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Costen v. State

Court of Special Appeals of Maryland

September 3, 2013

ROBERT LOUIS COSTEN, III
v.
STATE OF MARYLAND

Meredith, Watts, Davis, Arrie W. (Retired, Specially Assigned), JJ.

OPINION

Meredith, J.

At the conclusion of a bench trial in the Circuit Court for Worcester County, Robert Louis Costen III, appellant, was convicted of one count each of third degree burglary, second degree assault, and fourth degree sex offense. The court imposed consecutive sentences of ten years' imprisonment for the conviction for third degree burglary, ten years' imprisonment for the conviction for second degree assault, and one year of imprisonment for the fourth degree sex offense conviction.[1]

On appeal, appellant raised two questions for our review which we rephrase as:
1.In concluding that appellant had waived his right to a trial by a jury, did the trial court err by failing to comply with the provision of Maryland Rule 4-246(b) that requires the court to "determine[] and announce[] on the record that the waiver is made knowingly and voluntarily"?
2. Was the evidence adduced at trial insufficient to sustain appellant's convictions?

Upon review of the first issue, we conclude that the trial court's determination and announcement of waiver of the appellant's right to a trial by jury did not satisfy the requirements of Rule 4-246(b), and reversal is required by the holding of the Court of Appeals in Valonis v. State, ___ Md. ___, Nos. 46 and 52, September Term 2012 (filed May 20, 2013). Accordingly, because there is no merit to the challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence, we will vacate the judgments of conviction and remand for a new trial.

PROCEEDINGS IN THE CIRCUIT COURT

On June 8, 2010, prior to the start of trial, the following exchange took place in open court regarding appellant's decision whether to proceed by way of a jury trial or bench trial:

[THE COURT]: How are we proceeding, with a jury trial this morning?
[APPELLANT]: Yes.
[APPELLANT'S COUNSEL]: Mr. Costen, you sure you want a jury trial? Remember what I told you.
[APPELLANT]: Okay.
[APPELLANT'S COUNSEL]: Are you sure?
[APPELLANT]: Yes.
[APPELLANT'S COUNSEL]: The judge is going to ask you some questions about whether or not you want a jury trial. I want you to listen to each question that [the judge] asks you and answer him distinctly so the court reporter can hear your responses.
[THE COURT]: All right. Mr. Costen, do you understand what you ...

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