One of the most valuable evidentiary tools in some criminal cases today is DNA testing. For some defendants, a DNA test result can be the key to proving innocence. For others, while not establishing innocence, a favorable test result can at least be a valuable piece in raising reasonable doubt about the defendant’s guilt. A recent case addressed the very important question of when a defendant is entitled to a DNA test, and the answer to that question helped get the judgment against the defendant vacated.
In a criminal case, there are several things a defendant must do to strengthen his case and give himself a good chance at an acquittal. One of these things is reducing the credibility of the prosecution’s witnesses. One way to do that is to introduce previous statements that the state’s witness made that are contrary to what the witness stated on the stand at trial. In one recent sex crime case from Montgomery County, the defendant obtained a new trial on appeal after the trial judge in his case improperly refused to allow him to put on evidence of prior inconsistent statements made by one of the state’s key witnesses.
There are several ways to get a criminal conviction in Maryland overturned on appeal. One way is to establish that the prosecution was allowed to introduce improper testimony on an essential issue of the case. This is what happened recently in one rape-and-assault case. A nurse, who was brought in as a lay witness, gave opinion testimony despite never having been authorized as an expert witness. That entitled the defendant to a new trial, according to the Court of Special Appeals’ ruling.
Small details can make big differences in the outcome of your criminal trial. In the case of one Maryland dentist accused of a sex crime, a very specific detail ultimately was the key to his obtaining a reversal of his conviction. Since the state had no evidence that the dentist interacted with a minor child or a police officer posing as a minor child, the dentist could not be convicted for sexual solicitation of a minor child, according to a recent Court of Special Appeals ruling.
Regardless of the number or the severity of the crimes charged by the state, the law imposes certain protections against improper overcharging by prosecutors and over-sentencing by courts. In one recent case decided by the Maryland Court of Special Appeals, a man convicted of sexually abusing a girl across a four-year period could be charged under the Maryland statute that makes carrying on a continuing course of sexual abuse of a child a crime, but the law only allowed the state to charge him with one violation of this crime, not 10 violations, since his continuing course of abuse involved only one victim.
When you are put on trial for a criminal offense, the constitution guarantees you certain rights. One of those constitutional guarantees extended to accused people is the right to confront accusers. But what happens when a language barrier exists, and an interpreter is involved? That was the situation for a Baltimore man accused of multiple counts of sexual assault. The man’s trial produced a conviction, but the Maryland Court of Special Appeals threw out that conviction due to violations of the man’s constitutional rights. The man, who is deaf, was not allowed to examine at trial the sign-language interpreters who were involved in translating his statement to police. That ruling denied the man a fair trial and required a reversal of the conviction.
The case stemmed from the alleged sexual abuse of several female students at the Maryland School for the Deaf between 2008 and 2011. In December 2012, police questioned Clarence Taylor about the abuse. Taylor was deaf and did not speak English, nor did he understand spoken English. During Taylor’s five-hour police interview, communication was facilitated through the use of a pair of American Sign Language interpreters. Using a system known as “relay interpretation,” the police detective would ask her question, and the two interpreters would translate that information into sign language. Taylor signed his responses, and the interpreters translated them into English.
In criminal cases, law enforcement personnel employ a variety of different methods to gather evidence against an alleged “suspect.” One such strategy includes the use of wiretapping and electronic surveillance in an effort to intercept wire, oral, and electronic communications. Both federal and state laws govern the use of wiretapping surveillance in criminal cases. Under Maryland’s wiretapping law, citizens are afforded a greater degree of privacy than under the federal wiretap law. If evidence in your criminal case was obtained via a wiretap or other electronic surveillance, it is vitally important that the intercepted communication was obtained within the confines of the law. For help with this aspect of your case, as well as any other legal issue, you are encouraged to contact an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney as soon as possible after an arrest.
In a recent Maryland Court of Appeals case, the petitioner challenged the State’s method of obtaining evidence from a recorded phone call (monitored by the alleged victim), with equipment provided by a detective with the Montgomery County Police. Here, the victim alleged that he had been sexually abused by his step-uncle (petitioner) during the summer of 1982. Thirty years after the alleged sexual abuse took place in Maryland, the victim (who now lives in West Virginia) sought help from staff at a police station in Rockville. After describing the abuse to a detective, the two made several calls to the alleged perpetrator in an attempt to elicit an admission or confession.
The state of Maryland has adopted the law of double jeopardy, as set forth in the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution. Essentially, the law protects citizens from being tried twice for the same crime. It is important to understand that double jeopardy is not a defense to the merits of a criminal case, but instead it is considered a “plea in bar” to prevent a trial from ever taking place. Courts have addressed the issue of double jeopardy in many criminal cases and have identified when it may be invoked and the extent of the legal protection. If you have been arrested or charged with a crime, it is critical that you are aware of any and all defenses or legal protections available. An experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney would be able to assess your case to provide a strong defense to the charges brought.
In a recent Maryland case, the state brought charges against Wayne Warren, Jr., alleging the sexual abuse of a minor, shortly after he had already been tried and convicted on two of eight charges of the same crime. After the first case was resolved in 2014, the state discovered new photographic evidence in a storage facility, allegedly establishing the sexual abuse of a minor. The state decided to bring another action against him, using this new evidence, which had never been used against him. The new indictment, presented three months after the guilty verdicts were handed down at the first trial, included four counts, each charging precisely the same crime: sexual abuse of a minor.