Stewart v. State

Decision Date22 May 1978
Docket NumberNo. 78,78
Citation386 A.2d 1206,282 Md. 557
PartiesGregory Victor STEWART v. STATE of Maryland.
CourtMaryland Court of Appeals

George E. Burns, Jr., Asst. Public Defender, Baltimore (Alan H. Murrell, Public Defender, Baltimore, on the brief), for appellant.

Gilbert H. Robinette, Asst. Atty. Gen., Baltimore (Francis B. Burch, Atty. Gen. and Clarence W. Sharp, Asst. Atty. Gen., Baltimore, on the brief), for appellee.


ORTH, Judge.

This case presents the issue whether a defendant in a criminal prosecution by the State of Maryland may appeal, before trial, a circuit court's order denying his motion to dismiss the indictment because of an alleged violation of his right to a speedy trial guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States 1 and by Article 21 of the Declaration of Rights of the Constitution of Maryland. 2 We hold that he may not.


Gregory Victor Stewart was charged under an indictment filed in the Circuit Court for Prince George's County with armed robbery and nine related offenses. Trial was scheduled for 4 May 1977. On 3 May he filed a motion to dismiss the indictment, alleging that he had been denied a speedy trial. When the case came on for trial the next day, the court determined the motion as a preliminary matter. Upon a plenary hearing, the motion was denied. Stewart submitted to the court forthwith an order "for an immediate appeal from the court's denial" to the Court of Special Appeals. When the appeal reached the intermediate appellate court, we granted a writ of certiorari before decision by it. The appeal was heard by us on 6 January 1978.


By order of 20 June 1977, 432 U.S. 905, 97 S.Ct. 2948, 53 L.Ed.2d 1077, the Supreme Court of the United States granted certiorari in United States v. MacDonald, which had been decided on 23 January 1976 by the United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit, and reported in 531 F.2d 196. The case was argued before the Supreme Court on 9 January 1978, and we thought that it was advisable to await the decision before determining the appeal before us because of the apparent similarity of the issues. The case was decided on 1 May 1978 by a unanimous court. United States v. MacDonald, --- U.S. ----, 98 S.Ct. 1547, 56 L.Ed.2d 18, (1978).

On 24 January 1975 the grand jury of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina indicted Jeffrey R. MacDonald on three counts of first-degree murder. Among a number of pretrial motions submitted by MacDonald which were denied by the District Court were a motion to dismiss the indictment because of the denial of his Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial and another to dismiss on double jeopardy grounds. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit stayed the trial and allowed an interlocutory appeal. By a divided vote, it reversed the District Court's denial of the motion to dismiss on speedy trial grounds and remanded the case with instructions to dismiss the indictment. United States v. MacDonald, 531 F.2d 196 (4th Cir. 1976). The Court of Appeals panel majority recognized that the denial of a pretrial motion in a criminal case generally is not appealable, but it assumed jurisdiction on two grounds: (1) the speedy trial claim was pendent to the double jeopardy claim, the denial of which it had held to be appealable before trial in United States v. Lansdown, 460 F.2d 164 (4th Cir. 1972); (2) alternatively, although conceding that "(n)ot every speedy trial claim . . . merits an interlocutory appeal," and that "(g)enerally, this defense should be reviewed after final judgment," the court stated that it was "the extraordinary nature of MacDonald's case that persuaded us to allow an interlocutory appeal." 531 F.2d at 199. On the merits, the majority concluded that MacDonald had been deprived of his Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial. The Supreme Court granted certiorari because of the importance of the jurisdictional question to the criminal law. --- U.S. at ----, 98 S.Ct. 1547. It reversed the judgment of the appellate court and remanded the case for further proceedings. Id. at ----, 98 S.Ct. 1547.


The Supreme Court found that MacDonald presented the issue "whether a defendant, before trial, may appeal a federal district court's order denying his motion to dismiss an indictment because of an alleged violation of his Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial." Id. at ----, 98 S.Ct. at 1547 (emphasis in original). The reason underlying the conclusion that he may not was, "(i)n sum," that the Court declined "to exacerbate pretrial delay by intruding upon accepted principles of finality to allow a defendant whose speedy trial motion has been denied before trial to obtain interlocutory appellate review." Id. at ----, 98 S.Ct. at 1554. The precise holding was that "the Court of Appeals lacked jurisdiction to entertain (MacDonald's) speedy trial appeal." Id. at ----, 98 S.Ct. at 1551. We look to see how the Court reached this holding.

Citing Abney v. United States, 431 U.S. 651, 97 S.Ct. 2034, 52 L.Ed.2d 651 (1977); DiBella v. United States, 369 U.S. 121, 82 S.Ct. 654, 7 L.Ed.2d 614 (1962); Parr v. United States, 351 U.S. 513, 76 S.Ct. 912, 100 L.Ed. 1377 (1956) and Cobbledick v. United States, 309 U.S. 323, 60 S.Ct. 540, 84 L.Ed. 783 (1940), the Supreme Court in MacDonald pointed out that it had frequently considered the appealability of pretrial orders in criminal cases. --- U.S. at ----, 98 S.Ct. 1547. Interlocutory or "piecemeal" appeals are disfavored. The traditional and basic principle, embodied in 28 U.S.C. § 1291, 3 is that finality of judgment is required as a predicate for federal appellate jurisdiction. "The rule of finality has particular force in criminal prosecutions because 'encouragement of delay is fatal to the vindication of the criminal law.' " Id. at ----, 98 S.Ct. at 1549 (quoting Cobbledick, 309 U.S. at 325, 60 S.Ct. 540). The Court in criminal cases has twice departed from the general prohibition against piecemeal appellate review, and in each instance relied on the final judgment rule's "collateral exception" articulated in Cohen v. Beneficial Industrial Loan Corp., 337 U.S. 541, 545-547, 69 S.Ct. 1221, 93 L.Ed. 1528 (1949). Stack v. Boyle, 342 U.S. 1, 12, 72 S.Ct. 1, 96 L.Ed. 3 (1951) determined that an order denying a motion to reduce bail could be reviewed before trial. Abney, supra, 431 U.S. at 659, 97 S.Ct. 2034, held that there may be an interlocutory appeal of an order denying a pretrial motion to dismiss an indictment on double jeopardy grounds. MacDonald gave the basis of the Abney holding:

