Monday, August 17, 2015
In today's Addendum Episode of the Undisclosed Podcast, I will talk a bit about Adnan's motion/petition to reopen his postconviction proceeding. In doing some research about motions/petitions to reopen, I came across an interesting case dealing with an issue that I thought would be clear but apparently wasn't: Can the State file a motion/petition to reopen after a ruling in favor of the defendant?
The case in question is Alston v. State, 40 A.3d 1028 (Md. 2012). In Alston, Curtis Alston was convicted of first degree murder and related offenses; he was sentenced to life in prison without parole for first degree murder and lesser terms for the other offenses. Thereafter, Alston filed a successful petition for postconviction relief. Alston was given relief because he
had not been presented to a District Court Commissioner for about 48 hours from the time of his arrest, that he was held for 23 hours before he gave the police incriminating statements, and that counsel failed to argue that this delay in presenting Alston to a Commissioner, and this violation of the prompt presentment rule should be given "very heavy weight" in the court's determination of whether the incriminating statements were voluntary.
Thereafter, the State filed a "Motion to Reconsider Court's Order and Opinion Granting Post Conviction Relief." In response, the Circuit Court denied Alston relief, treating the State's motion as a motion to reopen the postconviction proceeding under Section 7-104 of the Maryland Code of Criminal Procedure, which states that
The court may reopen a postconviction proceeding that was previously concluded if the court determines that the action is in the interests of justice.
Alston then appealed, claiming that only a defendant and not the State can file a motion/petition to reopen under Section 7-104. The Court of Appeals of Maryland agreed with Alston, concluding that "[w]hen a final judgment in a postconviction case is adverse to the State, the only remedy granted to the State in the Postconviction Procedure Act is to 'apply to the Court of Special Appeals for leave to appeal the order.' See § 7–109(a)."
According to the court,
Although § 7-104 itself does not contain language specifying who may file an application to reopen a previously concluded postconviction proceeding, the statute as a whole and the legislative history of § 7-104 make it clear that only a “convicted person” may bring either a postconviction proceeding or a petition to reopen a postconviction proceeding.*
As such, the Court of Appeals remanded the case so that relief could again be given to Alston.
*As in Alston, Maryland courts in other cases tend to use the phrases "motion to reopen" and "petition to reopen" interchangeably, sometimes in the same case. See, e.g., Hawes v. State
(discussing "two petitions to reopen the postconviction proceeding" followed by "a third motionto reopen his postconviction case"); Gray v. State (referring to the defendant's filing as "a petition to reopen the postconviction proceeding" but alternately referring to filings in other cases as "petitions" and "motions").