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Gleaton v. State

Decided: June 11, 1964.

GLEATON
v.
STATE



Appeal from the Circuit Court for Caroline County (CARTER, C.J.).

The cause was argued before Henderson, Prescott, Horney and Sybert, JJ., and Keating, J., Associate Judge of the Second Judicial Circuit, specially assigned.

Horney

HORNEY, J., delivered the opinion of the Court.

This is an appeal from the judgment and a sentence of ten years entered on a plea of guilty to a charge of simple assault.

In the late evening of May 3, 1963, the defendant (Charlie Daniel Gleaton) and a codefendant entered a tavern in Denton ostensibly for the purpose of inquiring as to the whereabouts of another person. While there, they became involved in a fight with a group of patrons and bystanders. After some difficulty in starting the automobile in which they had come to the tavern, the pair fled to the home of the defendant where he armed himself with a shotgun. The two then proceeded in the automobile, with the codefendant driving, in the direction of the home of William O. Baynard, whom they thought they had recognized at the tavern. On the way, shortly after midnight, they came upon Baynard and two other men who were walking along a path leading from the public road toward their respective homes. Believing that these men had participated in the fight, the defendant fired a single shot from the automobile and wounded all three of them. The police, after obtaining a description of the assailants and the automobile from the victims, promptly initiated an investigation which culminated in the arrest of the suspects in the early morning hours of May 4. Within twelve hours thereafter, both gave full statements as to the circumstances of the crime and their participation in it.

An information was filed against the defendant on May 27 charging him with assault with intent to murder in the first count, simple assault and beating in the second count and assault and beating with intent to maim in the third count. Baynard was the only named victim in each of the counts. Subsequently, the defendant was brought before the lower court and informed of the nature of the charges against him, the maximum

sentence for each, and his right to court-appointed counsel, and, on his request, an attorney (not his counsel on appeal) was assigned to represent him. At his arraignment on June 19, counsel for the defendant entered pleas of "not guilty" to the first and third counts and a plea of "guilty" to the second count on behalf of the defendant and made an election for him to be tried by the court. The State accepted the pleas of not guilty to the first and third counts. However, on June 26, the previous pleas and election were stricken out by the court, and, on rearraignment, the identical pleas and election were reentered. But the prosecuting attorney, on this occasion, moved to nolle pros the first and third counts, and there being no objection by the defendant, the motion was granted.

After an evidentiary hearing on the plea of guilty to the second count, at which the validity of the arrest of the defendant was not challenged, and his statement to the police was admitted without objection, the court found the defendant guilty "as confessed" of simple assault. On August 16, following a presentence investigation, the court sentenced the defendant to a term of ten years in the Penitentiary with credit for the time he had spent in jail. Other than the docket entries, no record was made of the sentencing proceedings. Ten days after sentence had been imposed, the defendant, in a letter to the lower court, requested a reduction of the sentence but made no claim that he had been promised a lesser sentence.

The questions urged on appeal, concerning the efficacy of the plea of guilty and the validity of the sentence, are: (i) was the acceptance of the plea of guilty to the second count improper, and, if so, was there sufficient evidence to sustain a verdict of guilty independent of the plea?; and (ii) was the sentence of ten years invalid either because it was unlawful or "inequitable"?

(i)

In Roberts v. Warden, 221 Md. 576, 155 A.2d 891 (1959), this Court had occasion to say (at p. 580) that:

"Pleas of guilty in criminal proceedings are unconditional, and, if the defendant attaches any condition or qualification to such a ...


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