Nazarian, Reed, Zarnoch, Robert A. (Senior Judge, Specially
Katie Hadel was found stabbed to death in the bathtub of her
apartment on February 5, 2013, Jeffrey Shiflett was charged
with first-degree murder, first-degree assault, first-degree
burglary, third-degree burglary, carrying a weapon openly
with intent to injure, and two counts of second-degree
assault. At trial in the Circuit Court for Baltimore County,
Mr. Shiflett conceded that he killed her, and the contested
issue was whether Mr. Shiflett, who has been diagnosed with
multiple psychiatric disorders, was guilty of first- or
second-degree murder. Ultimately, evidence of Mr.
Shifflet's disorders was not permitted, and Mr. Shifflet
was deemed competent after a mid-trial competency hearing.
But because of Mr. Shiflett's disruptive behavior in and
around the courtroom, the court ordered him restrained with a
stun cuff during the proceedings, and when he refused,
excluded him from the courtroom unless he agreed to wear it.
As a result, much of the trial was conducted in his absence.
appeal, Mr. Shiflett claims the circuit court abused its
discretion by ordering him to wear a stun cuff as a condition
of being present in the courtroom. In addition, he argues
that the court erred by failing to strike the State's
notice of intent to seek a sentence of life without parole;
by excluding evidence of Mr. Shiflett's psychological
profile; by concluding that Mr. Shiflett was competent to
stand trial; and by denying his motion to dismiss the
burglary count. We affirm his convictions.
Shiflett and Ms. Hadel were childhood friends who became
romantically involved in 2007. At that time, both Mr.
Shiflett and Ms. Hadel used heroin and, as we will explain in
more detail below, Mr. Shiflett suffered from several
untreated mental illnesses. After Mr. Shiflett and Ms. Hadel
participated in a robbery and Ms. Hadel was caught on a
security camera using a stolen credit card, both were placed
on probation. Mr. Shiflett later violated probation and was
imprisoned for the full five-year sentence.
in prison, and until his release in 2012, Mr. Shiflett
frequently wrote threatening letters to Ms. Hadel, Ms.
Hadel's mother, and Ms. Hadel's husband, Craig
Gordon. In one letter, dated May 25, 2009 and addressed to
Ms. Hadel, Mr. Shiflett threatened her with a graphically
violent death if she didn't comply with his wishes:
I'm in prison and not a day goes buy [sic] to where I
don't think about you putting me hear [sic] in this
place. It[']s all good why because they can't keep me
forever one day I will leave this place. When I do I will
come looking for you and I will find you. Where ever you
might be I won't give up until I find you . . . You
better hope you are telling me things I want to hear. If not
I will loose [sic] my mind and cut your fucking head off.
letter, dated March 10, 2010, addressed Ms. Hadel as
"Dear Whore" and stated, "Nobody sends me to
prison and gets away with it. It's not going to be hard
to find you."
was released in December 2012, Mr. Shiflett moved in with his
father in Annapolis. Mr. Shiflett's father testified that
he believed his son's mental condition had worsened in
prison, where he'd spent a year-and-a-half in solitary
confinement. He described his son's demeanor at the time
as highly anxious, that he was unable to sleep or eat and was
obsessed with Ms. Hadel. Mr. Shiflett continued to place
phone calls to Ms. Hadel and her mother, as well as to write
about Ms. Hadel on his Facebook page.
Shiflett disappeared from his father's house around
February 1, 2013. And he followed through with his threat to
find Ms. Hadel: he walked from Annapolis to Reisterstown and,
by February 3, 2013, was camped out in the woods behind her
apartment, waiting for her husband, Mr. Gordon, to leave. On
the night of February 5, Mr. Shiflett broke into Ms.
