Maryland Court Upholds Sentence for Conspiracy and Murder Convictions

gavel-3-1236445A criminal arrest and prosecution are serious matters, whether the alleged crime is a felony or misdemeanor. After reviewing your case, an experienced criminal defense attorney would be able to assess the circumstances and the applicable law, and prepare a strong defense of the charges. It is also important to understand that a person who has already been convicted of a crime may also have an opportunity to challenge the conviction or the ultimate sentence. These options can achieve positive results for the “appellant.” For instance, in some matters, a sentence has been deemed “illegal” and thrown out by an appeals court. For these reasons, it is vitally important that you reach out to a local Maryland criminal defense attorney if you have been charged or convicted of a crime.

A court-imposed sentence typically corresponds directly to the crimes of which a defendant has been found guilty. In a recent Maryland criminal case, Octavius Savage was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder as well as second-degree murder. He was acquitted of first-degree murder charges. The court issued two sentences:  a term of life imprisonment for the conspiracy to commit murder conviction, and 30 years of incarceration for the second-degree murder conviction. Savage appealed, arguing that the court abused its discretion by imposing an illegal sentence as described above.

Under established Maryland law, legally inconsistent verdicts of guilt cannot stand. Therefore, in order to address the appellant’s argument, the court of appeals reviewed whether the conviction for conspiracy to commit murder is a legally inconsistent verdict with a conviction of second-degree murder, taking into account that the appellant had already been acquitted of first-degree murder. To answer this question, the court looked at the statutory penalties and legal elements for each crime:  first-degree murder, second-degree murder, and conspiracy.

First, the court determined that the two convictions in this case were not legally inconsistent, finding that they are separate crimes with separate elements. Specifically, the court noted that for the crime of conspiracy, the State is required to prove that two or more people agreed to accomplish some unlawful action. The key to a criminal conspiracy conviction is an unlawful agreement. For first-degree murder, the State must prove that a murder was deliberate, premeditated, and willful. Since these two crimes have different elements, the court concluded that they do not “merge.”

Significantly, the court pointed out, a criminal conspiracy is complete when the agreement to do the unlawful act is formed. It is deemed entirely distinct from the substantive crime. Additionally, under Maryland law, a person is not capable of conspiring to commit second-degree murder. Furthermore, in relying on applicable case law, the court concluded that the guilty verdicts for second-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder were not legally inconsistent in this case.

The court’s opinion aptly illustrates the complicated nature of seeking to appeal a criminal conviction and sentence, and how important it is to make sure that you know and understand your rights and the laws affecting your case. Here, the appellant was not represented by counsel. It is extremely important in a criminal case to seek the assistance of an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney. Anthony A. Fatemi has extensive experience handling criminal defense cases throughout Maryland.  Our office can work diligently to develop a strong strategy to defend your case. Contact us at 301-519-2801 or via our online form.

Related Blog Posts:

Maryland Court Reviews Allegations of an “Illegal Sentence” in Criminal Case

Maryland’s Highest Court Reviews Legality of Criminal Sentence Below a Binding Plea Agreement

Maryland’s Highest Court Decides Felony Murder Sentencing Issue

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