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Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is a British author best known for writing the stories of detective Sherlock Holmes. In the 1891 story, A Case of Identity, Holmes opined that “it has long been an axiom of mine, that the little things are infinitely the most important.” Any good Maryland criminal defense attorney will immediately recognize the wisdom in the fictional Holmes’s observation. In criminal cases, the difference between an acquittal and a conviction may rest upon the ability to spot all the little things, and then use them to the client’s maximum benefit.

For example, take the case of E.B. from Baltimore. The accused man was on trial for burglary and theft. At the end of the trial, E.B. was found guilty of fourth-degree burglary. E.B. got that conviction overturned, and “the little things” were a big reason why.

When you are put on trial for a crime in this state, there is always something that came before that trial. That “something” is either a warrantless arrest, an application for a statement of charges, a charging document or an indictment by a grand jury. Whichever occurred in your case, that’s where you can find out exactly what criminal charge the state is pursuing.

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Winning an argument about the hearsay rule can be something that makes the difference between an acquittal and a conviction. A piece of hearsay evidence may have the potential to sway a jury profoundly. However, the law says that hearsay evidence is generally unreliable and can only be used in a trial under certain, specific circumstances. Putting on your strongest possible defense involved many things, including winning these kinds of arguments about whether certain pieces of evidence are admissible or inadmissible. To get that strongest possible defense, be sure you have an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney on your side.

What do we mean about hearsay and “special circumstances”? Here’s an example from Annapolis. An anonymous 911 caller reported a shooting. A second anonymous 911 call identified O.J. as being involved, identifying him by his nickname. (The caller stated that “Tooty” was involved, and O.J. was known to go by the nickname “Tutti.”)

At O.J.’s trial, the prosecution asked to enter into evidence that second 911 call. The defense objected, arguing that the call was inadmissible hearsay. The judge sided with the prosecutor and allowed the evidence in. The call was eventually played for the jury and O.J. was convicted.

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Many people frequently make the mistake of thinking that the key to success in a criminal case lies within some evidence produced at trial or some argument made during the trial itself. In TV courtroom dramas, the “a-ha!” moment almost always happens at or near the end of the trial. In real life, however, it’s more complicated than that. Each phase of the process can potentially be the one that makes the difference between acquittal and conviction. The question that tips the outcome in your favor may be one asked during voir dire, long before anyone even makes an opening statement at trial. This, among many other things, is why you need to be sure you have a skilled Maryland criminal defense attorney working for you from the very beginning of your case.

Not a lot of people know much about voir dire other than as a badly mispronounced phrase in the 1990s courtroom comedy film, My Cousin Vinny. In reality, voir dire is an essential process in any criminal case. When it comes to a jury, voir dire means a process where the judge and the attorneys asked potential jurors a series of questions. Voir dire is very, very important because it can go a long way toward identifying people who will be willing to look at all the evidence and render a fair verdict, and also identify people who might be predisposed toward returning a guilty verdict, even when the state hasn’t fully met its burden.

In a recent first-degree murder case, the defense was looking for those kinds of potential jurors, hoping to identify and exclude them. The defense wanted to ask several questions designed to achieve that goal, including spotting potential jurors who would be unwilling or unable to follow jury instructions related to the defendant’s presumption of innocence, the state’s burden of proof and the defendant’s right not to take the stand in his own defense. The trial judge, however, refused to allow those questions to be posed to the potential jurors.

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Sometimes, bad things happen…things that tug at the emotions. These events may trigger public outrage and a feeling that someone must “pay.” It is important, however, that these emotions do not rule our criminal justice system. Even if a person has done something wrong, that person should not be convicted of a homicide crime if his actions did not meet the law’s standards for that degree of homicide. That’s one of the places where a skilled Maryland homicide defense attorney can help: by winning an argument that says that, even if you did everything the state says you did, you still are not guilty of the crime that the prosecution charged.

For example, imagine a man fighting a battle against drug addiction and seemingly in recovery. He has a devoted mother and a successful girlfriend who are diligent in trying to keep him on the road to recovery. He also, however, has a friend who is an addict and, one day, the friend buys some heroin and offers to sell him half. He takes the heroin, overdoses and dies. That would undoubtedly be an emotional case, and it actually happened in Queen Anne’s County.

B.R. died because the heroin his friend, N.J., had purchased also contained fentanyl. The state charged N.J. with several crimes, including involuntary manslaughter. The trial court convicted him on the manslaughter charge.

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In the recently released movie Just Mercy, the audience gets to see some of the many ways in which a criminal case can be unfairly manipulated to help enhance the odds of a conviction. This can involve various means, including the inclusion of perjured testimony at trial. The wrongful Alabama conviction of the defendant in Just Mercy was fueled largely by racism. In Maryland, there are lots of reasons why defendants may still receive trials that are less than fair, even today. This is one of the many reasons you need an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney on your side: to use his experience to spot those flaws that deny you a fair trial and help you take the proper actions in response.

In Just Mercy, the crime was the shooting death of a young woman that had stoked public sentiment. Those facts were also true of another murder that happened a few years later in Baltimore. J.K. was accused of the victim’s murder. The prosecution’s theory was that J.K., a married man, was having an extramarital affair with the victim and sought to silence her a few days before the two were to appear in court on a child support case.

