In Re: Anthony W.

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In Re: Anthony W. No. 136, September Term, 2004 HEADNOTE: JUVENILE PROCEEDINGS EVIDENCE CORROBORATION OF ACCOMPLICE TESTIMONY In the interest of fundamental fairness, juveniles may be adjudged delinquent only upon trustworthy evidence that satisfies the reasonable doubt standard. To that end, the common law accomplice corroboration rule, which requires that the testimony of an accomplice be corroborated by some independent evidence, applies in juvenile proceedings. In the Circu it Court for F rederick C ounty Criminal No. 10-J-02-013767DELQ DP IN THE COURT OF APPEALS OF MARYLAND No. 136 September Term, 2004 __________________________________ IN RE: ANTHONY W. __________________________________ Bell, C.J. Raker Wilner Cathell Harrell Battaglia Greene, JJ. __________________________________ Opinion by Greene, J. __________________________________ Filed: August 1, 2005 Anthony W., respondent, was charged in juvenile court with the malicious destruction of prop erty. 1 During th e trial, respondent moved for dismissal, alleging that the State s case consisted only of the testimony of two accomplices that was not corroborated in any manner. The motion to dismiss was denied. On November 14, 2002, the Circuit Court for Frederick County, sitting as a juvenile court, found that Anthony W. was involved in the delinq uent act. Anthony W. filed a timely appeal to the Court of Special Appeals and the intermediate appellate co urt reversed the juvenile c ourt. We granted the State s petition for writ of certiorari, which contains two questions combined into one. For purposes of clarity, we separate and reword the two questions: 1. Did the Court of Special Appeals err in holding that the accomplice corroboration rule applicable in criminal cases applies in juvenile cases? 2. Did the Court of Special Appeals improperly hold that the evidence was insuf ficient to find that Anthony W. committed the The malicious destruction of property offense codified in Md. Code (2002), § 6-301(a), (b) and (c) of th e Crim. L aw Artic le provides : 1 (a) Prohibited. A person may not willfully and maliciously destroy, injure, or deface the real or personal property of ano ther. (b) Penalty Property damage of at least $500. A person who, in violation of this section, causes damage of at least $500 to the property is guilty of a misdemeanor and on conviction is subject to imprisonment not exceeding 3 years or a fine not exceeding $2,500 or both. (c) Penalty Property damage of less than $500. A person who, in violation of this section, causes damage of less than $500 to the property is guilty of a misdemeanor and on conviction is subject to imprisonment not exceeding 60 days or a fine not excee ding $5 00 or b oth. act of malicious destruction of property because there was no corroboration of the testimony of the two alleged accomplices? We hold that the common law rule, applicable in criminal proceedings, requiring independent evidence to corrobo rate the testimo ny of an acc omplice, also applies in juvenile cases. As to the se cond qu estion, how ever, we re verse the C ourt of Sp ecial App eals. We h old that the trial judge was not clearly erroneou s in finding that the State s two w itnesses were not accomplices whose testimony needed to be corroborated. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY Sometime during the la te evening of Ma y 10 and early morning of May 11, 2002, Jose Gonzales, Keith Steers, and Anthony W. were driving around the area of Kemptown Church Road in Frederick County w ith no particu lar destination in mind. A ccording to the testimony of Keith Steers, the front seat passenger and one of two witnesses for the State, Anthon y W. told Jose Gonzales, the driver, to stop the car in the parking lot of Kemptown Elementary School. After G onzale s stopp ed the c ar, Anth ony W. exited the car from the back seat and went toward a school bus. Shortly thereafter, Steers and Gonzales also got out of the car and went to the rear of the school bus, which was about fifteen feet from the car. Steers testified that the respondent entered the bus by breaking the glass in the front door of the bus. According to Steer s, Anth ony W. s mashed a number of windows with a fire extinguisher stored in the bus and sprayed the interior. Steers and Gonzales testified that they entered the bus shortly after Anthony W. and attempted to stop him from breaking additional windows. -2- Neither Steers nor Gonzales broke any windows. They did, however, remove a box of road flares a s all three left the b us. On cross-examination, Steers testified that he had been charged with misdemeanor theft for taking the box of flares from the bus, and that the charge was stetted 2 in exchange for his testimo ny against the re sponden t. In a series of questions, the defense attorney for Anthony W. asked Steers: Q. Now you say that your case was plac ed on the s tet docket? A. Yes sir. Q. And was that, what was the agreement that your case be placed on the stet docket, Mr. Steers? Did you make an agreement with the, with the State s Attorney s Office? A. That I stay out of trouble. Q. Did you also make an agreement that if your case, your theft case was placed on the stet dock et, that you wo uld testify agains t A. Oh Q. Ton y. A. Yes sir. Q. Now at the time that your case was . . . and you, you said you w ere charged w ith misdem eanor thef t? A. Yes sir. Q. And that s wha t was place d on the stet, ste t docket? A. Yes sir. Q. So, and do you know what the penalty for misdemeanor theft is? A. It s a $5000 fine and up to a year and a half in jail, I think. Q. All right. So you knew that by testifying against, against Tony, you could avoid being prosecuted and potentially facing that penalty and jail. Is that correct? A. Yes sir. 2 Md. Rule 4-248. On motion of the State s Attorney, the court may indefinitely postpone trial of a ch arge by m aking th e charg e stet on the doc ket. -3- The State s second w itness, Gon zales, after be ing advised of his rights, d eclined to testify until the State entered a nol pros with prejudice 3 on his theft charge, which also stemmed from the ta king of the box of f lares from th e bus. Af ter a recess, the State agree d to either enter a nolle prosequi with pr ejudice or dism iss the ca se with prejud ice. Acco rding to Gonz ales, he w as just d riving a round cuz . . . the re was nothin g to do, when they all decided to drive down the road past the elementary school. After parking on the left-hand side of the building where the school buses were parked, he then testified that the following occurred: Tony got out of the car and just tried to find a way into the bus. We circled the bus around one time to see if there was [sic] any windows open. And then he got thro ugh the [p assenger] d oor [of the bus] like I said at the first time. H e d bro ken in f rom the inside so meho w. I do n t kno w how he did it. 3 A nolle prosequi is an official declaration by the State, announcing that it will not pursue the charges in a