A Maryland Man Accused of Murder is Granted a New Trial… for the Second Time

When you’re accused of a crime, achieving a successful result may involve many procedural steps. These could include things like pretrial motions (such as a motion to suppress illegally obtained evidence,) in-trial objections (such as opposing the admission of inadmissible hearsay evidence,) post-trial motions, and appeals. To ensure that your rights are protected to the fullest, you need to be sure you have representation from a Maryland criminal defense lawyer with the skills and experience to handle these procedural elements effectively.

A murder case from Montgomery County is a good example. The defendant, H.A.Z., stood accused of killing his married lover’s husband. The state also charged the woman with the murder.

The prosecution chose to try the two together. The Maryland rules allow for this kind of trial if the two defendants are “alleged to have participated in the same act or transaction or in the same series of acts or transactions constituting an offense or offenses.” Sometimes, though, a joint trial would result in unfair prejudice to one or both defendants, in which case the defendants should be tried separately.

The jury convicted both defendants but H.A.Z. obtained a new trial because, in the joint trial, evidence that was admissible only against the woman was admitted, which potentially unfairly prejudiced the jury against H.A.Z.

A Retrial and a Motion to Suppress

In the man’s second trial, the prosecution sought to use information gathered from the man’s Verizon cell phone. Specifically, the state presented “cell site location information,” which is information collected by the phone as it comes close to nearby cell towers. The trial court denied the motion, concluding that Rule 4-252(b) applied and that the accused did not make his motion to suppress within the rule’s 30-day window. That’s because the rule says that the 30-day period begins running as of “the earlier of the appearance of counsel or the first appearance of the defendant before the court.” Because H.A.Z.’s case was a retrial following a successful appeal, his suppression motion came well more than 30 days after either of those dates.

After a second conviction, the man appealed again. The appeals court agreed that the man’s suppression motion was not filed too late. The court, in making this ruling, answered an important question not stated in the rule and not directly resolved by any previous appellate decisions: whether in the case of a retrial following a defendant’s successful appeal and overturned conviction, the start date of the 30-day timeliness window for filing motions (such as suppression motions) relates back to the accused’s (or accused’s attorney’s) first appearance in court during the first trial.

The appeals court decided that it does not. In previous decisions, the court had stated that “an order for a new trial, wipes the slate clean, and the case begins anew procedurally.” Applying the rule based on the dates of appearance from the first trial would create “anomalous” results, according to the court. Those included instances where the rule would apply differently to some defendants than others depending on whether that defendant had retained new counsel or proceeded with the same attorney he/she had in the first trial.

In this man’s case, he had skillful counsel that twice obtained reversals of his convictions.

If you’re accused of (or under suspicion of) a crime, you need legal counsel who will advocate for you zealously and effectively. With the high stakes that most criminal matters implicate, having the best legal representation is crucial. The experienced Maryland criminal defense attorneys at Anthony A. Fatemi, LLC are here to ensure that all of our clients’ rights are protected to the fullest and that they receive the strongest defense possible. Contact us today at 301-519-2801 or via our online form to set up your consultation.

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