Currica v. Miller
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Judge Paula Xinis on 5/1/2017. (c/m 5/1/2017 aos, Deputy Clerk)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF MARYLAND
CALVIN F. CURRICA, #354-168
WARDEN RICHARD MILLER, and
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE
STATE OF MARYLAND
Civil Action No. PX-16-3259
Pending is self-represented petitioner Calvin F. Currica’s Petition for Writ of Habeas
Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, in which he challenges his convictions entered in 2008 in
the Circuit Court for Montgomery County. ECF No. 1.1 Respondents have filed a response. ECF
No. 2.2 As relief, Currica seeks a new trial and a reduction of his sentence. After review of the
parties’ submissions and exhibits, the Court finds that additional information is needed before
consideration of the issues can proceed.
BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
On March 14, 2008, Currica was indicted in case no. 109922 for murder and robbery with
a dangerous weapon. On March 20, 2008, Currica was separately indicted in case no. 109946
with carjacking (counts 1 and 9), conspiracy to commit kidnapping (counts 4, 12, and 18),
robbery with a dangerous weapon (counts 5 and 13), conspiracy to commit robbery with a
dangerous weapon (counts 6, 14, and 20), first-degree assault (counts 7 and 21), conspiracy to
commit first-degree assault (counts 8 and 22), attempted carjacking (count 15), attempted
See http://casesearch.courts.state.md.us/casesearch/inquirySearch.jis. (Last visited April 20, 2017).
Currica was informed that he may file a reply (ECF No. 4), although has not done so
kidnapping (count 17), and attempted robbery with a dangerous weapon (count 19). ECF No.
12-1 (Resp. Ex. 1, docket sheets).
On August 11, 2008, Currica, who was represented by counsel, entered a guilty plea in
case no. 109922 to second-degree murder (count one of that indictment was amended), and a
guilty plea to two counts of carjacking in case no. 109946. ECF No. 12-1, 12-2 (Plea transcript).
The parties have not included a copy of the plea agreement with their submissions.
At the plea hearing held on November 18, 2008, the trial judge told Currica, and Currica
affirmed that he understood, that “[w]hen you are charged with second degree murder, which is
what the charge will be changed to, you are liable for a maximum penalty of 30 years in jail or
less depending on what I determine, and you can be placed on probation for any suspended
sentence I might impose.” ECF 12-2 at p. 10. (plea transcript). Turning next to the carjacking
charges, the trial court explained to Currica that “each of these charges carries the possibility of
being put in jail for up to 30 years. Once again, I can impose whatever sentence, including jail
time and a period of suspended jail time, if I wish to do so.” Id. at p. 11. Currica confirmed
that he understood. Id. At the end of the hearing, the Court sentenced Currica to a total of 80
years of incarceration.3 The court imposed 30 years for second-degree murder and two 25 years
consecutive terms for carjacking. ECF No. 12-1, 12-3 at p. 55-56 (Resp. Ex. 3 sentencing
On November 21, 2008, Currica filed an Application for Review of Sentence by a threejudge panel, which was denied on September 2, 2009, and a Motion for Reconsideration of
It is unclear why Currica states in the Petition that he was sentenced to a total of 85 years of
incarceration. ECF No. 1 at pp. 1, 8,18.
Sentence which was denied on May 7, 2013. ECF No. 12-1. On June 19, 2012, Currica filed a
Motion to Correct an Illegal Sentence, which was denied on July 16, 2012. ECF No. 12-1.
On June 2, 2014, Currica filed a self-represented Petition for Post-Conviction Relief,
which he amended on September 22, 2014, to assert the following claims:
(1) the Circuit Court breached the plea agreement which he claimed limited his
sentence to a maximum of 51 years;
(2) the State breached the plea agreement by seeking a sentence higher than 51
(3) trial counsel provided ineffective assistance by failing to file an Application
for Leave to Appeal his Convictions; and
(4) the plea agreement was for a combined sentence of 30-51 years.
ECF No. 12-1; ECF No. 12-4 at pp. 2-3 (Resp. Ex. 4, Post-Conviction Petition); ECF No. 12-5
(Resp. Ex. 5, Supplemental Petition); ECF No. 12-7 at p. 5 (Resp. Ex. 7, Post-Conviction
On November 24, 2014, the Circuit Court for Montgomery County held a hearing on the
Petition for Post-Conviction Relief. ECF No. 12-7. The Court denied relief in part and granted
relief in part. The court rejected Currica’s claims that the sentencing court and the State
breached the plea agreement, but granted him thirty days to file a belated Application for Leave
to Appeal his ineffective assistance of counsel claim. Id. at pp. 43-45, 47; ECF No. 12-8 (Order).
