Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Turner v. Warden

United States District Court, D. Maryland

September 21, 2018

RONNIE TURNER, #884-206, Petitioner,
v.
WARDEN and THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE STATE OF MARYLAND, Respondents.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Paula Xinis United States District Judge

         Ronnie 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.

         I. Procedural Background

         Turner 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 honor.
[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.

         After 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.

         Turner 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.

         On 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.

         On 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 ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.