May 29, 2013

DNA Testing in Maryland Criminal Cases

The subject of DNA testing has been increasingly prevalent in Maryland courtrooms. In the past few months, a Maryland case (Maryland v. King) was argued in the Supreme Court on the topic of whether an arrested person’s DNA could be legally taken. No matter one’s view on its collection, DNA sometimes plays a large role on determining who did or did not do something. However, they recently decided that Brown v. Maryland shows an example of how allegedly exonerating DNA results that might not even matter.

Brown features a particularly violent assault and rape of a young woman. She was abducted, beaten, handcuffed, and tortured-- among other things that the court understated as being “not pretty.” I think the word "unimaginable" works. Anyway, Brown was found guilty and convicted to eighty-five years in prison. Now he attempted to utilize a new Maryland statue that granted a new trial if post-conviction DNA was (1) favorable to the petitioner and there was (2) a substantial possibility…that the petitioner would not have been convicted if the results were known at trial.

There was no physical evidence linking Brown to the crime, and the post-conviction DNA results showed that Brown’s DNA was nowhere to be found on any of the main weapons involved in the incident. He compares his case to two examples in which the government alleged that DNA evidence (blood on sweatpants and on a knife) was inconsistent with the theory of the case.

However, the court rejected the comparison, stating that in the current case, the government had made no such implication that Brown’s DNA was on the scene. In fact, Brown was convicted with no mention of his DNA at all and with specific instructions to the jury stating that there was no such forensic evidence. The testimony of the victim, corroborating evidence, and statements to the police were enough for the jury.

January 29, 2013

Leopold Guilty

Visiting and retired Judge Dennis Sweeney found Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold guilty of misconduct in office for using his security detail for political activity.

This was a pretty easy call, I think. From my seat in the back row, the evidence seemed pretty obvious. What I found pretty disgusting from the perspective of a personal injury lawyer was the defense argument that Leopold was suffering from debilitating back pain and needed more help from his security detail and staff. Utter nonsense and really a slap to truly injured people everywhere. The people of Anne Arundel County deserve better.

Glad they got him. You can find the Post's article here.


July 31, 2012

Maryland Concealed Gun Law

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals today issued a stay keeping Maryland's concealed-carry gun permit process in place.

U.S. District Court Judge Benson Everett Legg had ordered Maryland to cease enforcement of a law barring Maryland residents from getting concealed-carry handgun permits unless they provide a decent reason for it. The order was to go in effect on August 7th. Now, it won't.

Here are some thoughts on the Woollard case from the gun folks who I'm sure are bitter today that you need a reason - at least for a little while longer - to be walking around with a gun.

April 24, 2012

Maryland DNA Collection Law Turned on Its Head

The Maryland Court of Appeals ruled today that significant portions of a law authorizing police to collect DNA samples at the time of arrest for suspects of violent crimes is unconstitutional.

The court found that if you are only arrested - as opposed to charged and processed - and there is no warrant, , you should be free from "unreasonable" searches. Accordingly, the court tossed a significant portion of the Maryland DNA Collection Act which authorizes law enforcement to collect DNA samples from suspects who have been arrested.

Judges Barbera and Wilner dissented from the majority opinion. I would have, too. I just don't think DNA is an unreasonable search, I really don't.

You can find the full opinion in King v. State here.

April 5, 2012

More Leopold Fallout: Police Chief May Get Arrested Himself

Anne Arundel County's police chief may be arrested if he does not play ball with the Anne Arundel County Council over his refusal to testify as part of an inquiry into corruption charges against County Executive John R. Leopold, a lawyer for the county said today.

Police Chief Col. James E. Teare Sr.'s attorney is telling his client not to testify because it could result in the disclosure of information relevant to Leopold's criminal indictment.

Well, right. That would be the point.

I can't believe my tax dollars are going towards this garbage.

March 5, 2012

Maryland Handgun Law Shot Down Today

U.S. District Court Judge Benson Everett Legg has ruled that Maryland's handgun permit law is unconstitutional, finding that Maryland law cannot require people to demonstrate a "good and substantial reason" to carry a handgun because such a law infringes on their Second Amendment right. The foundation for the attack on the law is familiar to constitutional law experts: it isn't sufficiently tailored to the state's public safety interests.

Plaintiff in this case bought a gun for a reason everyone can understand, no matter where you stand on this gun control: he was assaulted by an intruder in his own home. The intruder got out of jail in 2005 which was the basis for the renewal of his permit to carry a gun. In 2009, plaintiff's application was denied because there was no clear and present danger to him (those are Jack Ryan's words, the state said that plaintiff failed to provide sufficient evidence "to support apprehended fear").

