Issues of Credibility and Prejudicial Evidence in a Maryland Murder Case

A recent case arose when the defendant drove his Mitsubishi with two passengers onto southbound I-95. The defendant and one of the passengers (Jackson) planned to rob the other passenger. However, the two passengers got into a fight at some point and Jackson got shot. The defendant pulled over and Jackson shot and killed the other passenger. The defendant drove the injured passenger to the hospital and left.

The police found the dead passenger’s body on the same day. The defendant was arrested and at the barracks where he was taken. While there, he made statements to three officers, including a recorded statement where he described the fight as a robbery that had gone bad.

After that, he was advised of his Miranda rights. Although he invoked his right to remain silent, he continued to talk. The officers cut him off and told him they couldn’t talk to him until he waived his Miranda rights. Ten minutes later he signed a form waiving his rights.

After that he said that he had gone to Aberdeen to see a friend and was asked by Jackson to pick him up at his house. He claimed that Jackson was already bleeding and sweaty when he picked the passenger up and that he then drove him to the ER. One officer played a 10-second clip of a recorded interview in which Jackson claimed that the defendant was the culprit.

He was interviewed again, but not re-advised of his Miranda rights, only told the Miranda rights from before were still in effect. The officers replayed the recorded interview from Jackson. The defendant then said that he and Jackson had planned to rob the other passenger and it had gone bad. He claimed Jackson was shot accidentally. The defendant also offered to show them where he had thrown the gun into the river.

Later, the defendant unsuccessfully moved to suppress the statements he’d made to the police claiming they were not voluntarily provided. He claimed he signed the waiver because he felt he was falsely accused by the passenger and had to defend himself. The State argued the waiver was signed freely and nothing inappropriately coercive had been said to the defendant.

After being convicted, he appealed the lower court’s refusal to suppress his confessions and several other issues, including the lower court’s decision to permit a photograph into evidence that showed the decedent with a young female family member.

The State had supposedly introduced the photograph to identify the decedent and show that he was wearing a gold chain that was recovered from the defendant at the time of his arrest. The defendant argued that its probative value was outweighed by the prejudicial effect of showing his family member in the photo given that other photos also showed the decedent wearing the gold chain. The court had allowed it after discussing the relevance — that a gold chain had been stolen in this case — and stating that there were bound to be some family photos in this case. The appellate court explained that since no other photograph showed the victim’s face with the necklace, the trial court’s determination was not obviously arbitrary.

The defendant had not argued his waiver of Miranda rights was a result of not knowing he had waived them both times. Rather, he had claimed that what led him to talk to the police officers was the playing of Jackson’s recorded statement. The sergeant claimed to the contrary that she never played the recording before giving the defendant the second advice of his Miranda rights. The trial court had found the defendant not credible and besides his testimony, there was no other evidence of coercion. However, it did find credible the police officers’ testimony that the defendant continued to speak nonstop after signing his first form. The appellate court affirmed the finding of the judge at the suppression hearing.

If you are arrested or charged with a crime, it is in your best interests to consult a knowledgeable Maryland criminal defense attorney. We can determine what kinds of defenses are available in your particular case and whether any of the evidence can be suppressed. Contact us at 301-519-2801 or via our online form.

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