Hadel's apartment and he encountered Mr. Gordon's
twelve-year old daughter, D,  lying in bed with her laptop. He
screamed "Where the F is Katie?" at D, then dragged
her down the hall toward Ms. Hadel's bedroom. He let go
once he spotted Ms. Hadel near the bathroom, and he pulled
out a knife. D escaped to a neighbor's house to get help,
but by the time police arrived, Ms. Hadel had been stabbed
sixteen times and was lying face down, "lifeless, "
in the bathtub. Two other children, a one-year-old and a
three-year-old, were found in the apartment when police
arrived; both were unharmed.
Shiflett was charged with first-degree murder, first-degree
assault, first-degree burglary, third-degree burglary,
carrying a weapon openly with intent to injure, and two
counts of second-degree assault. He conceded that he was
responsible for Ms. Hadel's murder, but disputed that the
murder was premeditated. To that end, the defense attempted
to introduce evidence of Mr. Shiflett's untreated mental
illnesses to rebut the State's contention that he
premeditated Ms. Hadel's murder, and when that failed, to
demonstrate that Mr. Shiflett was not competent to stand
trial. After a mid-trial hearing, the circuit court found him
and throughout trial, Mr. Shiflett behaved in a disruptive
and threatening manner. He directed his displeasure
primarily, although not exclusively, toward the judge and the
prosecutor; he addressed both using profane adaptations of
their names. He was permitted to sit in the courtroom
unrestrained during jury selection, but after Mr. Shiflett
tried to force his way into the judge's chambers, the
court ordered him to wear a stun cuff, a device worn
around the ankle that administers an electric shock, if he
wanted to remain in the courtroom for the trial. He refused
to wear it, and the trial continued while he remained in the
courthouse lock-up, with a video and audio hook-up that
allowed him to see and hear the proceedings.
jury convicted Mr. Shiflett of first-degree premeditated
murder, first-degree felony murder, and the remaining counts,
except for one count of second-degree assault. At the
sentencing hearing, he moved for jury sentencing, but the
court denied his motion and sentenced him to life in prison
without the possibility of parole. This timely appeal
followed. We will provide more facts as appropriate to the
Shiflett presents five questions on appeal, which we address
in a slightly different order. First, he argues that
the circuit court abused its discretion by ordering him to
wear a stun cuff, then by proceeding with trial in his
absence when he refused to wear it. Second, he
argues that he was entitled to have a jury determine whether
he should be sentenced to life without the possibility of
parole, and that his life sentence, administered by the court
rather than by the jury, is unconstitutional. Third,
Mr. Shiflett argues that the trial court erred by refusing to
admit testimony regarding his psychological profile, and
fourth, in its decision that he was competent to
stand trial. Finally, Mr. Shiflett argues that the
court erred by refusing to dismiss the first-degree burglary
The Circuit Court Did Not Abuse Its Discretion In Requiring
Mr. Shiflett To Wear A Stun Cuff To Remain In The
Shiflett argues first that the circuit court erred
by ordering him to wear a stun cuff as a condition of
remaining in the courtroom, then by allowing the trial to
proceed in his absence when he refused to wear it. In-court
physical restraints are inherently prejudicial to criminal
defendants in that they can diminish the accused's
ability to mount a meaningful defense as well as his ability
to communicate with his lawyer, Deck v. Missouri,
544 U.S. 622, 631 (2005), and no reported Maryland decision
has considered whether and under what circumstances a stun
cuff can serve as a courtroom restraint during a jury trial.
We begin, then, with a closer look at Mr. Shiflett's
behavior, the range of options available to the trial court,
and the court's responses.
Shiflett's statements and conduct had raised serious
security concerns for the court long before trial. In the
weeks leading up to jury selection, he'd taken to writing
the presiding judge letters that he sent to her home. We
decline to memorialize the text of those letters in the
Maryland Appellate Reports-trust us when we say that their
contents were thoroughly inappropriate and venomously vulgar.
the Sheriff who first recommended placing Mr. Shiflett in a
stun cuff after listening to a phone call Mr. Shiflett placed
to his father from prison. In that particular call, Mr.