Currica filed a belated Application for Leave to Appeal pro se, which was denied on
August 12, 2015. The mandate issued on September 14, 2015. ECF No. 12-9 (Resp. Ex. 9,
Application for Leave to Appeal); ECF No. 12-10, ECF No. 12-11. (Resp. Ex. 10 (Belated
Application for Leave to Appeal) & Ex. 11 (Mandate). As only the mandate has been filed by
Currica also claims the Court of Appeals of Maryland erred by denying his Petition for Certiorari. ECF
No. 1 at p. 15.
Respondents, it is unclear whether the Application for Leave to Appeal was denied on the merits
or summarily denied.
Currica also filed an Application for Leave to Appeal the Denial of Post-Conviction
Relief, arguing that, by sentencing him to 80 years, both the court and the State breached the plea
agreement. ECF No. 12-9 (Resp. Ex. 9, Application for Leave to Appeal the Denial of PostConviction Relief). The Court of Special Appeals denied the Application for Leave to Appeal on
August 12, 2015, with the mandate issuing on October 30, 2015. ECF No. 12-12 (Resp. Ex. 12,
Mandate). The record is unclear whether the Application for Leave to Appeal the Denial of
Post-Conviction Relief was denied on the merits or summarily.
Currica filed his federal Petition on September 26, 2016, presenting three claims of error
for the Court’s review:
(1) the Circuit Court breached the plea agreement by sentencing him to eighty years of
(2) Currica’s plea was neither knowing or voluntary because he understood his plea
agreement capped his sentence at 51 years; and
(3) the Circuit Court erred by not allowing him to withdraw his guilty plea when it
indicated it intended to disregard the sentencing guidelines.
ECF No. 1 at pp. 8-14.5
Respondents assert that these claims “can essentially be distilled to one: whether the
circuit court breached the plea agreement by sentencing Currica to a sentence of 80 years.” ECF
No. 12 at p. 18. Curiously, the plea agreement on which these claims are based is not in the
Currica also asserts the Court of Appeals of Maryland erred by denying his Petition for Certiorari. ECF
No. 1 at p. 15.
Additional information is necessary for consideration of the claims presented. First,
Respondents shall provide a copy of the plea agreement. Second, Respondents shall provide
copies of the orders, and if applicable, the decisions issued by the Court of Special Appeals
denying Currica’s Application for Leave to Appeal the Denial of Post Conviction Relief and
Belated Application for Leave to Appeal. When a state appellate court summarily affirms a
reasoned lower-court decision, or refuses a petition for review, then a federal habeas court is to
“look through” the unexplained affirmance to examine the “last reasoned decision” on the claim,
assuming that the summary appellate decision rests on the same ground. Grueninger v. Director,
Virginia Department of Corrections (4th. Cir. 2016) (quoting Yist v. Nunnemaker, 501 U.S. 797,
803 (1991); see also Brumfield v. Cain, ––– U.S. ––––, 135 S.Ct. 2269, 2276 (2015) (applying
“look through” doctrine to evaluate state trial court's reasoned decision denying claim on the
merits where state supreme court summarily denied petition for review). Here, it is unclear
whether the Circuit Court’s decision denying post-conviction relief is the last reasoned opinion
on the claims presented.
Lastly, Respondents shall supplement their Response to address whether the state
adjudication is “contrary to” clearly established federal law concerning acceptance of an
intelligent, knowing and voluntary guilty plea, as well as whether the plea was breached.
Respondents shall amplify their summary assertion that the Circuit Court of Maryland’s denial of
post conviction relief satisfies the standard in Santobello v. New York, 404 U.S. 257, 262 (1971),
to include referring this Court to any subsequent Supreme Court precedent on the issues that
Currica has raised in his Petition.
Accordingly, the Court will order Respondents to file additional information and
supplement the Response within twenty-eight days. Currica is granted twenty-eight days to file a
Reply thereafter. An order follows this Memorandum Opinion.
Date: May 1, 2017
United States District Judge
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