Just what we need in Maryland: something more to argue about.

February 16, 2012

Senator Currie Censure

A Maryland state senator who says he has read a report by the Maryland General Assembly's Joint Ethics Committee says the panel is recommending that Sen. Ulysses Currie be censured for failing to disclose more than $245,000 in payments from a grocery store chain.

Two thoughts. First, Mr./Ms. Leaking Senator, why exactly are you leaking this? Oh, the reporter who got the information is going to love you? Ah. My second thought is that if you are going to grab $245,000 you really should not be taking in the first place, a censure is not exactly breaking your heart. But if the voters reelect Sen. Currie, they deserve her.

February 6, 2012

Maryland Appellate Opinions: First Week of Februrary

I look at Maryland appellate opinions every week, looking for new Maryland personal injury cases. Nothing interesting in PI but here are some other cases I stumbled across in search for something related to my practice. If I get a lot of traffic for this, I'll keep doing it. Otherwise, I won't.

  • Charles County, I know you didn't mean it. Still, even in zoning, due process is due process, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals says. (Is there a lot of pent up demand for a firing range and a driving track in Charles County?)
  • Anonymous lawyer, you begin practicing law.
  • Felony murder conviction reversed.
  • Not recording a title leads to a mess.
  • Judge White got it right (another zoning case)
December 20, 2011

Bill Conlin Accused of Abusing Children

Deadspin is reporting that Bill Conlin, who is one of the most famous sportswriters in the country, has resigned from The (Philadelphia Daily News. The report says that the "Philadelphia Inquirer’s top investigative reporter, Nancy Phillips, has written a story containing what we’re told are allegations of child molestation against sportswriter Bill Conlin.” Unbelievable.

Let's pretend for a second these allegations are true. I have no idea but let's pretend for a second.
Does this story run if Jerry Sandusky is never caught? In the world of unintended consequences, Jerry Sandusky end up saving lots of children from child molesters just like Michael Vick has done more than any person in human history of preventing the abuse of dogs in this country.

December 6, 2011

Schurick Convicted

Paul E. Schurick, Bob Ehrlich's 2010 campaign manager was convicted Tuesday on four counts of election-law violations stemming from an anonymous robocall he authorized in the waning hours of election day.

Really just an unbelievable story. You can read the Washington Post's article here.

July 11, 2011

Hines Ward's DUI: Ravens-Steelers Trash Talk

Shocker: Steeler's Hines Ward's arrest for DUI has made it into the Pittsburgh Steelers-Baltimore Ravens rivalry. Who would have thunk it? Ray Rice put on Twitter:

Well it looks like Hines Ward will miss week 1 when the lockout ends DUI charge not a good look.

A Steeler teammate responded sarcastically:

So glad you could Weigh in. Thx.

Rice wrote some type of "you know where to find me, bro" type response. Should Ray Rice just keep quiet about his kinda stuff? Of course. But Rice has a little street cred on drunk driving. First, his cousin was killed by a drunk driver when he was young. That kind of tragedy leaves an imprint. Rice is also putting his time where his mouth is. He helped the state of Maryland kick off its "Operation Checkpoint" campaign against drunk driving last August, according to ESPN. Of course, I don't know what "kicked off" really means but we can assume he had to spend time and energy on the project (and it is one that he chose).

I don't think Hines Ward should be hung in effigy but I have changed my mind in this same blog post. I think this mild trash talk from Rice is okay. Public figures have to know if they get caught driving drunk people are going to call them out on it. That is a good thing.

December 6, 2010

Bizarre Defined

If a school principal pastes the faces of kids in his school on photographs of adult nude bodies, is that child pornography? I vote yes, a Florida appeals court votes no although we both concur it is unbelievably creepy.

September 28, 2010

Videotaping Traffic Stop Not Illegal

Logic prevailed today as Hartford County Circuit Court Judge Emory A. Plitt, Jr. ruled that the wiretap law did not apply to a traffic stop by a plain clothes state trooper of a motorcyclist that was videotaped and posted on YouTube by the Defendant. (Background on the story here.)

"In this rapid information technology era in which we live, it is hard to imagine that either an offender or an officer would have any reasonable expectation of privacy with regard to what is said between them in a traffic stop on a public highway," Judge Plitt wrote.

September 1, 2010

Currie Indictment

No big shock: State Senator Ulysses Currie, chairman of a legislative committee that steers $32 billion in spending for Maryland, was indicted of illegally using his influence to benefit Shoppers Food Warehouse.

