Articles Posted in Case law

Under Section 1-202 of the Criminal Procedure Article, an interpreter will be appointed for a criminal defendant when the defendant can’t readily understand or communicate in English and can’t understand the charge or help with his or her defense. The court is required to appoint a spoken language interpreter when it determines a defendant doesn’t understand English well enough to participate in the proceedings or help his or her attorney, or where the defendant or a witness doesn’t speak English sufficiently to be understood by the attorneys, the court, and the jury.

In a recent case, a defendant sought review of a judgment that affirmed his conviction for sexual abuse of a minor, second-degree rape, and third-degree sexual offense. An intermediate appellate court had affirmed the lower court’s judgment. The defendant had come to the U.S. from Ghana four years before he was convicted and argued that the trial judge should have appointed an interpreter for his criminal trial. He asked the appellate court to review whether it was appropriate for the lower court to deny him an interpreter that he had requested.

The appellate court explained that the decision to appoint an interpreter is a two-part process. The first issue is whether the trial judge’s factual findings are clearly erroneous. If they aren’t, the reviewing court must then decide whether the judge abused his discretion in deciding whether or not to appoint the interpreter. Continue reading →

A recent appellate case considered the “dying declaration” exception to the rule against hearsay evidence, among other things. The defendant was indicted for first-degree murder, armed robbery, conspiracy, and possession of a firearm by a person not permitted to have one. Before the trial, he moved to suppress the victim’s identification of him as the killer. The hearing judge suppressed the identification, and the State of Maryland appealed.

The murder victim, Melvin Pate, had identified his shooter to a registered nurse at a Shock Trauma Unit after the shooting before he died. He had been shot in the face and taken to the hospital to be stabilized. A few days later, he was sent to the Shock Trauma Unit in a critical and very unstable condition. His spinal cord was severed in his neck, which left him a quadriplegic. His lung had collapsed, and he was breathing with the help of a ventilator and eating through a feeding tube.

The issue in this case was whether the victim’s identification of the shooter’s photograph counted as a dying declaration exception to hearsay rules. Hearsay is “an out-of-court statement” that is introduced to prove the truth of what is being asserted. Hearsay evidence is not admissible unless an exception applies. One exception applies when somebody is unavailable as a witness and that person is making a statement with the belief of imminent death. This is called the “dying declaration exception.” Continue reading →

In a recent case, a woman appealed her conviction of theft less than $100. The statutory punishment was imprisonment not exceeding 90 days or a fine not exceeding $500 or both. When the woman asked for a jury trial, her case was forwarded to a circuit court. The State of Maryland made a motion to send the case back to the District Court on the basis that she was not entitled to jury trial because the penalty for theft less than $100 was not more than 90 days. The court granted the state’s request.

The woman argued on appeal that the circuit court erred in sending the case back. She claimed she had a constitutional right to trial by jury simply by virtue of the fact she was charged with theft. The State argued that the appeal had to be dismissed because there was no final judgment. In Maryland, an appeal is usually only heard after entry of final judgment. One exception to the final judgment rule is the collateral order doctrine and this was what the defendant asserted on appeal.

In order for the collateral order doctrine to apply, there must be (1) conclusive determination of a question in dispute, (2) resolution of a critical issue, (3) resolution of an issue that is completely separate from the merits, and (4) a resolution that is effectively unreviewable on appeal from final judgment. Continue reading →

A recent case involved murder, assault, and the use of a handgun in a violent crime. The defendant was sentenced to 53 years of incarceration. The victim was shot outside his home as he was coming back from church with his wife. He survived and at trial identified the defendant as the person who shot him.

The defendant had a child with the victim’s daughter. The State presented a theory that the defendant shot the victim because he blamed him for an adverse custody determination. Before trial started, the defendant’s attorney submitted proposed questions for voir dire. Voir dire is the process by which a jury is selected.

One of the proposed questions referred to the fact that the defendant was African-American and asked the juror to answer whether that fact would impact his or her ability to be fair and impartial. There were 72 prospective jurors. Continue reading →

In a recent case, a defendant was indicted and charged with burglary in the first, third, and fourth degree, plus theft of property over $1,000 and malicious destruction of property in connection with burglary of a house. At the end of the bench trial, the court determinded the defendant guilty of every count. He was sentenced to 15 years incarceration.

