Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Jackson v. State

Court of Appeals of Maryland

June 23, 2016

STEVEN BLAIR JACKSON
v.
STATE OF MARYLAND

          Argued: April 4, 2016

         Circuit Court for Baltimore County, Maryland Case No. 93CR4171

          Battaglia [*] , Greene, Adkins, McDonald, Hotten, Wilner, Alan, (Retired, Specially Assigned) JJ.

          OPINION

          BATTAGLIA, J.

         Petitioner, Stephen Blair Jackson, in 2015 filed a petition for DNA testing pursuant to Section 8-201 of the Criminal Procedure Article of the Maryland Code.[1] In his Petition, Jackson alleged that testing a piece of underwear for the presence of his DNA as well as testing of additional material collected on laboratory microscope slides, which remained from a Sexual Assault Forensics Exam ("SAFE") that had been performed on a victim, known as Patricia M., in 1993, "ha[ve] the potential to show that Petitioner's DNA is not on the complainant's underwear, evidence that would have been inconsistent with her undisclosed statements that he ejaculated and that she had not showered or douched since then" and "would also clarify this issue by producing exculpatory or mitigating evidence." Jackson's Petition also requested that Touch DNA[2]be utilized in testing, because it could "provide exculpatory evidence that was not available in 2006."

         In the underlying case Jackson had entered an Alford plea[3] to second degree rape of Patricia M.[4] in 1993.[5] Jackson thereafter filed numerous petitions for DNA testing, including a petition in 2005, which was granted;[6] the results of DNA testing done pursuant to the 2005 Petition yielded inconclusive results.[7] Jackson then filed a petition for DNA testing in 2008, [8] which the Circuit Court denied. In 2009, Jackson filed a petition for post-conviction relief pursuant to the Uniform Postconviction Procedure Act, in which he alleged that he was actually innocent of the crime of rape; that the State withheld exculpatory evidence; that his guilty plea was not knowing, intelligent and voluntary; and that his trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance of counsel. Jackson's Petition was denied, but Jackson was permitted to file a belated Motion for Reconsideration of Sentence.

         Jackson again filed a petition for DNA testing in 2013, which the Circuit Court denied. In his 2013 Petition, Jackson sought to have Patricia M.'s underwear tested using a "wide range of testing services including, STR[9], Y-STR[10], and mtDNA[11] that conform to the 13 core CODIS loci used by the FBI." He argued that, "[a]dvances in the field of DNA Testing have been made since those tests were performed and give rise to a reasonable probability that additional testing will yield exculpatory evidence supporting Petitioner's claim of innocence. DNA Testing should further bolster Petitioner's claim of innocence since EXHIBIT C5 line 8[12] clearly shows, according to the victim, that Petitioner penetrated the vulva, ejaculated, and did not wear a condom." Jackson noted an appeal from the denial of his 2013 petition but later withdrew his appeal.

         In June of 2015, Jackson filed a Petition for DNA testing, in which he alleged that DNA testing "has the potential to show that Petitioner's DNA is not on the complainant's underwear, evidence that would have been inconsistent with her undisclosed statements that he ejaculated and that she had not showered or douched since then" and "would also clarify this issue by producing exculpatory or mitigating evidence." Jackson's Petition also requested that Touch DNA be utilized, because it could "provide exculpatory evidence that was not available in 2006." Judge Vicki Ballou-Watts of the Circuit Court for Baltimore County denied the Petition, thus giving rise to the appeal that is before us, in which we consider the following question:

Did the circuit court err by denying Jackson the relief that he sought pursuant to the Maryland Criminal Procedure Article § 8-201; and did it further err by denying his request without a hearing?[13]

         Initially, the State has moved to dismiss Jackson's appeal, arguing, among other issues, [14] that successive petitions for DNA testing are barred by Rule 4-709, [15] as well as by the doctrine of res judicata.

         Section 8-201 of the Criminal Procedure Article, the statute in issue in the present case, does not bar, nor explicitly sanction, filing successive DNA petitions.[16] The legislative history of Section 8-201 suggests, however, that the Legislature intended that successive petitions for DNA testing can be filed.