"In so holding, the Court emphasized the special features of a motion to dismiss based on double jeopardy. It pointed out, first, that such an order constitutes 'a complete, formal and, in the trial court, a final rejection of a criminal defendant's double jeopardy claim. There are simply no further steps that can be taken in the District Court to avoid the trial the defendant maintains is barred by the Fifth Amendment's guarantee. Hence, Cohen's threshold requirement of a fully consummated decision is satisfied.' 431 U.S. at 659, 97 S.Ct. 2034. Secondly, it noted that 'the very nature of a double jeopardy claim is such that it is collateral to, and separable from, the principal issue at the accused's impending criminal trial, i. e., whether or not the accused is guilty of the offense charged.' Ibid. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, 'the rights conferred on a criminal accused by the Double Jeopardy Clause would be significantly undermined if appellate review of double jeopardy claims were postponed until after conviction and sentence.' Id., at 660, 97 S.Ct. 2034." --- U.S. at ----, 98 S.Ct. at 1550.

MacDonald then proceeded to apply the principles enunciated in those precedents to the case before it, finding their application "straightforward." 4 Ibid. Like the denial of a motion to dismiss an indictment on double jeopardy grounds, a pretrial order rejecting a defendant's speedy trial claim is not final in the sense of terminating the criminal proceedings in the trial court. Therefore, if it may be appealed before trial, it is because it satisfies the criteria identified in Cohen and Abney as sufficient to warrant suspension of the established rules against piecemeal review before final judgment. The Court believed it clear that the criteria were not satisfied. This is so because (1) the denial of a motion to dismiss on speedy trial grounds is not a fully consummated decision, and (2) it is not collateral to and separable from the principal issue at the impending criminal trial of the accused, i. e., whether or not he is guilty of the offense charged. As to the first, most speedy trial claims are best considered only after the relevant facts have been developed at trial. Of the four factors listed in Barker v. Wingo, 407 U.S. 514, 92 S.Ct. 2182, 33 L.Ed.2d 101 (1972), that are to be weighed in determining whether an accused has been deprived of his Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial, the most serious is prejudice to the defendant from the delay. Barker at 532, 92 S.Ct. 2182.

"Before trial, of course, an estimate of the degree to which delay has impaired an adequate defense tends to be speculative. The denial of a pretrial motion to dismiss an indictment on speedy trial grounds does not indicate that a like motion made after trial when prejudice can be better gauged would also be denied. Hence, pretrial denial of a speedy trial claim can never be considered a complete, formal, and final rejection by the trial court of the defendant's contention; rather, the question at stake in the motion to dismiss necessarily 'remains open, unfinished (and) inconclusive' until the trial court has pronounced judgment. Cohen, 337 U.S. at 546, 69 S.Ct. 1221." MacDonald, --- U.S. at ----, 98 S.Ct. at 1551.

With respect to the...

To continue reading

Request your trial
56 cases
  • Kawamura v. State, 84
    • United States
    • Maryland Court of Appeals
    • April 9, 1984
    ...406 A.2d 922 (1979); Peat & Co. v. Los Angeles Rams, 284 Md. 86, 91-97, 394 A.2d 801, 5 A.L.R. 4th 1238 (1978); Stewart v. State, 282 Md. 557, 571, 386 A.2d 1206 (1978); Jolley v. State, 282 Md. 353, 357, 384 A.2d 91 (1978). The District Court rulings in this case might well have been appea......
  • Sigma Reproductive Health Center v. State
    • United States
    • Maryland Court of Appeals
    • September 1, 1983 by Maryland Code (1974) § 12-301, Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article, to those from final judgments. In Stewart v. State, 282 Md. 557, 571, 386 A.2d 1206 (1978), we said there was no substantive difference between 28 U.S.C. § 1291 and the Maryland statute. Further we have state......
  • Baltimore City Dept. of Social Services v. Stein
    • United States
    • Maryland Court of Appeals
    • September 1, 1991
    ...generated at various stages of the litigation. Cant v. Bartlett, 292 Md. 611, 614, 440 A.2d 388, 389 (1982), Stewart v. State, 282 Md. 557, 561, 386 A.2d 1206, 1208 (1978); Jolley v. State, 282 Md. 353, 356, 384 A.2d 91, 93 (1978). See also Maryland Rule 2-602 which (a) Generally.--Except a......
  • Kurstin v. Rosenthal, No. 2445, September Term, 2008 (Md. App. 3/1/2010)
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • March 1, 2010
    ...nature as to affect, or to be affected by, decision of he merits of this case." 282 Md. at 357 (emphasis supplied). Stewart v. State, 282 Md. 557, 386 A.2d 1206 (1978), followed immediately in the slipstream of Jolley. The Court of Appeals held that the denial of a claimed Sixth Amendment s......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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