particular charging document. The nolle prosequi essentially wipes out the charges pending against the defendant and precludes the State from prosecuting the defendant under the charging document that was nolle prossed. In re Darren M., 358 Md. 104, 112, 747 A .2d 612 , 616 (2 000) (c itations o mitted). See also, Md. Rule 4-247, which provides: (a) Disp osition b y Nolle Prosequi. The State's Attorney may terminate a prosecution on a charge and dismiss the charge by entering a nolle prosequi on the record in open court. The d efendant need n ot be present in court when the nolle prosequi is entered, but in that event the clerk shall send notice to the defenda nt, if the defendant's whereabouts are known, and to the def endant's attorney of record. (b) Effect of Nolle Prosequi. When a nolle prosequi has been entered on a charge, any conditions of pretrial release on that charge are terminated, and any bail bond posted for the defendant on that charge shall be released. The clerk shall take the action necessary to recall or revoke any outstanding warrant or detainer th at could lead to the arrest or detention of the defendant because of that charge. -4- **** [Anthony W.] [g]ot on the bus, started looking around, went up and down the aisle found a fire extinguisher, looked at it for a minute, then apparently brought it back outside the emergency exit in the back of the bus. He bashed out the windows with his foot at the time. And then had opened after he d broken the g lass and then wen t inside with the fire extinguisher and just squirted all of the inside of it, and then just randomly started bashing out windows. And at the time I w as in the driver seat of my car saying w hat are you doing? Get out. Don t do that. You know, someone s gonna come and find out . . . . I was tryin g to get h im off the bus , telling him not to do that, a nd he kept doing that. So at the time I was saying this from my car. Then I got onto the bus and tried to grab a hold of him. I told him to get off the bus. **** Keith was in the . . . passenger side . . . [n]ext to m e. We w ere both telling him to get off the bus. G et off the bus. And Keith was telling me constantly what is he doing. Tell him to get off the bus. Get him off the bus. We, at the same time, we were just telling him to get off the bus. He wouldn t listen. So Keith got on the bus and tried to pull him off. He wouldn t do it so Keith got back off the bus. Then I tried to get him off. He wouldn t budge. And then I got off the bus. Gonzales admitted that while he and Steers were on the bus he stole the box of flares and that Steers took one from the box. At the conclusion of the State s case, respondent moved for dismissal, alleging that the State s case consisted of the testimony of two acc omplices th at was no t corrobora ted in any manner. The juvenile court judge denied the motion. The court found that the State s two witnesses were not accomplices for the purposes of the accomplice corroboration rule. In a written order issued the day of the adjudicatory hearing, the court stated th at the State had proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Anthony W. was involved as alleged for the -5- charge of malicious destruction o f property. On Nov ember 14, 2002 , respondent was placed on probation and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $250.00. In a reported opinion, the Court of Special Appeals reversed the judgment of the Circuit Court. In re Anthony W., 159 Md. App. 514, 859 A.2d 67 9 (2004). T he majority reason ed that, they [the three youths] drove to the scene and drove around looking for open windows on a bus, from which one may reasonably infer they intended to enter. Finding no easy access, [Anthony W.] broke the door of a bus and entered. The alleged accomplices voiced no objections until the window breaking ensued. The offense was committed when the door was broken open; the window breaking was not a separate offense, it was an acceler ation of the illega l activity in w hich all th ree we re enga ged. In re Anthony W., 159 Md. App. at 519, 859 A.2d at 682. In conclusion, the Court of Special Appeals stated that, as a matter of sound policy, the rule requiring corroboration of accomplice testimony applies in juvenile proceedings. Id. The Co urt of Spe cial Appe als then held that Anthony W. was wrongly adjudicated as being involved based on the uncorroborated testimony of two witnesses who were, in [the court s] view b oth accomplices. Thereafter, we granted certiorari. 385 Md. 161 , 867 A.2d 106 2 (2005). STANDARD OF REVIEW The standard of appellate review that we apply in a juven ile delinquen cy matter is mandated by Maryland Rule 8-131 (c). 4 The first question presented to this Court is whether 4 Rule 8-131(c) Action tried w ithout a jury . When an action has been tried withou t a jury, the appellate court will review the case on both the law and the evidence. It will not set aside the judgment of the trial court on the evidence unless clearly erroneous, and (continued ...) -6- the Court of Special Appeals erred in holding that the accomplice corroboration rule applies in juvenile cas es. As a pu re question of law, the appropriate standard of review is de novo. When the trial co urt s dec ision in volves an interp retation and ap plication of M aryland . . . case law, [we] must determine whether the [trial court s] conclusions are legally correct . . . . Nesbit v. Government Employees Insurance Company, 382 Md. 65, 72, 854 A.2d 879, 883 (2004). See Helins ki v. Harford Mem. Hosp., Inc., 376 Md. 606, 614, 831 A.2d 40, 45 (2003) (noting that we must apply the law as we discern it to be); Ferris v . State, 355 Md. 356, 36 8, 735 A .2d 491 , 497 (1 999). The second question is whether the intermediate appellate court erred in concluding that the evidence was insufficient to support the juvenile judge s finding of in volvement because there was no corroboration of the testimony of the two alleged accomplices. In the case, In re Timothy F., 343 Md . 371, 380, 6 81 A.2d 501, 505 (1996), w e said: Appellate review of the [trial] court s judgment on the evidence is lim ited t o determ ining wh ethe r there is a suff icien t evid entia ry basis fo r the cou rt s und erlying fa ctual fin dings. In a crimin al case, the appropriate inquiry is not whether the reviewing court believes that the evide nce establish es guilt beyond a reasonab le doubt, bu t rather, whe ther after rev iewing the evidence in the light mo st favorable to the prosecution, any rational trier of fact could have found th e essential elem ents of the c rime beyond a reasonab le doubt. We have applied the s ame sta ndard o f review in juven ile delinq uency ca ses. In re Antoine H., 319 Md. 101, 107-108, 570 A.2d 1239, 1242 (1990). Consistently, we have held that the 4 (...continued) will give due regard to tle opportunity of the trial court to judge the credibility of the witnesses. -7- judgment of the trial court will not be disturbed unless the trial judge s findings of fa ct are clearly erroneous. In re Timothy, 343 Md. at 380, 681 A.2d at 505. DISCUSSION I. Whether the accomplice corroboration rule applies to juvenile proceedings is a matter of first imp ression in this C ourt. The State relies on In re Victor B., 336 Md. 85, 646 A.2d 1012 (1994), as well as the legislative history of the juv enile cause s law, to sup port its assertion that the accomplice corroboration rule, applicable in criminal ca ses, does no t apply in juven ile proce edings . In 1969, on the recom mendatio n of the R ules Com mittee, we a dopted Md . Rule 912(c), which sp ecified that, [ t]he rules of e vidence a pplicable to c riminal case s shall apply to [juvenile] delinquency hearing s. Md. Rule 91 2(c) (effective July 1, 1969). 