Maryland Court Decides that a Police Bodycam Video Was Inadmissible, Meaning that an Assault Defendant Was Entitled to a New Trial

One of the most important aspects of any defense in a criminal trial is successfully getting evidence that is not admissible under Maryland’s court rules excluded. Inadmissible evidence, particularly certain types of hearsay evidence, can potentially be damaging to your defense, which makes it extraordinarily important to keep that evidence away from the jury when it comes time for their deliberations. That, of course, requires properly opposing the evidence’s admission and then taking the necessary actions if inadmissible evidence is included in your trial. For these and other essential elements of an effective defense, be sure to retain an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney.

D.W.’s criminal case, which arose from an altercation at a Montgomery County public park, was one where hearsay evidence was a very important piece of the puzzle Allegedly, a drunken D.W. engaged a group of females and small children in unwanted conversation and, eventually, hit a 13-year-old girl in the face. The group returned home and called 911. A Montgomery County police officer interviewed the alleged victim, and did so with his bodycam on.

As a result of the incident, the state charged D.W. with second-degree assault, disorderly conduct and disorderly intoxication. D.W.’s defense, which asserted that the hit was an accidental strike arising from D.W.’s attempt to “play fight,” focused heavily on inconsistencies in the state’s case. Did D.W. punch the girl or hit the girl with a stick? Did he or didn’t he apologize immediately after the impact for striking the girl? Did he say that the strike was an accident?

As part of its case, the state offered as evidence the bodycam footage of the officer’s interview with the alleged victim. In that interview, the girl stated that D.W. both punched her with his fist and hit her with a stick. The trial judge originally stated that the footage was inadmissible under the evidence rules related to hearsay evidence, but eventually decided to allow the footage in. The jury convicted D.W. on the assault and disorderly conduct charges.

D.W. appealed and was successful. The bodycam footage was definitely hearsay. In general, all hearsay evidence is inadmissible. The only way the piece of hearsay evidence could have been admissible against D.W. was if it qualified under one of the evidence rules’ exceptions. These exceptions allow otherwise inadmissible hearsay into evidence in very specific circumstances. The exceptions include things like prior consistent statements and prior inconsistent statements. The state argued that girl’s words on the bodycam video qualified as a prior consistent statement, so they should be declared admissible.

The appeals court did not accept the state’s argument. In order for a piece of evidence to be admissible as a prior consistent statement, the other side (in this case, the defense) must first have made the argument that the person who made the statement was lying or fueled by an improper motive. D.W.’s defense arguments never made either assertion against the alleged victim, so the prior consistent statement exception’s requirements weren’t met and there was no other hearsay exception that allowed for the video’s admission into evidence.

That meant that the video footage should have been excluded and D.W. was entitled to a new trial.

Your criminal defense attorney handles many matters associated with your case, including making sure that you aren’t convicted based upon evidence that the Maryland rules say is inadmissible. To get the effective defense representation you need, contact the skilled Maryland criminal defense attorney Anthony A. Fatemi, who has been providing helpful counsel for the accused in Maryland for many years. To learn more, contact us at 301-519-2801 or via our online form.

More blog posts:

The Legal Doctrine of ‘Merger’ Helps a Maryland Defendant Obtain a Re-Sentencing, Maryland Criminal Lawyer Blog, Oct. 9, 2018

How the Rules of Evidence Can Help You Keep Some Damaging Testimony out of Your Maryland Criminal Trial, Maryland Criminal Lawyer Blog, March 30, 2018

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