This appeal raises the question of whether use of the short form indictment specified by Maryland Code (1957, 1982 Repl.Vol.) Art. 27, § 616 to charge all forms of murder adequately protects a defendant's constitutional right of fair notice and due process. We hold that it does.
The Appellant, Arthur Ross, Jr., was indicted jointly with Robert Clark on charges of "feloniously, wilfully and of their deliberately premeditated malice aforethought," killing and murdering Millicent Yvonne Johnson, and of robbery of Ms. Johnson with a dangerous and deadly weapon and related charges. The language of the murder count followed exactly the approved language of the short form indictment for murder codified at Art. 27, § 616 of the Code.
Ross was tried on these charges before a jury in the Circuit Court for Prince George's County with Judge Howard Chasanow presiding. At the close of the State's case, and again at the conclusion of all the evidence, Ross moved for a judgment of acquittal on the murder count on the grounds that the evidence was legally insufficient to show a deliberate, wilful and premeditated murder, and that he could not be convicted on a theory of felony murder because he was charged only with premeditated murder. Additionally, Ross interposed a timely objection to instructions to the jury on the theory of felony murder. Judge Chasanow denied the motions and instructed the jury on the appropriate principles of the law of felony murder. By special verdict the jury found that premeditated murder had not been proven, but that Ross was guilty of felony murder and armed robbery. Judge Chasanow sentenced Ross to life imprisonment for the murder and determined that the conviction of armed robbery merged with that of felony murder.
The judgment of conviction was affirmed by the Court of Special Appeals in 1983, following an appeal on issues unrelated to the present case. Ross v. State, 53 Md.App. 397, 453 A.2d 828 (1983). As a result of a post conviction proceeding, Ross was permitted to pursue an additional appeal and to raise the grounds now before us. The Court of Special Appeals again affirmed the conviction, in an unreported per curiam opinion. We granted certiorari.
Murder is the killing of one human being by another with the requisite malevolent state of mind and without justification, excuse, or mitigation.
These provisions, with style changes and the addition of certain felonies, are now codified at §§ 407-411 of Art. 27, Maryland Code (1957, 1982 Repl.Vol.). Where murder is established, and where it is further shown that the murder was deliberate, wilful and premeditated, this murder is of the first degree. Article 27, § 407.
Accordingly, a conviction of first degree murder may be proved either by showing deliberation, wilfulness and premeditation (premeditated murder), or by showing a homicide committed in the perpetration, or attempted perpetration, of one of the enumerated felonies (felony murder). There is but one offense — murder in the first degree — but that offense may be committed in more than one way. As we explained in Newton, supra, 280 Md. at 272, 373 A.2d 262, and repeated in Huffington v. State, 302 Md. 184, 188, 486 A.2d 200 (1985), reconsideration denied, Foster, Evans, and Huffington v. State, 305 Md. 306, 503 A.2d 1326, cert. denied, ___ U.S. ___, 106 S.Ct. 3315, 92 L.Ed.2d 745 (1986):
Ross argues that he was denied due process of law and the right to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against him — rights guaranteed to him by the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution and by the Twenty-first article of the Maryland Declaration of Rights — because the charging document failed to inform him the State was proceeding on a felony murder theory. Moreover, he contends the error is one of commission as well as omission because the indictment specifically charges the premeditated species of murder.
The Legislature first provided for the use of a short form indictment in criminal homicide cases by the enactment of Chapter 248 of the Laws of Maryland, 1906.
The first count of Appellant's indictment against Ross precisely tracked the legislative formula:
Appellant challenges the constitutionality of the statute as used to charge felony murder.
We conclude that the statute is constitutional as applied in this case. The indictment against Ross, in addition to identifying the victim and the time and place of the offense, fully apprised Ross that he was charged with murder in the first degree. This information satisfies the constitutional requirements of notice. As we have pointed out, murder in the first degree may be proved in more than one way. There is no requirement, however, that a charging document must inform the accused of the specific theory on which the State will rely. Furthermore, we have recently upheld against a similar constitutional attack the use of a short form indictment that characterized the crime without setting forth the elements of that offense or the means by which it was committed. Jones v. State, 303 Md. 323, 493 A.2d 1062 (1985) (consolidated theft statute).