5 The State argues that if the history of the law of juvenile causes was complete as of July 1, 1969, an argument could be made that the corroboration requirement applies in juvenile proceedings. The language of Md . Rule 912 (c), howe ver, no long er exists and its language has not survived. See In re Delric H., 150 Md. App. 234, 246, 819 A.2d 11 17, 1124 (2003) ( As a result of the amendment to Chapter 900 of the Maryland Rules, there is no present counterpart to former R ule 912(c), n or has there been since the passag e of the Juv enile Cause s Act in 1975. ). The Ju ly 1, 1969 version of Md. Rule 912(c) also provides that, [t]he rules of evidence applica ble to civ il cases s hall app ly to all othe r hearin gs. 5 -8- In 1975, Ch apter 900 o f the M aryland Rules was completely revised. The new evidence rule regardin g adjudica tory hearings sta ted that, [t]he allegations o f a juvenile petition alleging delinquency must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt before a respondent may be adjudged delinqu ent. An un corrobora ted confe ssion mad e by a child ou t of court is not sufficient proof of delinquency. Md. Rule 914(e)(1). In an Order of this Court dated June 5, 1996, effective January 1, 1997, we renumbered this rule. It is currently Md. Rule 11-114 (2005). Language with respect to the proof in a petition alleging delinquency has remained the same throughout the subsequent revisions to Rule 914(e)(1). It is the State s position that silence on the issue of accomplice testimo ny compels the conclusion that the rule requiring corrob oration w as never inte nded to be applied in ju venile proc eedings, an d it should not be s aid to ap ply now . The State further argues that the rule requiring the corroboration of accomplice testimony has never been constitutionally compelled, and, therefore, it is not necessary for this Court to ad opt the rule to juvenile pro ceedings a s we hav e done in th e adoption of other constitutional proced ural saf eguard s. See In re Thomas J., 372 Md. 50, 811 A.2d 310 (2002) (holding that the right to a speedy trial extends to juvenile delinquency proceedings, as one of the esse ntial s of d ue proce ss an d fai r trea tmen t req uired by In re Gault, 387 U.S. 1, 87 S.Ct. 1428, 18 L.Ed.2d 527 (1967)); In re Michael W., 367 Md. 181, 786 A.2d 684 (2001) (extendin g the double jeopardy proh ibition to juven ile proceed ings); In re Parris W., 363 Md. 717, 770 A.2d 202 (20 01) (extending the right to co unsel to juvenile proceed ings). -9- Respondent adopts the position taken by the Court of the Special Appeals that the accomplice corroboration rule applies to juvenile delinquency proceedings. Respondent also notes the similarities between criminal and juvenile proceedings,6 including the common applicability of the reasonable doubt standard.7 In addition, the respondent recognizes that the accomplice corroboration rule is a produc t of case law promulg ated by this Co urt. While it is true that no Maryland Rule or statute imposes the accomplice corroboration rule to juvenile cases, the respondent asserts that it is equally true that n o Maryland Rule or statu te imposes such a requirement in adult prosecutions. Furthermo re, accordin g to the resp ondent, the rationale for the accomplice corroboration rule in adult proceedings is to provide evidentiary protection to the accused and to provide such protection is a legitimate co ncern present in juvenile proceedings. An alleged delinquent can lose his freedom, both prior to and follow ing adju dication . See Md. Code (2002 Repl.Vol.), §§ 3-8A-15 of the Md. Cts. & Jud. Proc. Art. (describing the protocol for detention and shelter care of juveniles prior to a hea ring); M d. Cts. & Jud. Pro c., §§ 3-8A-19(d)(1) (20 02) ( In making a d isposition on a petition under this sub title, the court may . . . (ii) commit the child to the custody or under the guardianship of the Department of Juvenile Justice, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, or a public or licensed private agenc y on term s that the court co nsiders approp riate . . . . ). A court may also order a juvenile to pay restitu tion. See Crim. Proc. Art. § 11-603 ( A court may enter a judgment of restitution that ord ers a defen dant or child responde nt to make restitution in ad dition to any other penalty for the commission of a crime or delinquent act, if as a direct result of the crime, s pecific qualific ations a re met.). 6 See Md. C ode (200 2 Repl.V ol.), § 3-8A-18(c) of the Cts. & Jud. Proc. Art. which states (1) Before a child is adjudicated delinquen t, the allegations in the petition that the child has committed a delinquent act must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt (2) Befo re a child is found to have committed the violation charged in a citation, the allegations in the citation must b e prove d beyon d a reas onable doubt. 7 -10- The Acc omplice C orrobora tion Rule In order to sustain a conviction of an adu lt based upon the testimony of an accomplice, that testimony must be corr oborat ed by som e indep enden t eviden ce. Williams v . State, 364 Md. 160, 179, 771 A.2d 10 82, 1093 (2001) ( T he longstan ding law in Maryland is that a conviction may not rest on the uncorroborated testimon y of an acco mplice. ); Collins v. State, 318 M d. 269, 2 80, 568 A.2d 1, 6 (1990) ( The rule in Maryland that a person accused of a crime may not be convicted based on the uncorro borated testim ony of an ac complice is well established. ). The accomplice corroboration rule was created by this Court in the case of Luery v. State, 116 Md. 284, 81 A. 681 (1911), which noted: [T]he undoubted fact is that th e experien ce of the co urts, which is certainly much greater than that of juries, is that it is unsafe, at least in the great majority of cases, to rest a conviction upon the uncorroborated evidence of an accomplice . . . . As the reason for the rule, as adopted by most cou rts, is that the testimony of an accomp lice alone and unsupported is regarded as too doubtful to be safe, the important matter is to have him supported in at least some of the material points involved tending to show the guilt of the accused. Luery, 116 M d. at 293 -94, 81 A. at 68 4. The nece ssity f or the rule was later explained and emphasized in Watson v . State, 208 Md. 210, 117 A.2d 549 (1955 ), in the following terms: The reason for the rule