Before the bench trial, the defense attorney mentioned that he and his client had discussed the likelihood of a bench trial versus a jury trial. The client stated he wanted to be tried by the judge, not a jury. The court explained that if even one of the 12 jurors found he was not guilty, the defendant couldn’t be convicted.

The court also explained that a judge had to be certain by more than a reasonable doubt, but the primary difference was that it was one individual as opposed to 12 jurors. The judge asked if the defendant understood and the defendant claimed to understand. The judge found the jury waiver was free and voluntary. Continue reading →

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. Continue reading →

You may be wondering whether a separate Maryland criminal case can have repercussions in your current criminal case. The older case can impact how you are sentenced in a current case. However, the penalties in the earlier case cannot be transferred willy-nilly from the older case to the current case. In a 2013 case a defendant appealed his conviction for violating the Maryland bad check law. He asked the appellate court to review whether it was appropriate for a judge to order a defendant to pay restitution arising from an unrelated case.

The defendant had committed various crimes in Maryland and Delaware. The first set involved violations of Maryland’s Home Improvement Law. He had contracted with come women to perform home improvement work and failed to complete that work. He was charged for these as criminal offenses. He pled guilty and was required to pay monetary restitution to the women. The second type of case had to do with his bad check.

The defendant didn’t pay restitution to the women. The court revoked his probation and ordered him to serve the previously suspended sentences in each of the cases and to pay fines of $1000 in each case, which would be served at $10 per day of confinement. These were consecutive sentences. The defendant appealed. Continue reading →

What happens when a criminal defendant learns that an expert who testified against him does not have the credentials he claimed to have at trial? In an interesting recent case a defendant discovered that a ballistics expert had embellished his credentials after his conviction for first-degree murder, first-degree sexual offense and use of a handgun while committing a violent crime.

The case arose when a woman was visiting her boyfriend’s house. Upstairs her boyfriend and his friend were smoking cocaine. She joined them. Early in the morning the woman told the men she needed to get ready for work. The defendant (her boyfriend’s friend) took out his gun and fired a shot into the floor, asking the boyfriend to give him the cocaine. The defendant hit the boyfriend in the head with the gun and fired another shot.

He tied up the boyfriend and sexually assaulted the woman at gunpoint. When the boyfriend protested, the defendant put him in a closet and continued the sexual assault. When the boyfriend continued to try to stop the assault by getting the closet door open, the defendant hit him again with a gun. Continue reading →

In a recent case a Maryland appellate court considered a case in which a defendant was convicted of criminally negligent manslaughter, reckless driving and more. The defendant was a commercial tractor-trailer driver who got lost on the freeway. He called another driver with the same company for directions with his hands-free headset. They talked for twenty minutes to try to get the defendant back on track.

At one point, the defendant pulled over to the shoulder and then tried to get back on. He looked ahead and saw the road was clear for 1/4 of a mile. However, he was looking across the road at the median while pulling out and a vehicle drive by Michael Neimus collided with his truck. He hung up the phone.

Later Neimus’ friend testified that he met him at 10 pm on October before he died. They talked and drank at a bar until 2 am. They planned to go to one of their houses to continue and were each driving in their respective cars on the freeway when the friend saw the defendant’s truck. He testified that the truck swung out as if it was going to make a wide turn, but the truck didn’t get in the right lane. Instead it blocked the highway. The friend and Neimus swerved to avoid the truck. Neimus hit the back of the truck before driving off the road. The friend pulled over and saw that Neimus’ truck had fire beneath it. Neimus died. Continue reading →

In a recent appellate case a defendant charged with a double murder challenged the evidence used against him on the grounds that it had been obtained through tainted consent. The police learned of the murders when a friend of Seth Aidoo reported he hadn’t seen Aidoo or his girlfriend in a few days. The police went to Aidoo’s home and found his body and his girlfriend’s body in the basement. They were dead.

Aidoo had been stabbed to death and his girlfriend had been shot in the head. The doctor pronounced both deaths were homicides. During the murder investigation it was determined they had been killed January 12, 2009. The detectives also discovered that Aidoo had lived with his wife and her brother and that the wife moved out when they separated. The brother moved shortly after that. The wife, brother and defendant lived together at the time of the murders.

Aidoo lived in a community with access gates controlled by transponders. The brother had gotten a transponder for these gates in March 2008. About two weeks before the murders, the defendant’s Mercedes Benz entered the community using the brother’s transponder. On the evening the murders occurred, the transponder was used again, except with a mini-van. Continue reading →

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