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Ruling of Prince George’s County Circuit Court judge affirmed

October 10th, 2013
Sinclair v. State. The Court of Special Appeals of Maryland recently held that the limited, immediate search of an arrestee’s cell phone, pursuant to a lawful arrest, did not violate his Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches and seizures. The Appellant was convicted in the Circuit Court for Prince George’s County of various charges stemming from a carjacking in Temple Hills, Maryland. The record reveals that minutes after the Appellant’s lawful arrest, the on-duty officer conducted a limited search of the cell phone found on his person.[1] During the Appellant’s Circuit Court trial, defense counsel moved, in limine, to suppress the evidence seized from his phone.[2] The Circuit Court for Prince George’s County denied this motion, concluding that the search was valid incident to a lawful arrest. On appeal, the Maryland Court struck down the Appellant’s claims, citing to a decision from the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.[3] The Court of Special Appeals of Maryland balanced the Fourth Amendment rights of suspects against the need of law enforcement to preserve evidence when faced with nuances presented by modern technology.[4] Here, the ...Continue Reading

Defendant’s testimony admissible in State’s case-in-chief during de novo appeals.

September 24th, 2013
Oku v. State The Court of Appeals of Maryland affirmed the ruling of a Montgomery County Circuit Court judge allowing voluntary testimony from a criminal defendant’s District Court trial to be used in the State’s case-in-chief during his Circuit Court trial. The Petitioner was accused of attacking a man while in an elevator in Silver Spring, Maryland. He was charged with second degree assault and reckless endangerment in the District Court of Maryland in Montgomery County. Petitioner, represented by an attorney, took the stand in his own defense. During his trial, he admitted to punching the victim in the face once and hitting him once. It is undisputed that Petitioner’s District Court testimony was given voluntarily.[1] At the end of his District Court trial, Petitioner was convicted of both the second degree assault and reckless endangerment charges. Petitioner exercised his right to a de novo appeal in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County. Before the start of Petitioner’s Circuit Court trial, Petitioner made a motion in limine arguing that the Court should preclude the introduction of Petitioner’s District Court testimony during his trial. The Court denied Petitio...Continue Reading

Post-conviction relief after decades behind bars.

September 24th, 2013
Lopez v. State The Court of Appeals of Maryland held that the doctrine of laches[1] does not apply to post-conviction petitions arising from sentences imposed before October 1995. Mr. Lopez, sentenced in 1986 for committing a string of crimes in Silver Spring, Maryland,[2] filed his petition for post-conviction relief in 2005, unrepresented by counsel. In 2007, the Office of the Public Defender provided a supplement to Mr. Lopez’s petition, in which he alleged ineffective assistance of counsel. The State, in its response, used the equitable doctrine of laches as an affirmative defense to Mr. Lopez’s petition. In 2008, the Circuit Court for Montgomery County denied his petition on that basis. The Court of Special Appeals of Maryland affirmed the Circuit Court’s ruling. The Court of Appeals of Maryland reviewed the intermediate Court’s decision on certiorari. In support of its ruling, the Court of Appeals of Maryland looked to the legislative intent of Maryland’s General Assembly and case law for guidance. [3] Through its analysis, the Court determined that the pre-amendment language allowing for post conviction petitions to be filed “at any time” applies to defendants sente...Continue Reading

Montgomery County judge denial of criminal defendant’s mistrial motions affirmed.

September 24th, 2013
Choate v. State The Court of Special Appeals of Maryland recently affirmed a Montgomery County Circuit judge’s ruling denying Appellant’s motions for mistrial. The Court held that the grant of a mistrial is not warranted when the defendant has not suffered irreversible prejudice[1] and when the prosecution’s statements in closing do not create an inference that the defendant should have taken the stand.[2] This case arises from a trial in which Appellant was convicted of first degree rape and two counts of first degree sexual offense of a Bethesda woman. As a result, he was sentenced to three consecutive life sentences. In Appellant’s Brief submitted to the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland, he asserts that his two motions for a mistrial were erroneously denied. His first motion, made during State’s closing, asserted that he was in fact prejudiced by the trial court’s ruling allowing the State’s reference to facts not introduced into evidence. Specifically, Appellant cited to the victim’s testimony regarding a screw driver that was allegedly used by Appellant during commission of the crime. During the State’s case-in-chief, the victim was shown a screw driver found i...Continue Reading

Maryland Pattern Jury Instructions.

September 18th, 2013
Hall v. State. In a close decision, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland affirmed a ruling from the Circuit Court of Baltimore City permitting the reading of an Allen-type jury pattern instruction[1] that did not strictly adhere to the language included in the instruction. Although the Court noted that, the Circuit Courts should avoid the sort of divergence that occurred in this case, ultimately, the instructions were upheld. The Maryland Court ruled that the instructions given did not alter the substance of the Maryland Pattern Jury Instructions (“MPJI”), nor were they found to be unduly coercive.[2] On appeal, Appellant cited to two instances that, in his view, were impermissibly coercive: 1) the Court’s altered instruction directing the jury “to decide” as opposed to “deliberate” (which is what is written in the instruction); and 2)the trial court’s preface to the instructions in which the judge announced that the jury reached an impasse due to one juror. In response to Appellant’s arguments, the Maryland Court maintained that the instruction’s potential coerciveness, read in context, was lessened by language emphasizing the importance of each juror reaching an indi...Continue Reading

The “extreme” ruse – When consent becomes involuntary.

