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State v. Brown

Court of Appeals of Maryland

June 24, 2019

STATE OF MARYLAND
v.
ANDREW BROWN

          Argued: April 9, 2019

          Circuit Court for Baltimore City Case No. 117039006

          Barbera, C.J., Greene, McDonald, Watts, Hotten, Getty . Harrell, Jr., Glenn T. (Senior Judge, Specially Assigned), JJ.

          OPINION

          Watts, J.

         In the words of journalist Doug Larson: "To err is human; to admit it, superhuman."[1]

         On occasion, in a criminal case, a trial court may make a mistake when announcing a sentence; in other words, the trial court might announce a sentence that differs from the one that the trial court intended to impose. Maryland Rule 4-345(c) contemplates such a circumstance, stating: "The court may correct an evident mistake in the announcement of a sentence if the correction is made on the record before the defendant leaves the courtroom following the sentencing proceeding."

         This is the first case in which this Court has been called upon to interpret Maryland Rule 4-345(c). Specifically, we are asked to determine what constitutes "an evident mistake in the announcement of a sentence" under Maryland Rule 4-345(c). We are also asked to ascertain the circumstances under which an appellate court may determine that a trial court has corrected such a mistake under Maryland Rule 4-345(c).

         In the Circuit Court for Baltimore City, the State, Petitioner, charged Andrew Brown, Respondent, with several crimes that arose out of the attempted armed robberies and nonfatal shooting of William Rich and Demaris Glover. A jury found Brown guilty of, among other crimes, attempted robbery with a dangerous weapon as to Rich and Glover, conspiracy to rob with a dangerous weapon as to Rich and Glover, and use of a handgun in the commission of a crime of violence.

         At a sentencing proceeding, the circuit court imposed three concurrent sentences of twenty years of imprisonment, with all but ten years suspended, followed by two years of supervised probation, for attempted robbery of Rich with a dangerous weapon, [2] conspiracy to rob Rich with a dangerous weapon, and attempted robbery of Glover with a dangerous weapon. In the same proceeding, the circuit court announced Brown's sentences as to conspiracy to rob Glover with a dangerous weapon and use of a handgun in the commission of a crime of violence as follows:

Count 10, conspiracy to rob with a dangerous weapon as to [] Glover, the sentence of the Court is 20 years, suspend all but time served, place him on two years supervised probation. . . . Count 19, use of a handgun in the commission of a felony or crime of violence, 10 years to the [Division] of Correction[], first five without parole, will run consecutive to Count 10.

(Emphasis added). After the circuit court announced Brown's sentences, Brown asked: "Count 19, that's to be run consecutive?" The circuit court responded:

Right. So what happens is, basically you got a 20 year sentence, suspend all but 10 and then the handgun, use of a handgun in a crime of violence runs consecutive so once you finish the -- and you got to do at least five years without parole on that[.]

(Emphasis added). Shortly afterward, Brown's counsel stated: "So you have 20 years to serve; right?" The circuit court responded: "20 years suspend all but 10. Well, 20, yeah, altogether[.]" The commitment record, probation order, and docket entries indicate that the circuit court sentenced Brown to twenty years of imprisonment, with all but ten years suspended, followed by two years of supervised probation, for conspiracy to rob Glover with a dangerous weapon (Count 10).

         Brown appealed, and the Court of Special Appeals affirmed his convictions, but remanded with instructions to amend the commitment record, probation order, and docket entries to reflect that the circuit court sentenced Brown to twenty years of imprisonment, with all but time served suspended, followed by two years of supervised probation, for conspiracy to rob Glover with a dangerous weapon. See Andrew Brown v. State, No. 1581, Sept. Term, 2017, 2018 WL 5250003, at *16, *15 (Md. Ct. Spec. App. Oct. 22, 2018). The State filed a petition for a writ of certiorari, which this Court granted. See State v. Brown, 462 Md. 555, 201 A.3d 1228 (2019).

