IN THE CIRCUIT COURT FOR PRINCE GEORGE’S COUNTY, MARYLAND
STATE OF MARYLAND *
v * CASE No: CT 95-1837A
DEMETRIEUS BROWN *
OPINION AND ORDER OF COURT
Before the Court is Defendant, Demetrieus Brown’s Motion for Reconsideration of Sentence in the above captioned case.
On August 19, 1996, following a trial presided over by this judge, a jury convicted Mr. Brown of:
Count 1: 2nd Degree Murder
Count 2: Use of a Handgun in the Commission of a Crime of Violence
Count 4: Attempted 2nd Degree Murder
Count 5: Battery
Count 6: Use of a Handgun in the Commission of a Crime of Violence
Demetrieus Brown was a 23-year-old adult on September 10, 1995 when he, in the company of others, committed the crimes of which he was convicted.
The Defendant was 24 years old when he was convicted by a jury of committing these crimes about 1 year later, on August 19, 1996.
Mr. Brown was still 24 years old, some two months later when he was sentenced on October 18, 1996 as follows:
Count 1: 30 years
Count 2: 20 years consecutive to Count 1, 5 years without the possibility of parole
Count 4: 30 years consecutive to Counts 1 and 2
Count 5: Merged into Count 4
Count 6: 20 years consecutive to Counts 1, 2 and 4; 5 years without the possibility of parole.
On November 12, 1996, Defendant, through his counsel, then Harry J. Trainor, Esquire, timely filed a Motion for Reconsideration of Sentence. This trial judge, at that time, determined to hold the Motion under advisement. Subsequently, three years later, on September 2, 1999, a Hearing was requested. Again, this judge declined to consider even setting a Hearing date at that time.
Yet another request for a Hearing was filed on July 1, 2003, some four years later which again, this judge declined to grant. Some two weeks later, the then pending initial Motion for Reconsideration of Sentence was denied on July 15, 2003.
In January 2007, this judge “retired” as a full-time Circuit Court Judge. Contemporaneous to that decision, I was authorized to be recalled and have since that date, in fact, been recalled to sit as a “Senior Judge” in this Court and others in the state of Maryland. In the meantime, I was replaced as a full-time Circuit Court Judge on the Circuit Court for Prince George’s County by the Honorable Michael Chapdelaine, who, a few years later also “retired” having reached the age of 70, when subject to the will of the General Assembly of Maryland and the people of our state, judges are required by law to “retire.” In turn, Judge Chapdelaine was replaced by the Honorable John Paul Davey who, by currently occupying the seat on the Court previously occupied by me, is routinely assigned to cases previously assigned to me which later require further actions or dispositions.
After my “retirement”, Mr. Brown continued to seek relief from his convictions and sentences. On May 7, 2009 a Petition for Post-Conviction Relief was filed. A Hearing was held on that Petition on July 15, 2009 at which time as the end of the Hearing, the Petition was denied by Judge Michael Pearson. The written Order memorializing that disposition was issued on September 30, 2009, some 13 years after the Defendant’s convictions and sentencing. Mr. Brown’s pro se appeal of that Order was denied on January 15, 2014.
Five years later, on April 4, 2019, some 23 years after his conviction and original sentence was imposed, now with the assistance of his current and dedicated counsel, Rachel Marblestone Kamins. Esquire, Defendant, Demetrieus Brown, filed a Motion to Reopen his previously denied Petition for Post-Conviction. A Hearing was held on that Motion as well as the request for post-conviction relief on July 24, 2019 after which on August 7, 2019 another judge granted the Defendant, Demetrieus Brown the right to file a belated Application for Review of Sentence and a belated Motion for Modification of Sentence.