         In 2001, the General Assembly enacted Chapter 418 of the Laws of 2001, which later became codified as Section 8-201 of the Criminal Procedure Article. Senate Bill 694 from which Chapter 418 emanated had been introduced as a response to a nationwide trend in which various states and the federal government had "considered establishing procedures for postconviction DNA identification testing for certain felony offenses." Revised Fiscal Note, Department of Fiscal Services, Bill File S.B. 694. DNA testing had been recognized as a "law enforcement tool, used to establish either the guilt or innocence of suspected or convicted offenders", which also could be utilized to exonerate defendants who were "wrongfully convicted or sentenced." Id. Chapter 418, a portion of which was later codified as Section 8-201(c), provided in relevant part that:

(c) Subject to subsection (d)[17] of this section, a court shall order DNA testing if the court finds that:
(1)(i) The scientific identification evidence was not previously subjected to the DNA testing that is requested for reasons beyond the control of the petitioner; or
(ii) The type of DNA test being requested is different from tests previously conducted and would have a reasonable likelihood of providing a more probative result than tests previously conducted;
(2)The scientific identification evidence was secured as provided in subsection (i) of this section, in relation to the crime for which the petitioner was convicted;
(3) The scientific identification evidence to be tested has been subject to a chain of custody as provided under subsection (i) of this section that is sufficient to establish that it has not been substituted, tampered with, replaced, or altered in any material aspect;
(4) Identity was not an issue in the trial that resulted in the petitioner's conviction;
(5) A reasonable probability exists that the DNA testing has the scientific potential to produce results materially relevant to the petitioner's assertion of innocence; and
(6)The requested DNA test employs a method of testing generally accepted within the relevant scientific community.

2001 Maryland Laws, Chapter 418.

         That language of Section 8-201(c)(1) through (4) that would have precluded various successive DNA testing petitions was removed when Chapter 240 of the Laws of 2003 was enacted. Chapter 240 deleted all reference to prior petitions and replaced former Section 8-201(c)(1) - (6) with the following:

(c) Subject to subsection (d)[18] of this subtitle, a court shall order DNA testing if the court finds that:
(1) a reasonable probability exists that the DNA testing has the scientific potential to produce exculpatory or mitigating evidence relevant to a claim of wrongful conviction or sentencing; and
(2)the requested DNA test employs a method of testing generally accepted within the relevant scientific community.

2003 Maryland Laws, Chapter 240. Easing restrictions on successive DNA petitions was in direct contrast to what the General Assembly had done in 1995, when Chapter 110 of the Laws of 1995 limited the number of successive petitions under the Uniform Post Conviction Procedure Act.[19]

         In enacting Rule 4-704[20] in 2009, we recognized that successive petitions filed post conviction could be filed without any exclusion for successive DNA petitions:

         (a) Content.

(1) In General. Each petition shall state:
(C) a description of all previous proceedings in the case, including direct appeals, motions for new trial, habeas corpus proceedings, post-conviction proceedings, and all other collateral proceedings, including (i) the court in which each proceeding was filed, (ii) the case number of each proceeding, (iii) the determinations made in each proceeding, and (iv) the date of each determination[.]

Filing successive DNA testing petitions, thus, was anticipated by our adoption of Rule 4-704 that implemented Section 8-201(c), as amended.

         The issue of whether the doctrine of res judicata could bar the filing of successive petitions, moreover, was raised during the Rules Committee process for Rule 4-704. In a colloquy between the Honorable Alan Wilner, the Chair of the Rules Committee, and Richard Karceski, a member of the Rules Committee, res judicata as a bar was discussed:

[KARCESKI]: Pursuant to section (c), if there is a withdrawal of the petition before the court orders DNA testing or a search of a database, it should be without prejudice. However, if the order has been issued, the leave to withdraw shall be with prejudice unless the court for good cause orders otherwise. When the Subcommittee discussed this, the conclusion was that there is no limit to the number of petitions that can be filed. Any person can file more than one petition.
[WILNER]: The statute does not address this as comprehensively as the Uniform Post Conviction Act.
[KARCESKI]: If the petitioner gets to the point where the court orders the testing, and the judge does not want to go forward with the case, the petitioner can file leave to withdraw the petition. Does this pertain only to the instant petition or does it preclude the petitioner from refiling ever again?
[WILNER]: I am not sure as to whether the concepts of res judicata would apply to a criminal case.

Minutes of the Standing Committee on Rules, May 15, 2009, at 65-66 (on file with the Court of Appeals Standing Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure).

         The effect of res judicata, or "a thing adjudicated, " is that it acts as a direct estoppel:

if (1) the parties in the present litigation are the same or in privity with the parties to the earlier action; (2) the claim in the current action is identical to the one determined in the prior adjudication; and (3) there was a final judgment on the merits in the previous action.