         The State contends that the Court of Special Appeals erred in determining that the circuit court sentenced Brown to twenty years of imprisonment, with all but time served suspended, for conspiracy to rob Glover with a dangerous weapon. The State argues that the circuit court's use of the term "time served" was, under Maryland Rule 4-345(c), "an evident mistake in the announcement of" Brown's sentence for conspiracy to rob Glover with a dangerous weapon. The State asserts that the circuit court intended to say "ten years" instead of "time served." The State maintains that, under Maryland Rule 4-345(c), the circuit court corrected the evident mistake by later making informal statements that were seemingly inconsistent with the circuit court having sentenced Brown to twenty years of imprisonment, with all but time served suspended, for conspiracy to rob Glover with a dangerous weapon. Brown responds that the circuit court did not make an evident mistake in the announcement of that sentence, and that, to correct an evident mistake in the announcement of a sentence under Maryland Rule 4-345(c), a trial court must do so expressly-and the circuit court did not.

         We conclude that, for a "mistake in the announcement of a sentence" to be "evident" under Maryland Rule 4-345(c), the mistake must be clear or obvious. Where a trial court has imposed a sentence that is merely unusual or anomalous compared to other sentences that the trial court imposed during the same sentencing proceeding, that circumstance alone does not establish that the trial court made an evident mistake in the announcement of a sentence under Maryland Rule 4-345(c). An appellate court may determine a trial court to have corrected an evident mistake in the announcement of a sentence under Maryland Rule 4-345(c) where the trial court acknowledges that it made a mistake in the announcement of a sentence, and indicates that it is correcting that mistake. Where a trial court merely discusses a sentence in a manner that could be construed as inconsistent with the announcement of the sentence, that discussion alone does not constitute a correction of an evident mistake in the announcement of a sentence under Maryland Rule 4-345(c).

         Applying our holdings to this case's facts, we conclude that, under Maryland Rule 4-345(c), the circuit court did not make an evident mistake in the announcement of Brown's sentence for conspiracy to rob Glover with a dangerous weapon. Brown's sentence for conspiracy to rob Glover with a dangerous weapon was unusual or anomalous, as it appears to be inconsistent with Brown's sentences for attempted robbery of Rich with a dangerous weapon, conspiracy to rob Rich with a dangerous weapon, and attempted robbery of Glover with a dangerous weapon. The record of the sentencing proceeding, however, falls far short of demonstrating that the circuit court made an evident-i.e., clear or obvious- mistake in the announcement of Brown's sentence for conspiracy to rob Glover with a dangerous weapon, or that the circuit court intended to suspend all but ten years, as opposed to time served, as to conspiracy to rob Glover with a dangerous weapon. In addition to the record not demonstrating that the circuit court made an evident mistake in the announcement of Brown's sentence for conspiracy to rob Glover with a dangerous weapon, the record does not demonstrate that the circuit court corrected a mistake under Maryland Rule 4-345(c). At no point did the circuit court acknowledge that it had made a mistake in the announcement of Brown's sentence for conspiracy to rob Glover with a dangerous weapon, or indicate that it was correcting such a mistake.

         BACKGROUND

         Glover's Trial Testimony

         Although this case's facts are not dispositive of the issues that are before this Court, we set forth the following summary.

         At trial, as a witness for the State, Glover testified that, on January 18, 2017, at approximately 10 or 11 p.m., he went to Horseshoe Casino in Baltimore City. Glover gambled for approximately an hour, after which Rich, [3] a friend of his, met with him. Glover and Rich gambled for a few hours. At approximately 3 or 4 a.m., Glover and Rich went to a bar in the casino. There, two women, whom Glover did not recognize, approached him and Rich. The four of them talked to each other, and initially agreed to go to Glover's residence. But, after the four of them left the casino and went to a nearby gas station, they agreed to go to the women's residence instead.

         The four of them went to a house on Sterrett Street and went inside. Eventually, there was a knock on the front door, and one of the women opened it. Brown and another man entered the house. Brown was holding a handgun, and said: "You know what it is.[4]Give it up." Brown fired in Glover's direction, and the bullet grazed the top of his head and struck Rich in his leg or back. Glover hit Brown's arm, and Brown dropped the handgun. Glover and Brown struggled for the handgun. Glover got ahold of the handgun and ran out of the house. Once outside, Glover fell and dropped the handgun. Brown ran out of the house, and he and Glover struggled for the handgun again. Glover repeatedly struck Brown with the handgun, which fell apart. Glover ran to a friend's house on Wyeth Street. Eventually, an ambulance transported Glover to University of Maryland Medical Center, where he was treated for the bullet wound in his head.

