State v. Thomas

Decision Date01 September 1992
Docket NumberNo. 30,30
Citation328 Md. 541,616 A.2d 365
PartiesSTATE of Maryland v. Donald THOMAS. ,
CourtMaryland Court of Appeals

Gwynn X. Kinsey, Jr., Asst. Atty. Gen. (J. Joseph Curran, Jr., Atty. Gen., both on brief), Baltimore, for appellant.

H. Mark Stichel (Edward K. Dunn, III, Piper and Marbury, William Kanwisher, Asst. Public Defender, all on brief), Baltimore, for appellee.

Argued before MURPHY, C.J., ELDRIDGE, RODOWSKY, McAULIFFE, CHASANOW, KARWACKI and ROBERT M. BELL, JJ.

KARWACKI, Judge.

In this post conviction case, we once again consider the issue of whether Donald Thomas is entitled to a new sentencing hearing for his murder of Sarah Spurling, on October 2, 1981, in Baltimore County. See State v. Thomas, 325 Md. 160, 599 A.2d 1171 (1992) (Thomas II ); Thomas v. State, 301 Md. 294, 483 A.2d 6 (1984) (Thomas I ), cert. denied, 470 U.S. 1088, 105 S.Ct. 1856, 85 L.Ed.2d 153 (1985). In Thomas II, we set forth the proceedings which preceded our review of an order of the post conviction court vacating the death sentence imposed upon Thomas and ordering that he be granted a new sentencing hearing:

"On November 18, 1982, a jury in the Circuit Court for Baltimore County convicted Donald Thomas of the first degree murders of Donald Spurling and his wife, Sarah. 1 At the same trial, Thomas was also found guilty of the first degree rape of Noel Wilkins, of committing two first degree sexual offenses upon Ms. Wilkins, and of robbing her at knife point. Having been previously given the required statutory notice that the death penalty would be sought for the first degree murders, Thomas elected to have the trial judge decide whether he should be executed for those crimes.

"On December 13, 1982, Thomas was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Donald Spurling, death for the murder of Sarah Spurling, concurrent terms of life imprisonment for the first degree rape and first degree sexual offenses, and a twenty-year consecutive sentence for the armed robbery. This Court affirmed the judgments of the circuit court as to both the convictions and the sentences, including imposition of the death sentence. [Thomas I, supra.] The Supreme Court of the United States denied Thomas's petition for writ of certiorari.

"Thomas then filed a petition for post conviction relief. Thomas sought a new trial, or in the alternative, a new sentencing hearing. After conducting an evidentiary hearing on the petition, the court found no merit in the claims that Thomas had been improperly convicted but vacated his death sentence and ordered a new sentencing hearing. This relief was granted because the court concluded that trial counsel had failed to render Thomas effective assistance when he permitted Thomas to be re-examined by Dr. Michael Spodak following his convictions in preparation for Dr. Spodak's testimony at the sentencing hearing."

Thomas II, 325 Md. at 165-66, 599 A.2d at 1173 (citations omitted). Also, in Thomas II, we recited the factual predicate for the order of the post conviction court:

"In an indictment filed on November 9, 1981, Thomas was charged with the crimes of which he now stands convicted. He entered pleas of not guilty by reason of insanity and incompetency to stand trial. Pursuant to Maryland Code (1957, 1979 Repl.Vol.), Art. 59, §§ 23-28, the court ordered that he be transferred to the Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center for a mental examination and evaluation.

"Dr. Spodak, a member of the staff at Clifton Perkins, after conducting a psychiatric examination of Thomas, prepared a 'psychiatric case work up report.' Reports were also prepared by one of the hospital's social workers who had interviewed Thomas and by a clinical psychologist who related his findings upon his testing of Thomas. On February 4, 1982, Thomas appeared at a conference at Clifton Perkins attended by Dr. Spodak, the social worker who had interviewed him, the clinical psychologist who had tested him, and three other staff psychiatrists. Thomas was further interviewed at this conference. It was the unanimous opinion of the psychiatrists present at that conference that [Thomas was competent to stand trial, and]

" 'At the time of the alleged offenses, Mr. Thomas was not suffering from a mental disorder which caused him to lack substantial capacity to appreciate the criminality of his conduct or to conform his conduct to the requirements of the law.' "

Those conclusions were reported to the court....