The first recorded challenge to the constitutionality of § 616 came in 1928,
language used to charge Wood tracked the statutory formula, and as in the case before us charged that the defendant "feloniously, wilfully and of deliberately premeditated malice aforethought, did kill and murder" the victim. This Court rejected Wood's argument, holding that an indictment in the language of the statutory short form was sufficient to put the accused on notice that the State might proceed on a theory of premeditated murder, or felony murder, or both. Judge Henderson pointed out for the Court that prior to the adoption of the statutory short form there was no requirement that felony murder be specifically alleged, and that an indictment for murder in the common law form would permit proof and conviction on a theory of felony murder. Consequently, he reasoned, "the statutory form could hardly be construed to impose additional requirements in this respect." Id., at 667, 62 A.2d 576.
In State v. Ward, 284 Md. 189, 396 A.2d 1041 (1978), we held that an indictment in the statutory short form will support a conviction of being an accomplice before the fact of murder, and more recently in Hardy v. State, 301 Md. 124, 137-38, 482 A.2d 474 (1984), we repeated the settled rule that a charge of murder may be made in either the common law form or the statutory short form.
A defendant charged in the statutory language employed in this case is clearly apprised that he is being charged with the crime of murder and that he may be convicted of murder in either degree, or manslaughter. That defendant is also told when and where the homicide occurred, and the identity of the victim. He is not told whether the State will proceed upon one or another, or upon several theories concerning the particular malevolent state of mind alleged to have been present, but neither is he entitled to this information as a matter of constitutional due process. We have held that even where it is proper or desireable to require the State to furnish a defendant with additional facts by means of a bill of particulars, that procedure may not be employed to require the State to select or announce the theory upon which it will proceed. Spector v. State, 289 Md. 407, 422, 425 A.2d 197, cert. denied, 452 U.S. 906, 101 S.Ct. 3032, 69 L.Ed.2d 407 (1981). It is appropriate in the context of this case to point out that the courts of this State have been quite liberal in granting particulars where indictments have been drawn in the short forms permitted by statute, id., at 422, 425 A.2d 197, and that in certain instances where the indictment fails to allege the specific manner in which the crime was committed, particulars may be required. State v. Morton, 295 Md. 487, 456 A.2d 909 (1983).
The indictment in this case was sufficient to protect the accused from a future prosecution for the same offense. If a prosecution for murder brought in this form proceeded to a general verdict of not guilty, the State could not again prosecute for the same homicide, claiming a new theory of malevolent state of mind. Because murder is a single offense, the State is ordinarily required to proceed upon all available theories in a single prosecution, and it may not bring seriatim prosecutions for the same offense by alleging separate legal theories. Jones, supra, 303 Md. at 341, 493 A.2d 1062; Huffington, supra, 302 Md. at 189-91, 486 A.2d 200. Of course, where a special verdict is employed, a finding that murder has not been proven under one theory does not necessarily prevent a conviction of murder under an alternative theory. Huffington, supra.
This Court has looked with favor upon the general trend of relaxing the formal requirements of indictments to avoid the prolix and often overly technical rules of common law pleading in favor of the shorter and simpler forms. State v. Chaney, 304 Md. 21, 497 A.2d 152 (1985), cert. denied, ___ U.S. ___, 106 S.Ct. 824, 88 L.Ed.2d 796 (1986); Jones, supra; Williams v. State, 302 Md. 787, 490 A.2d 1277 (1985); State v. Williamson, 282 Md. 100, 382 A.2d 588 (1978); Shelton v. State, 198 Md. 405, 84 A.2d 76 (1951); State v. Wheatley, 192 Md. 44, 63 A.2d 644 (1949). At the same time we recognize that the basic right of a criminal defendant to fair notice must not be sacrificed on the altar of convenience or simplicity. In this case, where there can be no doubt that the accused was aware he was charged with murder in the first degree, and where it has been the clear and unchanged law of this State for more than 80 years that a charge of murder in this form may be made out by proof of premeditated murder or proof of felony murder, it cannot be said that Ross was misled, or in any way deprived of his constitutional right to fair notice.
JUDGMENT AFFIRMED WITH COSTS.