Thereafter, on September 24, 2019, Demetrieus Brown’s counsel, Rachel Marblestone Kamins, Esquire filed belated Motions for Modifications of Sentence and Request for Hearing Pursuant to Maryland Rule 4-345 now before this Court. Contemporaneous with that filing, this Senior Judge received a “courtesy copy” of the motions under cover of correspondence directed to me which in pertinent part stated:
As you will recall, you were the trial and sentencing Judge in Mr. Brown’s case. In April of this year, you generously granted a substantial sentence reduction to Mr. Gerald Cook, one of Mr. Brown’s two co-defendants. We respectfully ask that Your Honor likewise rule on Mr. Brown’s Motion, which he was permitted to file belatedly pursuant to the granting of his Motion to Reopen Post Conviction. As you will see in the Motion, there are myriad reasons to reduce Mr. Brown’s 100-year sentence, among which are his phenomenal institutional record, demonstrated rehabilitation, and a strong network of friends and family that will enable a successful transition to society. Please contact me if you would like any additional information that might facilitate a decision in this case. We look forward to a hearing at the Court’s earliest convenience.
I transmitted Defense Counsel’s request for this case to be assigned to me to The Administrative Judge of the 7th Circuit and Prince George’s County Circuit Court, The Honorable Sheila Tillerson Adams for her administrative disposition of Counsel’s request with the following cover memo:
Attached is a letter received from attorney, Rachel Marblestone Kamins, Esquire, along with a copy of a Motion for Modification of Sentence and Request for Hearing Pursuant to Maryland Rule 4-345 which was filed on September 24, 2019. The letter, as you can see, requests that I act on the attached Motion in light of the fact that I was recalled to act, and did act, on Defendant Brown’s Co-Defendant, Gerald Cook’s similar Motion.
I am referring this correspondence and motion to you as Administrative Judge for preliminary administration/assignment. As you know, I am a “Senior Judge”, authorized to be recalled in all of the circuits of this state. That recall, whether it is for a specific case or a docket, however, is upon the request of the Administrative Judge of the jurisdiction seeking my services. I am not free to self-assign cases or accept assignments of cases upon request of parties and/or their counsel.
With that in mind, this matter is referred to you for you to decide whether to recall me to the Circuit Court for Prince George’s County for the purpose of action on this pending Motion filed some 23 years after his original sentencing as a result of leave to do so granted on July 24, 2019 in a Post-Conviction proceeding. So, it is clear, I am willing to be recalled for the purpose of considering a Hearing and entering a disposition of The Motion to Reconsider Sentence filed by Mr. Brown’s counsel if it is your direction and assignment that I do so. I am not requesting this assignment, but I am willing to accept it. That said, please advise as to your administrative decision.
Judge Adams responded, apparently without objection, on October 21, 2019 as follows:
ORDER OF CASE ASSIGNMENT
Upon consideration of the above matter, it is on this 21st day of October, 2019, by the Circuit Court for Prince George’s County, Maryland
ORDERED, that the Honorable Steven I. Platt is hereby recalled to hear the above captioned case for Defendants Motion to Reconsider Sentence.
SHEILA R. TILLERSON ADAMS
CHIEF AND ADMINISTRATIVE JUDGE
On January 6, 2020, a Hearing was held on Defendant, Demetrieus Brown’s Rule 4-345(e) Motion for Reconsideration of Sentence. After that Hearing, I took the disposition of that motion authorized by The Post-Conviction Court 23 years after the original motion was filed and 16 years after it was originally denied under advisement. At the Hearing, the Defendant, now represented by Rachel Marblestone Kamins, Esquire, was present. The State of Maryland was represented by Assistant States Attorney Matthew Lynn. The surviving victims and victims’ families were properly notified.
This detailed history of my involvement in this case as the original trial judge and sentencing judge in Mr. Brown’s case in 1996 and my reassignment and reinvolvement in the disposition via his pending Motion for Modification of his sentences for murder and attempted murder some 24 years later is set forth herein for a very specific reason. At this moment, the General Assembly of Maryland, the Governor of Maryland, and The Maryland Judiciary are jointly and severally debating what to do about violent crime and specifically the increasing number of homicides in our state. In the context of that debate, the motivations, transparency and accountability of Circuit Court judges for the policies which shape our sentencing decisions have been placed on the front burner to be addressed by all three branches of government and by public opinion. It is in this historical context that my sentencing decision in this case is being revisited 24 years after its original imposition.