         Guilty Verdicts and Sentencing Proceeding

         The jury found Brown guilty of attempted robbery with a dangerous weapon as to Rich and Glover (Counts 7 and 8, respectively), conspiracy to rob with a dangerous weapon as to Rich and Glover (Counts 9 and 10, respectively), use of a handgun in the commission of a crime of violence (Count 19), wearing, carrying, or transporting a handgun (Count 20), second-degree assault as to Glover (Count 22), conspiracy to commit second-degree assault as to Rich and Glover (Counts 23 and 24, respectively), and reckless endangerment as to Rich and Glover (Counts 25 and 26, respectively).[5]

         At a sentencing proceeding, the circuit court announced Brown's sentences as follows:

Count 7, attempted robbery with a dangerous weapon as to [] Rich, the sentence of the Court is 20 years to the [Division] of Correction[]. I'm going to suspend all but 10 years, place the defendant on supervised probation upon his release. As to Count 25, reckless endangerment as to [] Rich, the sentence of the Court is five years to the [Division] of Correction[], that will run concurrent to Count 7. As to Count 9, conspiracy to rob with a dangerous weapon as to [] Rich, the sentence of the Court is 20 years to the [Division] of Correction[]. I'm going to suspend all but 10 years and place him on two years supervised probation to run concurrent with Count 25. As to Count 17, conspiracy to assault in the second degree of [] Rich, [6] that count will merge with Count 9. As to Count 8, attempted robbery with a dangerous weapon as to [] Glover, the sentence of the Court is 20 years to the [Division] of Correction[], suspend all but 10 years and place the defendant on two years supervised probation, that will run concurrent with Count 9. As to Count 22, assault in the second degree as to [] Glover, that will merge with Count 8. As to Count 26, reckless endangerment of [] Glover, five years to the [Division] of Correction and will run concurrent to Count 8. Count 10, conspiracy to rob with a dangerous weapon as to [] Glover, the sentence of the Court is 20 years, suspend all but time served, place him on two years supervised probation to run concurrent to Count 26. Count 24, conspiracy to assault in the second degree of [] Glover will merge with Count 10. Count 19, use of a handgun in the commission of a felony or crime of violence, 10 years to the [Division] of Correction[], first five without parole, will run consecutive to Count 10. Count 20, carrying a handgun openly or concealed about his person will merge with Count 19.

(Emphasis added).

         For clarity, we set forth the following table, which lists all of Brown's sentences as the circuit court announced them, and omits the convictions that the circuit court merged for sentencing purposes:

Crime:

Sentence:

Attempted Robbery of Rich with Dangerous Weapon (Count 7)

20 years of imprisonment, with all but 10 years suspended, followed by 2 years of supervised probation

Reckless Endangerment of Rich (Count 25)

5 years of imprisonment, concurrent with sentence as to Count 7

Conspiracy to Rob Rich with Dangerous Weapon (Count 9)

20 years of imprisonment, with all but 10 years suspended, followed by 2 years of supervised probation, concurrent with sentence as to Count 25

Attempted Robbery of Glover with Dangerous Weapon (Count 8)

20 years of imprisonment, with all but 10 years suspended, followed by 2 years of supervised probation, concurrent with sentence as to Count 9

Reckless Endangerment of Glover (Count 26)

5 years of imprisonment, concurrent with sentence as to Count 8

Conspiracy to Rob Glover with Dangerous Weapon (Count 10)

20 years of imprisonment, with all but time served suspended, followed by 2 years of supervised probation, concurrent with sentence as to Count 26

Use of Handgun in Commission of Crime of Violence (Count 19)

10 years of imprisonment, first 5 of which to be served without parole, consecutive to sentence as to Count 10

         After the circuit court announced Brown's sentences, his counsel advised him of the right to appeal, to move for reconsideration or modification of his sentences, and to apply for a review of his sentences. Immediately afterward, the following exchange occurred:

THE COURT: Do you understand your sentence, sir?
[] BROWN: Yes, ma'am, so --
THE COURT: Okay.
[] BROWN: -- I mean, I do have one question.
THE COURT: Sure.
[] BROWN: Count 19, that's to be run consecutive?
THE COURT: Right. So what happens is, basically you got a 20 year sentence, suspend all but 10 and then the handgun, use of a handgun in a crime of violence runs consecutive so once you finish the -- and you got to do at least five years without parole on that which, you know, they calculate that down for you, I'm not going to tell you it's not five years, it used to be three and a half, I'm not going to even start that with you because they'll calculate all of this out for you. Okay?
[] BROWN: Okay.
THE COURT: So and then you will be on probation to me for two years once ...

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