Shiflett reacted to the court's ruling that he would not
be permitted to introduce psychiatric testimony; the call
contained "a tremendous amount of profanity and some
rather horrific statements" about Ms. Hadel. Defense
counsel objected to the Sheriff's recommendation, and
after learning that Mr. Shiflett had not made any direct
threats against the court or the prosecutor, the court
declined to order Mr. Shiflett to wear the stun cuff in the
As counsel knows in this case, Mr. Shiflett has written to me
on many occasions. Even though I keep writing back to him
telling him not to write to me, he continues to write to me.
And in many of his letters, there was never a direct threat
against me or the Prosecutor-or either Prosecutor, but
certainly language that this Court would consider to be
highly inappropriate, vulgar and heated in terms [you would]
describe a letter as heated. And this Court never felt in any
way that there was a threat against her cause if I did, I
would have brought that to the attention frankly-of the
Sheriff's office and of the State and decisions would
have been made based on that.
So considering the factors, being aware of the security
necessary for this trial . . . I'm not going to order
that the ankle cuff be put in. I appreciate why the
Sheriff's office wanted to put it in. I think in this
particular case, I don't believe it will [be] necessary.
If at any time I feel that it becomes necessary, then I will
modify my order.
selection then went forward as scheduled, and Mr. Shiflett
was disruptive throughout that process. He made
"constant remarks, often time inappropriate remarks,
often vulgar remarks, often obscene remarks, for which the
Court either tolerated . . . or admonished him to stop
speaking." Still, jury selection continued, and at that
point the court elected not to revise its ruling on the stun
cuff. But the next morning, before the courtroom day got
under way, Mr. Shiflett attempted to break free from the
guards and enter the judge's chambers. A scuffle ensued
as sheriffs tried to restrain him; they were eventually able
to move him away from the judge, but not before he spit in a
This morning at ten to ten as Mr. Shiflett . . . was being
brought to begin the trial, he attempted to-I was in chambers
and I heard him call out my name, my first name, several
times, and saying [the Judge's name], which is my first
name, and then he attempted to enter my chambers. At that
point, the sheriffs-and there was three or four of them I
believe that were with him at that time-moved him away from
my chambers, put him up against the wall and attempted to
calm him down and deter him from trying to enter my chambers
in what appeared to be his effort to want to talk to me.
They then moved him over into the courtroom and tried to get
him to sit down. A scuffle occurred, and they were unable to
really secure him, continued to become more agitated and
resistive in his behavior. After that the sheriffs then took
him back into the lockup, and I believe [defense counsel]
came around as well in an effort to calm down Mr. Shiflett.
I subsequently had a chambers conference with counsel,
indicated my concern for courtroom security. I also had an
opportunity to talk to the sheriffs since I did not witness
all of the behavior of Mr. Shiflett. I only heard him
screaming out and calling my first name. In further talking
to the sheriffs, they indicated to me not only were they
hav[ing] difficulty securing him, but that he also spit at
one of the sheriffs. And then they attempted again to push
him down the hallway to try and secure his attendance into
I told counsel in chambers based on his behavior this
morning, that it was this Court's intent and concern for
courtroom security and his highly agitated state that I was
going to order the sheriffs to place a cuff on him that would
administer a shock if he acted up. And that was this
Court's decision. It was decided at that time to put all
this on the record, and then go back to talk to Mr. Shiflett.
court went on to explain that she wanted to place Mr.
Shiflett in a stun cuff because she thought "his rights
are more secure and the appearance to the jury would be less
intrusive with the cuff than with six sheriffs standing
judge and counsel then proceeded to Mr. Shiflett's
holding cell, where the court (with a court reporter present)
gave Mr. Shiflett the opportunity to return to the courtroom
if he agreed to wear the stun cuff:
THE COURT: The purpose of this hearing, Mr. Shiflett . . . -
we are in lockup, this hearing is being held in lockup-is
based on your behavior this morning.