It is, therefore, important for me as a now Senior Circuit Court Judge, hopefully older and wiser, acting at a very different time, a quarter of a century after I originally sentenced Mr. Brown to be clear about not only what I am doing, but also why in this era of what the media and certain advocacy groups have labeled “Criminal Justice Reform.” Clearly, I am doing something different than what I did 24 years ago. That said, I will, in fact, explain infra. But first, the framework for my decision.
DESCRIPTION OF PRESENT OFFENSES
The PSI (Pre-Sentence Investigation) and Defense Counsel accurately researched and described the events which occurred 24 years ago. The nature of the offenses which brought the Defendant, Demetrieus Brown before the Court were as follows:
On September 10, 1995, three armed men forced their way into an apartment occupied by She’kil Gross. The men seemed to be under the impression that there was cocaine in the apartment and went into each room looking for “the stuff.” As the men were searching in closets and under furniture, William Miller and Ms. Gross’s young daughter returned to the apartment and were immediately accosted by them. Mr. Miller was pushed to the ground and questioned about the whereabouts of the cocaine. Ms. Gross attempted to flee the apartment but was shot in the foot by one of the assailants. One of the men then shot Mr. Miller multiple times, and he died from his wounds. When the apartment was searched by responding officers, a large amount of cocaine was found. It was established that the apartment had previously been occupied by a cousin of Mr. Miller, Lisa Robinson. Ms. Gross gave a description of the three men to the police, stating that there was a “tall boy,” a “chubby boy,” and a “dark-skinned boy.” At trial, she testified that the tall boy wielded a knife and a gun and was referred to by the other two men as “Dog.” She identified Mr. Brown in court as the “tall boy.”
JUVENILE HISTORY OF DEMETRIEUS BROWN IN 1996
Date/Place Offense Disposition
5/10/83 Vandalism Retained at juv. Intake
Mo. Co. MD
4//7/84 Larceny Unvailable
Mo. Co. MD
1/15/85 Strongarmed Robbery Informally arrested at juv. Intake
Mo. Co. MD
4/30/85 Theft under $300 8/13/85 dism. w/o prejudice
Mo. Co. MD
10/8/85 Assault & Battery Informally adjusted at juv. Intake
Mo. Co. MD Vandalism
12/11/85 Larceny Unavailable
Mo. Co. MD
12/30/85 Runaway Closed at Juv. Intake
Mo. Co. MD
Date/Place Offense Disposition
2/15/86 Assault & Battery 7/10/86 found delinquent, sent.
Mo. Co. MD to Noyes Det. Ctr., ss, sent. To
Montrose School, ss; placed w/
parents, placed on temp. prob.
and ordered to part. In ongoing
comm. svc. at Little Bennett
2/17/86 Theft Under $300 3/20/86 found delinquent, cont.
Mo. Co. Md in shelter care, sh. Care to be
rescinded 4/18/86 to be plcd. on
temp. prob. w/parents, plcd. on temp.
prob. in order to part. in family
2/17/86 2 cts. Assault Not available
Mo. Co. MD & Battery
2/17/86 False Stmt. Not available
Mo. Co. MD
2/20/86 Runaway Not available
Mo. Co. MD
6/25/86 Theft Conspiracy 7/22/86 delinquent, rel. to
Mo. Co. MD custody of parents, plcd. on
temp. prob; 8/22/86 cont. on
prob., ord. to pay rest. of
$213.17 @ rate of $25/month
rest. to be pd. in full by 1/1/87.
