A Gruesome Death in East Baltimore and the Do’s and Don’ts of Being a Criminal Suspect in Maryland

Television and print media love “true crime” stories. While these crimes are often played for the particularly sensational aspects they possess, the coverage of them may still offer information that is highly educational for the rest of us. Sometimes, that educational lesson is the importance of making sure that, if you’re a suspect or a person of interest in a crime, the very first thing you do — before anything else — is retain a skilled Maryland criminal defense attorney.

A January 2019 death in East Baltimore and its aftermath teach that important lesson and more. In the case, police found a woman dead in the apartment she shared with her husband, having endured 55 stab wounds, some going all the way to the bone, according to the Baltimore Sun.

Police sought to question the husband, but he was gone. He had fled the state, traveling first to D.C., then to New York and Vermont. Police believe he was headed to Canada, according to the report.

That is the backdrop for lesson number one, which is…

° Don’t run.

Fleeing the state or fleeing the country when you are a person of interest in a crime, or you know that you will be a person of interest, almost never helps your case, and it very likely will harm you. If you are eventually put on trial, the state can use your actions against you, building the idea within the minds of jurors that your fleeing was an implicit acknowledgment of guilt. Better to remain here, retain counsel, and deal directly with whatever happens next.

After returning to Maryland, the Baltimore husband spoke to the police. In his statement, he told the police that he and his wife were home alone when she died and that all 55 of the stabs were things the wife self-inflicted.

This brings us to lesson number two, which is…

° Don’t talk to the police without counsel.

The constitution gives you the right to remain silent. Use it. The constitution gives you the right to counsel. Invoke it. Too many times, suspects who speak to the police without counsel present don’t remain silent when that’s exactly what they should do.

Telling the police that the only people present at the time of your spouse’s homicide were you and her and that your dead spouse stabbed herself 55 times, even though some of those stabs going so deep as to hit bone, simply isn’t helpful to your situation. There is almost no situation where giving a statement like this to the police will do anything other than harming your defense. Remember that, if you waive your right to counsel and give the police a statement, the prosecution can use anything you say at trial. By retaining counsel before you do anything else, you can avoid making damaging statements to the police.

Eventually, the Baltimore husband was tried and convicted for first-degree murder; however, that conviction was overturned on appeal. During voir dire, which is the question-and-answer process the court uses for jury selection, the defense asked the judge to ask the potential juror pool certain questions related to the burden of proof and a defendant’s right to remain silent. The judge declined to ask them.

The husband’s appellate counsel argued that the failure to ask those questions was a legal error that required reversal of the conviction. The Court of Appeals agreed.

That takes us to lesson number three, which is…

° Do make sure you have the right legal counsel at every step in the process.

The husband’s trial attorney proposed the right questions in voir dire and, when the judge rejected the questions, did what was necessary to “preserve” the question of error to make an appeal possible. The husband’s appellate counsel then used the error to get the conviction overturned. Each of these steps required in-depth knowledge of detailed intricacies of the law and the awareness to do lots of different things — some seemingly small — and knowing the right time to do each of them.

Whether it’s before trial, during trial, or after trial, having the right legal team on your side is imperative. For the kind of experience and knowledge needed to build the best defense possible, look to the skilled Maryland criminal defense attorneys at Anthony A. Fatemi, LLC. To put the power of this office to work for you, contact us at 301-519-2801 or via our online form.

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