- The Maryland Court of Appeals declared, "The suppression or withholding by the State of material evidence exculpatory to an accused is a violation of due process" without citing the United States Constitution or the Maryland Constitution which also has a due process clause.[fn1] We therefore cannot be sure which Constitution was invoked by the court below and thus whether the State, the only party aggrieved by this portion of the judgment, could even bring the issue here if it desired to do so. See New York City v. Central Savings Bank, 306 U.S. 661 ; Minnesota v. National Tea Co., 309 U.S. 551 . But in any event, there is no cross-petition by the State, nor has it challenged the correctness of the ruling below that a new trial on punishment was called for by the requirements of due process. In my view, therefore, the Court should not reach the due process question which it decides. It certainly is not the case, as it may be suggested, that without it we would have only a state law question, for assuming the court below was correct in finding a violation of petitioner's rights in the suppression of evidence, the federal question he wants decided here still remains, namely, whether denying him a new trial on guilt as well as punishment deprives him of equal protection. There is thus a federal question to deal with in this Court, cf. Bell v. Hood, 327 U.S. 678 , [373 U.S. 83, 92] wholly aside from the due process question involving the suppression of evidence. The majority opinion makes this unmistakably clear. Before dealing with the due process issue it says, "The question presented is whether petitioner was denied a federal right when the Court of Appeals restricted the new trial to the question of punishment." After discussing at some length and disposing of the suppression matter in federal constitutional terms it says the question still to be decided is the same as it was before: "The question remains whether petitioner was denied a constitutional right when the Court of Appeals restricted his new trial to the question of punishment."
The result, of course, is that the due process discussion by the Court is wholly advisory.
- In any event the Court's due process advice goes substantially beyond the holding below. I would employ more confining language and would not cast in constitutional form a broad rule of criminal discovery. Instead, I would leave this task, at least for now, to the rulemaking or legislative process after full consideration by legislators, bench, and bar.
- I concur in the Court's disposition of petitioner's equal protection argument.
- Md. Const., Art. 23; Home Utilities Co., Inc., v. Revere Copper & Brass, Inc., 209 Md. 610, 122 A. 2d 109; Raymond v. State, 192 Md. 602, 65 A. 2d 285; County Comm'rs of Anne Arundel County v. English, 182 Md. 514, 35 A. 2d 135; Oursler v. Tawes, 178 Md. 471, 13 A. 2d 763.
MR. JUSTICE HARLAN, whom MR. JUSTICE BLACK joins, dissenting.
I think this case presents only a single federal question: did the order of the Maryland Court of Appeals granting a new trial, limited to the issue of punishment, violate petitioner's Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection?[fn1] In my opinion an affirmative answer would [373 U.S. 83, 93] be required if the Boblit statement would have been admissible on the issue of guilt at petitioner's original trial. This indeed seems to be the clear implication of this Court's opinion.
The Court, however, holds that the Fourteenth Amendment was not infringed because it considers the Court of Appeals' opinion, and the other Maryland cases dealing with Maryland's constitutional provision making juries in criminal cases "the Judges of Law, as well as of fact," as establishing that the Boblit statement would not have been admissible at the original trial on the issue of petitioner's guilt.
But I cannot read the Court of Appeals' opinion with any such assurance. That opinion can as easily, and perhaps more easily, be read as indicating that the new trial limitation followed from the Court of Appeals' concept of its power, under 645G of the Maryland Post Conviction Procedure Act, Md. Code, Art. 27 (1960 Cum. Supp.) and Rule 870 of the Maryland Rules of Procedure, to fashion appropriate relief meeting the peculiar circumstances of this case,[fn2] rather than from the view that the Boblit statement would have been relevant at the original trial only on the issue of punishment. 226 Md., at 430, 174 A. 2d, at 171. This interpretation is indeed fortified by the Court of Appeals' earlier general discussion as to the admissibility of third-party confessions, which falls short of saying anything that is dispositive [373 U.S. 83, 94] of the crucial issue here. 226 Md., at 427-429, 174 A. 2d, at 170.[fn3]
Nor do I find anything in any of the other Maryland cases cited by the Court (ante, p. 89) which bears on the admissibility vel non of the Boblit statement on the issue of guilt. None of these cases suggests anything more relevant here than that a jury may not "overrule" the trial court on questions relating to the admissibility of evidence. Indeed they are by no means clear as to what happens if the jury in fact undertakes to do so. In this very case, for example, the trial court charged that "in the final analysis the jury are the judges of both the law and the facts, and the verdict in this case is entirely the jury's responsibility." (Emphasis added.)
Moreover, uncertainty on this score is compounded by the State's acknowledgment at the oral argument here that the withheld Boblit statement would have been admissible at the trial on the issue of guilt.[fn4]
In this state of uncertainty as to the proper answer to the critical underlying issue of state law, and in view of the fact that the Court of Appeals did not in terms [373 U.S. 83, 95] address itself to the equal protection question, I do not see how we can properly resolve this case at this juncture. I think the appropriate course is to vacate the judgment of the State Court of Appeals and remand the case to that court for further consideration in light of the governing constitutional principle stated at the outset of this opinion. Cf. Minnesota v. National Tea Co., 309 U.S. 551.
- I agree with my Brother WHITE that there is no necessity for deciding in this case the broad due process questions with which the Court deals at pp. 86-88 of its opinion.
- Section 645G provides in part: "If the court finds in favor of the petitioner, it shall enter an appropriate order with respect to the judgment or sentence in the former proceedings, and any supplementary orders as to rearraignment, retrial, custody, bail, discharge, correction of sentence, or other matters that may be necessary and proper." Rule 870 provides that the Court of Appeals "will either affirm or reverse the judgment from which the appeal was taken, or direct the manner in which it shall be modified, changed or amended."
- It is noteworthy that the Court of Appeals did not indicate that it was limiting in any way the authority of Day v. State, 196 Md. 384, 76 A. 2d 729. In that case two defendants were jointly tried and convicted of felony murder. Each admitted participating in the felony but accused the other of the homicide. On appeal the defendants attacked the trial court's denial of a severance, and the State argued that neither defendant was harmed by the statements put in evidence at the joint trial because admission of the felony amounted to admission of guilt of felony murder. Nevertheless the Court of Appeals found an abuse of discretion and ordered separate new trials on all issues.
- In response to a question from the Bench as to whether Boblit's statement, had it been offered at petitioner's original trial, would have been admissible for all purposes, counsel for the State, after some colloquy, stated: "It would have been, yes." [373 U.S. 83, 96]