Warnken, LLC Attorneys at Law, Attorneys & Lawyers, Pikesville, MD

Abdul-Maleek v. State

Abdul-Maleek v. State, 426 Md. 59 (2012)

Procedural History:

Defendant appealed District Court judgment convicting defendant of theft. Following a jury trial, defendant was convicted in the Circuit Court of theft and received sentence that exceeded length of sentence imposed by District Court. Defendant filed petition for writ of certiorari which the Court of Appeals granted.

Issue:

            Did the trial court impermissibly consider the fact that the defendant exercised his right to a de novo trial when sentencing defendant at second trial?

Facts:

            Defendant was convicted in District Court for theft and exercised his right to appeal that judgment to the Circuit Court for a trial de novo by way of a jury.  The jury also found the defendant guilty.  At sentencing the judge referenced the fact that defendant had exercised his right to a de novo appeal when imposing a more severe sentence on the defendant than the District Court had.

Holdings:

  1. Defendant waived his right to appeal the issue of the trial judge being impermissibly influenced by defendant’s exercise of right to de novo trial when defendant failed to object to trial judge’s comments on this matter at sentencing.
  2. Court of Appeals exercised its discretion to review the unpreserved claim anyway.
  3. Trial judge’s explicit reference to defendant’s exercise of his de novo appeal right could have led a reasonable person to infer that the judge might have been motivated by impermissible considerations when imposing the heavier sentence.

Rationale:

The Court of Appeals chose to review defendant’s claim based on Md. Rule 8-131(a), which granted the Court the right to review an issue deemed to have been waived for failure to make a contemporaneous objection.  The Court noted that this would lead to no prejudice on the part of the defendant, and only a de minimis prejudice to the State.  The Court found the prejudice to be outweighed by the opportunity to comment on the sentencing issue in the context of a de novo appeal and thereby promote the “orderly administration of justice.”  Bible v. State, 411 Md. 138, 152 (2009).

The Court of Appeals chose to remand the present case for resentencing because the judge mentioned defendant’s exercise of his de novo appeal right during sentencing, which could “lead a reasonable person to infer that [the court] might have been motivated” by an impermissible consideration.  Jackson v. State, 364 Md. 192, 207 (2001).