciate the criminality of his conduct or to conform his conduct to the requirements of the law.' (The language of the statute has been italicized.)

What happened thereafter has been described by Orth, J., who delivered the opinion of the Court of Special Appeals:

'* * * After the charge to the jury, the State and defense counsel presented closing arguments. The jury retired for their deliberations at 3:04 P.M., returned to the courtroom at 9:27 P.M. and rendered their verdicts. There is in the record by stipulation that while the jury were deliberating they sent a note to the court, signed by the foreman, reading, 'May the jury have legal code Article 59 section 9.' Counsel for the State and the appellant (Saul) were called to the chambers of one of the two judges presiding at the trial. The other presiding judge was not present. Counsel examined the note, considered the request, and agreed that a photostatic copy of Art. 59, section 9(a) could be sent to the jury. It was delivered to the jury by the bailiff. Court did not re-convene and the jury did not return to the courtroom. The appellant (Saul) was at no time present when the note was delivered to the judge, when the request was being considered by the judge and counsel or when the copy of the statute was delivered to the jury, as he was 'detained at the time in a lock-up portion of the sheriff's office located in the court house." Id. at 545, 252 A.2d at 284.

The Court of Special Appeals held that the delivery of the note from the jury to the judge was merely a 'communication' and that its reception by the judge, the conference with counsel and the agreement to give a copy of the statute to the jury did not amount to a part of the trial. Judge Orth, for the court, relying principally on Young v. State, 5 Md.App. 383, 247 A.2d 751 (1968), said that the 'communication to the jury was clearly as to the law on responsibility for criminal conduct and thus was an instruction.' Id. at 546, 252 A.2d at 284. He went on to say that when 'the judge reached his conclusion and was about to deliver the copy of the statute to the jury the trial was resumed and * * * (Saul) had the absolute right to be present.' Id.

The State argues that Young cannot be relied upon because our earlier decisions, principally Midgett v. State, 216 Md. 26, 139 A.2d 209 (1958), were misconstrued. We think not. Young was charged with assault with intent 'to kill and murder' and assault and battery. After the jury had begun its deliberations the foreman sent a note to the trial judge which read, 'Is wielding a deadly weapon in an assault and battery case considered an intention to kill?' The jury was brought back and given additional instructions. Neither Young nor his attorney was present in the courtroom at the time. Some hours later the jury returned a verdict of guilty on the assault and battery charge. Counsel for Young did not learn of the incident until the day after the conclusion of the trial.

In Midgett, Judge Horney, for the Court, said:

'In this State there is no doubt that an accused in a criminal prosecution for a felony has the absolute right to be present at every stage of his trial from the time the jury is impanelled until it reaches a verdict or is discharged, and there can be no valid trial or judgment unless he has been afforded that right. The constitutional guarantee includes the right of the accused to be present (i) when the jury is charged or instructed on the facts, the law or the form of the verdict, before it has begun its deliberations or afterwards upon its request or by direction of the court; (ii) when the court is repeating a charge or instruction previously given in whole or in part; (iii) when the court communicates with the jury in answer to questions propounded by the jury, or (iv) when there shall be any communication whatsoever between the court and the jury; unless the record affirmatively shows that such communications were not prejudicial or had no tendency to influence the verdict of the jury. Furthermore, the right to be present is personal to the accused and cannot be waived by his counsel. Duffy v. State, (1926), 151 Md. 456, 135 A. 189; La Guardia v. State, (1948), 190 Md. 450, 58 A.2d 913; Constitution of Maryland, Declaration of Rights, Art. 5.' Id. at 36-37, 139 A.2d at 214-215.

In his able and comprehensive opinion, Judge Orth, in Young, paraphrased what was said in Midgett:

'We think that the Court distinguished between 'instruction or charge' on the one hand and 'communication' with the jury on the other hand. Intercourse between the judge and the jury as to the facts, the law or he form of verdict would necessarily be a 'charge or instruction' and intercourse between the judge and jury as to matters other than those would be a 'communication.' So when the judge 'communicates with the jury in answer to questions propounded by them', it may be a 'charge or instruction' or merely a 'communication' depending on the subject matter. Since the instruction or charge of the jury is a part of the trial, as we have stated supra, the accused has the absolute right to be present when a charge or...

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  • Chase v. State
    • United States
    • Maryland Court of Appeals
    • 1 Septiembre 1986
    ...violation of the right to be present during a stage of a criminal trial can never be harmless. In doing so we overruled State v. Saul, 258 Md. 100, 265 A.2d 178 (1970) and disapproved Young v. State, 5 Md.App. 383, 247 A.2d 751 (1968). Noble v. State, 293 Md. at 569, 446 A.2d 844. We held f......
  • Noble v. State
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    • Maryland Court of Appeals
    • 7 Junio 1982
    ...that a violation of the right to be present during a stage of the trial can never be harmless, the defendant relies upon State v. Saul, 258 Md. 100, 265 A.2d 178 (1970), affirming Saul v. State, 6 Md.App. 540, 252 A.2d 282 (1969); and Young v. State, 5 Md.App. 383, 247 A.2d 751 (1968). The ......
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