7/21/86 Assault & Battery 2/5/87 dismissed
Mo. Co. MD
7/21/86 Assault & Battery 2/5/87 dismissed
12/9/86 Strongarmed Robbery 1/8/87 found del. on
Mo. Co. MD Assault & Battery all cts., sent. To Noyes Det. Ctr.
Theft Under $300 allow to go to contemporary educ.
prog. In VA, 2/5/87 susp. Noyes
comm., plcd. in shelter care
Date/Place Offense Disposition
4/2/87 1. PWID Cocaine 1-3. 12/1/87 dism.
Mo. Co. 2. Poss. Cocaine 4. 12/1/87 found delinquent,
Juv. Court 3. PWID Mari. Comm. to Charles Hickey Sch.
4. Poss. Mari. ss, comm. to Karma Academy
5. Consp. To Dist. 5. 12/1/87 dism.
4/14/87 Dist. CDS Unavailable
Mo. Co. MD
7/14/87 1. Strongarmed Robbery 1&2. 8/6/87 dism.
Mo. Co. MD 2. Conspiracy 3. Found delinq., cont. @
3. Theft Under $300 Noyes Det. Ctr.
7/5/89 Poss. Cocaine Not available
Mo. Co. MD
7/20/89 PWID Cocaine, Waived to adult court
Mo. Co. MD Poss. Cocaine
7/20/89 Theft Over $300 12/7/89 dism. w/o prejudice
Mo. Co. MD
8/3/89 Att. Escape, Conspiracy Dismissed
Mo. Co. MD
8/8/89 Assault & Battery Dismissed
Mo. Co. MD
9/27/89 PWID Cocaine, Dismissed
Mo. Co. MD Poss. CDS,
Poss. Alco. by Minor
Drinking in public
10/31/89 Dist. Cocaine 2/1/90 found guilty of sale
Wash. DC Coc., comm. to Dept. Human Svs.
for 2 yrs.
2/7/90 Assault on Corr. Off. 7/31/90 guilty 1 ct., 9/12/90
Wash. DC 2 counts comm. to DHS for 2 yrs; 2nd
ADULT CRIMINAL RECORD OF DEMETRIEUS BROWN IN 1996
Date/Place Offense Disposition
9/24/90 PWID Cocaine 1/22/91 7 yrs., ss a/b 18 mos.,
Mo. Co. MD (56838) 3 yrs. Prob.
7/17/92 PWID CDS, 11/5/92 all chgs, nolle
Mo. Co. MD Poss. CDS,
Paraphernalia, Mal. Dest.
Hdgn. In Veh.,
Dist. CDS w/firearm (66552)
9/8/93 Mal. Dest. Of Property 1/4/94 noelle
Mo. Co. MD
1/13/95 AWI/Murder – 2 cts., 2/10/95 all cts. Noelle
Mo. Co. MD Handgun Use,
8/3/95 Battery 10/19/95 noelle
Mo. Co. MD
8/21/95 Mal. Des. Property 10/19/95 noelle
Mo. Co. MD
9/20/95 Battery 10/25/95 noelle
Mo. Co. MD
9/26/95 2nd Degree Murder Instant Offense
Mo. Co. MD Use Hdgn. In Comm. of
Fel., 2nd Degree Murder,
Battery, Use of Hdgn, in
Comm. of Fel.
Demetrieus Brown’s personal history as a juvenile and young adult noted above would certainly, almost inevitably, lead to the crimes he committed which deservedly drew my 100-yeasr sentence in 1996.
Demetrieus Thomas Brown was born on June 29, 1972 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to the union of Thomas and Karen Brown. He lived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania until he was six years old. At that time, he moved to Montgomery County, Maryland. He continued to live in Montgomery County, Maryland until June 1988 when he moved to Washington, DC. In August 1990, he moved back to Montgomery County, Maryland.
Demetrieus Brown left his parents’ home at the age of fifteen or sixteen and ran away to Washington, DC. He started “hangin” with people that he met while he was in the juvenile institution in that jurisdiction. He became more involved with the use of drugs and illegal activity.
