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Witness standIf you watch TV courtroom dramas, you’ve probably seen the scenario:  the intrepid defense lawyer, on cross-examination, seeks to weaken the prosecution’s case by questioning the prosecution’s star witness about his motives:  namely, whether or not the witness negotiated a favorable plea deal in exchange for his testimony. While many common situations in TV courtroom dramas are wholly fictional, this one has some basis in fact. In many situations, the defense is entitled to ask a prosecution witness about whether he has reached, expects to reach, or hopes to reach a favorable plea deal on his own pending criminal charges. These questions can be essential to show bias on the part of the witness and weaken the credibility of the prosecution’s witness. A skilled Maryland criminal defense attorney can help you with these and other criminal defense trial strategies.

In one recent case, a man convicted of murder was able to secure a new trial precisely because his attorney sought to ask these types of questions of a key prosecution witness, but the trial judge did not allow the questions.

The defendant, Rudy, was facing first-degree murder charges in connection with a shooting outside an apartment in Prince George’s County. At Rudy’s trial, the prosecution’s version of events was that Rudy killed the victim “execution-style” as a result of an argument the men had inside the apartment. Rudy’s version of the facts was that the victim pushed him, tried to hit him with a fire extinguisher, and pulled a gun on Rudy. That gun was what killed the victim, according to Rudy, since it discharged when he tried to wrestle it away from the deceased man.

gavelThere are several different ways that a defendant can be convicted of murder in Maryland. One of these is for the state to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused committed intentional murder. An alternative avenue does not require the state to prove this level of intent. It only requires that the prosecution show that the accused intended to commit another crime and that a death occurred in the process of that activity. This is called “felony murder.” There are ways to defend against a charge of felony murder, some of which involve utilizing a detailed knowledge of the law. This is yet another example of how your case can benefit from the skills of a knowledgeable Maryland homicide defense attorney.

One recent case involved a defendant, Sean, who was facing a felony murder charge. The death took place after the end of a party at the home of a man named Charles. Charles, TJ, Gary, Sean, and Chucky had been partaking of drugs and alcohol at the party. After the party ended, a dispute occurred between Chucky and Sean regarding a bag of cocaine. That dispute eventually led to a shooting outside Sean’s home.

Some time later, Sean brought Chucky to a fire station. Chucky had a gunshot wound to the temple. The volunteer fire fighters tried to save Chucky’s life, but they were not successful.

gavelChances are, there are certain U.S. Supreme Court cases with which you’re familiar, even if you don’t realize that you are. If you’ve ever viewed TV police dramas, you’ve probably heard a character give a criminal suspect various instructions like, “You have the right to remain silent…” or “You have a right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed…” These are concepts that were at the center of two rulings from that court in the 1960s. On the other hand, you may not be familiar with the phrase “voir dire” or the important of a 1986 ruling named Batson v. Kentucky, but an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney would be. This court opinion, and its impact on the jury selection process in criminal trials, continues to play an important role today.

James Batson was an African-American man standing trial for burglary in Louisville, Ky. in 1982. The rules of jury selection give each side the option to strike several potential jurors preemptively, which means for any reason at all. The prosecutor used four of his preemptive strikes to eliminate all four of the potential jurors who were African-American. The all-white jury convicted Batson. The U.S. Supreme Court reversed that conviction, ruling that allowing such a practice violated the Equal Protection Clause.

In more recent times, a man named Mark stood trial in Baltimore for several crimes related to a late-night shooting in June 2012. Mark eventually stood trial for first-degree assault and weapons charges. During the jury selection process, the prosecutor used three of their preemptory challenges to exclude African-American women under the age of 25.

courtroomEvery part of your criminal trial is important. While it might be easy to focus on the trial itself, the events that occur before that, including voir dire, can also be enormously important. Even seemingly small errors can be important enough to entitle you to a new trial and a reversal of a conviction. They key is to make sure that you work with skilled Maryland criminal defense attorneys who know all of the rules and how to utilize violations that can help your appeal.

An example of a voir dire in which an error took place, and that error had a major impact, was the case of a man named Prince. Prince was standing trial for first-degree murder. In 2014, police had arrested him in connection with a four-year-old murder of a tow truck driver in West Baltimore.

One of the first steps in any criminal trial is “voir dire,” which is the process of selecting a jury. During this process, both the state and the defense compose questions that they submit to the court and that the judge asks to the potential jurors. Voir dire is a very important part of the trial process because it gives you the opportunity to identify prospective jurors with pre-dispositions that might be harmful to your case. In that scenario, you can use a “strike,” which is a request to the court to remove that potential juror from the prospective jury pool.

gavelIf you or a loved one is facing criminal charges related to controlled substances, it is extremely important to have skilled Maryland drug crime counsel by your side representing you at every step along the process. The lawyers working for the state are experienced in the rules of law and procedure. The law provides you with certain rights and certain ways to utilize those rights to your advantage in your court case, so you need to make sure you have legal knowledge and experience on your side in the form of a skilled attorney to protect your rights.

A recent drug crime case serves as a clear example of why having quality representation matters. Leonard was charged with conspiracy to distribute methlenedioxymethamphetamine (a popular party drug better known as MDMA, “Molly,” or ecstasy). Leonard’s case went through the entire trial process. Leonard was convicted and sentenced for violating Maryland’s controlled dangerous substance laws.

Leonard filed an appeal of his conviction in a timely manner. The attorneys for the state apparently recognized that they had a problem. The basis of Leonard’s appeal, that the state lacked sufficient evidence to obtain a conviction of violating the controlled dangerous substance laws, was valid. Seeking to avoid an unfavorable outcome in the Court of Special Appeals, the state nol prossed the case in the trial court.

pillsIn your criminal case, there are several things that are of vital importance. One of these, obviously, is getting all of your items of proof admitted into evidence. You may face many hurdles in this process, including arguments from the prosecution that your proof is not admissible under the Rules of Evidence. Effectively representing you and protecting your rights in situations like these is one of many ways in which a skilled Maryland drug crime lawyer can provide essential benefits to you.

