MIGUEL A. FUENTES
STATE OF MARYLAND
Argued: March 2, 2017
Court for Prince George's County Case No. CT131280X
Barbera, C.J., Greene, Adkins, McDonald, Watts, Hotten,
in the Circuit Court for Prince George's County convicted
the Petitioner, Miguel Fuentes, of second-degree rape and
third-degree sexual offense. The jury acquitted Fuentes of
fourth-degree sexual offense and second-degree assault. The
trial court sentenced Fuentes to twenty years of
incarceration in the Division of Correction, with all but
twelve suspended, for second-degree rape and ten years, all
but one suspended, for third-degree sexual offense, to run
concurrently. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed in an
unreported opinion dated August 18, 2016. Thereafter, we
granted Fuentes' Petition for Writ of Certiorari.
Fuentes v. State, 450 Md. 419, 149 A.3d 546 (2016).
Fuentes presents the following questions for our review:
1. Was the evidence legally insufficient to support
Petitioner's convictions where the convictions were
contingent on [the victim]'s status as a "mentally
defective" individual and the State failed to present
evidence that she had been diagnosed with either mental
retardation or a mental disorder?
2. Where Petitioner's knowledge of [the victim]'s
purported mental deficiency was a required element of both
convictions, was it reversible error for the State to inform
the jury at closing argument that Petitioner had admitted to
taking advantage of her "mental diminished
capacity" in an interview that was never admitted into
evidence at trial?
3. Where [the victim]'s ability to understand the conduct
of others and to communicate with others was central to the
jury's determination of whether she could be considered a
"mentally defective" individual, did the trial
court err in refusing to allow the defense to present
employment performance evaluations that assessed both of
these skills during her employment which is when the sexual
activity took place?
reasons that follow, we shall affirm the judgments of the
Court of Special Appeals.
AND LEGAL PROCEEDINGS
charges here stemmed from a sexual incident between Fuentes
and Ms. R.,  a thirty-eight-year-old woman at the time
of trial. The incident occurred in Prince George's County
in 2012 at a Marriott hotel where both were employed. The
State alleged that Ms. R. was deaf and mentally defective as
defined under Md. Code Ann., Criminal Law (2002, 2012 Repl.
Vol.) ("Crim. Law") § 3-301 and unable to
consent to the sexual activity. Fuentes countered that Ms. R.
initiated the sexual contact and fully understood what would
R.'s testimony was elicited through an American Sign
Language interpreter, a certified deaf interpreter, and a
Spanish interpreter who interpreted for the deaf interpreter.
When asked whether she was previously employed at the
Marriott, Ms. R. testified, "I work before and then
there was a closet and I said no. The folding table. I'm
afraid. Someone grabbed me and I said no." When asked
who grabbed her, she testified, "[h]is name is
Miguel." Ms. R. testified that she was folding clothes
on a table, putting them on shelves, when Fuentes came up to
her and put his hands over her mouth. Ms. R. then fell down.
When asked if he touched her anywhere else, she responded in
the negative. She testified that he came up to her and she
said "[n]o[, ]" and that he "started, "
and she told him to stop. She demonstrated with two dolls
indicating that Fuentes came up from the back, grabbed her,
opened her zipper, pulled down her pants, and then
"touched [her] behind and [she] pushed him away."
Afterwards, in pain, Ms. R. went to the bathroom and was
surprised to see something red coming from "the lower of
[her] body[.]" A calendar from 2012 was admitted into
evidence, and Ms. R. indicated that the events transpired in
February 2012. During trial, Ms. R. shrugged when the
prosecutor asked if she saw Miguel in the courtroom, but she
identified "Miguel" from a photograph the State
introduced into evidence.
Ms. R.'s mother, worked at the Marriott as a cook. Ms. M.
characterized Ms. R. as disabled, and stated that Ms. R. went
to a high school where "there is a class for students
with disabilities[, ]" and indicated that it was
"[t]he special school for disability[, ]" from
which Ms. R. graduated in 1998. Ms. M. testified that Ms. R.
is not able to cook for herself or go to work by herself, and
Ms. M. had difficulties talking with her. Ms. M. further
testified that Ms. R. maintained her job in the housekeeping
department at the Marriott for fourteen and a half years. In
February and March of 2012,  Ms. M. noticed that her
daughter's demeanor had changed. Ms. M. noticed her
daughter crying on several occasions. Ms. M. initially
attributed the change to the death of her husband, Ms.