The subject returned home to Gaithersburg, Maryland at the age of seventeen. He was on bond at that time from Montgomery County after having been arrested in that jurisdiction for Distribution of Cocaine. He spent four months at his family’s home before being incarcerated in the Montgomery County Detention Center. When released from incarceration in March of 1992, he went back to his parents’ home in Gaithersburg.
In 1995 the Defendant, Demetrieus Brown, started drinking and smoking marijuana again. He also began “hanging with the wrong crowd.” He subsequently became involved in the instant offense.
At the time of the instant offense, the subject was staying at his parents’ home in Germantown, Maryland. His mother was caring for him as he had a broken jaw. Prior to the broken jaw, the subject would visit his family’s home in Germantown daily, however, was spending most of his time on River Terrace in Washington, DC hanging with his friends “The wrong kind of friends.”
Specifically, Mr. Brown sought to be friends with negative peers whose approval he sought. This probably was because he was “learning disabled” according to his mother and as a result was often placed in special education classes as a young child.
This learning disability did not allow him to blend with the other children in the neighborhood. It seemed that children from broken homes and who lived in bad neighborhoods were more willing to accept him as their friend. While in school the subject would act like the class clown in order to get attention. He so badly wanted to be noticed that he would take any kind of attention that he could get. This effort to get attention ultimately put him in the company of people with whom he committed the crimes in this case which led to the death of a human being, the wounding of an innocent person, and the lasting psychologically traumatic injury to an innocent child who was forced to witness this violence.
In this court’s view, the Defendant bears equal responsibility with the “negative peers” whose acceptance his participation in these acts was designed to facilitate. His culpability was not then, nor is it now, mitigated comparatively or otherwise, by his learning disability and/or the company he kept and their collective behavior.
This is the over a quarter of a century historical context in which the Hearing on Defendant, Demetrieus Brown’s Motion for Reconsideration of Sentence commenced on January 6, 2020.
The Defendant, now 47 years old, testified he has served 24 years of the 100-year sentence that I imposed. His request, through his counsel, is for this Court to grant a “substantial reduction” of his sentence.
The nature of that “substantial reduction” was described in correspondence and in oral argument as “generous” in the manner of my reconsideration of one of Mr. Brown’s co-defendants, Gerald Jamar Cook. Mr. Cook’s sentence was reduced by 50% to in effect, 50 years by this judge on April 19, 2019, approximately 1 year ago.
At the time of Demetrieus Brown’s original sentence, the upper limit of the sentence recommendation by The Maryland Department of Parole and Probation for both Mr. Brown and his Co-Defendant, Gerald Jamar Cook, was 35 years. The range of the sentence guidelines for Demetreius Brown was 25-35 years.
This recommendation was based on the calculations of the voluntary “Statutory Sentencing Guidelines” that Maryland Judges, by statute, are encouraged, but not required to follow in the interest of minimizing the observed statistical differentials in sentencing by different judges of similarly situated defendants with identical records prior to the Sentencing Guidelines being enacted. These arguably arbitrary, sometimes stark differences in sentencing imposed on Defendants convicted of identical crimes and having similar records resulted from contrasting sentencing philosophies of Circuit Court judges appointed by different governors and elected by very different voters from geographically, philosophically and ethnically diverse parts of the State of Maryland.
These Sentencing Guidelines are based on the nature of the crimes a criminal is convicted of committing and his or her criminal history. In the instant case most of the Defendant’s history was as a juvenile, although he was an adult when he committed the subject offenses.
The sentence received by Mr. Brown in 1996 was obviously over 2 ½ times longer than maximum recommended under the “Guidelines.” In fact, like that of his co-defendants, his original sentence constituted the maximum permissible sentence under the law.
