J. REUBEN RAINEY
STATE OF MARYLAND
Circuit Court for Baltimore City Case No. 18626016
Woodward, C.J., Beachley, Fader, JJ.
1987, a jury convicted the appellant, J. Reuben Rainey, of
murdering two women. Now, based on a mistaken docket entry
that has since been corrected, he claims that the sentences
for his first-degree murder convictions are illegal. The
Circuit Court for Baltimore City denied his motion to correct
an illegal sentence. We affirm for two independent reasons:
(1) the basis of the illegality claimed by Mr. Rainey is not
cognizable under Rule 4-345(a), the rule under which Mr.
Rainey is proceeding; and (2) we perceive no error in the
circuit court's factual finding that the original docket
entry was erroneous.
Rainey's claim centers on a docket entry created during
the first of his three 1987 jury trials in the Circuit Court
for Baltimore City. The charges then pending against Mr.
Rainey included two counts of first-degree murder; two counts
of second-degree murder; two counts of manslaughter; two
counts of use of a handgun in the commission of a crime of
violence; and two counts of wearing, carrying, or
transporting a handgun. The docket entry at issue, dated
April 20, 1987, states in full:
4/20/87- Motion for judgement of acquittal heard as to both
charges and denied as to both charges. Davis J. Motion for
judgement of acquittal granted as to 2nd degree and
manslaughter as to both charges. Davis J.
Rainey's trial proceeded on the first-degree murder and
handgun offenses, but ultimately ended in a mistrial two days
later, as the jurors were unable to come to a unanimous
verdict. A second trial on the remaining charges also ended
in a mistrial. In his third trial, a jury convicted Mr.
Rainey of both counts of first-degree murder and both sets of
handgun offenses. The court sentenced Mr. Rainey to life
imprisonment for each murder count, 20 years'
imprisonment for each use of a handgun count, and three
years' imprisonment for the unlawful wearing, carrying,
or transporting a handgun counts, all
2011, Mr. Rainey filed a pro se motion to correct an illegal
sentence in the Circuit Court for Baltimore
City. On the strength of the April 20, 1987
docket entry, Mr. Rainey claimed that he was acquitted of the
lesser-included offenses of second-degree murder and
manslaughter, thus rendering his subsequent trials and
convictions for first-degree murder a violation of the Double
Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the United States
Constitution. The circuit court denied Mr. Rainey's
motion, and Mr. Rainey timely appealed. After Mr. Rainey,
still proceeding pro se, filed his opening brief, the State
moved to remand, without affirmance or reversal, to allow the
circuit court to conduct fact-finding regarding the docket
entry at issue. We granted that motion. Due to the absence of
a transcript, we instructed the circuit court, on remand, to
hold a hearing, receive evidence, and make factual findings
concerning whether the circuit court had in fact granted Mr.
Rainey's motion for judgment of acquittal on the charges
of second-degree murder and manslaughter. We stayed the
present case until the completion of that fact-finding.
remand, the circuit court, Judge Yvette M. Bryant, held an
evidentiary hearing at which both of the original prosecutors
and Mr. Rainey all testified. The lead prosecutor, Sam Brave,
testified regarding the events that surrounded Mr.
Rainey's motion for acquittal during the first trial. Mr.
Brave testified that he recalled that Mr. Rainey's
counsel moved for acquittal on all charges and that the trial
court, Judge Arrie Davis, denied that motion as to all
charges. Following that denial, Mr. Brave testified, he
informed Judge Davis that the State wanted to submit only the
first-degree murder charges to the jury, not the
second-degree murder and manslaughter charges. He did so to
avoid providing the jury with the option of reaching a
Rainey testified that he recalled being told by his defense
counsel during the first trial that he had been acquitted. In
the course of explaining his recollection, however, Mr.
Rainey also testified, inaccurately, that the second-degree
murder and manslaughter charges were included on the verdict
sheet and submitted to the jury, and that he recalled being
told of his alleged acquittal only after that occurred.
the hearing, Judge Bryant made a finding of fact that Mr.
Rainey "was not acquitted of second degree murder and
manslaughter and that the clerk's entry of April 20, 1987
regarding the judgments of acquittal [was] erroneous."
That finding was based both on the testimony of the witnesses
and on the behavior of all parties and the court throughout
the remainder of the first trial, the two subsequent trials,
and the direct appeal. As Judge Bryant pointed out, it would
have been highly unlikely that an experienced trial judge,
experienced defense counsel, two experienced prosecutors, and
appellate counsel on both sides would all have failed to
recognize the significance of a judgment of acquittal on
lesser-included offenses through three trials and an appeal.
April 28, 2017, the circuit court's docket was corrected
with an entry reflecting the court's finding that Mr.
"RAINEY WAS NOT ACQUITTED OF SECOND DEGREE MURDER AND
MANSLAUGHTER ON 4/20/1987." This Court then lifted its
stay and directed the circuit court to transmit updated
response brief, filed after this Court lifted its stay, the
State relies on the circuit court's finding that the
motion for acquittal was not granted as dispositive. In
reply, Mr. Rainey, now represented by counsel, argues that