requiring the testimony of an accomplice to be corroborated is that it is the testimony of a person admittedly contaminated with guilt, who admits his participation in the crime for which he particularly blames the defendant and it should be regarded with great suspicion and caution, because otherwise the -11- life or liberty of an innocent person might be taken away by a witness who makes the accusation either to g ratify his malice o r to shield himself from punishment, or in the hope of receiving clemency by turning State s evidence. Watson, 208 Md. at 217 , 117 A.2d at 552 (citations omitted). In Brown v. State, 281 Md. 241, 378 A.2d 1104 (1977), the defendant appealed a murder conviction contending that it rested solely on the uncorroborated testimony of an accomplice. On certiorari, the parties addressed whether the long-standing rule that a person accused of a crime may not be convicted on the uncorroborated testimony of an accomplice should be abandoned. We stated: [T]he evidence of an acc omplice is u niversally receive d with caution and weighed and scrutinized with great care . . . . When such a one has as a motive the prospect of freedom, a milder sentence or the favor of the officers who have him in charge, an innocent one may undoubtedly be made to suffer, if great caution is not used. Hence, it would seem to be safer to require some corroboration. Brown, 281 Md. at 243- 244, 378 A .2d at 1106-1107 (quoting Luery, 116 Md. at 292-93, 81 A. at 684). Not much in th e wa y of evidence is required to corroborate the testimony of an accomplice. Brown, 281 Md. at 244, 378 A.2d at 1107. This Court saw the need to retain the accomplice corrobo ration require ment due to the escalatin g prosecu torial trend to fr eely utilize accom plices as State witnes ses. Brown, 281 Md. at 246, 378 A.2d at 1108. In Brown, we also noted that, [even] those jurisdictions which . . . do not require corroboration of an accomplice s testimony all refle ct concern about the re liabili ty of acco mplice testimo ny, -12- and recognize that the testim ony should b e received with cautio n and scru tinized with care. Brown, 281 M d. at 245 , 378 A .2d at 11 07. Juvenile Causes Law Prior to the beginning of the twentieth century, under the common law view prevalent throughout the country, children above the age of seven were tried as adults, and they were afforded the same legal protections and received the same punis hments as adult criminal offenders. In re Victor B., 336 Md. 85, 90, 646 A.2d 1012, 1014 (1994) (citing In re Johnson, 254 M d. 517, 5 21, 255 A.2d 4 19, 421 (1969 ), appeal dismissed, 403 U.S. 926, 91 S.Ct. 2257, 29 L.E d.2d 706 (1971 )). Following a national trend for reform, due to an acknowledgment of the inhe rent differe nces betw een adults and children, jurisdictions throughout the country began creating separate systems of courts that addressed the needs of juvenile offen ders. In re Victor B., 336 M d. at 90, 646 A.2d at 10 14. In con trast to the adversarial nature of the adult system . . . juve nile procee dings we re informa l and flexib le in nature, psychiatric and psychological assistance was sought, the rules of evidence relaxed, and man y proceedings were not open to the public. In re Victor B., 336 Md. at 91, 646 A.2d a t 1014 ( citations omitted ). Over the next century, however, delinqu ency proceedings beg an to take on the mo re rehabilitative and retr ibutive n ature of adult cri minal p roceed ings. In re Victor B., 336 Md. at 90-91, 646 A.2d at 1014. Whethe r specific pro tections prov ided to adu lt defenda nts would also be provided to juveniles was first discussed in depth in 1967 by the United States Supreme Court in In re Gau lt, 587 U.S. 1, 87 S.Ct. 1428, 18 L.E.2d 527 (1967). Because of -13- the increasingly penal overtones of juvenile court systems, Gault held that juv enile proceedings which may lead to commitment in a state institution must measure up to the essentials of due process and fair treatment. These essentials include written notice of the charges to the child and parents in advance to allow for preparation, notification of the right to either retained or appointed counsel, awareness of the constitutional privilege against selfincrimination, and, absent a valid confession, a determination of delinquency and an order of commitment based on ly on sworn te stimony subject to the opportunity for cross-examination in accordance w ith constitutional requirements. In re Gau lt, 587 U.S. 1, 87 S.Ct. 1428, 18 L.E.2d 527. We have prev iously noted tha t juvenile pro ceedings a re civil and not criminal in nature . . . . In re Thomas J., 372 Md. 50, 57, 811 A.2d 3 10, 314 (2002) (quoting In re Anthony R., 362 M d. 51, 69, 76 3 A.2d 1 36, 146 (2 000)). No netheless, w e recogniz e that only a prosecutor can initiate juvenile delinquency proceedings. See Md. Code (1974, 2002 Repl. Vol.) § 3-8A-10(c)(4)(ii) of the Cts. & Jud. Proc. Article. The juvenile delinquency proceeding is a prosecution in lie u of crim inal pro ceedin gs. See In re William A. 313 Md. 690, 694, 548 A.2d 13 0, 132 (19 88); see also Lopez-Sa nchez v. Sta te, __ M d. __, __ A.2d __ (2005) (acknow ledging tha t so many righ ts enjoyed by crim inal defen dants hav e been he ld to apply in juvenile proceedings that many of the procedural distinctions between the two types of proceedings . . . have all but disappeared ) (citations omitted). In that case we said: The raison d etre of the Juvenile Causes Act is that a child does not commit a crime w hen he [or she] commits a delinquent act and therefore is not a criminal. [The child] is not to be punished -14- but afforded supervision and treatment to be made aware of what is right and what is wrong so as to be amenable to the criminal laws. 313 Md. at 69 5, 548 A.2d at 13 2 (1988) (citations omitted). Although the proceedings are civil in nature, [t]his does not mean tha t a juvenile gives up all rights that a person would be entitled to in a criminal proceeding. Id. As such, this Court has recognized that some, but not all, rights granted to a criminal defendant are applicable in juvenile proceedings. See, e.g., In re Thomas J., 372 Md. 50, 58-59, 811 A.2d 310, 315 (2002) (holding that juveniles must be afforded a speedy trial in delinquency proceedings as a matter o f fundam ental fairnes s); see also Lopez-Sanchez, __ Md. at __, __ A.2d at __ (2005 ) (listing rights that are applicable in juvenile delinquen cy proceedings). 8 In Maryland, the accomplice corroboration rule as applied to adults was developed under the c omm on la w, ra ther than by constitutional or statutory mandate.9 Although we have addres sed the applica tion of c onstitutio nal pro tections to juven iles, we have not addressed whe ther this s peci fic c omm on la w ev iden tiary rule applies. Several other jurisdictions, however, have discussed the issue with the majority holding in favor of In re Michael W., 367 Md. 181, 185 , 786 A.2d 684, 687 (2001) (pro hibition aga inst double jeopardy); In re Parr is W., 363 Md. 717, 724, 770 A.2d 202, 206 (2001) (right to effective assistance of couns el); In re Anthony R., 362 Md. 51, 76, 763 A.2d 136, 150 (2000) (statute of limitations equ ivalent to that for criminal m isdemean or offens es); In re Mo ntrail M., 325 Md. 527, 532 -538, 601 A.2d 11 02, 1104 -1107 (19 92) (doctrin e of merg er); In re William A., 313 Md. 69 0, 698, 548 A.2d 130, 133-134 (1 977) (infancy defense). 