Friday, February 2, 2007

State v. Garnett (Ct. of Special Appeals)

Filed February 2, 2007. Opinion by Chief Judge Joseph F. Murphy, Jr.

From the official headnote of the case:
Although Md. Rule 4-345(a) does not entitle a defendant to relitigate an “illegal sentence” issue actually decided by the Court of Appeals or the Court of Special Appeals, that rule would be meaningless if the law of the case doctrine were extended to sentences that could have been -- but were not -- challenged as illegal at the time an appellant filed his or her first appellate brief. The law of the case doctrine therefore prohibits a defendant from attempting to once again present an “illegal sentence” argument that has been presented to and rejected by an appellate court.
The procedural history of the case was set forth in the previous trip to the Court of Appeals (in Garnett I) and was not repeated in this opinion, other than to note that in Garnett I, the order of restitution entered against Garnett was a penal sanction to which she was subject, despite a finding of guilty but not criminally responsible. As such, it was not subject to discharge in bankruptcy, and the State's motion to allow garnishment should have been allowed. On remand, Garnett sought to dismiss the garnishment motion, claiming the restitution order was illegal because she was found guilty but not criminally responsible and could not be held to account for the crimes for which she was convicted. The circuit court granted Garnett's motion to dismiss, and this appeal followed.

On consideration, the court concluded that the law of the case doctrine did not preclude raising the illegal sentence issue, since the Court of Appeals in Garnett I had noted the issue had not been before it. Further, the court rejected the State's claim that recent legislative changes to the Victim's Rights Act had effectively overruled the holding in Pouncey v. State, 297 Md. 264 (1983), finding that no sentence of restitution should have been imposed on Garnett, concluding that the illegal sentence of restitution was appropriately corrected, and affirming the judgment.

This opinion is available in PDF format.

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