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Kranz v. State

Court of Appeals of Maryland

June 21, 2018


          Argued: March 2, 2018

          Circuit Court for Cecil County Case No. 07-K-06-000806

          Barbera, C.J., Greene Adkins McDonald Watts Hotten Getty, JJ.


          BARBERA, C. JUDGE

         We consider in this case whether a trial court or, as here, an appellate court is divested of jurisdiction over a timely-filed petition for post-conviction relief if, during litigation of the petition, the petitioner is no longer "in custody" for purposes of the Maryland Uniform Postconviction Procedure Act ("UPPA"), Maryland Code Annotated, Criminal Procedure ("CP") §§ 7-101 to 7-109. We hold that jurisdiction under the UPPA is determined upon the filing of the petition and, barring a procedural default by the petitioner, is not defeated upon the petitioner's release from custody prior to completion of full review, including any appellate review, of the case. We therefore reverse the judgment of the Court of Special Appeals, which came to the opposite conclusion.

         I. Background and Procedural History

         Following a jury trial in the Circuit Court for Cecil County, Petitioner William Kranz was convicted of two counts each of first-degree assault and reckless endangerment. On July 31, 2009, the court sentenced Petitioner to ten years' imprisonment, five of which were suspended, and three years' supervised probation. On direct appeal, the Court of Special Appeals affirmed the judgment of conviction. Kranz v. State, No. 1548 (Md. Ct. Spec. App. Nov. 9, 2010), cert. denied, 418 Md. 191 (2011).

         On February 17, 2012, Petitioner filed a timely petition for post-conviction relief.[1]He contended that the State had committed a violation under Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), entitling him to a new trial. Following denial of relief by the post-conviction court, Petitioner filed, on June 19, 2013, an application for leave to appeal. On April 7, 2015, Petitioner completed his sentence, including the three-year probationary period.

         On August 31, 2016, more than three years after Petitioner filed the application for leave to appeal, the Court of Special Appeals granted the application and placed the case on its regular appeals docket. Petitioner briefed the merits of his claim that the State had committed a Brady violation. The State, in addition to responding to the merits of that claim, included a motion to dismiss the appeal. In support of dismissal, the State made two arguments: First, Petitioner was no longer incarcerated, on parole, or on probation, and therefore was not "in custody" for purposes of CP § 7-101 of the UPPA, rendering the case moot; second, Petitioner's loss of "in-custody" status divested the Court of Special Appeals of jurisdiction to consider the appeal.

         The Court of Special Appeals issued a reported opinion granting the State's motion to dismiss the appeal. Kranz v. State, 233 Md.App. 600 (2017). The intermediate appellate court opted not to address the State's mootness argument. The court instead rested its dismissal of the appeal on its interpretation of the UPPA, agreeing with the State that the court lost jurisdiction to entertain the appeal once Petitioner was no longer in custody. Id. at 603.

         In reaching that decision, the Court of Special Appeals relied principally on McMannis v. State, 311 Md. 534 (1988), and Obomighie v. State, 170 Md.App. 708 (2006). Kranz, 233 Md.App. at 607-10. We shall discuss both cases in detail below. It is enough to note at this point that each court-this Court in McMannis and the Court of Special Appeals in Obomighie-held that full expiration of the petitioners' sentences divested the court of jurisdiction. See McMannis, 311 Md. at 536; Obomighie, 170 Md.App. at 710. In light of those decisions, the Court of Special Appeals held in the present case that it was divested of jurisdiction when Petitioner completed his period of probation. 233 Md.App. at 610.

         Upon the Court of Special Appeals' dismissal of the appeal, Petitioner sought further review in this Court. We issued a writ of certiorari to consider whether the full expiration of a petitioner's sentence during the litigation of a timely-filed post-conviction petition divests the courts of jurisdiction over the action. Kranz v. State, 456 Md. 254 (2017).

         II. The Parties' Contentions

         Petitioner argues that appellate courts retain jurisdiction to review petitions for post-conviction relief, even if the petitioner is no longer in custody at the time of review, so long as the petitioner filed the petition while "in custody, " as that term is employed in the UPPA. Such a rule, in Petitioner's view, is consistent with the holding of this Court in McMannis v. State, 311 Md. 534 (1988), is supported by the United States Supreme Court's holding in Carafas v. LaVallee, 391 U.S. 234 (1968), and would harmonize the various provisions of the UPPA.

         The State disagrees not only with Petitioner's read of the UPPA but also his assessment of the impact of McMannis and Carafas. The State also looks to Obomighie v. State, 170 Md.App. 708 (2006), upon which the Court of Special Appeals relied in deciding the case at bar. Before considering the parties' respective views of those three cases, we pause to summarize them. We also refer to Parker v. Ellis, 362 U.S. 574 (1960), a case that preceded Carafas and informed the Supreme Court's decision in that case.


         We begin with Carafas. Petitioner James Carafas was tried in a New York state court, convicted of certain crimes, and sentenced to a term of incarceration. 391 U.S. at 235. While incarcerated, he pursued a direct appeal and state court collateral review, without success, id. at 235-36, then filed a federal habeas corpus petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2254, id. at 236. The federal district court dismissed the petition on the merits, and the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the dismissal. Carafas then filed a petition for writ of certiorari in the United States Supreme Court. The Supreme Court granted the petition and issued the writ on October 16, 1967. By then, Carafas had served his sentence and, as of March 6, 1967, was no longer on parole. Id.