Why? – I explain as follows: The Sentencing Guideline’s protocol established in this state when the Voluntary Sentencing Guidelines were instituted required that any judge when imposing a sentence which deviates either upward or downward, i.e., is a longer or shorter sentence, from the established guidelines which are promulgated by The Maryland Sentencing Commission must state his or her reasons for doing so on the record. In this case, I did that and in doing so stated that I found the Defendant, Demetrieus Brown, like the other defendants in this case, was an “extreme danger to community – Evidence of total disregard for human life.”
That was my impression of the Defendant and the physical threat that he posed to the community, based on the evidence before me as a result of presiding over his trial and his conviction by a jury of his peers, and the further evidence which was presented at his Sentencing Hearing on October 18, 1996. My findings were not pretextual designed to arbitrarily justify the imposition of the “maximum sentence permissible by law.” It gave me no pleasure to in effect confine Demetrius Brown in this case or any of the seven Defendants in other cases, including the Defendant, whom I sentenced to Life without Parole, as well as the single Defendant that I sentenced to the Death Penalty (later communicated to Life without Parole by Governor O’Malley when the Death Penalty was abolished in Maryland) during my 16 years on the Circuit Court from May 1990 to January 2007. Furthermore, I recognize at the time of sentencing on October 18, 1996, that the sentence of Mr. Brown in this case was close to the functional equivalent of a sentence of “Life Without Parole.”
The question for me to decide now, is whether Demetrieus Brown at 47 years of age, after spending the last 24 years incarcerated, is still “an extreme danger to community?” and does the weight of the evidence still convince me that he has a “total disregard for human life?”
In other words, does the evidence available to this Court in 2020 support Demetrieus Brown’s lawyer’s declaration in her allocation at his Reconsideration Hearing that:
“Demetrieus Brown is a completely different person from whom he was in the 1990’s”…..He has undergone a “phenomenal transition.” He is now a “great person not just a model inmate.”
The issue now, in March of 2020, is to what extent in fact has Demetrieus Brown “changed,” and how. To make that determination, I will initially examine whether the sentence I imposed in 1996 was fundamentally fair to the Defendant and The State of Maryland, as well as the victims of his homicide and attempted homicide.
My short and final answer to that initial inquiry is that I really had little doubt in 1996 that my original sentence was not only fair and appropriate, but necessary to protect society for the reasons stated on the Sentencing Guideline Form – “Extreme Danger to Community – Total Disregard for Human Life.” I still believe in 2020 that in fact that was the case at the time of the original sentencing in 1996. For that reason, I have no regrets about my original sentence, nor do I see any reason to reconsider it in 2020, some 24 years later, unless there is evidence that The Defendant has changed.
The question, therefore, is, has Demetrieus Brown changed and most importantly do we know enough about him and to what extent has he “changed” that we can safely calculate the degree of risk that he would pose to any community into which he could be released, if I reduce his sentence. Specifically, is the risk of future violence to potential victims in our community significantly lower than it was in 1996? And if so, should the risk inherent in his release be acceptable to this court and ultimately to the community that this court needs to protect?
My answer to the threshold question of whether my original sentence of this Defendant in 1996 was at that time fundamentally fair to The Defendant, The State of Maryland, and the victims of his homicide and attempted homicide should be apparent from my comments, supra, which echoed my reasons noted on the Sentencing Guidelines Form. I believed at the time, based on the evidence I heard and saw during the trial, and the sentencing having been presented in the Pre-Sentence Report that the Defendant, (like his Co-Defendant) was an ”extreme danger to community” and that the evidence demonstrated that he showed a “total disregard for human life.” That made my sentencing decision at that time comparatively simple. The community needed to be protected regardless of any sympathy that I might feel for Mr. Brown as a result of his personal history which no doubt contributed to his, at that time, being a sociopath.
As in many, but not all of the approximately 35 cases in which a Defendant was charged with homicide or attempted homicide, that I presided over as a Circuit Court Judge for 15 years, the Defendants’ childhood history likely was, at the very least, a contributing cause of his/her homicidal behavior. That fact did not then, no does it now, in any way, lessen how dangerous Mr. Brown was or is. It therefore does not, in my view, ever constitute a reason for a dangerous and deadly person to be allowed to remain in the community or receive any leniency. Obviously, in 1996, it did not in this case.