August 23, 2010

Maryland Court of Appeals and Pop Culture

Judge Harrell starts out another opinion with a pop culture reference in a criminal case involving a drug deal in Prince George’s County:

Our house is a very, very, very fine house, With two [cops] in the yard; Life used to be so hard, Now everything is [seized] ’cause of you.

In a footnote, Judge Harrell apologizes to Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young "for tinkering with the lyrics" from their song, “Our House,” from their 1970 album, Deja Vu.

The Maryland Court of Appeals reversed the trial court that threw out erroneously seized evidence from an improper search, finding that the evidence recovered would be admissible under the good faith exception to the Fourth Amendment’s exclusionary rule.

I really should not be spending my time reviewing criminal cases. I try to take a quick glance at all new opinions, including criminal opinions, just to see if there is anything of interest to my practice. The lead-in to this case got my attention and I kept reading.

You can find the opinion in Marshall v. State here.

August 19, 2010

Roger Clemens to be Indicted

A grand jury has indicted will indict Roger Clemens on charges of making false statements to Congress about his use of performance-enhancing drugs, according to the New York Times reported, citing two sources briefed on the case. ESPN has a copy of the indictment. I think you will be able to figure out who "Strength Coach #1" is.

This may cause the congressman who had their picture taken with him before Clemens testified some chagrin.

I had a hard time believing that Clemens would be so bold as lie after he said he wanted to testify after Congress was apparently willing to let him off the mat and not require him to testify. Obviously, federal prosecutors think he is just that bold. I do not think it is huge news that the grand jury chose to indict Clemens because it is not hard for a federal prosecutor to get an indictment. But it clearly shows the prosecutors believe they can get a conviction.

I'm all for prosecuting those who lie to Congress although I think it was inane that Roger Clemens was testifying before Congress in the first place.

Now the best pitcher and the best hitter of in the last 20 years are both under indictment.

Brian McNamee has a defamation lawsuit pending in New York. What is the value of that claim now? The vast, vast majority of defamation claims have two fatal flaws: (1) the defendant has no money, and (2) the defamation is not that widespread to cause significant harm. In this case, the world only knows who Brian McNamee is because of the alleged defamation. Neither of these circumstances are present here.

August 16, 2010

Adults on Playgrounds Without Kids

MSNBC reports on a new law in some Miami Beach playground areas that allows for fines for adults that come to the playground unaccompanied by a minor. Apparently, and this is the first I'm hearing of it, there are already laws on the books in New York City and San Francisco.

I have a hard time figuring out why anyone would oppose this and I really can't figure out what the theoretical constitutional basis would be for striking this statute.

August 9, 2010

Frye-Reed Standard and Harmless Error Revisited

In Fleming v. Maryland, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland affirmed a murder conviction and touched on two issues that are of interest to all trial lawyers in Maryland involved in personal injury cases.

The first issue discusses the admissibility of expert testimony concerning scientific or forensic evidence in Maryland under the Frye-Reed standard, which provides that scientific techniques can be admissible at trial if they are “generally accepted” in the medical and/or scientific community. The second involves the doctrine of harmless error, which applies in defining the scope of cross-examination.

In many personal injury car accident trials in Maryland, a trial can pass with few rulings that are not completely discretionary for the court. If a plaintiff prevails at trial, there are not many issues for the defendant's lawyer to attack. So it is not uncommon to get motions for new trials after a verdict that involves discretionary rulings and errors that are clearly harmless.

August 5, 2010

Videotaping the Police

There is an interesting article in Time on a Maryland man who faces 16 years in prison 16 years in prison for videotaping and putting on YouTube his encounter with a Maryland state trooper who pulled him over for speeding on a motorcycle.

Why the interest? The plain clothed Maryland state trooper cut the motorcyclist off and yelled at him while brandishing a gun before identifying himself as a trooper.

If someone came into my office claiming this, I would assume he was not telling the truth. But in many cases, the video cuts through the he said/she said.

It is unlikely this man will ever spend a day in jail. The Maryland attorney general's office has given the opinion that Maryland's wiretap law does not apply to traffic stops because the conversation is not private.

This is one of those "I cannot believe this has not been conclusively resolved yet" type of issues.

July 23, 2010

Smith v. State

When a Court of Appeals of Maryland opinion starts off with, "Reminiscent of a scene from a Cheech & Chong movie...", you know the opinion will be interesting. Particularly when the dissent responds by quoting Mr. Mackey from South Park.

You can find the full Smith v. State opinion here.