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Winters v. State

Court of Appeals of Maryland

September 25, 2013

DAVID C. WINTERS
v.
STATE OF MARYLAND

Barbera, C.J. Harrell Battaglia Greene Adkins McDonald [*] Bell, JJ.

OPINION

Greene, J.

The present case involves the question of whether a criminal defendant's waiver of his right to a jury trial was valid. More specifically, we are asked to address the validity of the waiver in light of the fact that, during the waiver colloquy, the trial judge provided the defendant with advice that the judge not only was not required to give to the defendant, but that was also erroneous. We shall conclude that the erroneous advisement may have misled the defendant to believe that a jury trial was a less attractive option than it actually would be under Maryland law, and, thereby, influenced the defendant's decision to waive his jury trial right. Accordingly, the trial judge did not satisfy his obligation to ensure that the waiver was knowing, and therefore, the defendant is entitled to a new trial.

Facts and Procedural History

David Winters ("Petitioner" or "Winters") was charged with the murder of his father. In January 2009, Petitioner was tried in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County during a bench trial after entering pleas of not guilty and not criminally responsible.[1] After learning of Winters's desire to have a bench trial, the trial judge examined Winters in open court and announced on the record that Winters was knowingly and voluntarily waiving his right to a jury trial. During the waiver colloquy, the following ensued:

[Trial Judge]: What is your name?
[Petitioner]: David Winters.
[Trial Judge]: And are you represented by lawyers?
[Petitioner]: Yes, sir.
[Trial Judge]: And do you wish to waive a jury in this case?
[Petitioner]: Yes, sir.
[The trial judge inquires about the Petitioner's address, occupation, age, and marital status]
[Trial Judge]: How far have you gone in school?
[Petitioner]: High school diploma.
[Trial Judge]: You've received a high school diploma. Do you have any college?
[Petitioner]: No, sir.
[Trial Judge]: At the present time, are you under the influence of any narcotics, medication, or alcohol?
[Petitioner]: No, sir.
[Trial judge]: Are you suffering from any physical illness at the present time?
[Petitioner]: No, sir.
[Trial Judge]: All right, my understanding is that you have entered a plea of not criminally responsible. Does that condition make it difficult for you to understand what's going on here today?
[Petitioner]: No, sir.
[Trial Judge]: Do you fully understand what's going on here today?
[Petitioner]: Yes, sir.
[Trial Judge]: Do you understand that you have a right to have a trial by a jury of 12 persons, both on the issue of guilt or innocence, and also on the issue of whether or not you were criminally responsible at the time of this alleged event?
[Petitioner]: Yes, sir.
[Trial Judge]: Do you understand that?
[Petitioner]: Yes, sir.
[Trial Judge]: Do you understand that unless you waive a trial by jury, your case will automatically be tried by a jury? Do you understand that?
[Petitioner]: Yes, sir.
[Trial Judge]: And do you understand that a jury trial is a trial by 12 people chosen by your lawyers, selected at random from ...

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