9 See Brown v. State, 281 Md. 241, 245, 378 A.2d 1104, 1107 n.2 (1977) (noting that in 1977 only Maryland and Tennessee required corroboration of an accomplice s testimony as a matter of case law, and that at that time, 17 other states had statutes requiring corroboration of an accomp lice s testimony). 8 -15- extending the rule. 10 Under the Georgia statute,11 conviction of an adult based upon the testimony of an accomplice may only be sus tained if corroborating facts or circumstances connect the defendant to the crime o r lead to an in ference o f his or her guilt, and such corroboration must be independent of the acc omplic e s testim ony. T.L.T. v. State , 212 S.E.2d 650, 653 (Ga. App. 1975) (citing West v. State , 209 S.E.2 d 195 (G a. 1974); Quaid v . State, 208 S.E.2d 336 (Ga. App. 19 74)). In the juv enile contex t, the Georg ia statute 12 requires that a court must find on proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the child committed the acts by reason of which Georgia (T.L.T. v. State , 212 S.E.2d 650 (1975), Iowa (In re Dugan, 334 N.W.2d 300 (1983)), Minnesota (In re D.S., 306 N.W.2d 882 (1981)), Nevada (A Minor v. Juven ile Dep t Fourth Judicial Dist. Court, 608 P.2d 509 (19 80)), New Yo rk (N.Y . Fam. C t. Act § 3 43.2 (McKinney 1962)), North Dakota (496 N.W.2d 31 (1933)), and Oklahoma (Smith v. Sta te, 525 P.2d 1251 (O kla. Crim. App. 197 4)) have extended the accomplice corrobora tion rule to juvenile proceedings. 10 11 O.C.G .A. § 24 -4-8 ( 20 04), fo rmerly O .C.G.A . § 38-1 21 (19 33) pro vides, The testimony of a single witness is generally sufficient to establish a fa ct. However, in certain cases, including prosecutions for treason, prosecutions for perjury, and felony cases where the only witness is an accomplice, the testimony of a single witness is no t sufficie nt. N ever thele ss, co rrob orating c ircumsta nces may dispense with the necessity for the testimony of a second witness, except in prosecutions for treason. The Georgia code was revised after the T.L.T. opinion was reported. The current language relating to juvenile proceedings is located at Ga. Code Ann. § 15-11-65(a) (2004). The statute provides, [i]f the court finds on proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the child committed the acts by reason of which he or she is alleged to be delinq uent or un ruly, it shall proceed immedia tely or at a later time to conduct a dispositional hearing for the purpose of hearing evidence as to whe ther the child is in need of treatment, rehabilitation, or supervision and shall make and file its findings thereon. 12 -16- he is alleged to be delinquent. T.L.T., 212 S.E.2d at 654. T he Georgia court emphasized Georgia s statutes re quiring , inter alia, proof beyond a reasonable doubt and United States and Georgia Supreme Court decisio ns exte nding c riminal r ights to ju veniles . Id. The Georgia court then concluded that a juvenile charged with delinquency is entitled by right to have the court apply those common law jurisprudential principles which experience and reason have shown are necessary to give the accused the essence of a fair trial, including indepe ndent c orrobo rative ev idence of an a ccom plice s te stimon y. Id. In _____, A Minor v. Juvenile Dept. Fourth Judicial District, 608 P.2d 509 (Nev. 1980), the Supre me Cou rt of Nevada held that the a ccomplic e corrobo ration require ment, mandated by statute,13 applies to proceedings wherein minors are adjudge d juvenile delinquents. The court opined that, [a] lthough the N evad a statute b y its terms forb ids only convictions upon uncorroborated accomplice testimon y, this Court has not interprete d this language mechanically. ______ , A Minor, 608 P.2d at 510. In ad dition, the statute governing juvenile adjudications requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt upon competent, NRS § 175.291 (2004). Testimony of accomplice must be corroborated; sufficiency of corrob oration ; accom plice de fined. 13 1. A conviction shall not be had on the testimony of an accomplice unless he is corroborated by other evidence which in itself, and without the aid of the testimony of the accomplice, tends to connect the defendant with the commission of the off ense; and th e corrobo ration shall no t be sufficie nt if it merely shows the commission of the offense or the circumstances thereof. 2. An accomplice is hereby defined as one who is liable to prosecution, for the identical offense charged against the defendan t on trial in the ca use in which the testimony of the accomplice is given. -17- material, and relevant evidence th at a child has committed the acts by reaso n of wh ich he is alleged to be delinq uent. 14 Id. The cou rt held that the corroboration requirement should be applied in juvenile proceedings consistent with Breed v. Jones, 421 U.S. 519, 95 S. Ct. 1779, 44 L. Ed. 2d 346 (1 975) (hold ing that in the in terest of fun damenta l fairness, the D ouble Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment, as applied to the states throu gh the Fo urteenth Ame ndme nt, attach es to a ju venile s adjudic atory hea ring). Id. Although Georgia and Nevada have recognized that applying the accomplice corroboration rule to juvenile proceedings comports with common law jurisprudential principles and fundamental fairness, two jurisdictions have declined to extend the rule. The California Supreme Court held that, although a conviction statutorily requires corrobora tion of acco mplice te stimony, 15 a finding of juvenile delinquency does not 14 NRS § 62D .040(4) (2004), formerly NRS 62.193(4), provides, If the child is alleged to have committed a delinquent act, the allegations in the petition must be established by proof beyond a reasonable doubt based upon competent, material and relevant evidence. 