Woods v. State, 98

CourtCourt of Appeals of Maryland
Citation556 A.2d 236,315 Md. 591
Docket NumberNo. 98,98
PartiesMichael Gregory WOODS v. STATE of Maryland. ,
Decision Date01 September 1988

Page 591

315 Md. 591
556 A.2d 236
Michael Gregory WOODS
STATE of Maryland.
No. 98, Sept. Term, 1988.
Court of Appeals of Maryland.
April 10, 1989.

[556 A.2d 238]

Page 595

Clarence W. Sharp, Asst. Public Defender (Alan H. Murrell, Public Defender, both on brief), Baltimore, for appellant.

Richard B. Rosenblatt, Asst. Atty. Gen. (J. Joseph Curran, Jr., Atty. Gen., both on brief), Baltimore, for appellee.

Argued before ELDRIDGE, COLE, RODOWSKY, McAULIFFE, ADKINS and BLACKWELL, JJ., and CHARLES E. ORTH, Jr., Associate Judge of the Court of Appeals of Maryland (Retired) Specially Assigned.

CHARLES E. ORTH, Jr., Retired Specially Assigned Judge.

A saga of revenge and murder for hire unfolds on this appeal. The principals are:

Michael Kevin Boyd, the victim, and abuser of his wife,

Page 596

Jody Boyd, who offered a contract for the murder of her husband to

Michael Gregory Woods, who accepted the contract and assembled a hit team consisting of

Donald Dare, and

James Hayes, a youth 15 years of age, who turned State's witness.

Jody Boyd decided that the best solution to her marital problems, marked by physical abuse inflicted by her husband, was to have him killed. She asked Woods to do the job, offering to pay him for his services out of monies she expected to receive upon her husband's death. After mulling over the proposition, Woods agreed to perform the murder on the terms offered. He sought and obtained the assistance of Dare and Hayes. Time went by with nothing being done because the team could not settle upon the best way to fulfill the agreement. Under pressure from Jody "to complete the job," the team "came up with the idea to blow [the husband's] car up with dynamite," but "this attempt failed." 1 The team "decided that the only for sure way to get rid of [the husband] was to shoot him." They got a gun "suitable for the job" from Dare's house and then "had to think of a way to shoot [the husband]." At first, they were going to shoot him when he arrived home from work, but "cancelled that plan" because "[t]here was too much daylight out." Woods and Dare contacted Jody to get her thoughts on the matter. At her suggestion, arrangements were made to set the husband up by her [556 A.2d 239] persuading him to leave the couple's apartment at 10:00 p.m. on a certain day to fetch something to eat from a fast-food store. The team went to the Boyds' apartment complex on the agreed day shortly before the designated time. The husband left the apartment about 10:00 p.m. as planned. Woods hid next to a truck that was parked near

Page 597

the husband's car. Dare hid nearby. Woods recounted the succeeding events:

I then had to wait for him to come back. He came back approximately twenty minutes later. He got out of his car and started walking towards the building. He walked about ten yards towards the building, which brought him full view where I could see him. He was approximately fifteen yards away when I fired. Hoping I was doing the right thing for Jody's situation, I aimed the gun at him and squeezed the trigger a few times.

Woods ran back to Dare's car in which the team had been driven by Dare to the murder scene. On the way Woods heard the husband scream. Hayes was to have the car "running and waiting for us." Dare had already arrived back at the car. Dare drove the team to Woods' house to "change and wash up." They decided "the best thing to do was to burn our clothes." The next day Woods burned his clothes.

The husband died. The cause of death was four gunshot wounds. Although in his statement to the police Woods said that he threw the gun into the Magothy River, a .32 caliber automatic handgun, recovered from Woods' home, proved to be the weapon that fired the bullets that killed Michael Kevin Boyd.

Woods was charged with the murder of Michael Kevin Boyd and with a spate of offenses related to the homicide and his contract with Jody Boyd. The case came up for trial in the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County. Woods opted not to be tried by a jury and placed his fate in the hands of the judge. The judge found him guilty of murder in the first degree (count 1 of the indictment); attempted murder (count 4); conspiracy to dynamite an automobile (count 6); and using a handgun in the commission of the felony of murder (count 7). The following sentences were imposed:

1st count--"to the term of [his] natural life without parole";

4th count--"to a concurrent life term";

Page 598

6th count--to a "period of one year concurrent";

7th count--"to a period of five years ... consecutive to the first count."


Woods claims that the sentence of life imprisonment without parole is illegal.