One example of a case focused upon the defendant’s evidence and the Rules of Evidence was that of Steven, who faced multiple drug charges. The case began with police surveillance of a house in Baltimore. After several weeks, the police obtained a search warrant and, during the search, found evidence of various drugs, including oxycodone, methadone, and alprazolam (a/k/a Xanax). Steven had told the police that he had some drugs in his bedroom, and the officers found Xanax, methadone, and heroin. They found the oxycodone in the kitchen.

The police claimed that Steven gave them no valid prescriptions for any of the drugs. Steven argued in court that this was false. He contended that he and his wife had valid prescriptions for Xanax, methadone, and oxycodone and that he attempted to provide them at the time of the search. The prosecution, to try to defeat Steven’s arguments that he legally possessed those drugs, asked the trial judge to exclude any document evidence regarding the prescriptions. The documents, according to the state, were not admissible because they were hearsay under evidence rules.

crime sceneWhen you are facing criminal charges, there are multiple ways to achieve a successful outcome. You may seek to prove that you didn’t do the crime the state alleged. Alternately, you may try to prove that, even if you did it, you have a legal defense (like self-defense) that prevents your being found guilty. Especially when your defense rests upon one of these “affirmative defenses,” it is essential to make sure you get all of the evidence that supports your defense placed into evidence. A skilled Maryland criminal defense attorney can help you in proving all of the necessary elements of your affirmative defense.

Recently, a case from Prince George’s County offered an example of such a circumstance playing out in court. The accused, Tania, admitted that, on Oct. 24, 2007, she fatally shot her boyfriend. At the time, Tania stated that the boyfriend had raped her, which led to the shooting. Tania was tried and convicted, but that conviction was later overturned on appeal.

In her second trial, the state presented the case as a murder-suicide in which Tania failed to complete the suicide part. In her defense, Tania attempted to argue as an affirmative defense that she was suffering from battered spouse syndrome at the time of the shooting. Tania had an expert witness who testified on her behalf with regard to battered spouse syndrome, Tania’s suffering from the syndrome, and its effects on her actions. At the trial, though, the judge restricted many pieces of testimony that Tania wanted to introduce. Some of this was testimony from Tania, some from the expert witness, and all of it related to things that the boyfriend allegedly said to Tania.

jury boxIn criminal defense cases, every part of the process is a potentially key piece needed to contribute to a successful outcome. Additionally, details matter. That fact was on display when an accused convenience store robber was granted a new trial because the trial judge did not ask a voir dire question that the defense requested. The question could have potentially exposed a specific cause for the disqualification of a potential juror, so it should have been asked, according to the Court of Special Appeals ruling. The importance of every step and every detail is why it pays to have experienced Maryland criminal defense counsel on your side the entire way.

The case arose from the armed robbery of a 7-Eleven store in Baltimore County. The robber shot the store employee, but the injury wasn’t lethal. Eventually, the police arrested the defendant, and the state charged him with multiple robbery, assault, and weapons charges.

Whenever an accused person stands trial, especially in a serious felony case like the one confronting the defendant, it is extremely important to ensure that you are able to get the best jury possible. One of the ways for doing this is called voir dire. Voir dire is a French phrase that translates to “to see to speak,” and it is the part of the pre-trial process when the judge and the attorneys (or litigants) can ask questions of potential jurors. Using the voir dire process effectively can help you weed out jurors who might be particularly difficult to persuade to your side.

squad carIn many criminal defense cases, one of the most important aspects of the case may be getting (or failing to get) evidence excluded. One way in which you may be entitled to suppression is if the police stopped you but did not have a reasonable suspicion to do so. One circumstance in which that can happen is when the description of the suspect the police use contains only a race and very general descriptive information. Arguing successfully these types of Fourth Amendment issues is something that can often benefit from the skill of an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney.

A recent case involved a robbery in Gaithersburg. As is normal, dispatch sent out a call about the robbery and information about the suspects. Initially, dispatch simply stated that the suspects were “three black males.” One officer, who was in the area, responded and spotted three black males in the area of the apartment where the robbery took place. According to the officer, the men he saw appeared to be together and were the only black males in the area.

At that point, he stopped one man and discovered various items on his person that were used in the robbery, including a knife and a mask. Based upon this evidence, the state charged the defendant with robbery and assault charges. At the trial, the defendant asked the trial judge to suppress the knife and mask evidence. The officer’s search, he argued, was illegal because he didn’t have the appropriate level of reasonable suspicion to stop him. The trial court disagreed, allowing the evidence into the case, and the jury convicted the defendant on multiple assault and robbery charges.

policeIn a criminal defense matter, a key to a successful outcome may be getting inadmissible evidence excluded. This is one of the many vitally important areas in which your experienced Maryland criminal defense lawyer can help. In one recent case from Baltimore, a defendant got a conviction reversed because the officer who searched him lacked the required level of reasonable suspicion to allow him to conduct a search.

On March 4, 2016, a Baltimore law enforcement officer responded to a call about “a person being armed.” The officer spotted an individual who he believed matched the description dispatch had provided to him. As the officer approached the man, the man allegedly turned away from the officer. This body language, in the officer’s opinion, was consistent with someone carrying a gun. The officer made the man put his hands above his head, and, during the officer’s pat-down search, he recovered a gun from the man’s waistband.

During the man’s gun possession trial, the defendant asked the court to suppress evidence of the gun on the basis that the search was improper. The trial judge denied the motion to suppress, and the defendant was convicted on two counts.

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