A recent appellate case arose from an armed carjacking. The defendant and a companion approached the victim in Baltimore City, pointed guns at him and told him to get on the ground. The victim obeyed while the defendant and his companion took his wallet and keys.
When the victim got up, a teenager joined the group that forced him into his car. They drove him to an ATM under threat of being shot. The defendant used the ATM card, but could only withdraw a small sum. The defendant told the companion to tie up the victim and they drove to try to withdraw money from other ATMs. Finally, they drove the victim to a location and told him to drive off.
A detective later testified against the defendant. He claimed the victim identified the defendant from an array of photographs, but didn’t mention any injuries.
The defendant testified that he had agreed to sell the victim drugs. He had spoken with both the victim and another guy on the date in question. Somebody else came and all four piled into the victim’s car. According to the defendant, they drove the victim to his ATM so he could withdraw money for the drugs. The victim could only withdraw $500. The defendant sold him some pills and they left.
The court and parties discussed voir dire questions (questions for prospective jurors). The defendant objected to a potential question about whether the jurors were permitted to convict him without scientific evidence. The prosecutor was concerned the defendant’s attorney would argue that the lack of DNA or fingerprinting in this case would require the jury to acquit the defendant. The court said it was willing to give the instruction regarding scientific evidence, but would not ask the jurors if they would follow the law.
The prosecutor asked the court to give an anti-CSI effect jury instruction. The defendant’s attorney objected to this proposed instruction. The court overruled the objection. It instructed the jury that the government was not legally required to use any particular scientific test to prove the defendant was guilty.
The jury convicted the defendant of armed carjacking. On appeal, the defendant argued that the court should not have given this instruction. At trial he had disputed the State’s claim that he had carjacked the victim and argued that he and the victim had agreed to a drug transaction. He asserted the State hadn’t shown an image of the victim’s car, a photograph of injuries to the victim’s wrist or his identification of the defendant among the photographs.
The State argued that the court had erred in giving the instruction, but it was a harmless error. Physical evidence was not relevant to the trial issues.
The appellate court agreed with the State. It explained that a trial court abuses its discretion where it gives an anti-CSI effect jury instruction but the defendant did not misstate the law.
Here, the defendant testified he drove the victim’s car. It was undisputed he was the car’s driver. Therefore, it didn’t matter if the anti-CSI effect instruction made the jury ignore a lack of other evidence. The photograph and other evidence not used wouldn’t have explained the relevant issues of a carjacking case: how the defendant had gotten control of the car.
If you are arrested or charged with a crime, you should consult with an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney. We will develop the best strategy we can to defend your case. Contact us at 301-519-2801 or via our online form.
Criminal Email Harassment in Maryland, Maryland Criminal Lawyer Blog, February 12, 2014
Bill of Particulars in Maryland Criminal Defense, Maryland Criminal Lawyer Blog, January 25, 2014