As most Courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court and all serious legal scholars have recognized, legislatures and courts are not required to adopt any particular penological theory although “criminal justice reform” in its current incantation clearly favors some theories over others depending on which “reformer” is speaking. In any case, most recognize that the well-established purposes for sentencing are retribution, deterrence, incapacitation and rehabilitation. These multiple purposes are given appropriate proportionate weight in any sentencing calculation on a case by case basis.
In this case, in originally sentencing Mr. Brown, my emphasis and therefore primary, indeed almost exclusive, purpose in imposing a cumulative sentence of 100 years was the incapacitation of Mr. Brown for the reasons stated. Society needed to be protected from Mr. Brown and his criminal cohorts, who again, I found to be “an extreme danger to community” because of his “total disregard for human life.” All other purposes of sentencing were, at best, for obvious reasons, secondary, i.e., deterrence and rehabilitation and even punishment or retribution were incidental to the sentence in this case. This would have also been true even if this Court had been presented with evidence of the full cooperation of Mr. Brown with the Investigating Officers in this case proffered by Mr. Brown’s counsel as a reason for leniency then and now. That cooperation, by itself, could not and did not render Mr. Brown less of a risk to the public safety and to the victim’s physical safety, which would have remained this Court’s primary concern.
Whether Demetrieus Brown’s crime(s) were “horrifying” was not in 1996 and is not in 2020 in doubt. His crimes in this case were then and remain “horrifying.” His crimes were a homicide and an attempted homicide.
That said, I honestly do not know what effect the presentation of that information would have had on my original sentence. It is now, however, a moot issue since I decline to go back 24 years to implement restorative justice to the original sentence.
Whether the “horrifying” nature of those crimes 24 years later overshadows any evidence of what his lawyer describes as his “phenomenal transition” to a “great person” and is therefore sufficient for this Court to take the risk of returning him to the community albeit under strict supervision is the decision that I now have to make and it is my job as a judge to make that decision.
Mr. Brown’s record of institutional adjustment which is a remarkable record of a single minor infraction over 23 years and the documentation of his rehabilitation by prison officials, including guards coupled with his articulated detailed reentry plan with the support and involvement of his family in that plan and his future convinces me that the risk of his recidivating and hurting or killing another victim, while not non-existent, is remote enough to be acceptable to me and the community which I serve. That, coupled with Mr. Brown’s own demonstrated remorse in thoughtfully addressing This Court’s comments in imposing the original sentence in this case persuades me that Demetrieus Brown has changed and at least at this moment feels as he says, “forever connected” to Your Honor and “seeks to do great things with the remainder of this life.”
That connection is very real to this Court as well. As I pointed out earlier, the Governor of Maryland, The General Assembly, and The Maryland Judiciary are engaged at this very moment in a very intense and public debate about how to reduce the recent dramatic increase in homicides in our state. As a part of that debate, the role perceived by some, among them, most conspicuously, the governor of our state, of circuit court judges’ sentencing philosophy and practices in causing the unacceptable loss of life on the streets of urban communities, particularly Baltimore is being strictly scrutinized. The Governor’s ascribing a cause and effect relationship to the sentencing philosophy of circuit judges and the increase in violence is accordingly being examined by all branches of government and in the media. In the face of that scrutiny, this Senior Circuit Court judge is dramatically reducing the sentence of a convicted murderer.
There is no question that if my risk assessment is wrong, and my decision to provide a second chance for Demetrieus Brown to live in our community and contribute to society as he has promised to do by devoting the rest of his life “to catch the children at a very early age before the gangs do” turns out to be in error, thereby resulting in further injury or death to other innocent victims, that not only will Demetrieus Brown be punished by being reincarcerated for the rest of his life, but this Judge’s competence and judgement will be justifiably intensely questioned and by some condemned. So, in fact, Demetrieus Brown’s and Judge Steven Platt’s futures are, indeed, as Mr. Brown has written, “forever connected.”
