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Brount v. The Attorney General of State of Maryland

United States District Court, D. Maryland

November 5, 2019

RONALD BROUNT, #1166464 a/k/a RONALD BRUNT Petitioner
v.
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE STATE OF MARYLAND Respondent

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          PAUL W. GRIMM UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         In this Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 92254, Ronald Brount challenges his state convictions for first degree rape, first degree sexual offense (two counts) and burglary. ECF No. 1.[1] Respondent filed an Answer seeking dismissal of the Petition on the grounds of untimelines[2] and procedural default. ECF No. 9. Brount filed a Reply. ECF No. 11. Brount subsequently filed a "Motion to Correct" to add additional exhibits to address the timeliness of the Petition, [3] which will be granted. ECF No. 15. Having reviewed the submitted materials, the Court finds that no hearing is necessary. See Local R. 105.6 (D. Md. 2018); Rule 8, Rules Governing Section 2254 Proceedings in the United States District Courts; see Fisher v. Lee, 215 F.3d 438, 455 (4th Cir. 2000). For the reasons set forth below, the Petition will be denied and dismissed. A certificate of appealability shall not issue

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Summary of Facts

         In 2012, after authorities discovered a DNA match, Brount was arrested for a rape that occurred in Silver Spring, Maryland in 1981. Before trial, Brount appeared before the Circuit Court for Montgomery County, Maryland on three occasions requesting to both represent himself at trial and have counsel appointed to assist him.

         On January 20, 2012, Brount appeared in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County, Maryland where he was advised of the charges against him and his right to counsel. ECF No. 9-7; see also ECF No. 1-2 at 2. Addressing an assistant public defender who was present at the hearing, but was not assigned to represent Brount, the court sought to ensure that Brount would be interviewed to determine his eligibility for representation by the Public Defender's Office. ECF No. 9-7 at 4-5. Brount informed the court he wanted to represent himself with the assistance of counsel. Id. The court instructed that Brount could represent himself or could choose to have counsel and postponed the matter for Brount to speak with counsel from the Public Defender's Office. Id. at 6-7.

         On February 3, 2012, Brount appeared before the Circuit Court and informed the court, "Well, I still reiterate what I said earlier, that I invoke my right to self-representation and my right under the Sixth Amendment to have counsel to assist me in my defense." ECF No. 9-8 at 6. The court explained to him that you "cannot have both a Public Defender and represent yourself. You have to pick one or the other." Id. at 7. Brount elected to be represented by the Office of the Public Defender. Id.

         On March 23, 2012, Brount, now represented by an assistant public defender, made a third appearance before the Circuit Court. ECF No. 9-9 at 4. Brount explained he wanted to represent himself and for the court to appoint a different attorney to assist him. To this end, he file4 a pro se Motion for Substitution of Counsel which the court denied as meritle's. Id. at 10-11, 16; ECF No. 9-2 at 11. The court again informed Brount that he did not have the option of representing himself with the assistance of appointed counsel; rather, Brount could proceed with representation from the Public Defender's Office, retain another attorney at his own expense, or represent himself. ECF No. 9-9 at 7-8, 11, 13, 15-17. After further inquiry from the court, Brount declined to represent himself without the appointment of counsel to assist him with his self-representation. Id.

         Brount was represented by counsel from the Public Defender's Office at trial. On April 26, 2012, after a three-day trial, a jury returned a verdict finding Brount guilty of all charges. On June 6, 2012, the Court sentenced Brount to twenty years of imprisonment for burglary, and three concurrent life sentences, one for each sex offense conviction. ECF No.9 at 1-2; ECF No. 1-2.

         Procedural History

         Brount, by his counsel, raised the following claims on direct appeal: (1) was the evidence legally sufficient to support first degree sexual offense; (2) did the trial court err in denying his request for hybrid representation; (3) did the trial court err in admitting video testimony in violation of his right to confront a witness; (4) did the trial court err by allowing the State to present evidence that the DNA analysis produced a "sperm fraction" and a "non-sperm fraction" where there was no evidence confirming the presence of sperm in the sample. ECF Nos. 9-3; 9-4; ECF 1-1. The Court of Special Appeals of Maryland affirmed Brount's judgment of conviction in an unpublished opinion entered on October 14, 2014. Brount v. State of Maryland, 109 A.3d 665 (Table) (February 23, 2015); see also ECF No. 9-5.[4]

         On February 23, 2015, the Court of Appeals of Maryland denied Brount's request for further review. Brount v. State of Maryland, Petition Docket No. 537 (Sept. Term, 2014); see also ECF No. 9-6 at 32.

         On March 7, 2016, Brount filed a Petition for Post Conviction Relief in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County. ECF No 1 at 3; ECF No. 1-2. He presented three claims of error: (1) he was denied his constitutional right to conduct his own defense; (2) he was denied his constitutional right to the effective assistance of counsel in connection with his efforts to exercise his right to self-representation; and (3) he was denied his constitutional right to effective assistance of appellate counsel for failure to argue that Brount was denied his right to conduct his own defense at trial. ECF No. 1-1; ECF No. 1-2.

         On August 26, 2016, the Circuit Court held a hearing on the Petition and on October 11, 2016, found that Brount had waived his right to self-representation and that neither trial nor appellate counsel rendered ineffective assistance. ECF 1-2 at ...


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