Articles Posted in Trials

Now that all police officers involved in the death of Freddie Gray have been charged by the Baltimore State’s Attorney, I will lay out what to expect in the next 30 days.

Charged by Criminal Information:

There are two ways to charge a felony in Maryland, one way is by Criminal Information and the other way is by Indictment. The Gray defendants have been charged by Criminal Information. Criminal Information means that the State’s Attorney believes their is probable cause the officers have committed one or more felonies. Under Maryland law, there must now be a judicial “rubber stamp” or independent finding of probable cause.

As of now, these defendants will automatically have a preliminary hearing scheduled within 30 days. At the preliminary hearing, a judge will listen to the evidence and make a determination if there is some link between the defendants and the felonies alleged. This is known as probable cause hearing. Most preliminary hearings involve a police officer simply taking the stand and reading the police report into the record . Defense counsel can ask limited questions as the questions relate to probable cause. In cases such as this, it is rare for a district court judge not to find probable cause that a felony has been committed. Upon the judicial finding of probable cause, the case is then forwarded to Circuit Court for trial.
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In this Maryland criminal case, Defendant Dillard was charged with possession with the intent to distribute cocaine and related offenses. Detective Smith was the State’s primary witness. During trial, it was brought to the court’s attention that during a lunch break two jurors walked by Detective Smith, patted him on the back and said “good job.” The defense attorney moved for a mistrial. The State asserted a mistrial was not necessary because the jurors had not made a specific comment about their opinions of Dillard’s guilt. The trial judge denied the motion for mistrial and refused to replace one of the jurors with an alternate. The jury convicted Dillard. Dillard appealed to the Court of Special Appeals which affirmed the trial judge. The Court of Appeals reversed Dillard’s conviction. The Court of Appeals held that the trial court’s failure to conduct a voir dire examination of the jurors to determine whether the jurors had reached a premature conclusion as to Dillard’s guilt or formed fixed opinions constituted an abuse of discretion.

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