R.'s stepfather, which occurred in February 2012. By May
2012, she noticed that Ms. R. was gaining weight. A June 2012
blood test revealed that Ms. R. was pregnant. When Ms. M.
asked who had impregnated her, Ms. R. "wrote
[Miguel's] name." Ms. M. reported the situation to the
Marriott administration and the Office of the State's
gave birth to a daughter in November, 2012. Vanessa Covert, a
DNA analyst, testified that the results of a paternity test
indicated that there was a 99.9999996% probability that
Fuentes was the child's father.
Bland, an employee at Humana, an organization that helps the
disabled, knew Ms. R. through case management and job
coaching. Ms. Bland met with Ms. R. monthly and tried to help
her develop skills in order to look for jobs and to maintain
her job. Ms. Bland testified that Ms. R. "has so many
disabilities, " "has limited language[, ]" and
was "not able to express herself." Although Ms. R.
uses "broken English signs" to communicate with
Ms. Bland, Ms. Bland, who is also deaf, stated that she is
able to understand Ms. R.
Ms. R.'s sister, testified that she communicated with her
through signs the siblings developed as
children. S.R. usually understood her sister, but
they would have difficulty communicating with one another.
S.R. stated that Ms. R. cannot be left alone in the house.
Nicholas Collins of the Prince George's County Police
Department was the lead investigator in the case. He
interviewed Ms. R. on June 14, 2012, with the assistance of a
sign language interpreter. He testified that she had
difficulty understanding and responding to his questions. He
further testified that "it took [Ms. R.] about five
minutes to explain that" the man alleged to have raped
her bent her over a chair and locked the door.
defense, Fuentes presented the testimony of three co-workers
from the hotel. When asked to describe Ms. R., Eleticia
Hernandez, a former co-worker at Marriott, stated that Ms. R.
is "[a] girl that is intelligent. She knows her
job." Ms. Hernandez further testified that Fuentes was a
serious, respectful man, and a good worker. Roxana Martinez,
another employee of the Marriott, worked with Fuentes for
fourteen years and also worked with Ms. R. She thought that
Fuentes and Ms. R. were friends. She observed Fuentes and Ms.
R. at work and noted that they often ate lunch together. Ms.
Martinez did not know sign language but was able to
communicate with Ms. R. through gestures. She stated that
Fuentes was an honest and decent worker. Liliana Fuentes,
Fuentes' daughter, and also an employee at the Marriott,
testified that she was friends with Ms. R., and that she
could communicate with her despite not knowing sign language.
Ms. Fuentes noticed that Ms. R. "follow[ed] [Fuentes]
all the time."
a fifty-nine-year-old father of six, worked at the Marriott
for nineteen years. He had known Ms. R. for fourteen years
prior to the incident. Once she started working in
housekeeping, they would see each other "all the time,
because [they] had to use the same elevator." Fuentes
admitted to having sexual contact with Ms. R., but claimed it
was consensual and initiated by Ms. R. He further testified
that she had touched him inappropriately before and that he
had informed her mother of the behavior. He testified that on
the date in question, he encountered Ms. R. on the third
floor and then accompanied her to a closet on the fourth
floor. He further testified that she opened the closet and
made a motion to him to go inside, and he complied. According
to Fuentes, they then engaged in consensual sexual
moved for a judgment of acquittal at the close of the
State's case-in-chief, and renewed his motion at the
close of all evidence. Both motions were denied by the trial
first argues that the evidence was legally insufficient
because his convictions were contingent on Ms. R.'s
status as a mentally defective individual and the State
failed to establish that she had been diagnosed with either
mental retardation or a mental disorder. Fuentes argues that
on this record, no rational juror could find, beyond a
reasonable doubt, that Ms. R. was either mentally retarded or
suffered from a mental disorder.
