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Aleman v. State

Court of Special Appeals of Maryland

September 25, 2019

Pablo Javier ALEMAN
STATE of Maryland

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          Circuit Court for Baltimore County, Case Nos. 03-C-18-006040 & 03-K-16-006061, Mickey J. Norman, Judge.

         Argued by Piedad Gomez (Paul B. DeWolfe, Public Defender, on the brief), Baltimore, MD, for Appellant.

         Argued by Benjamin A. Harris (Brian E. Frosh, Atty. Gen., on the brief), Baltimore, MD, for Appellee.

         Panel: Fader, C.J., Gould, Glenn T. Harrell, Jr. (Senior Judge, Specially Assigned), JJ.


         Gould, J.

         [242 Md.App. 634] Appellant Pablo Javier Aleman pleaded guilty to the second-degree murder of his former landlord, for which a Baltimore County jury found him not criminally responsible ("NCR"). Ordinarily, a finding of NCR would require the court to commit the defendant to the Maryland Department of Health ("Department of Health"), which in turn would admit him

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to an appropriate facility for the evaluation and treatment of any mental illnesses.

          This was no ordinary case. Mr. Aleman had been serving a prison sentence in Ohio when Maryland took temporary custody of him under the Interstate Agreement on Detainers ("IAD") for the limited purpose of trying him for the Maryland charges. Under the IAD, once the Maryland trial was over, Maryland’s temporary custody over Mr. Aleman ended and it was required to promptly return him to Ohio.

          Understandably, Mr. Aleman would prefer to be evaluated and, if necessary, treated for any mental disorders in Maryland [242 Md.App. 635] rather than be incarcerated in Ohio. To this end, he argues that the statutory obligation to commit him to the Department of Health supersedes any obligation Maryland may otherwise have under the IAD to return him to Ohio. In support of his argument, Mr. Aleman points to a provision of the IAD that specifies that none of its provisions or remedies shall apply to a prisoner who is adjudged to be mentally ill.

          This appeal emerges from the intersection of these seemingly conflicting statutes and requires us to consider what happens when a prisoner— who has invoked the benefit of a speedy trial in Maryland made possible by the IAD— is then adjudged to have been mentally ill at the time he committed the crime in that state. We find that here, the IAD still applies to Mr. Aleman notwithstanding the jury’s finding of NCR, and Maryland, having had only temporary custody of Mr. Aleman, must return him to Ohio as required by the IAD. Accordingly, we shall affirm the judgment of the circuit court.



          In early 2016, Mr. Aleman fatally stabbed his former landlord at the latter’s home in Baltimore County. He then fled Maryland. Two weeks later, in Ohio, Mr. Aleman had an altercation with the police during which he threatened an officer with a knife. The officer shot Mr. Aleman to disarm and apprehend him. Mr. Aleman was heard to say, "I don’t want to kill somebody else. [ ] I wanted the officer to kill me." An Ohio jury convicted Mr. Aleman of felonious assault, resulting in an eleven-year prison sentence.

         Maryland authorities notified Ohio of the charges still pending in Maryland by way of a "detainer." As a result, Mr. Aleman filed a request under the IAD to face trial for the murder charges pending against him in Maryland. In requesting disposition of the Maryland charges, Mr. Aleman signed an agreement stating that he "consent[s] to be ... returned" to Ohio after trial. Upon his return to Maryland, Mr. Aleman asserted a plea of NCR and then pleaded guilty to second [242 Md.App. 636] degree murder. From the results of an examination ordered by the circuit court pursuant to Md. Code Ann., Crim. Proc. ("CP") § 3-111(a) (2001, 2018 Repl. Vol.),[1] the circuit court determined that Mr. Aleman was competent to stand trial.

          Mr. Aleman’s plea of NCR was tried by a jury on May 31, 2018. The jury found that he was NCR at the time of the murder, and the court entered an order committing him to the Department of Health.

         Local officials refused to transport Mr. Aleman to the Department of Health

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facility, and instead "prepared to return him to Ohio" pursuant to the IAD. Mr. Aleman filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus to challenge his continued confinement in the local detention center, arguing that he should have been committed to the Department of Health instead. The court denied the habeas corpus petition and determined that Mr. Aleman should be sent back to Ohio.[2] The court stayed its prior order of commitment to the Department of Health but enjoined Maryland from returning him to Ohio pending this appeal.[3]


          Before addressing the parties’ specific arguments, and to place the parties’ contentions in their appropriate context, we first briefly address the history and framework of the IAD. The IAD is an interstate compact designed to facilitate the orderly disposition of detainers. A "detainer" is "a notification filed with the institution in which a prisoner is serving a sentence, advising that he is wanted to face pending criminal charges in another jurisdiction." State v. Pair, 416 Md. 157, 161 n.2, 5 A.3d 1090 (2010) (citing Stone v. State, 344 Md. 97, 108, 685 A.2d 441 (1996)). Prior to the IAD, unresolved detainers were known to complicate the prisoner’s ability to fully participate in the rehabilitative, educational, and vocational services and programs offered by the incarcerating institution. State v. Jefferson, 319 Md. 674, 679-80, 574 A.2d 918 (1990) (citing Carchman v. Nash, 473 U.S. 716, 730, 105 S.Ct. 3401, 87 L.Ed.2d 516 (1985)). Such problems were described by the Court of Appeals in Jefferson :

[T]he inmate is (1) deprived of an opportunity to obtain a sentence to run concurrently with the sentence being served at the time the detainer is filed; (2) classified as a maximum or close custody risk; (3) ineligible for initial assignments to less than maximum security prisons (i.e., honor farms or forestry camp work); (4) ineligible for trustee status; (5) not allowed to live in preferred living quarters such as dormitories; (6) ineligible for study-release programs or work-release programs; (7) ineligible to be transferred to preferred medium or minimum custody institutions within the correctional system, which includes the removal of any possibility of transfer to an institution more appropriate for youthful offenders; (8) not entitled to preferred prison jobs which carry higher wages and entitle [him] to additional good time credits against [his] sentence; (9) inhibited by the [242 Md.App. 638] denial of possibility

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of parole or any commutation of his sentence; (10) caused anxiety and thus hindered in the overall rehabilitation process since he cannot take maximum advantage of his institutional opportunities.


         In 1956, the Council of State Governments drafted what would become the IAD to address such problems. Pair, 416 Md. at 160, 5 A.3d 1090. The IAD took the form of a congressionally-sanctioned compact between its member states.[4]Id. Maryland adopted the IAD in 1965, and it has been adopted by forty-eight states, the Federal Government, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia. Id. Under the IAD, the states agreed to limit their authority over certain prisoners in exchange for the right to quickly dispose of untried indictments of defendants serving time in other states. See Thomas R. Clark, The Effect of Violations of ...

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