That said, making sentencing decisions such as this one is among the core responsibilities and jobs of a judge. I firmly believe that every judge, should be fully transparent and accountable, i.e., subject to constructive criticism of the other branches of government, the media, and the public for these decisions while remaining completely independent.
I, therefore, do not shrink from, or seek to be shielded from that scrutiny, nor do I fear that my decision and the reasons, therefore, will be easily accessible to all who wish to examine it. That transparency and the public scrutiny that comes with it can came from the other branches of government or the media. That access should not be intimidating or limiting in any way. Hence, this Written Opinion and Order of Court in this case for all who are interested in reading it and hopefully understanding it whether they agree with it or not.
My comments in imposing the original sentence in this case on October 18, 1996 were as follows:
“This was one of the worst crimes that I have ever observed, as I said to your co-defendants.” As you know from their sentences, I did not attach a whole lot of significance is to who was the lead actor. All three, it is clear to this court, were very bad actors. An individual is dead, another one is lucky to be alive, and a third, that child, is probably damaged beyond all comprehension. And following, leading, it does not make a whole lot of difference. The fact of the matter is that the evidence in this case is that there were none of the three of you that were not then, and not now, an extreme danger to the community. Why? How you got there is something if I knew the answer to that question, I wouldn’t be sitting her, I would be writing a book, and I would change the direction that society is going in. Until we figure that out, the only thing I can do is attempt to protect future victims from whatever it is that brought you to that location and that caused the death of a human being and the near death of another, and the damage psychologically beyond all comprehension of a child.”
That said, over 24 years ago, maybe what this Court has been doing over the span of the last 24 years in this case, State of Maryland v Demetrieus Brown, is at least at this stage of our state’s and nation’s history what courts can, and should do. First and foremost, was, 1996, and is today to initially protect society and future victims “from whatever it is that caused a young Demetrieus Brown to commit murder. The question now, 24 years later, in the spirit of “criminal justice reform” is whether to recognize that he has changed and release him “to do great things for the rest of his life” as he has promised to do.
If we do that, then sentencing will then necessarily be redefined as a “process” not an “event”. Furthermore, it will be recognized that sentencing can go on for years and should be reality based and that realities, as well as human beings, change as time and circumstances march on. Then, as is the case here, where incapacitation, retribution and deterrence were without question and appropriately, the primary, if not the sole factors to consider, in sentencing Mr. Brown in 1996, rehabilitation and reconciliation should, and will have, a much greater weight in reconsidering his sentence in 2020.
Accordingly, it is this 20th day of July 2020 by the Circuit Court for Prince George’s County, Maryland;
ORDERED that pursuant to Maryland Rule 4-345(p) a further Hearing on the pending Defendant’s Motion for Reconsideration of Sentence is hereby set for March 31, 2020 and it is further;
ORDERED that on the record, in open Court, at that Hearing pursuant to Maryland Rule 4-345f this Court will grant the pending Motion for Reconsideration of Sentence and it is further;
ORDERED that the balance of This Court’s sentence of incarceration on all counts is hereby suspended and it is further;
ORDERED that the Defendant is placed on a period of probation, strictly supervised at the highest level by the Department of Probation for a period of five (5) years under such conditions as may be directed on the Order of Probation including drug and alcohol testing, shall not possess or use alcohol and drugs except prescriptions, shall not possess or use a firearm, and it is further;
ORDERED that this Opinion and Order of Court setting forth the ruling on the disposition of The Motion for Reconsideration of The Defendant in the above captioned case be filed and made a part of this case.
Steven I. Platt
Cc: Assistant States Attorney
Matthew Lynn, Esq.
Rachel Marblestone Kamins, Esq.