The state’s case relied heavily on several pieces of circumstantial evidence. For one thing, the state used the science of comparative bullet lead analysis to establish that the bullet that killed the victim came from the accused’s gun. Additionally, the state called a firearms examiner from the Maryland State Police to testify as a ballistics expert and back up the state’s theory of the shooting.

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One of the most basic concepts of a criminal trial is that, while each side should advocate zealously, the trial should be conducted with ultimate fairness. If the prosecution in your case discovers but then hides evidence that could disprove your guilt, that is unfair and a violation of the rules. If the state provides you with certain evidence, but gives it to you in a way that is unusable or nearly so, this also runs counter to the idea of fairness.

When these kinds of things happen, you may be able to use these bits of unfairness to gain beneficial outcomes like a new trial or a reversal of a conviction. Of course, you first have to spot the violation and then know how to go about presenting that issue and arguing for your new trial in the right way. In other words, these are just a few examples of times when it pays to an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney on your side.

C.B. was a man on trial who experienced this kind of unfairness. The state accused him of nearly a dozen various crimes related to a carjacking and robbery. As part of its case, the prosecution sought to use DNA evidence taken from a pellet gun, which the police had discovered when they searched a van in C.B.’s possession. A state lab technician performed DNA analysis on the gun.

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Today, newly emerging technologies have the potential to provide people accused of crimes powerful weapons in their defense. These technologies also can do harm, however, when they allow for inadmissible evidence to get before a jury. This is but one reason among the countless ones why you need a skilled Maryland criminal defense attorney on your side who can vigilantly and diligently fight to protect your rights at trial.

S.P. was a man whose case involved one of those newer technologies – police body cameras. S.P., who was on trial for the false imprisonment and assault of his wife, allegedly used electrical tape to cover her mouth and bind her hands and feet, then threw her in the rear of his SUV. A Montgomery County Police officer responded to the neighbor’s house, which was where the wife was at the time. The responding officer was wearing a body camera.

At the husband’s trial, the prosecution wanted to use the body camera video footage against the accused man. The husband opposed this evidence, but the court allowed it in anyway. The man was ultimately convicted. On appeal, though, that conviction was overturned. The husband’s trial counsel had been correct to challenge the admission of the body camera footage into evidence.

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35 years ago, the TV movie The Burning Bed brought spousal abuse and domestic violence into the front of the public consciousness. The famous Farrah Fawcett film and a 1980 book of the same name were based on a 1970s case where a Michigan woman doused a bed in gasoline and set it on fire with her husband still sleeping on it. A jury eventually found the woman was temporarily insane at the time, after having heard evidence of the husband’s alleged 13 years of abusing the wife.

Since 1991, Maryland law has allowed defendants to submit evidence of the domestic abuse they’ve suffered as part of their defense in a criminal trial. Despite some of the terminology used related to this issue (“Battered Woman’s Syndrome”, “Battered Spouse Syndrome,” etc.,) you do not, in Maryland, have to be a spouse or be a woman to use this evidence in your defense. If you are on trial and you were the victim of abuse, especially if your abuser was the victim of your alleged crime, then it is vitally important that you have a knowledgeable Maryland criminal defense attorney on your side to give you the maximum protection and best defense possible.

A woman recently on trial here in Maryland alleged that she was one of those abuse victims. The deceased, M.H., was the accused’s boyfriend. During a fight between the two, the woman yelled at the man to stop putting his hands on her, then went to the kitchen and got a knife. Eventually, the man received a stab wound to the chest, which punctured his aorta and killed him.

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Both the U.S. and Maryland courts include protections against law enforcement officers conducting unreasonable searches and seizures. Maryland law also has some clear guideposts about the circumstances that do (or do not) constitute a search or seizure, and they include some scenarios you might not necessarily have associated with illegal searches unless you were keenly familiar with the law.

That’s why you need a knowledgeable Maryland criminal defense attorney handling your case. Your knowledgeable attorney does have that kind of extremely in-depth knowledge of search-and-seizure law, in addition to many other essential aspects of Maryland criminal law.

The situation that led to K.C.’s trial is a good example of what we mean. While Maryland Transit Authority officers were performing a sweep looking for fare dodgers aboard a light rail train, one passenger, K.C., informed an officer that he had no ticket to ride. The officer ordered K.C. to exit the train and sit on a bench. The MTA officers began running a check on K.C. for outstanding warrants. While officers ran that warrants check, K.C. tried to escape and three officers tackled him. During that interaction, one officer discovered a gun and another subsequently searched K.C., finding multiple bags of cocaine.

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A criminal defendant has many rights under the U.S. and Maryland constitutions. Article 5 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights says that a criminal defendant has the right to be physically present at every stage of his trial. This right is very important because, sometimes, a judge will misconstrue, forget, overlook or ignore this rule and engage in something that qualifies as a “stage” of the trial outside the accused person’s presence.

When that happens, that’s often considered a violation of the accused person’s fundamental rights and may often trigger a right to a new trial. Of course, utilizing your rights (and sometimes the violations of them) to your maximum benefit requires in-depth knowledge of the law, so it pays to have an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney on your side.

To see how this can work to an accused person’s benefit, look at the case of K.M. In the summer of 2016, two Baltimore police officers investigated a tip about a man and a handgun. The officers spotted K.M., and began following him and his girlfriend. Eventually they stopped the couple and, inside a diaper bag, the officers found a loaded Glock 19 with live rounds inside it, along with an additional magazine.

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