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Hazel v. State

Decided: July 25, 1961.


Appeal from the Criminal Court of Baltimore; Warnken, J.

Brune, C. J., and Hammond, Prescott, Horney and Marbury, JJ. Hammond, J., delivered the opinion of the Court. Opinion and Order of Judge Warnken.


Hazel, the appellant, was tried on a charge of rape by the Criminal Court of Baltimore, three judges sitting without a jury. He was found sane and guilty as charged, and sentenced to death. In the appeal to this Court sanity was not an issue, the sole question argued and decided being the sufficiency of the evidence to support the finding of guilt. The judgment was affirmed in Hazel v. State, 221 Md. 464.

After the affirmance, and within weeks of the day Hazel

was to have been executed, the court-appointed lawyers who had represented him at his trial filed on his behalf a petition for relief under the Post Conviction Procedure Act, based on two grounds, one essentially factual, the other legal. First, they alleged that information which had come to them since the trial established that there had been a deprivation of due process of law at the trial in that officials of the State -- the psychiatrist who was superintendent at Crownsville, and a young psychiatrist on its staff -- (a) had given the trial court the false impression that there was no disagreement among the Crownsville medical staff or elsewhere in the Department of Mental Hygiene that Hazel was sane, when they knew, as a fact, that two members of the staff had "misgivings" as to Hazel's sanity under psychiatric standards (although not under the Spencer-McNaghten Rule standard), and (b) had not informed the court that the Director of Correctional Psychiatry of the Department of Mental Hygiene, Dr. Morgenstern, who had concurred in the original conclusion of the Crownsville staff that Hazel was not sane had not been advised that the original conclusion had been revised, and was still of the opinion that it had been correct. The second ground was that the trial court lacked jurisdiction to try and convict Hazel because the controlling statute, Code (1957), Art. 59, Sec. 11, expressly required the report as to sanity to be made to the court by the Department of Mental Hygiene, and it had been made by the Superintendent of Crownsville.

Judge Warnken denied post conviction relief and we granted leave to appeal in forma pauperis.

The contentions now made on appeal are the same as were made to Judge Warnken. On the first point he found as a fact from the testimony before him that there had been no false testimony, or knowledge of the State witnesses, that Dr. Morgenstern did not agree with the revised conclusions as to Hazel's sanity. On the question of law he concluded that the jurisdiction of the Criminal Court of Baltimore did not depend upon literal compliance with the provisions of Art. 59 of the Code (as well as that the accepted practice had been for the Superintendents of the various mental institutions to make sanity reports to the courts as the representatives of

the Department of Mental Hygiene). This conclusion was confirmed, after he had reached it, by the decision of this Court in Hamilton v. State, 225 Md. 302.

Judge Warnken's opinion reviews and deals with the contentions of the appellant, factual and legal, in such detail and with such perceptive accuracy that, after that thorough consideration of the record which a capital case demands and receives, we have decided that it should be adopted as the opinion of the Court and, as such, reproduced in the official report.

However, one aspect of the case should be amplified, although what is hereafter said is implicit in Judge Warnken's findings.

If it be assumed that Dr. Ward's sincere statement there was no disagreement among the staff as to Hazel's sanity, was incorrect and had the same effect as a material misstatement knowingly made, or left uncorrected, nevertheless, because the assumed mistake was not prejudicial, there resulted neither a denial of due process nor any other ground for relief under coram nobis (one of the remedies for which the Post Conviction statute, Code (1960 Cum. Supp.), Art. 27, Sec. 645A, is a substitute) as there might otherwise have been. People v. Fisher, 192 N. Y. S. 2d 741, 746 (Ct. Gen. Sess. N. Y. Co.); Alcorta v. Texas, 355 U.S. 28, 31; Napue v. Illinois, 360 U.S. 264, 270, 272; United States v. Baldi, 195 F. 2d 815 (C. A. 3), cert. den. 345 U.S. 904.

Dr. Morgenstern in his memorandum to his superior on August 14, 1959, complaining that he was not consulted nor told of the change in diagnosis, said he was still of the opinion Hazel " at the time of the conference was mentally ill * * *." He has not examined Hazel, reviewed the Crownsville files nor consulted anyone about Hazel since July 15, 1959. He has never said to anyone, or ever testified, that he thinks the ultimate diagnosis of sanity was wrong. Dr. Morgenstern's complaint was that he had not been consulted further before Hazel was sent to court for trial, not that an insane man had been tried, convicted and sentenced to death. We cannot and do not believe Dr. Morgenstern would have remained silent, save for a complaint as to departmental procedure or protocol,

and never, to this day, have said Doctors Ward, Ramirez, Phillips and Guttmacher had reached a wrong result, if he believed an insane man was about to be executed. We find nothing to indicate that if the trial judges had known that Dr. Morgenstern had not in fact acquiesced in Dr. Ward's report and conclusions prior to the trial in the criminal court (as Dr. Ward and Hazel's lawyers justifiably believed) the result would have been different.

For the reasons set forth in Judge Warnken's opinion, as here amplified, the order appealed from will be affirmed.

Order affirmed.

Opinion and Order of Judge ...

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