Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Edmund v. State (Ct. of Appeals)

Issued April 17, 2007 -- Opinion of Judge Lawrence J. Rodowsky

HEADNOTE: Criminal Law - First Degree Assault - Victim in shooting fled and never located. Held: Charging document that identified victim by description, but not by name, charged a criminal offense and was not jurisdictionally defective.

Defendant was arrested after reports of an alleged shooting of a victim later described by ethnicity and race, approximate weight, height, facial and specifics of attire. After arrest, Defendant confessed to firing a handgun at such a victim after a neighborhood dispute with an unidentified victim fitting that general description. A charging document was filed in the Circuit Court for Baltimore County describing but not identifying the victim and accusing Defendant of first degree assault and handgun violations. The grand jury returned an indictment on all counts.

Defendant's counsel filed a general omnibus motion objecting, inter alia, to the sufficiency of the charging documents, but without specificity as to the nature of the insufficiency. The State objected to the timeliness of the motion but the Circuit Court ruled instead on the merits that the charging document was sufficient, notwithstanding Defendant's counsel's arguments in open court that the failure of the charging document to identify the victim was a defect depriving the Circuit Court of jurisdiction. After trial, conviction and sentence before the Circuit Court, Defendant appealed to the Court of Special Appeals, but the Court of Appeals issued a writ of certiorari sua sponte before the Court of Special Appeals ruled on the appeal.

Reviewing the text of the first degree assault statute, Code CL 3-202, the "sufficient" form of pleading provided in Code, CL 3-206, the developed common law of Maryland and of some other states and Great Britain and the text of and precedents under Article 21 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights, the Court concluded that none of those authorities required that the charging document identify the victim of the first degree assault in this case.

In summary fashion, the Court also held that the prosecution presented sufficient evidence to support a finding of guilt, and upheld the discretion of the Circuit Court to allow Defendant to present a more specific argument orally than was presented in written motion, finding no prejudice to the State in this case.

Accordingly, the Court of Appeals upheld Defendant's conviction before the Circuit Court for Baltimore County for first degree assault.

The full opinion is available in PDF form here.

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