State counters that the plain language and legislative
history of Crim. Law § 3-301 and Maryland case law, do
not support Fuentes' statutory construction. Furthermore,
the State argues that Fuentes incorrectly points to
definitions in other titles of the Maryland Code, because
there is statutory language that limits the scope of those
definitions to their particular title, without statutory
language incorporating those definitions in the Criminal Law
Article. The State contends that courts in other
jurisdictions have held that expert evidence is not required
to establish that a victim lacked the mental capacity to
consent to sexual acts. Lastly, the State avers that lay
testimony, and the jury's observation of the victim
during her testimony, was sufficient to demonstrate that she
had a mental disorder.
determining whether the evidence is legally sufficient, we
examine the record solely to determine whether
"any rational trier of fact could have found
the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable
doubt." McKenzie v. State, 407 Md. 120, 136,
962 A.2d 998, 1007 (2008) (citing Jackson v.
Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 315-16, 99 S.Ct. 2781, 2786-87,
61 L.Ed.2d 560, 571 (1979)). In examining the record, we view
the State's evidence, including all reasonable inferences
to be drawn therefrom, in the light most favorable to the
State. State v. Rendelman, 404 Md. 500, 513-14, 947
A.2d 546, 553 (2008) (citing Harrison v. State, 382
Md. 477, 487-88, 855 A.2d 1220, 1226 (2004)); State v.
Suddith, 379 Md. 425, 429-31, 842 A.2d 716, 718-19
(2004) (citing State v. Smith, 374 Md. 527, 533-34,
823 A.2d 664, 668 (2003)). In so doing, "[i]t is not our
role to retry the case." Smith v. State, 415
Md. 174, 185, 999 A.2d 986, 992 (2010). Rather,
"[b]ecause the fact-finder possesses the unique
opportunity to view the evidence and to observe firsthand the
demeanor and to assess the credibility of witnesses during
their live testimony, we do not re-weigh the credibility of
witnesses or attempt to resolve any conflicts in the
evidence." Id. (citing Tarray v.
State, 410 Md. 594, 608, 979 A.2d 729, 737 (2009)). We
defer to any possible reasonable inferences the jury could
have drawn from the admitted evidence and need not decide
whether the jury could have drawn other inferences from the
evidence, refused to draw inferences, or whether we would
have drawn different inferences from the evidence.
Smith, 374 Md. at 557, 823 A.2d at 682; see also
State v. Albrecht, 336 Md. 475, 478, 649 A.2d 336, 337
(1994) ("[I]t is not the function or duty of the
appellate court to undertake a review of the record that
would amount to, in essence, a retrial of the case.").
rape is defined by Crim. Law § 3-304(a), which provides
in relevant part:
(a) A person may not engage in vaginal intercourse with
(1) by force, or the threat of force, without the consent of
(2) if the victim is a mentally defective individual, a
mentally incapacitated individual, or a physically helpless
individual, and the person performing the act knows or
reasonably should know that the victim is a mentally
defective individual, a mentally incapacitated individual, or
a physically helpless individual[.]
* * *
(c)(1) Except as provided in paragraph (2) of this
subsection, a person who violates subsection (a) of this
section is guilty of the felony of rape in the second degree
and on conviction is subject to imprisonment for not
exceeding 20 years.
Third-degree sexual offense is proscribed by Crim. Law §
(a) A person may not:
(1)(i) engage in sexual contact with another without the
consent of the other; and
(ii) 1. employ or display a dangerous weapon, or a physical
object that the victim reasonably believes is a dangerous
2. suffocate, strangle, disfigure, or inflict serious
physical injury on the victim or another in the course of
committing the crime;
3. threaten, or place the victim in fear, that the victim, or
an individual known to the victim, imminently will be subject
to death, suffocation, strangulation, disfigurement, serious
physical injury, or kidnapping; or
4. commit the crime while aided and abetted by another;
(2) engage in sexual contact with another if the victim is a
mentally defective individual, a mentally incapacitated
individual, or a physically helpless individual, and the
person performing the act knows or reasonably should know the
victim is a mentally defective individual, a mentally
incapacitated individual, or a physically helpless
* * *
(b) A person who violates this section is guilty of the
felony of sexual offense in the third degree and on
conviction is subject to imprisonment not exceeding 10 years.