         New York argued that the case was moot because Carafas, having fully served his sentence, no longer was eligible for habeas corpus relief. For that proposition, New York evidently relied on a per curiam opinion of the Court, Parker v. Ellis, 362 U.S. 574 (1960). That case involved a federal habeas corpus petition brought by Parker, who was then serving a sentence for a conviction in a Texas state court. Id. at 574. The federal district court dismissed the petition, and the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed. Id. The Supreme Court granted Parker's petition for writ of certiorari, but before the case could be heard, Parker completed his sentence and was released from prison. Id. at 574-75.

         The Parker Court held that the expiration of the petitioner's sentence rendered the case moot, leaving the Court "without jurisdiction to deal with the merits of petitioner's claim." Id. Over a vigorous dissent by Chief Justice Warren, joined by Justices Black, Douglas, and Brennan, the Court remanded the case to the Court of Appeals with the direction "to vacate its judgment and to direct the District Court to vacate its order and dismiss the application." Id. at 576. Chief Justice Warren reasoned that the majority too narrowly construed the text and purpose of the federal habeas statute, ignoring not only the spirit of the "Great Writ" but its broad statutory language to grant relief "as law and justice require." Id. at 582-86 (dissenting opinion) (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 2243). The inequities highlighted in the Parker dissent would frame the rationale of a unanimous Court eight years later in Carafas.

         In Carafas, the Supreme Court first rejected New York's claim that the case was moot. 391 U.S. at 237. The Court noted that because of his conviction, Carafas "cannot engage in certain businesses; he cannot serve as an official of a labor union for a specified period of time; he cannot vote in any election held in New York State; he cannot serve as a juror." Id. (footnotes omitted). Given those "'disabilities or burdens [that] may flow from' petitioner's conviction, he has 'a substantial stake in the judgment of conviction which survives the satisfaction of the sentence imposed on him.'" Id. (quoting Fiswick v. United States, 329 U.S. 211, 222 (1946)).

         New York further argued that because appellate review had not yet concluded, Carafas's release from any form of custody before securing Supreme Court review of his case divested the Supreme Court of jurisdiction to address the merits of his claim. Id. at 238. The Court rejected that argument as well. Id. The Court accepted that Carafas was no longer in custody as defined by the federal habeas statute. The Court nonetheless concluded that the legislative history of that statute, [2] coupled with its provision directing courts to "dispose of the matter as law and justice require, " 28 U.S.C. § 2243, contemplate relief "other than immediate release from physical custody." 391 U.S. at 238-39. The Court noted, too, that Carafas had endured lengthy delays in obtaining justice and "should not be thwarted now and required to bear the consequences of [an] assertedly unlawful conviction simply because the path has been so long that he has served his sentence." Id. at 239-40.

         Instructive for our purposes, the holding of Carafas is not based on or limited to the facts presented in that case. The holding of Carafas is much broader, establishing that once federal jurisdiction attaches by filing a habeas petition, the federal trial and appellate courts retain jurisdiction to entertain the petition, even if at some point during the litigation the petitioner is no longer "in custody" for purposes of that statute. Id. at 238.


         This Court relied to a certain extent on Carafas in deciding McMannis. In 1970, McMannis pled guilty to charges of felony storehouse breaking and theft. 311 Md. at 536. He completed the entirety of his sentence, including a period of probation, and sometime later, traveled to West Virginia. Id. at 536-37. There, McMannis, over the span of several years, was charged and convicted of various separate crimes. Id. at 537. He eventually was sentenced, based in part on a West Virginia conviction of sexual assault, to life imprisonment under West Virginia's recidivist statute. West Virginia used McMannis's Maryland conviction as "a necessary predicate" for his enhanced sentence. Id. at 537-38.

         McMannis attempted to have the West Virginia sentence reduced by challenging the validity of the earlier Maryland conviction. Id. at 535-36. He filed a petition for post-conviction relief in a Maryland circuit court under Maryland Code Annotated, Article 27, §645A-the predecessor to the UPPA-and prevailed on the merits of the petition. The Court of Special Appeals reversed, holding that the case was moot. Id. at 536.

         This Court affirmed the intermediate appellate court, though on different grounds. Id. We looked to Carafas and, as the Supreme Court had done, held that McMannis's case was not moot. We reasoned that "[i]f Petitioner is correct in his assertion that his guilty plea in Maryland in 1970 was not knowing and voluntary, it is clear that he suffers anew from that constitutional infirmity by the imposition of an enhanced sentence in West Virginia that is dependent upon the earlier [Maryland] conviction." Id. at 538-39 (citing Carafas, 391 U.S. at 237-38).

         We then turned to the State's alternative argument that the post-conviction court had no jurisdiction to entertain McMannis's petition because at the time of filing, he was no longer in custody for purposes of the post-conviction statute. Id. at 539. That argument was based on the text of then-Article 27, § 645A(a), the predecessor statute to CP §§ 7-101 and 7-102.[3] Section 645A(a) provided that "[a]ny person convicted of a crime and either incarcerated under sentence of . . . imprisonment or on parole or probation . . . may institute a proceeding under this subtitle." See McMannis, 311 Md. at 539; see also id. (referring to that portion of § 645A(a) as the "'custody' requirement"). McMannis argued in response that, notwithstanding he was not in custody when he filed the petition, his petition was timely under a separate provision of the post-conviction statute-§ 645A(e), which allowed a petition to be filed "at any time."[4] 311 Md. at 539-40.

         This Court rejected McMannis's argument, concluding that the custody requirement in § 645A(a) was "jurisdictional" and therefore "supersede[d]" the language in § 645A(e) that permitted the filing of a post-conviction petition "at any time." Id. at 539-41. We noted that while a petition could be "filed at any time, " the petitioner must be in custody at the time of filing. Id. at 541. Given McMannis was not in custody when he filed the ...

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