Meegan Jayne Smith
The Maryland Court of Appeals affirmed the holding of the Court of Special Appeals, finding the Circuit Court for Montgomery County violated Rule 4–326(d)(2), but that the error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. Additionally, the Court of Appeals held the court did not err in denying Petitioner’s motion to suppress the statements he made during his interrogation. Gupta v. State, 156 A.3d 785 (Md. 2017).
The instant case of Gupta v. State involved two major issues. First, the trial judge’s ex parte communication with a juror that violated Maryland Rule 4–326(d)(2). In Gupta, the Maryland Court of Appeals found the communication between the judge and a juror about the juror’s impending conflict pertained to the action and the judge erred in not consulting the parties. However, the Court also found the error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. This was the first time in Maryland that a violation of Rule 4–326(d)(2) was deemed harmless. The Court has created a difficult dynamic between ex parte communications and the strict nature of the governing rules.