* * *
So based on your behavior, I have determined that the only
way to maintain courtroom security, which is my job, is to
have the cuff on you.
Now, you can choose not to use the cuff, not to wear the
cuff. And if you choose to do that, then you will be waiving
your right to be in the courtroom. You have an absolute right
to be in the courtroom and participate in the proceedings. I
have the absolute right as the Judge to determine courtroom
It is my decision, based on your conduct this morning, that
you wear the cuff.
[MR. SHIFLETT]: All right-
THE COURT: By not complying with my order, you are waiving
your right under [Md. Rule] 4-231. So I wanted to advise you
of your right to be present[.]
the confusion that followed, Mr. Shiflett responded that
"I'm not going to wear that fucking cuff, " and
the court explained the implications of his decision:
THE COURT: So as a result of your refusal to comply with my
order, and I'm doing this based on your behavior this
morning and this Court's concern about courtroom
security, then you will be waiving your right to be present
at trial, and the trial will continue-
[MR. SHIFLETT]: And I am not waiving my right to be present
at trial. Put the microphone right here. I am not waiving my
right to be present at the trial today. I want to be in the
courtroom, but I'm not going to be treated like I'm
some fucking kind of animal. Thank you.
THE COURT: Okay.
[MR. SHIFLETT]: Now, let me say something about this
THE COURT: So the trial-you understand the trial will
continue without your presence.
[MR. SHIFLETT]: I don't really care about that.
* * *
THE COURT: Okay. All right. So I'm going to leave you in
your cell, and every time we have a break, I'm going to
revisit this issue with you. So you will continue to have the
right to consult with a lawyer. I am not going to have you
sent back to the jail. We will continue to explore the option
for you to come back into court.
there, the trial continued in Mr. Shiflett's absence.
During the luncheon recess that same day, the judge, the
prosecutor, and defense counsel returned to Mr.
Shiflett's cell, and Mr. Shiflett maintained his refusal
to wear the stun cuff in the courtroom:
[MR. SHIFLETT]: I ain't seeing that nasty bitch.
[DEFENSE COUNSEL]: We're about to go on the record.
[MR. SHIFLETT]: Woo-hoo.
THE COURT: All right. Mr. Shiflett, we are back-
[MR. SHIFLETT]: Hey-
THE COURT: We are back-
[MR. SHIFLETT]: -baby [Judge] Hey, babe.
THE COURT: We are back on the record-
[MR. SHIFLETT]: Hey babe.
THE COURT: I am Judge [last name], Mr. Shiflett.
[MR. SHIFLETT]: You're baby [Judge] to me.
THE COURT: (Inaudible) address me in that way.
[MR. SHIFLETT]: You're baby [Judge].
THE COURT: We are back on the record-
[MR. SHIFLETT]: I have to think up a nickname for
THE COURT: -in the State of Maryland versus Jeffrey Shiflett,
case Number K-13-1295.
[MR. SHIFLETT]: Is [Prosecutor] for the State?
THE COURT: We are now present-I am present, [defense counsel
and the State] are here as well-
[MR. SHIFLETT]: Oh, shit.
THE COURT: -along with my court clerk.
[MR. SHIFLETT]: Oh, shit.
THE COURT: I'm here to advise you of where we are in the
proceeding and of your right to go back into the court if you
choose to. We have concluded with three or four witnesses-
[MR. SHIFLETT]: And I should have been there so I can fucking
hear what they have to say about me, and so I could have told
me [sic] attorney some fucking questions to ask them that I
might thought that was relevant to this case, and I was
denied my constitutional right, but we all know they
don't give a fuck about people's rights around here.
THE COURT: So, Mr.-
[MR. SHIFLETT]: Ain't that right [Prosecutor]?
THE COURT: Mr.-
[MR. SHIFLETT]: Yes, ...