15 Cal. Penal Code § 1111 (2004 ). A conviction cannot be had upon the testimony of an accomplice unless it be corroborated by such other evidence as shall tend to connect the defendant with the co mmission of the off ense; and th e corrobo ration is not sufficient if it m erely shows th e comm ission of the offense or the circumstances thereof. An accomplice is hereby defined as one who is liable to prosecution for the identical offense charged against the defendant on trial in the cause in which the testimony of the accomplice is given. -18- constitute a conviction. Therefore, the court held that the statute does not require application of the rule to juvenile proceedings. In re Mitchell P., 587 P.2d 1144, 1146 (Cal. 1978). As a matter of constitutional due pro cess, the court noted that the essentials of due process and fair treatment, as stated in Gault, [do] not compel the accomplice corrobora tion rule in either criminal or juvenile proceedings. In re Mitchell P., 587 P.2d at 11 47. C onse quently, the court wa s not com pelled to ex tend the rule as a matter of constitutional due process. The court also remarked that, although the accomplice corroboration rule has been codified by the California Legislature to apply to adults in criminal proceedings, equal protection does not require that the r ule also apply in ju venile p roceed ings. In re Mitchell P., 587 P.2d at 114849. The cou rt conclude d that the disparities betwee n juveniles a nd adults w ere reason ably related to the purpose of keeping juvenile proceedings sufficiently informal and distinct from adult cri minal p roceed ings. Id. In Munhall v. State of Arkansas, 986 S.W.2d 863 (Ark. 1999), the Arkansas Supreme Court agreed w ith the California court and dec lined to app ly the Arkans as statute 16 requiring corroboration of accomplice testimony to juvenile proceedings. The A rkansas court explained that the clear leg islative intent as e videnced by the plain lang uage of th e statute 16 Ark. Code A nn. § 16-89-111 (e)(1)(A) (1987). A conviction cannot be had in any case of felony upon the testimony of an accomplice unless corroborated by other evidence tending to connect the defendant with the commission of the offense. The corrobora tion is not sufficient if it merely shows that the offense was committed and the circumstances thereof. -19- limits its applicability to adults. The words conviction, felony, and defendant do not apply in juvenile p roceed ings. Munh all, 986 S.W.2d at 86 4. The court conclu ded that [i]f the accomplice-corroboration rule . . . is to be extended to juvenile hearings, it must be by legislative enactment. Munh all, 986 S.W .2d at 865. Subsequently, in 2001 the Arkansas legislature amended their statute to reflect that in felony cases the accomplice corroboration rule applies in juven ile proce edings . See Ark. Code Ann., § 16-89-111(e)(1)(A) (1987, 2003 Supp .) ( A conviction or an adjudication of delinquency cannot be had in any case of felony upon testimony of an accomplice including in juvenile court, unless corroborated by other evidence tending to connec t the defendant or the juvenile with the commission of the offense. ). Similar to juvenile co urt statutes in both Georgia and Nevada, Maryland Rule 11114(e)(1), which governs adjudicatory hearings in juvenile proceedings, requires that allegations that a juvenile co mmitted a d elinquent a ct be prove n beyond a r easonab le doubt. See also Md. C ode (20 02 Re pl. Vol.) , § 3-8A -18(c)( 1) of th e Cts. & Jud. Pro c. Art. (stating that before a child is adjudicated delinquent, the standard of proof for allegations in the petition that the child h as comm itted a delinqu ent act must be prove n beyond a r easonab le doubt). The right to proof b eyond a reaso nable dou bt has been held to app ly to both adults and juvenile s by the U nited S tates Su preme Court. See In re Wins hip, 397 U.S. 35 8, 368, 9 0 S.Ct. 1068, 1075, 25 L.Ed.2d 368 (1970) ( [T]he constitutional safeguard of proof beyond a reasonab le doubt is as much required during the adjudicatory stage of a delinquency -20- proceeding as are those constitutiona l safeguard s applied in Gault, such as the right to counsel and the privilege against self-incrimination.). Because the standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt in juvenile cases is the same standard applied in adult c riminal case s, the same c oncerns re garding the potentially untrustworthy nature of an accomplice s testimony in adult criminal proceedings, as noted in Watson, are also present in juve nile cases. In th e present ca se, the Cou rt of Specia l Appeals pointed out that, a juvenile faced with the possibility of removal from his home and placement in some state facility for rehabilitation or treatment is no less entitled to the benefit of the accomplice-corroboration rule than an adult faced with possible incarceration for committing an identical offense. That analogy supports the concept of fundamental fairnes s. In re Anthony W., 159 Md. App. 514, 524, 859 A.2d 679, 685 (2004). And as the respondent notes in his brief, the interest of trustworthy evidence applies with equal force regard less of th e age o f the pe rson ac cused. W e agree . The State relies on the case of In re Victor B., 336 M d. 85, 646 A .2d 1012 (1994), in which we addressed the question of whether the Criminal Rules of Procedure, under Title 4 of the Maryland Rules, apply to an adjudicatory proceeding in a ju venile case. The respondent in that case argued that the rules o f Title 4 are applicable to juvenile proceedings when there is no guidance within the juve nile rule s thems elves. In re Victor B., 336 Md. at 89-90, 646 A.2d at 1014. After considering the pertinent procedural rules in light of the history and und erlying policies o f the juven ile court, w e held that juvenile delinquency proceedings are governed exclusively by Chapter 900 of the Maryland Rules o f Procedure -21- and the crim inal rules und er Title 4 do not apply to juvenile proceedings. In re Victor B., 336 Md. at 90, 646 A.2d at 1014. Although Chapter 900 o f the Maryland Ru les of Procedure ex clusively governs juvenile delinquency proceedings, it is also within our authority to develop or extend common law rules. As stated in In re Victor B., [j]u venile pr ocee ding s are governe d by a separate, pervasive scheme of specific statutes and rules developed by the Maryland General Assemb ly and the Court of Appeals. In re Victor B., 336 Md. at 96, 646 A.2d at 1017. Pursuant to this authority and in the interest of fundamental fairness, we extend the ru le requiring accomplice corroboration to juvenile proceedings. II. Having concluded that the acc omplice corroboration rule app lies in juvenile proceedings, we consider the question of whether the rule applies in this c ase. The ju venile court conclude d that Steers a nd Gon zales were not accom plices, and, the refore, their testimo ny did no t require indepe ndent c orrobo ration. The juvenile court s analysis was as follows: [It had been argued that] fundamentally . . . an individual cannot be co nvic ted o n the basis of u ncorrob orated ac com plice testim ony. **** The fact that they drove the Respondent away, I don t believe makes anyone acco mplices or a ccessories u nder any form of analysis because there was not, at least on the evidence I have, whatever we might assume, there s not evidence that the intent was to conceal the act or the perpetr ator. -22- **** I think Jos e Go nzal es testified ra ther sincerely t hat th ey pulled into the school parking lot an d that while they were the re, when th ey were in the parking lot, the Respondent, Tony W., got out of the car, broke into the bus, and started to break out windows and sprayed the fire extinguisher. At some point after he started that, both Gonzales and Steers got onto the bus. To one extent or another, how vehemently and how sincerely they, they told him it was time to get, to stop it. Or not whether to stop it or not, but