Powell v. Breslin, 430 Md. 52, 64, 59 A.3d 531, 538 (2013). The "overarching purpose" of the doctrine of res judicata is "judicial economy." Id. The doctrine "avoids the expense and vexation attending multiple lawsuits, conserves the judicial resources and fosters reliance on judicial action by minimizing the possibilities of inconsistent decisions." Anne Arundel County Bd. of Educ. v. Norville, 390 Md. 93, 107, 887 A.2d 1029, 1037 (2005).

         Heretofore we have not addressed the application of res judicata to successive petitions for DNA testing, nor has there been much discussion of the subject in other state courts. We, however, do find persuasive the reasoning of the intermediate appellate court of Ohio in State v. Ayers, 923 N.E.2d 654 (Ohio Ct. App. 2009). In that case, Ayers appealed the denial of his second successive petition for DNA testing; the trial court had applied res judicata as a bar. The Ohio intermediate appellate explored the fact that the Ohio General Assembly had amended the DNA testing statute and thereby had lowered the threshold for DNA testing in order to enable more robust opportunities to secure DNA testing:

In 2006, the General Assembly amended Ohio's DNA testing statutes. The amendments, among other things, made postconviction DNA testing more available to inmates and lowered the outcome-determinative standard for establishing entitlement to DNA testing. Under the prior version of R.C. 2953.71(L), "outcome determinative" meant that had "the results of DNA testing been presented at the trial * * * and been found relevant and admissible with respect to the felony offense for which the inmate * * * is requesting the DNA testing * * * no reasonable factfinder would have found the inmate guilty of that offense."
Under the amended statute, "'outcome determinative' means that had the results of DNA testing of the subject inmate been presented at the trial * * * and been found relevant and admissible with respect to the felony offense for which the inmate * * * is requesting the DNA testing * * *, and had those results been analyzed in the context of and upon consideration of all available admissible evidence related to the inmate's case * * *, there is a strong probability that no reasonable factfinder would have found the inmate guilty of that offense." (Emphasis added.) R.C. 2953.71(L).
The addition of the words "strong probability, " among others, in the current version of R.C. 2953.71(L), in essence lowers the definition of "outcome determinative" from a showing of innocence beyond a reasonable doubt to one of clear and convincing evidence.
Although there is no legislative statement of intent in the amended R.C. 2953.71(L), there can be no doubt that the rise of DNA testing as an investigative tool prompted the General Assembly to lower the statutory standard for what constitutes "outcome determinative." The United States Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, has recognized that "DNA technology has become one of the most powerful tools to ensure that justice is done through our criminal justice system. It helps identify offenders and eliminate innocent suspects. Increasingly, DNA is also used to exonerate the wrongly convicted." See Ritter, Postconviction DNA Testing Is at Core of Major NIJ Initiatives (Mar.2009), National Institute of Justice Journal, No. 262.1 And the United States Supreme Court recently stated in Dist. Attorney's Office v. Osborne (2009), --- U.S. ----, ----, 129 S.Ct. 2308, 2316, 174 L.Ed.2d 38:
Modern DNA testing can provide powerful new evidence unlike anything known before. Since its first use in criminal investigations in the mid-1980s, there have been several major advances in DNA technology, culminating in STR technology. It is now often possible to determine whether a biological tissue matches a suspect with near certainty. While of course many criminal trials proceed without any forensic and scientific testing at all, there is no technology comparable to DNA testing for matching tissues when such evidence is at issue. DNA testing has exonerated wrongly convicted people, and has confirmed the convictions of many others.
(Citations omitted.) The United States Supreme Court has stated that the "ultimate objective" of our system of criminal law is that "the guilty be convicted and the innocent go free." Herring v. New York (1975), 422 U.S. 853, 862, 95 S.Ct. 2550, 45 L.Ed.2d 593. If DNA testing has the proven ability to "exonerate[ ] wrongly convicted people, " we can perceive no viable argument that matters of judicial economy should supersede the law's never-ending quest to ensure that no innocent person be convicted. The refinement of DNA testing has shown that law and science are intersecting with increasing regularity. When scientific advances give the courts the tools to ensure that the innocent can go free, those advances in science will necessarily dictate changes in the law. See, e.g., Pickett v. Brown (1983), 462 U.S. 1, 17, 103 S.Ct. 2199, 76 L.Ed.2d 372, fn. 6 (noting that "recent advances" in blood testing have dramatically reduced the possibility of false paternity claims).
The Ohio General Assembly has plainly embraced this notion by lowering the standard required to show that DNA testing can ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.