September 12th, 2013
Redmond v. State. The Court of Special Appeals of Maryland held that extreme ruses of deception employed by police to obtain consent to enter (or search) may vitiate, per se, the voluntary nature of the defendant’s consent. Generally, law enforcement is permitted to use ruses as a means of obtaining consent; however, this practice is not without limits. In this case, Appellant was convicted of robbery with a deadly weapon, robbery, second-degree assault, and theft of less than $1000.[1] His conviction rested in part on the Circuit Court of Baltimore City’s ruling that denied Appellant’s motion to suppress evidence obtained as a result of a ruse. Here, the Court set a guideline for the acceptable use of ruses by analyzing both the legality of the detectives’ employment of a ruse to obtain consent to enter the home[2] and the admissibility of evidence seized resulting from the detectives’ tactic. Finding in favor of Appellant, and reversing the Circuit Court for Baltimore City’s ruling, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland found that the ruse used in this case was “extreme” as it played on the occupants’ willingness to assist in the capture of a (made-up) pedophile. T...Continue Reading

Was there sufficient evidence to support a conviction for second-degree assault?

September 12th, 2013
Jones v. state. The Court of Special Appeals of Maryland held that when a defendant shoots multiple bullets into an occupied residence (which he knows to be occupied), there is sufficient evidence for a jury to reasonably infer that the defendant intended to cause fear of imminent bodily harm to those in the residence. This inference is sufficient to support a conviction of the “intent to frighten variety of assault” with respect to each occupant who was placed in fear. A conviction based on this variety of assault will be supported regardless of a defendant’s knowledge of the identity of each occupant. In the instant case, appellant was convicted on two counts of second-degree assault and three counts of reckless endangerment. Appellant only contested his second-degree assault conviction for Ms. Johnson, “the unknown victim,” on appeal. The record established that Appellant intentionally fired three shots into the door of a residence, which he knew to be occupied by several people, causing an immediate fear of bodily harm to those inside.[1] Appellant argued that because he was unaware of the identities of all the occupants, and only had the intent to place certain people...Continue Reading

Jury Trial Waiver In Montgomery County Circuit court and Impeachment through use of Conviction of Resisting Arrest.

September 12th, 2013
Banks v. State The Court of Special Appeals of Maryland held that, should a defendant decide to waive his Sixth Amendment right to a trial by jury, the trial court must announce this decision on the record in open court, acknowledging the defendant’s knowing and voluntary waiver of this constitutional right. If this procedural requirement, as set out in the Maryland Rules, is not followed, any resulting convictions will be vacated. See Md. Rule 4-246(b). In this case, Appellant was found guilty by a Montgomery County Circuit Court judge and convicted of child sexual abuse and two counts of fourth degree sexual offense. Appellant’s assertion that the trial court did not substantially comply with Maryland Rule 4-246(b) was upheld. A variance from the procedural requirement, which results in the announcement not being made on the record and in open court, will not meet the strict requirements of this Rule.[1] The Court also held that the crime of resisting arrest[2] cannot be used to impeach a witness’s credibility, upholding the Montgomery County Circuit Court’s decision to sustain the objection in response to Appellant’s attempt to impeach the State’s witness using this con...Continue Reading

The Work Product Doctrine and Other Crimes Evidence.

September 12th, 2013
Thomas v. State. The Court of Special Appeals of Maryland held that the disclosure of a recorded statement that contains only the verbatim statements of the witness (facts) is not protected under the work product doctrine. In this case, appellant asserted that statements taken and recorded from two State’s witnesses by the defense’s investigator were not subject to disclosure by defense, and that the trial court erroneously ordered defendant’s disclosure under Maryland Rule 4-263(e)(6). Appellant argued that because the statements were not used during trial and were protected by the work product doctrine, they were not discoverable. However, after a closer analysis of the Rule and defense’s disclosure obligations therefrom, and after reviewing the record and finding that defense counsel would use these statements during trial if one of the witnesses changed their statement, the Maryland Court disagreed.[1] Additionally, the Court found that because the recordings did not reveal the opinions, theories, or “creative thought process or mental impressions of counsel, but rather, they conveyed only the verbatim factual content of the witnesses’ statements” the trial court’s ord...Continue Reading

Montgomery County judge allowed to re-seat a stricken juror in criminal trial.

September 12th, 2013
Khan v. State. Juror 95 The Court of Special Appeals of Maryland held that the Montgomery County Circuit Court did not err in upholding a Batson challenge when the proponent of the peremptory strike did not provide an explanation that was not pretextual or prove, to the satisfaction of the court, that purposeful discrimination had not occurred. In this case, an employee of a downtown Silver Spring cosmetics store was indicted by a Montgomery County grand jury on charges of committing a sexual offense and second-degree assault. At the conclusion of his trial, he was convicted with one count of second-degree assault. During jury selection, the court made note that appellant’s counsel used five of the allotted peremptory strikes against white men, prompting the court to issue a Batson challenge.[1] In contesting the Circuit Court ’s Batson challenge, Appellant argued that his race-neutral explanations for striking juror 95 were improperly classified as pretextual.[2] In support of this argument, Appellant cited to the trial judge’s acknowledgement that, counsel was being “candid” during his explanation, but, he “does not have to buy it” as proof that the trial court errone...Continue Reading
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