"In light of the Clifton Perkins evaluation, R. Clark Kinsley, Esq., the public defender assigned as Thomas's trial counsel, arranged to have him examined by a psychiatrist of his choice, Dr. B.F. Beran. That examination produced no evidence with which to contest the evaluation of the Clifton Perkins staff, and Mr. Kinsley so advised the court at the outset of the trial on October 18, 1982. The court concluded that Thomas was competent to stand trial. Thomas was then re-arraigned and entered a plea of not guilty to all of the charges pending against him.

"After the jury returned its verdicts, the State petitioned the court for permission to conduct a pre-sentence psychiatric evaluation of Thomas. It represented in that petition:

" '1. That the Defendant was evaluated at the Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center following his entry of a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity;

" '2. That the findings of the Hospital Center are contained in a report to the Court dated February 4, 1982;

" '3. That it is desirable to supplement the original insanity evaluation with further interview(s) of the Defendant to develop material for presentation at sentencing;

" '4. That Dr. Michael Spodak, who participated in the insanity evaluation, can conduct such further interview with the Defendant at the Baltimore County Detention Center and can do so within a few days of a court order authorizing such evaluation;

" '5. That counsel for the Defendant has no objection to such an evaluation.' The court granted that petition, and Dr. Spodak interviewed Thomas on November 27, 1982. Before the interview began, Dr. Spodak advised Thomas that he had been 'retained by the State's Attorney's office ... to evaluate him on certain issues concerning the death penalty and that depending on what he said and depending on my findings, I might very well be called as a witness to testify at the sentencing phase.' Dr. Spodak also testified that Thomas indicated that he understood that explanation and was willing to be interviewed at that time.

"Dr. Spodak wrote to the office of the State's Attorney on November 30, 1982. He stated that based upon his several interviews with Thomas as a member of the staff of Clifton Perkins, the interview he conducted on November 27, and the review of records associated with the case he was of the opinion to a reasonable medical certainty that the murders of Donald and Sarah Spurling were not committed while the capacity of Thomas to appreciate the criminality of his conduct or to conform his conduct to the requirements of the law was substantially impaired as a result of mental incapacity, mental disorder, emotional disturbance or intoxication. He further opined that it is not unlikely that Thomas would engage in further criminal activities that would constitute a continuing threat to society. These opinions negated two possible circumstances which might mitigate against the death penalty pursuant to Md.Code (1957, 1982 Repl.Vol.), Art. 27, § 413(g)(4) and (7).

"At the sentencing hearing, the State called Dr. Spodak as a witness. Mr. Kinsley, who had been provided a copy of Dr. Spodak's report to the State's Attorney's office on November 30, 1982, objected to any opinions being expressed by Dr. Spodak. He argued that he was under the impression that Dr. Spodak would interview Thomas as a neutral expert from the Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center when he consented to the interview of Thomas following the jury's verdicts. He stressed that, had he been aware that Dr. Spodak had been employed by the State's Attorney's office to conduct that evaluation, he would not have consented to the evaluation. The court overruled the objection and admitted Dr. Spodak's testimony and his November 30, 1982 report....

"In his petition for post conviction relief, Thomas asserted that Kinsley, in allowing him to be interviewed without counsel by Dr. Spodak post-verdict and pre-sentence, had rendered him ineffective assistance of counsel, prejudicing him at sentencing in violation of his right to counsel under the Sixth Amendment. At the post conviction hearing, Thomas called Kinsley as his witness and questioned him extensively on his rationale for allowing Thomas to be re-examined by Spodak. Kinsley explained that he believed that Spodak's role in re-examining Thomas was that of a neutral expert from the Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center, and that Spodak would therefore be impartial. He further testified that he instructed Thomas to cooperate fully with Spodak in the hope that something beneficial to Thomas might come from the examination. During cross-examination, the State attempted to elicit testimony from Kinsley regarding the results which he had received of Dr. Beran's pretrial psychiatric examination of Thomas. The court sustained Thomas's objection to that line of questioning. Following ... the hearing ..., the hearing judge ... grant[ed] Thomas a new sentencing hearing but den[ied] him any post conviction relief from his convictions."

Thomas II, 325 Md. at 166-69, 599 A.2d at 1173-75.

In Thomas II, we held that the post conviction court committed reversible error when it sustained Thomas's objection to the State's attempt to elicit from Kinsley his understanding of the results of Dr. Beran's psychiatric evaluation. 325 Md. at 173, 599 A.2d at 1177. In reaching that conclusion, we rejected Thomas's assertion that any conclusions reached by Dr. Beran were protected from disclosure by Kinsley because of the...

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