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Maryland CourtA new ruling from the Maryland Court of Appeals is a very important one regarding how battered spouse syndrome can affect and bolster a criminal defendant’s defense. In the ruling, the court concluded that the law of imperfect self-defense requires a belief that the threat was immediate or imminent, but the requirement of imminence does not require proof of closeness in terms of time. In other words, the battered wife on trial did not need to prove that she feared that her husband was going to kill her immediately in order to obtain a jury instruction on imperfect self-defense in her Maryland criminal trial.

The case arose from what law enforcement initially thought was a robbery-gone-wrong incident. Ultimately, police concluded that no robbery took place and that the shooting at the gas station was part of a wife’s murder-for-hire plot to kill her husband. At trial, the wife testified that she did, in fact, hire various individuals for the purpose of killing her husband. She testified that she did so because the husband had abused her for decades, and she had come to fear that, if she didn’t kill him, he would kill her. The wife offered multiple witnesses to back up her claim, including a forensic psychiatrist, who opined that the wife suffered from battered spouse syndrome.

At the conclusion of the case, the two sides debated the proper instruction to give the jury regarding self-defense. The trial judge ultimately gave the jury the instruction proposed by the prosecution. After deliberation, the jury found the wife guilty of first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, and three counts of solicitation to commit first-degree murder.

calendarIn your Maryland criminal trial, there may be multiple different options and tools available to you under the law to enhance your defense. Knowing what all of these are, and how to use them, is one area where the assistance of skilled Maryland criminal defense counsel can be invaluable. In a recent case involving a double-rape charge, the defendant got his conviction overturned because he advanced both state and federal speedy trial arguments, and, while the delay in his case didn’t violate the Sixth Amendment to the Federal Constitution, the Court of Special Appeals determined that it did violate the state law deadline for speedy trials.

The case involved a man accused of raping two teens in January 1982. The state indicted the man on Feb. 19, 1982. The defendant and his lawyer made their first appearance in court on April 19, 1982. The defendant made a proper motion for a speedy trial in May. The rules for a speedy trial require that the state try a defendant within 180 days of the defendant appearing in court or a lawyer representing the defendant making an entry of appearance on behalf of that defendant. In this case, both things happened on April 19, so the state’s deadline was October 15.

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judge's gavelIn any criminal defense, there are two essential parts of the process. First, there is the pursuit of a dismissal or acquittal. Failing that, there is the second part, the pursuit of a fair and just sentence. In the case of one man convicted of assault, the Court of Special Appeals recently threw out a trial judge’s decision to hand down the maximum sentence. The sentence had to be reversed because the judge relied upon statements made by the prosecutor, but the prosecutor’s statements did not have the required level of reliable evidence and details to support them.

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The JuryIn a criminal case, it might be easy to assume that the outcome of the case will be a result of what takes place during the trial. The reality of criminal trials is more complicated than that. A favorable or unfavorable outcome often has a lot to do with who is on the jury, rather than just which evidence is placed before those jurors. The careful execution of questioning jurors and excluding those who might make for poor fits is a vital part of your defense. In the case of one man facing attempted murder charges, an error by a judge in not allowing the defense to ask potential jurors a particular question resulted in a reversal of his conviction by the Court of Special Appeals.

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DNA testOne of the most valuable evidentiary tools in some criminal cases today is DNA testing. For some defendants, a DNA test result can be the key to proving innocence. For others, while not establishing innocence, a favorable test result can at least be a valuable piece in raising reasonable doubt about the defendant’s guilt. A recent case addressed the very important question of when a defendant is entitled to a DNA test, and the answer to that question helped get the judgment against the defendant vacated.

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magnifying glassIn a criminal case, the difference between success and defeat can sometimes be something clear-cut, like a corroborated alibi. Often, though, a successful defense can be a result of something that might seem, to a layperson, to be small. An example of that occurred recently, when a man arrested and tried in Charles County got his conviction reversed because the crime for which the state convicted him was not the same crime that the state charged in the man’s indictment.

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Police VehicleIn many criminal cases, especially ones involving drug charges, one of the most important issues is the collection of evidence by the police and compliance with protections guaranteed by the U.S. and Maryland Constitutions. In a recent case of a driver stopped for a non-functioning tail light, the fact that the police found illegal drugs on a passenger in the vehicle (pursuant to a valid search) did not automatically give them probable cause to search the driver’s trunk in pursuit of more drug evidence, according to the Court of Special Appeals‘ ruling.

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tattoo artistIn a criminal case, there are several things a defendant must do to strengthen his case and give himself a good chance at an acquittal. One of these things is reducing the credibility of the prosecution’s witnesses. One way to do that is to introduce previous statements that the state’s witness made that are contrary to what the witness stated on the stand at trial. In one recent sex crime case from Montgomery County, the defendant obtained a new trial on appeal after the trial judge in his case improperly refused to allow him to put on evidence of prior inconsistent statements made by one of the state’s key witnesses.

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PoliceOne of the most important tools in a police officer’s arsenal of law enforcement techniques is what’s called a Terry stop. However, one of the law enforcement techniques that is the most susceptible to misuse is the Terry stop. In a recent drug case from southeastern Maryland, the Court of Special Appeals overturned a man’s conviction, concluding that the Terry stop in his case was improper. The case is a clear reminder of the limitations of law enforcement’s authority to engage in warrantless stop-and-frisk searches of citizens.

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annapolis-mall-21When you or a loved one are facing criminal charges in Maryland, there may be multiple different outcomes that could count as a successful resolution of your case. Obviously, one outcome is to be declared not guilty. Another is to have the prosecution drop the case against you. So, what do you do when the state decides to drop the charges against you in the middle of your appeal? That was the situation facing one Anne Arundel County man recently, and his case points the differences between the different ways your case can be resolved, and the relative advantages of each.

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