Is Evidence of Innocence Exculpatory Enough?
The Maryland Supreme Court’s last opinion of 2022, Carver v. State, 482 Md. 469 (2022) (Hotten, J.) (Gould, J., dissenting), analyzed the cumulative impact of newly discovered evidence and held that the newly discovered evidence did not “speak to” petitioner’s innocence, and therefore, did not require granting a writ of actual innocence. However, Justice Gould’s pointed dissent illustrates the existing controversy over the application of the standard for how much newly discovered evidence is enough to warrant a new trial. Both the Majority and the Dissent agreed on the standard to apply. Still, in practical terms, does a petitioner have to show that the State’s evidence of guilt is insufficient? That is precisely how Justice Gould reads the Majority’s application of the standard, which effectively raises the bar for petitioners and turns the “substantial possibility of a different outcome” test into the functional equivalent of a preponderance of the evidence standard.Read More…
Seventeen Days to Go and Two Potential Blockbuster Maryland Court of Appeals Cases Left to Decide!
By Michael Wein
It’s time for the Annual* “Blockbuster” Court of Appeals decision watch. Three years ago, with about one week to go before the Maryland Court of Appeals’ self-imposed deadline of August 31st for deciding all cases in the term, the Court had only four cases left to decide. Two years ago, with two weeks before the Court’s deadline, there were 11 decisions left undecided. With a little more than two weeks to go before this year’s deadline, nine (9) decisions remain undecided, per the “Pending Cases” page on the Court of Appeals’ web site, with four (4) of those cases related to the topic of juvenile life sentences (that will likely involve some form of consolidated opinion, or opinions that will cross-reference each other). Of these 9 cases, one is civil, five are criminal, and three involve an Attorney Grievance matter. A listing of these cases’ Questions Presented from the Court of Appeals’ website, can be found at the bottom of this post.
COSA Dissent Watch: Battered-Spouse Syndrome and Murder-For-Hire
The case: Porter v. State, Sept. Term 2013, No. 1916 (Oct. 25, 2016)
The questions: Does Md. Code, Cts. & Jud. Proc. (“CJP”) § 10-916 permit a defendant implicated in a murder-for-hire scheme to introduce evidence of battered-spouse syndrome? Did the evidence in the case establish that the defendant had a subjective belief of an apparent imminent or immediate danger of death or serious bodily harm?
COSA Dissent Watch: Circumstantial evidence of lead paint in the post-Rowhouses world
The case: Murphy v. Ellison, Sept. Term 2015, No. 0822 (Aug. 23, 2016) (unreported)
The questions: Can a plaintiff in a lead-paint case establish a property as a reasonably probable source of exposure without expert testimony or inspections of the property? Can the age of a house or its components establish that the property probably had lead paint? Can evidence of lead paint on the exterior of a home be evidence of lead paint on the interior?
COSA Dissent Watch: Marijuana Odors and Pat-Downs
The case: Norman v. State, Sept. Term 2015, No. 1408 (Aug. 11, 2016)
The questions: Was the odor of marijuana effectively the only justification for a police officer’s alleged belief that a passenger in a vehicle was armed and dangerous? If so, is that belief reasonable for the purposes of the Fourth Amendment?
COSA Dissent Watch: Plea Bargains That Ignore Mandatory Probation
The case: Crawley v. State, Sept. Term 2013, No. 0467 (Aug. 8, 2016)
The questions: If a plea agreement would be invalid without the inclusion of probation, is probation an implied term of the agreement? If a plea agreement is invalid because it provides for an illegal sentence, can a trial court, sua sponte, increase the sentence to make it legal? If a plea agreement is invalid for failure to include probation, is a defendant’s renegotiation of the plea limited to the addition of probation, or can he renegotiate the entire agreement?
Fifteen Days to Go, and an Avalanche — 15 — Maryland Court of Appeals Cases Left to Decide!
By Michael Wein
Last year, with about one week to go before the Maryland Court of Appeals’ self-imposed deadline for deciding all cases in a September term by the following August, the Court had only four cases left to decide. Per the “Pending Cases” page on the Court of Appeals’ web site, with two weeks to go before this year’s deadline, 15 decisions are left to decide. Of these 15 cases, seven are civil, six are criminal, one is an Attorney Grievance matter (which the oral arguments indicate was, interestingly, remanded back to the trial judge for additional findings and re-argued in the same term), and one is a Bar application case.
COSA Dissent Watch: Post-mistrial Acquittals and Double Jeopardy
The case: State v. Johnson, Sept. Term 2015, No. 0189 (June 29, 2016)
The questions: Does a circuit court have fundamental jurisdiction to acquit a defendant after the grant of a mistrial? Does such an acquittal bar further prosecution even if court relies on evidence that is technically not before it?
COSA Dissent Watch: Questioning Police Officer Testimony and Bias in Voir Dire
The case: Lapole v. State, Sept. Term 2014, No. 2169 (June 27, 2016)
The questions: Can a voir dire question about bias regarding testimony of police officers reference other professions as well? Is the failure to properly give that question subject to harmless-error review?
COSA Dissent Watch: Defining a “Collection Agency”
[Dissents in the Court of Special Appeals are, as we’ve noted here before, an infrequent thing — but quite useful. Many times, disagreement in the intermediate court portends consideration and resolution by the Court of Appeals, or highlights thorny issues that appellate practitioners can take up in future cases. In this new feature, the Blog tracks and analyzes split decisions at the Court of Special Appeals.]
The case: Old Republic Ins. Co. v. Gordon, No. 1020 (Sept. Term 2014)
The question: Did the circuit court err in its construction of the phrase “collection agency” under BR § 7-101(c)?
The facts: Old Republic Insurance Company sold Countrywide Home Loans a “credit insurance policy,” pursuant to which Old Republic would pay for losses caused by defaults in loans held by Countrywide; in return, Countrywide would subrogate its rights of recovery to Old Republic. Countrywide submitted a claim for Nancy Gordon’s default on her approximately $70,000 loan, and Old Republic paid it. Old Republic then exercised its subrogation rights to pursue repayment.
The company filed suit in circuit court and moved for summary judgment. Ms. Gordon opposed the motion on the grounds that, under Maryland law, Old Republic was barred from bringing its claims because it was acting as a collection agency subject to the Maryland Collection Agency Licensing Act but wasn’t licensed to do so. The court agreed and granted summary judgment to Ms. Gordon.