A Trial Judge’s Failure to Give a Defendant a Chance to Present Evidence of Mitigation Leads the Maryland Court of Appeals to Toss the Man’s 40-Year Sentence

In a criminal case, it’s not always getting an acquittal. Sometimes, that outcome simply isn’t “in the cards.” Even when it’s not, you still need the right Maryland criminal defense lawyer on your side to protect your rights and ensure you get justice. Even if a conviction is unavoidable, it’s still important to fight back against overcharging or excessively long prison sentences, which can make a world of difference.

There are lots of things that Maryland law says you have the right to present in the sentencing phase of your case. Getting as much of this before the court as possible can be crucial to leaving with a fair sentence.

In D.M.’s assault and burglary case, the court found him guilty of home invasion, burglary, assault, and reckless endangerment. Immediately after the jury returned its verdict, the trial judge sought to proceed directly to sentencing, but the defense asked for a postponement.

The defense wanted extra time to do two things. One was to complete a long-form presentence investigation report (PSI) and the other was to facilitate getting D.M.’s mother to court to testify on D.M.’s behalf. The defense attorney indicated that the mother could provide the court with “some background information about [D.M.] in order to fashion an appropriate sentence.”

When you’re seeking out the right legal team for your defense, you want someone who knows the law and knows how to make all the correct requests, objections, and motions. What you also need, though, is someone who can handle very difficult circumstances. The Court of Appeals’ recitation of the events of the trial leaves the impression that the trial judge was hostile to the defense. It’s important to have legal counsel who can operate effectively, even when facing those kinds of headwinds.

In D.M.’s case, the judge questioned why the mother wasn’t present in the courtroom. The defense attorney responded: “she has this thing called work that she had to attend.” While we only have the benefit of the written word, this certainly sounds more frustrated and annoyed than a response of “I’m, sorry, Your Honor, she was scheduled to work today and she was unable to take leave to be here.”

The judge promptly retorted “so it’s obviously not that important to her,” and went forward with sentencing, giving D.M. 40 years.

You Have an ‘Absolute Right’ to Present Evidence of Mitigation at Your Sentencing

This was improper, the Court of appeals held. A person on trial has an “absolute right to allocution.” That includes “an absolute right to present mitigating information, prior to sentencing.” Maryland law is clear that a trial judge’s consideration of mitigation is mandatory, not permissive. The trial judge may, within the bounds of his/her discretion, do with that mitigation evidence whatever he/she wants, but the judge must at least receive it.

When the trial judge in D.M.’s case denied the defense’s request for a postponement to present the mother’s testimony and a PSI, the judge violated D.M.’s right to present mitigation. As the court noted, the remedy for that kind of violation is resentencing.

Whether you’re suspected of a crime, charged with a crime, or on trial for criminal offenses, you need skilled legal representation by your side. The knowledgeable Maryland criminal defense attorneys at Anthony A. Fatemi, LLC are here to help. We strive to provide each client with a defense that is both powerful and effective. Contact us today at 301-519-2801 or via our online form so that we can get started working for you.

Contact Information