The State suggests that the matter of the illegality of the sentence was not preserved for appellate review because Woods did not object when it was imposed. Md.Rule 8-131. We said in Walczak v. State, 302 Md. 422, 488 A.2d 949 (1985), that

when the trial court has allegedly imposed a sentence not permitted by law, the issue should ordinarily be reviewed on direct appeal even if no objection was made in the trial court. Such review and correction of an illegal sentence is especially appropriate in light of the fact that Rule 4-345(a) ... provides that "[t]he court may correct an illegal sentence at any time."

Id. at 427, 488 A.2d 949. We see no sound reason why we should not review the illegality of the sentence on this appeal.


The State did not seek to have Woods executed. But it did want him imprisoned for life without the possibility of parole. It so notified him. As we have seen, the State obtained what it sought.


Woods urges that the legislature intended that a sentence of life without parole may be imposed only upon the sentencing proceedings set out in Maryland Code (1957, 1987 Repl.Vol., 1988 Cum.Supp.), Art. 27, § 413. The key to legislative "intent" is the purpose of the legislation, determined in the light of the statute's language and context. Kaczorowski v. City of Baltimore, 309 Md. 505, 516, 525

Page 599

A.2d [556 A.2d 240] 628 (1987). The legislative scheme shines bright and clear from the plain and unambiguous language of §§ 412 and 413 of Art. 27 and Maryland Rules 4-341 and 4-342 adopted to implement them as authorized by Art. 27, § 413(l ), as illuminated by the legislative history of the statute. Review of these materials makes plain that the legislative intent was not what Woods would have it be.

One of three sentences is authorized upon conviction of murder in the first degree:

1) death; or

2) imprisonment for life without the possibility of parole; or

3) imprisonment for life.

Maryland Code, Art. 27, § 412(b). See Md. Const., Art. III, § 60. 2 If the State seeks a harsher penalty than the basic imprisonment for life, it must so notify the defendant at least 30 days prior to trial. Art. 27, § 412(b). The notice may go only to the death penalty, or only to imprisonment for life without the possibility of parole, or to death and, in addition thereto, imprisonment without the possibility of parole. Id. If the State does not give notice that it is seeking a more severe penalty than life imprisonment, the court may proceed to sentence as it generally does in imposing a penalty authorized upon conviction of any other offense, except for mandatory sentences for crimes of violence as prescribed by Art. 27, § 643B or other statutes. When, however, the State gives notice that it is seeking a harsher sentence than life imprisonment, there must be a separate sentencing proceeding. If the notice goes only to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, the separate sentencing proceeding is before the court--a jury is not involved. Maryland Rule 4-342(b) provides:

Page 600

When a defendant has been found guilty of murder in the first degree and the State has given timely notice of intention to seek a sentence of imprisonment for life without the possibility of parole, but has not given notice of intention to seek the death penalty, the court shall conduct a separate sentencing proceeding as soon as practicable after the trial to determine whether to impose a sentence of imprisonment for life or imprisonment for life without parole.

This is in accord with Art. 27, § 413(k)(5) and (8). 3

When a defendant has been found guilty of murder in the first degree and the State has given the required notice that a sentence of death is sought (be it the only sentence sought or be it sought in conjunction with a sentence of imprisonment for life without parole) so that the defendant may be subject to a sentence of death, the separate sentencing proceeding is much more elaborate. See Maryland Rule 4-343. The proceeding shall be conducted before a jury unless a jury sentencing is waived by the defendant. Art. 27, § 413(b). Detailed prescriptions are set out in Art. 27, § 413 concerning evidence, argument and instructions, paragraph (c); consideration of aggravating circumstances (d); definitions (e); a finding that no aggravating circumstances exist (f); consideration of mitigating circumstances (g); weighing mitigating and aggravating circumstances (h); the determination of the sentence (i); the statements required in the determination (j); and the imposition of the sentence (k). See Md.Rule 4-343(e).

It is obvious that the legislature established two separate and distinct procedures for sentencing when a person is convicted of murder in the first degree--one when the person is subject to the death penalty and the other when he is not subject to execution but is subject to incarceration for [556 A.2d 241] life without parole. The former procedure calls for the

Page 601

proceedings set out in such fine detail and a jury unless a jury is waived. The latter procedure is in the sound discretion of the trial judge. All references in Art. 27, § 413 to the elaborate proceedings are in the frame of reference of the death penalty. See, for example, paragraph (a); paragraph (c)(2);...

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