to leave. And I accept that when they got off they committed these thefts. **** It seems to me that this misdemeanor destruction of property began with the R esponde nt [Anth ony W.] alon e on the sch ool bus. The fact that Gonzales and Steers at some point in this continuum may have committed independent crimes, misdemeanors, does not make them accomplices to this in the sense of the word for purposes of the evidentiary rule. For that reason I m . . . going to find that Tony is invo lved as to [the ] cha rge o f ma licio us de struc tion of prope rty. To be an accomplice a person must participate in the commission of a crim e knowin gly, voluntarily, and with common criminal intent with the principal offender, or must in some way advocate or encourage the commission of the crime. State v. Raines, 326 Md. 582, 597, 60 6 A.2 d 265, 272 (1992) (quoting Watson v . State, 208 Md. 210, 219, 117 A.2d 549, 553 (195 5)); State v. Foster, 263 M d. 388, 3 93, 283 A.2d 4 11, 413 (1971)). The act for which the respondent was adjudged, malicious destruction of property, is a misdemeanor. As such, all acce ssories a re charg eable a s princip als. Roddy v. Finnegan, 43 Md. 490, 503-504 (1876); Seward v. State, 208 M d. 341, 346 , 118 A.2d 505, 507 (1955); Watson v . State, 208 Md. 210, 217, 117 A.2d 549, 552 (1955). The test commonly applied as to whether a witness is an accomplice is whether he himself could have been indicted and punished for the -23- offense, either as a principal or as an accessory. Harrida y v. State, 228 Md. 593, 596, 182 A.2d 40, 42 (1962) (citing Coleman v. State, 209 Md. 379 , 386, 121 A.2d 2 54, 257 (1956)). In Coleman, the defen dant argue d that there was in sufficient e vidence to convict him because he was convicted solely as the result of the uncorroborated testimony of a witness he considered to be an accomplice. During the alleged accomplice s testimony, she stated that she knew n othing abo ut the intent of the defen dant to steal property, and there was no evidence that she serv ed in the pa rticipatory role as a loo kout. Coleman, 209 Md. at 387, 121 A.2d at 258. We stated, [t]his case was tried by the trial judge without a jury. This C ourt should not reverse a judgme nt of conv iction in a no njury case unle ss it finds that the trial court s conclusion was clearly erroneous. Id. We held in that case that the trial judge was not clearly erroneous in finding that the witness was not an accomplice to the crime for which the defendant was convicted because there was evidence that the alleged accomplice sat outside in a truck while the b reaking and entry occurre d and that she had no knowledge that a crim e was p lanned . Id. In Seward, the defend ant was c onvicted o f malicious destruction of property for destroying a water tower and screen door with a bomb while associating with a group of boys. The defendant appealed based on the trial judge s finding that the defendant encouraged the commission of the crime and was therefore chargeable as a principal to the delinqu ent act. Seward, 208 Md. at 346, 118 A.2d at 50 6-507. A gain, this Co urt stated that a judgment of conviction in a nonjury case should not be reversed unless the trial court s conclusion was cle arly erron eous. Seward, 208 Md. at 346, 118 A.2d at 506-507. The -24- defendant admitted to the police that all of the participants in the act discussed setting off the bomb, that he knew who was making the bomb, and who was setting it off. Seward, 208 Md. at 349, 118 A.2d at 508. Knowing that the placing of the bomb was contemplated, the defendant continued association with the group of boys and arrived at the locations with the intention of detona ting a bo mb an d watc hing it ex plode. Seward, 208 Md. at 349-350, 118 A.2d at 508. We there concluded that, from the evidence or from proper inference from the evidence, the trial judge was not clearly wrong in finding that the appellant in some way encouraged the commission o f the crime and w as therefore an a ccom plice. Seward, 208 Md. at 350, 118 A.2d at 509. In Watson, the def endan t was co nvicted for the m urder o f a bab y. The defendant claimed that one of the witnesses was an accomplice and that he could not be convicted based on the witness s uncorroborated testimony. Watson, 208 Md. at 216-217, 117 A.2d at 552. There was no evidence that the witness knew that the defendant intended to kill the child until he g ot the tub of wa ter and p ut the ch ild in it. Watson, 208 Md. at 219, 117 A.2d at 553. There was n o evide nce tha t she aid ed or ab etted the crime o r encou raged it. Id. In holding that she was not an accomplice we stated: To be an accomplice a person must participate in the commission of the crime . . . with common criminal intent with the principal offender, or must in some way advocate or encourage the commission of the crime. Watson, 208 M d. at 219 , 117 A .2d at 55 3. -25- Returning to the presen t case, the Court o f Spec ial App eals held that An thony W ., Steers, and Gonzales were all participants in the misdemeanor offenses of malicious destruction of the bus and the theft of the property inside. The court said: Finding no easy access, [respondent] broke the door of a bus and entered. The alleged accomplices voiced no objection until the window breaking ensued. The off ense wa s comm itted when the door was broken open; the window breaking w as not a sep arate offen se, it was an a cceleration o f the illegal activity in which all three engaged. We know of no authority for defining and accomplice based on who did what after an illega l entry is gained. The objective was to enter the bus by whatever means was require d. In re Anthony W., 159 M d. App. 514, 51 9-520, 85 9 A.2d 6 79, 682 (2 004). Du e to this finding and the req uirement th at the accom plice corrob oration rule a pplies to juve nile delinquency proceedings, the Court of Special Appea ls held that Steers s and Go nzales s testimony neede d indep enden t corrob oration , thereby reversing th e judgme nt of the juv enile court. 17 In re Anthony W., 159 M d. App . at 519, 8 59 A.2 d at 682 . The question of whether the Circuit Court, sitting as a juvenile court, properly found that the tw o witne sses w ere not a ccom plices, is a mixed questio n of law and fa ct. If there is no conflict in the evidence as to a witness s participation in a crime, or where his participation is conceded, the question whether the witness is an accomplice is one of law for the trial judge to determine. The Court of Special Appeals gave significant weight to the notion that the two witnesses sought to bolster their credibility by admitting that they stole a box of flares from the bus. In re Anthony W., 159 M d. App. at 5 18, 859 A .2d at 682. At the time of their testimony, the charges against Steers had been stetted by the State, and Gonzales had refused to testify until his charges were nol prossed. The trial court expressed reserva tions about Steers s credibility due to his lying to a different judge about the theft of the flares. Gonzales blamed [respond ent] for the entire breaking into the bus despite the fact that he drove the car to the school property. In re Anthony W., 159 M d. App . at 518- 519, 85 9 A.2d at 682. 