Back in September, the Maryland Court of Appeals made a very important ruling. Unless you read legal publications, you probably haven’t heard about it, as it didn’t make the major newspapers. The case wasn’t a big reversal of an accused person’s major conviction. In fact, it wasn’t even a criminal matter at all, but it potentially impacts a lot of criminal defendants in this state. What it does represent is a reminder that having a knowledgeable Maryland criminal defense attorney, who’s up to date on the latest developments in the law in this state, can make an enormous difference in your criminal case.
The ruling involved a civil case where a woman sued her former landlord for harm she allegedly suffered as a result of lead paint exposure. The key issue the state’s high court addressed was the correct standard for assessing whether or not evidence from an expert witness is admissible at trial. The court changed the standard that Maryland courts must use, adopting a standard created in a 1993 U.S. Supreme Court case.
The impact of that change is already being felt by people facing criminal charges in this state. A man, K.A., received a new opportunity to potentially defeat the murder charge against him. In K.A.’s trial, the state presented an expert who used a “toolmark identification” method to determine that, in his opinion, the bullets recovered from the victim’s body matched a gun recovered from K.A.
The high court’s decision gives K.A. a renewed opportunity to argue that, under the new standard for analyzing expert opinions, this toolmark expert’s evidence was not admissible.
So, how will this affect the criminal charges against me?
Many criminal cases in this state and elsewhere involve some form of expert evidence, usually provided by the prosecution. If your case is one of those, then you can seek to have that expert evidence excluded before the prosecution can present it to a jury.
You can do this by filing in the trial court something called a “motion in limine.” In that kind of motion, you can argue that the jury should not be allowed to hear some (or any) of the expert’s opinions. Under this new standard, the expert’s evidence must be relevant to the issue in dispute and must be based on methodology that is reputable and reliable. If you can prove either of these is untrue, you can get that expert evidence excluded.
Despite the fact that a lot of criminal cases involve some sort of expert, and that many of them testify in favor of the prosecution, these kinds of challenges are actually relatively rare in criminal matters as compared to civil cases.
There are many possible explanations but, back in 2005, the American Journal of Public Health pointed to one very important potential reason: legal representation.
Many civil plaintiffs are represented by highly skilled injury attorneys. They are very experienced and can dedicate a high degree of time to that client’s case. Most people facing major felony criminal charges, on the hand, are people of limited or no wealth. A lot of those accused people rely on public defenders. Those lawyers, while often diligent and competent, are, as the Journal noted, frequently overworked, overwhelmed and underfinanced. Too many times, this leaves them “not up to the challenge” of successfully contesting the state’s expert evidence.
This is just another reason why it is well worth your while to choose carefully when it comes to selecting your defense attorney. A public defender, while available at no cost to you, may lack the experience or the funds to attack the prosecution’s expert, or generally to defend you as thoroughly as you’d want.
Don’t leave your freedom and liberty exposed to needless risk by having the wrong attorney. Rely on the skilled Maryland criminal defense attorneys at Anthony A. Fatemi, LLC and our many years of experience to help you put on the most complete and effective defense possible. To learn more, contact us at 301-519-2801 or via our online form.