Maryland Court of Appeals Rules in Favor of Petition for Post Conviction Relief

A person who is arrested or charged with a crime – whether it is classified as a felony or misdemeanor – is encouraged to seek the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney. The gathering of evidence and other circumstances surrounding the arrest and indictment are extremely important pieces of a case. Each step must be analyzed and evaluated in accordance with the Maryland laws that serve to protect a citizen’s constitutional and statutory rights. In addition to defenses one may assert at the point of arrest or indictment, there are other arguments that can be raised even after a conviction. No matter which stage of a criminal case one is facing, it is imperative that you have an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney to assert a solid defense or a strong petition for post conviction relief.

Under Maryland law, a person who has been convicted of a crime may file a petition for “writ of actual innocence” and seek a new trial. Section 8-301 of the State Criminal Procedure Code sets forth the circumstances under which such a petition (and new trial) may be granted. These are when a person claims that there is newly discovered evidence that:  (1) creates a substantial or significant possibility that the result may have been different, and (2) could not have been discovered in time to move for a new trial.

In a recent criminal case, a Maryland court granted a petition for a writ of actual innocence, prompting the state to file an appeal. But the question arose as to whether the court’s decision to grant the petitioner’s request constituted a final judgment from which the state was entitled to appeal. In this case, the petitioner was convicted in 1985 of rape, a first-degree sex offense, assault with the intent to murder, and other related crimes. The victim survived the ordeal and identified the petitioner as the assailant. At the time of the trial, the petitioner’s employer was unable to locate employment records to ascertain whether the petitioner was at work at the time of the crime, thereby establishing an alibi. He was later convicted of the multiple offenses.

After unsuccessfully filing a petition for post conviction relief based on ineffective assistance of counsel in 1997, he later filed a petition for a writ of actual innocence in 2010. The circuit court granted him a new trial in 2012, concluding that newly discovered employment records raised a substantial possibility that the result of the petitioner’s trial could have been different. The state filed a notice of appeal, which the petitioner moved to dismiss. The court of special appeals denied the motion, concluding that the state was permitted to appeal the order granting the writ of actual innocence. The petitioner appealed, arguing (among other things) that the state did not have a right to appeal the court’s decision granting the writ, since it was not a final order.

The highest court in Maryland agreed. After reviewing applicable law, including the case of Douglas v. State, the court concluded that the underlying order is “interlocutory” and not appealable until after the entry of a final judgment. According to the court, this ruling is in accord with the purpose of the statute and the interests it purports to advance. A ruling to the contrary would “obstruct” an incarcerated person’s access to relief provided by the law.

This case nicely illustrates the importance of knowing and understanding the options for post-conviction relief under Maryland law. Reaching out to a criminal defense attorney is a good place to start. Anthony A. Fatemi has extensive experience handling criminal defense cases throughout Maryland.  Our office can work diligently to develop a strong strategy to defend your case. Contact us at 301-519-2801 or via our online form.

Related Blog Posts:

Maryland Court Reviews Post-Conviction DNA Statute in Criminal Case

Maryland Court Reviews Allegations of an “Illegal Sentence” in Criminal Case

Maryland Court Overturns Conviction Based on Error During Voir Dire (Jury Questioning)

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