17 -26- Con vers ely, where there is a conflict in the evidence as to the witness s participation in the crime either as a principal or as a n accessory before the fac t, the que stion of wheth er he is a n acco mplice is one o f fact . . . . Rivenbark v. State, 58 M d. App . 626, 63 5, 473 A .2d 132 9, 1333 (1984 ), aff d in part, rev d in part, 311 M d. 147, 5 33 A.2 d 271 ( 1987) . See also, Maryland Rule 8-131(c). This Court determines whether there was any evidence, or proper inference from th e evidence, upon which the trial court could find the defendant guilty. If the record shows such evidence or proper inference , the Court o f Appe als cannot f ind that the d ecision of the trial court was clearly erroneous. Seward, 208 M d. at 346 , 118 A .2d at 50 7 (citatio ns omi tted). The burden of proving that Steers and Gonzales were accomplices rested on the responde nt. [The courts] have consistently recognized as the rule that the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that a witness is an accomplice is on the defendant asserting it. They have applied it, and we have not repudiated it . . . . We deem it to be the rule in this State. Bennett v. S tate, 283 M d. 619, 6 23, 392 A.2d 7 6, 78 (1 978). Respondent contends that, as a matter of law, Steers and Gonzales were accomplices whose testimony required independent corroborative evidence. Where the trial judge has ruled that the witness is an accomplice as a matter of law, for the appellate court to reverse that decision, the proof must be so clear and decisive that reasonable minds could not differ in comin g to the s ame co nclusio n. Burroughs v. State, 88 Md. App. 229, 240, 594 A.2d 625, 630 (1991 ). See also, Bishop v. S tate, 39 M d. App . 384, 39 0, 385 A.2d 1206, 1210 (1978) ( [T]he court must find, in effect, that the testimony was so conclusive that, were a directed -27- verdict of guilty available in a criminal trial, and had the witness be en the party ch arged w ith the crim e, it wou ld have been th e witne ss s fate to have such en tered ag ainst him . ). The State argues, and we agree, that the evidence respecting whether Steers and Gonzales were accomplices is capable of being determined either way. While we may agree with the Court of Special Appeals that there was sufficient evidence to determine that Steers and Gonza les were, in f act, accom plices to the d elinquent a ct charge d, the evidence does not demand or require tha t an appellate court make such a findin g. In addition , [w]e ha ve held repeatedly that when evidence relating to w hether a w itness is an acc omplice is capab le of being determined either way and justifies different inferences in respect thereto, the question is for the determination of the trier of fact . . . . State v. Foster, 263 Md. 388, 393-394, 283 A.2d 411, 4 13-414 (1971) (citing, with approval, the Court of Special Appeals in Foster v. State, 11 Md. App. 40, 46, 272 A.2d 810, 813 (1921)) . Therefore, the clearly erroneous standard of review is appropriate for this question. The rationale behind the clearly erroneous standard is settled. T he trial judge is physically present during the testimony and is able to observe m atters not usu ally reflected in a cold record, such as the demeanor and credibility of witnesses. That is to say, the judge has his finger on the pulse of the trial. State v. Hawkins, 326 Md. 270, 278, 604 A.2d 489, 493 (1992). In $3,417.46 U.S. Money v. Kinnamon, 326 Md. 141, 149, 604 A.2d 64, 67-68 (1992) w e further ela borated: [In a bench trial], the trial court is not only the judge of a witness s cred ibilit y, but is also the judge of the weight to be attached to the evidence. It is thus plain tha t the appellate court shou ld not substitu te its -28- judgment for that of the trial court on its f indings of fact but w ill only determine whether those findings are clearly erroneous in light of the total evidence. $3,417.46 U.S. Money, 326 Md. at 149, 604 A.2d 67 (citing Housing Opportunities Comm n v. Lacey, 322 Md. 56, 59-60, 585 A.2d 219, 221 (1991), and Kowell Ford, Inc. v. Doolan, 283 Md. 579 , 581, 391 A.2d 8 40, 841 (1978)). Despite the Court of Specials Appeals s finding that Anthony W. s window breaking was an acceleration of the illegal activity in which all three engaged, we held in Coleman that, the term accomplice does not include a person who has guilty knowledge, or is morally delinquent, or who was even an admitted participant in a related but distinct offense. Coleman, 209 Md. at 385, 121 A.2d at 257 (quoting 2 Wharton, Criminal Evidence, 229, Sec. 448 et seq. (12th Ed.)). In the present case, Steers and Gonzales admittedly participated in the taking of a box of flares from the bus. This act, however, is a separate and distinct offense from the malicious destruction of property. Likewise, assuming, for the sake of argument, that the property was posted against trespassers,18 all parties here participated in that crime by entering the property an d boardin g the bus. T respass, how ever, like the c rime of theft is a separate and distinct offense. In addition, there is no evidence in the record that the alleged accomplices k new that the respondent intended to break the door of the bus and damage the interior of the bus. The court was not required to conclude from Md. Code (2002), § 6-402 (a) of the Crim. Law Article provides, in relevant part: A person may not enter or tres pass on th e pro perty that i s pos ted c onsp icuo usly again st trespas s by: (1) sign s placed where they reaso nably ma y be seen . . . . 18 -29- the evidence of their prese nce at the sc ene of the crime or the ir participation in distinct crimes that the alleged accomplices aided or encouraged the damage to the bus. As the juvenile court judge found, the fact that Gonzales and Steers at some point in this continuum may have committed independent crimes . . . does not make them accomp lices to [the m alicious destruction of property] in the sense of the word for pu rposes of the e videntia ry rule. Analyzing the evidence and testimony in the record, a rational trier of fact could have found that Steers and Gonzales were not accomplices. In the absence of a statement relating to why the judgment of the juvenile court was clearly erroneous, the Court of Special Appeals erred by not deferring to the juvenile court judge s factual findings. Accordingly, we reverse the Court of Special Appeals and hold that the Circuit Court, sitting as a juvenile court, was not clearly erroneous in finding that Steers and Gonzales were not accomplices and in relying on their uncorroborated testimo ny to dete rmine A nthony W . s involv emen t. JUDGMENT OF THE COURT OF SPECIAL APPEALS REVERSED AND CASE REMANDED TO THE COURT OF SPECIAL APPEALS WITH DIRECTIONS TO AFFIRM THE JUDGMENT OF THE CIRCUIT C OURT FOR F R E D E R I CK COUNTY; COSTS IN THIS COURT AND THE COURT OF SPECIAL APPEALS TO BE PAID BY FREDERICK COUNTY. -30-