In March of 1980, John Kroll kidnapped a 12 year old Maryland girl, forced her into the trunk of his car, drove her to Pennsylvania, sexually assaulted her using, among other things, a sharpened wooden implement, then brought her back and dropped her off near her home. She required emergency surgery to repair the damage he inflicted on her.
Kroll was arrested the next day and confessed, in detail. This was not his first brush with the law, or with sexual assault. He had earlier raped a 13 year old girl and beaten her nearly to death, a crime for which he served eight years, and had committed other assaults on teenage girls as well.
He pled guilty in a Maryland court to kidnapping and sexual assault, and was sentenced to fifteen years for the kidnapping, and to natural life for the brutal sexual assault.
Anyone spotted the problem yet?
A Maryland court has no business sentencing anyone for an assault in Pennsylvania.
A guilty plea waives all non-jurisdictional defects… but the defect in this case is jurisdictional. It’s the basic element of criminal law: jurisdiction of the court to exercise authority over the accused.
Now, all the statues of limitations have expired - both federal and state. Kroll has now brought to the court’s attention the fact that, despite testimony from his victim and his own confession making crystal clear that they crossed into Pennsylvania (the girl’s story included seeing a “Welcome to Maryland” sign as he drove her back home) somehow the sentencing judge and the state’s attorney did not twig to the jurisdictional problem.
Mr. Kroll is due to be released, having been imprisoned illegally for ten years.
The current Maryland State’s Attorney is trying desperately to keep Kroll in jail, arguing that Kroll has violated the terms of his plea agreement by questioning the jurisdiction, but that’s a ridiculous argument and it’s not going to fly.
Or should it? Should a mistake on the part of the state allow this guy to skate on the balance of his sentence? Or is 25 years enough?