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Aleman v. State

Court of Special Appeals of Maryland

September 25, 2019


          Argued: May 13, 2019

          Circuit Court for Baltimore County Case Nos. 03-C-18-006040 & 03-K-16-006061.

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


          Gould, J.

         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 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 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 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 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 (2010) (citing Stone v. State, 344 Md. 97, 108 (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 (1990) (citing Carchman v. Nash, 473 U.S. 716, 730 (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 denial of possibility 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. 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 the Interstate Agreement on Detainers on Subject Matter Jurisdiction, 54 Fordham L. Rev. 1209, 1218 n.46 (1986) ("The IAD is a limitation on the receiving state.").

         The IAD is triggered by the filing of a detainer. Once filed, the incarcerating state (the "sending state") must notify the prisoner that the detainer has been filed and advise him of his right to a speedy disposition of the underlying charges in the state that filed the detainer (the "receiving state"). See, e.g., Md. Code Ann., Corr. Servs. ("CS") § 8-405(c) (1999, 2017 Repl. Vol.).

         The IAD has two mechanisms by which the prisoner may be transferred to the receiving state. First, Article III (codified in Maryland as CS § 8-405) gives the prisoner the right to demand a speedy disposition of the pending charges. Pair, 416 Md. at 162 (citing Carchman, 473 U.S. at 718-19). If the receiving state does not bring the prisoner to trial within 180 days of his request, the IAD requires the receiving state to dismiss the charges with prejudice. See CS § 8-405(a).

         Second, Article IV (CS § 8-406) permits the receiving state to request the transfer of the prisoner to stand trial. Pair, 416 Md. at 162 (citing Reed v. Farley, 512 U.S. 339, 341 (1994)). Under this provision, the receiving state must start the trial within 120 days of the prisoner's arrival in the receiving state or risk dismissal of the charges. See CS § 8-406(c).

         Under either mechanism, the IAD enables the orderly transfer from the sending state to the receiving state. The receiving state obtains only temporary custody of the prisoner for the limited purpose of prosecuting the outstanding charges; for all other purposes, the sending state retains custody over the prisoner. CS § 8-406(d), (g). The receiving state, therefore, must return the prisoner to the sending state promptly after the trial. CS § 8-406(e).



         Mr. Aleman contends that CP § 3-112-which requires Maryland to commit to the Department of Health any defendant deemed not criminally responsible-prevents Maryland from sending him back to Ohio to serve his sentence there. This statute states, in relevant part:

Except as provided in subsection (f) of this section, after a verdict of not criminally responsible, the court shall order the defendant committed to the facility that the Health Department designates for institutional inpatient care or treatment.

CP § 3-112(b).

         Pointing to the use of the word "shall" in CP § 3-112, Mr. Aleman argues that Maryland's obligation to commit him to the custody of the Department of Health is not a matter of discretion, and therefore overrides the IAD's requirement that he be returned to Ohio.[6] Mr. Aleman further argues that the IAD no longer applies to him, because it was rendered inapplicable by Article VI of the IAD (CS § 8-408), which states that the IAD does not apply to any defendant who is adjudged to be mentally ill. With the IAD out of the way, Mr. Aleman maintains that Maryland has no choice but to comply with CP § 3-112. In Mr. Aleman's analysis of the plain language in CS § 8-408(b), he sees no reason not to apply it to the jury's finding that he had been insane two years earlier when he had committed the underlying crime. And in any event, Mr. Aleman argues the jury's finding in this case creates an inference that he was mentally ill at the time of the verdict, thus falling within the present tense phrasing used in CS § 8-408(b).

         The State counters that Maryland had only temporary custody over Mr. Aleman to begin with, and that this custody ended once he entered his guilty plea. At that point, the IAD required Maryland to send Mr. Aleman back to Ohio under CS § 8-407(e). Any contrary finding would, according to the State, undermine the dual purposes of the IAD of expediting the resolution of untried charges and establishing procedures designed to promote cooperation among the participating states to facilitate the expeditious resolution of detainers. These purposes were fulfilled once Mr. Aleman pleaded guilty to the charges because, at that point, there were no remaining charges looming over Mr. Aleman's head. Accordingly, the State argues its obligation to return Mr. Aleman to Ohio ripened before the jury even came back with its finding of NCR.[7]

         As to whether CS § 8-408(b) applies, the State argues that it only applies when a prisoner is still physically located in the sending state, because it is at that point that objections to his transfer based on mental incompetence can be raised and resolved. In Mr. Aleman's case, the State contends, § 8-408(b) could have potentially prevented his transfer from Ohio to Maryland had he been deemed mentally ill at that time, but did not apply once he was transferred to Maryland.

         Finally, the State argues that Mr. Aleman waived any rights he might otherwise have had to remain in Maryland when he invoked his rights under the IAD to be transferred to Maryland to stand trial. For this proposition, the State relies on Mr. Aleman's written demand to be transferred, which he signed in the presence of two witnesses, that states his ...

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