second-degree rape or third-degree sexual offense involving a
legally incompetent victim is charged pursuant to Crim. Law
§§ 3-304(a)(2) or 3-307(a)(2), "lack of
consent does not have to be established independently by
showing either resistance or fear of resistance but is
automatically established, as a matter of law, by the status
of the victim." See Travis v. State, 218
Md.App. 410, 428-29, 98 A.3d 281, 291-92 (2014). The three
classes of individuals in Crim. Law §§ 3-304(a)(2)
and 3-307(a)(2)-mentally defective individuals, mentally
incapacitated individuals, and physically helpless
individuals-"are incapable of consenting[, ]" and
thus, "[t]he State is relieved from having to prove
directly what it has already proved indirectly."
Id. at 429, 98 A.3d at 292. Lack of consent
"does not have to be proved directly not because it is
not required but only because it is implicit in the
victim's condition." Id. at 431, 98 A.3d at
Crim. Law § 3-301 defines "mentally defective
(a) In this subtitle the following words have the meanings
Mentally defective individual
(b) "Mentally defective individual" means an
individual who suffers from mental retardation or a mental
disorder, either of which temporarily or permanently renders
the individual substantially incapable of:
(1) appraising the nature of the individual's conduct;
(2) resisting vaginal intercourse, a sexual act, or sexual
(3) communicating unwillingness to submit to vaginal
intercourse, a sexual act, or sexual contact.
sustain a conviction of second-degree rape under Crim. Law
§ 3-304(a)(2), the State was required to prove beyond a
reasonable doubt that: (1) Fuentes had vaginal intercourse
with Ms. R.; (2) Ms. R. was mentally defective, mentally
incapacitated, or physically helpless; and (3) Fuentes knew
or reasonably should have known that Ms. R. was mentally
defective, mentally incapacitated, or physically helpless. To
sustain a conviction of the crime of third-degree sexual
offense under Crim. Law § 3-307(a)(2), the State was
required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that: (1) Fuentes
engaged in sexual contact with Ms. R.; (2) Ms. R. was
mentally defective, mentally incapacitated, or physically
helpless; and (3) Fuentes knew or reasonably should have
known that Ms. R. was mentally defective, mentally
incapacitated, or physically helpless.
is no dispute that Fuentes engaged in sexual contact with Ms.
R. and had vaginal intercourse with her. Here, we must
determine whether the evidence was sufficient to prove that
Ms. R. was a mentally defective individual, and, if so,
whether Fuentes knew or reasonably should have known that she
was a mentally defective individual.
argues that "[b]oth 'mental retardation' and
'mental disorder' are medical diagnoses made by
medical professionals based on specific and established
scientific evidence after thorough and rigorous examination
of the patient." Accordingly, he argues that without
medical evidence that Ms. R. was diagnosed with mental
retardation or a mental disorder, the jury could not find
that Ms. R. was mentally defective. We disagree.
recognizes that the term "mental disorder" is not
defined in Crim. Law § 3-301, but asks this Court to
adopt the definition contained in the Health - General
Article and/or the Criminal Procedure Article of the Maryland
Code. The General Assembly, however, could have, but did not
adopt the definition of the term as defined in the Health
-General or Criminal Procedure Articles.
General Assembly knows how to explicitly incorporate
definitions from other titles, yet did not do so here.
See Holmes v. State, 362 Md. 190, 195 n. 2, 763 A.2d
737, 739 n. 2 (2000) (stating that "when the Legislature
chooses to permit home detention as a condition of probation,
it knows how to do so."). The Criminal Law Article
contains examples of explicit incorporation of definitions
from other articles, including Health -
General. There are six statutes, in three different
articles, that explicitly incorporate the definition of
"mental disorder" contained in § 10-101 of the
Health - General Article. For example, the Correctional
Services Article has a provision regarding expenses for
treatment in a state facility that provides: "A county
or managing official is not responsible for payment for
services or treatment rendered to an inmate as a result of
admission to a State facility for individuals who have mental
disorders as defined by in § 10-101(i) of the Health -
General Article." Md. Code Ann., Correctional Services
§ 11-204 (emphasis added). The Family Law Article
explicitly incorporates that same definition: