United States District Court, D. Maryland
Xinis United States District Judge
Turner, currently confined at the Eastern Correctional
Institution in Westover, Maryland, has filed a Petition for
Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. ECF
No. 1. The Petition challenges Turner's 2012 conviction
in the Circuit Court for Baltimore County, Maryland for
second-degree rape and related charges. ECF No. 4.
Respondents urge this Court to deny the Petition, contending
that Turner's claims are not cognizable, are procedurally
defaulted, and otherwise fail on the merits. ECF No. 10.
Turner filed a Reply as well as a supplemental Reply,
pursuant to this Court's order to address procedural
default. ECF Nos. 11, 17. No. hearing is necessary.
See Rule 8(a), Rules Governing Section 2254
Cases in the United States District Courts; D. Md. Loc.
R. 105.6; see also Fisher v. Lee, 215 F.3d 438, 455
(4th Cir. 2000) (petitioner not entitled to a hearing under
28 U.S.C. §2254(e)(2)). For the reasons that follow, the
Court dismisses Turner's petition and declines to issue a
certificate of appealability.
was charged in the Circuit Court for Baltimore County with
committing several sex offenses involving a minor victim.
See ECF No. 10-1; ECF No. 1-1. When Turner initially
appeared on September 18, 2012, he elected a jury trial.
See ECF No. 10-10 at 10. The trial was then assigned
to Judge Nancy Purpura, see ECF No. 10-10 at 10. On
defense counsel's advice and suggestion, Turner opted for
a bench trial before Judge Purpura. See ECF No. 11
at 16-17. Judge Purpura engaged Turner in the following
colloquy regarding waiver of his jury trial right:
[PROSECUTOR]: . . . Your honor, calling State versus Ronnie
Turner K-11-5168. This case originated in front of Judge
Ballou-Watts. The Defendant elected a jury trial in front of
her honor and it's now made it's [sic] way to your
[COURT]: Okay. And my understanding now is the election is
changing and that it's, it's gonna be an election for
a Court Trial. Is that correct, [defense counsel]?
[DEFENSE COUNSEL]: That is correct your honor.
[COURT]: Would you advise your client?
[DEFENSE COUNSEL]: Be happy to. If your honor please, Lee
Jacobson on behalf of Mr. Ronnie Turner who's standing to
my left. Mr. Turner when we were last before Judge
Ballou-Watts, we indicated that this case would be tried in
front of a jury. And I advised you at that time that you had
an election to make as to whether a Court or Jury Trial would
be prayed. The jury trial is in front of twelve persons whom
you would help to select from the motor and voter roles [sic]
of Baltimore County, who after listening to all the evidence
presented by the State and any evidence presented by the
Defense would all have to agree, beyond a reasonable doubt in
order to convict you or find you not guilty. If one person of
that jury panel could not make - - reach a decision or
decided adverse to the other eleven, that would be a hung
jury and the State would make a decision whether to retry the
case. You understand that?
MR. TURNER: Yes.
[DEFENSE COUNSEL]: Conversely, a Court Trial, a Judge alone
using the same standard of beyond a reasonable doubt would
make a decision after hearing all the evidence presented by
the State and the Defense. We initially told Judge Watts -
-Ballou-Watts, that we intended to have this case tried in
front of a jury. We've indicated to Judge Purpura that
that election has changed. Is that correct?
MR. TURNER: That's correct.
[DEFENSE COUNSEL]: Is it your decision now to have the case
tried in front of jury or Judge Purpura?
MR. TURNER: Judge Purpura.
[COURT]: All right. Thank you. The jury trial has been waived
and it will be a Court Trial and I'll enter a plea of not
guilty on his behalf to all charges.
[DEFENSE COUNSEL]: Thank you your honor.
ECF No. 10-2 at 2-3.
four days of trial, Judge Purpura found Turner guilty of the
offenses with which he had been charged. On November 13,
2012, Turner was sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment. ECF
No. 1-1 at 3-9.
appealed his conviction to the Court of Special Appeals of
Maryland, arguing that under Maryland Rule 4-246(b) and in
light of a recent Maryland Court of Appeals Case, Valonis
v. State, 431 Md. 551 (2013), the trial court erred by
not announcing on the record that Turner's waiver of his
jury trial right was knowing and voluntary. The Court of
Special Appeals, relying on Valonis, reversed
Turner's conviction, finding that the trial court's
failure to announce specifically whether it found
Turner's waiver was knowing and voluntary had violated
Maryland Rule 4-246(b) and required a new trial. See
ECF No. 1-1 at 3, 6-7. The State sought certiorari to the
Maryland Court of Appeals, arguing that Valonis did
not relieve a criminal defendant from objecting
contemporaneously at the waiver hearing to preserve for
appellate review any deficiencies in the Rule 4-246(b)
colloquy. See ECF No. 10-6 at 2, 6-8. The State
further argued that, in the event the issue was preserved
despite Turner's counsel's failure to object, the
proper remedy was a limited remand on the issue of waiver,
rather than a new trial. See ECF No. 10-6 at 2,
8-11. The Court of Appeals granted the State's petition
and remanded Turner's case for further consideration in
light of the post-Valonis cases, Nalls &
Melvin v. State, 437 Md. 674 (2014), Szwed v.
State, 438 Md. 1 (2014), and Morgan v. State,
438 Md. 11 (2014). These cases together clarified that a
defendant was required to object contemporaneously to the
trial court's failure to make an on-the-record finding
that waiver of his jury trial right was knowing and
voluntary. See ECF No. 10-8 at 4; ECF No. 10-11 at
3; see also infra Section I.B.
remand, Turner argued that the trial court committed
reversible error by failing to ask Turner whether his jury
trial waiver was voluntary, and argued that this issue was
preserved for review despite the lack of contemporaneous
objection. See ECF No. 10-9. The State, once again,
contended that no record evidence suggested Turner's
waiver was not knowing and voluntary and that, in
any event, the issue was not preserved. See ECF No.
10-10. On October 14, 2014, in an unreported opinion, the
Court of Special Appeals affirmed Turner's convictions,
specifically holding that in light of the Court of
Appeals' post-Valonis cases, Turner's
failure to object contemporaneously at the time of the
colloquy rendered the issue “not preserved for review.
Consequently, the issue of the trial court's adherence to
Rule 4-246(b) in this case is not properly before the
Court.” See ECF No. 10-11 at 3, 5-8. The Court
of Special Appeals affirmed Turner's conviction and
declined to address whether the change in election
“triggers an in-depth examination by the court.”
ECF No. 10-11 at 7-8. Turner did not seek further review of
this decision on direct appeal.
February 2, 2015, Turner filed a petition for post-conviction
relief in the Circuit Court for Baltimore County. ECF No.
10-1 at 12. In this petition, Turner argued that his trial
counsel was ineffective for not objecting contemporaneously
to the trial court's failure to make explicit findings
that Turner's jury trial waiver was knowing and
voluntary, as Rule 4-246(b) requires. Turner also argued that
counsel coerced Turner into waiving his right to a jury trial
and failed to communicate with Turner or prepare for trial.
See ECF No. 4 at 2; ECF No. 10-12. After a hearing,
the court denied Turner's petition, finding that counsel
was not ineffective. ECF No. 10-12 at 8. Turner sought leave
to appeal solely the court's determination related to