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Hailes v. State

Court of Appeals of Maryland

April 17, 2015

JERMAINE HAILES
v.
STATE OF MARYLAND

Argued: March 10, 2015

Page 609

Certiorari to the Court of Special Appeals (Circuit Court for Prince George's County). Case No. CT121699A. Leo E. Green, Jr, JUDGE.

JUDGMENT OF THE COURT OF SPECIAL APPEALS AFFIRMED. PETITIONER TO PAY COSTS.

ARGUED BY Brian L. Zavin, Assistant Public Defender (Paul B. DeWolfe, Public Defender of Maryland, of Baltimore, MD) on brief FOR PETITIONER.

ARGUED BY Carrie J. Williams, Assistant Attorney General (Brian E. Frosh, Attorney General of Maryland, of Baltimore, MD) on brief FOR RESPONDENT.

ARGUED BEFORE: Barbera, C.J., Harrell, Battaglia, Greene, Adkins, McDonald, Watts, JJ. Opinion by Watts, J.

OPINION

Page 610

[442 Md. 492] Watts, J.

We decide: (I) whether the State may appeal from a trial court's exclusion of intangible evidence based on a determination that [442 Md. 493] the evidence's admission would be a constitutional violation; if so, (II) whether, here, a declarant made a dying declaration two years before dying; and, if so, (III) whether the Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution is applicable to dying declarations.

We hold that: (I) the State may appeal from a trial court's exclusion of intangible evidence based on a determination that the evidence's admission would be a constitutional violation; (II) here, a declarant made a dying declaration two years before dying; and (III) the Confrontation Clause is not applicable to dying declarations.

BACKGROUND

In the Circuit Court for Prince George's County (" the circuit court" ), the State, Respondent, charged Jermaine Hailes (" Hailes" ), Petitioner, with first-degree murder and other crimes. Hailes moved to suppress a pretrial identification on the

Page 611

grounds that the identification was, among other things: (1) hearsay; and (2) testimonial and inadmissible under the Confrontation Clause.

The circuit court conducted a hearing on the motion to suppress and issued an opinion in which the circuit court found the following facts, which we summarize. On November 22, 2010, Melvin Pate (" Pate" ) was shot once in the right side of his face. The bullet entered Pate's neck and severed C5, the neck's fifth cervical bone. Pate lost the ability to speak and became quadriplegic ( i.e., Pate lost the use of all of his extremities). Pate was taken to Prince George's Hospital Center. On November 24, 2010, Pate was transferred to the Shock Trauma Center at the University of Maryland Medical Center (" Shock Trauma" ). Immediately after Pate arrived at Shock Trauma, doctors told Pate that he had twenty-four hours to live, and Pate's eyes welled up with tears.

On November 26, 2010, two detectives of the Prince George's County Police Department showed Pate a photographic array that included a photograph of Hailes. By blinking (" blink hard" if he recognized the person who shot him) in response to the detectives' questions, Pate identified Hailes as the shooter.[1] At that time, Pate was restrained to a hospital bed; was on medical life-support equipment, including [442 Md. 494] a ventilator; had several tubes in his body; and, by all indications, believed that his death was imminent. Pate did not die soon afterward, however. In 2011, Pate was released from Shock Trauma. In November 2012, Pate died as a consequence of complications caused by the gunshot wound.

The circuit court granted the motion to suppress, determining that Pate's identification of Hailes fell under the " dying declaration" exception to the rule against hearsay, but was testimonial and inadmissible under the Confrontation Clause. The State appealed, and the Court of Special Appeals reversed and remanded for trial, holding that: (I) the State could appeal from the circuit court's grant of the motion to suppress Pate's identification of Hailes; (II) Pate made a dying declaration; and (III) the Confrontation Clause does not apply to dying declarations. See State v. Hailes, 217 Md.App. 212, 271, 225, 236, 251-52, 92 A.3d 544, 578, 552, 558, 567 (2014). Hailes filed a petition for a writ of certiorari, which this Court granted. See Hailes v. State, 440 Md. 114, 99 A.3d 778 (2014).

DISCUSSION

I.

Md. Code Ann., Cts. & Jud. Proc. (1973, 2013 Repl. Vol., 2014 Supp.) (" CJP" ) § 12-302(c)(4)(i)[2] provides in pertinent part:

[T]he State may appeal from a decision of a trial court that excludes evidence offered by the State or requires the return of property alleged to have been seized in violation of the Constitution of the United States, the Maryland Constitution, or the Maryland Declaration of Rights.

( Emphasis added).

Hailes contends that the State's appeal from the circuit court's grant of the motion to suppress is not authorized by CJP § 12-302(c)(4)(i).

Page 612

Specifically, Hailes argues that, because CJP § 12-302(c)(4)(i) uses the word " seized," CJP § 12-302(c)(4)(i) [442 Md. 495] authorizes the State to appeal only from a trial court's exclusion of tangible evidence; thus, here, CJP § 12-302(c)(4)(i) does not authorize the State to appeal from the circuit court's exclusion of Pate's identification of Hailes because it is not tangible evidence capable of being seized. Alternatively, Hailes asserts that, because CJP § 12-302(c)(4)(i) uses the past-tense phrase " to have been seized in violation of the Constitution of the United States, the Maryland Constitution, or the Maryland Declaration of Rights," CJP § 12-302(c)(4)(i) authorizes the State to appeal only from a trial court's exclusion of evidence based on an existing alleged constitutional[3] violation--as opposed to an exclusion of evidence based on a determination that the evidence's admission itself would be a constitutional violation; thus, here, CJP ยง 12-302(c)(4)(i) does not authorize the State to appeal from the circuit court's exclusion of Pate's identification of Hailes because the detectives did not violate any constitutional provision in obtaining the identification. The State responds that it can appeal ...


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