Articles Tagged with court of appeals

On August 25, 2020 the Court of Appeals issued an important ruling regarding the modification of mandatory sentences for drug offenders who had entered into a guilty plea.  The Court unanimously ruled that the trial court does in fact have the authority to modify mandatory sentences given to certain drug offenders who entered into a guilty plea.  The Court went further and said these sentences may be modified even over the objection of the State.  The further concluded that these mandatory drug offense sentences may be modified by the trial court even in instances in which the defendant failed to file a timely motion to modify sentence.  This important decision will allow thousands of inmates the right to file a request to have their mandatory drug offense sentences be modified.  The attorneys at Silverman Thompson Slutkin and White have combined criminal experience of well over 100 years and include both a State Court of Appeals Judge and a former Federal Judge.  Our aggressive and experienced attorneys stand ready to file motions to modify mandatory sentences in any jurisdiction in the State.

Here is a synopsis of this important case:

In State v. Brown, Bottini, Wilson v. State-  decided August 24, 2020   The Court of Appeals addressed four questions of law concerning the application of the Justice Reinvestment Act which eliminated mandatory minimum sentences without the possibility of parole required by existing law for defendants who were convicted of certain drug offences and who were repeat offenders.  Further, the Act provided that a defendant could ask the trial court to reduce that sentence and provided the court with criteria which is now codified in Criminal Law Annotated Section 5-609.1.

On August 28, 2019, in a landmark decision, the Court of Appeals abrogated the long standing rule that a defendant could not be convicted based solely on the testimony of the defendant’s accomplices. (State v. Jones, No. 52, September Term, 2018). Jones was charged with the murder of Mr. Sandeep Bhulari. The investigation led to six suspects. Fingerprints discovered at the crime scene implicated four of the suspects. Jones was implicated solely by the accounts of three of the suspects. The trial, those three suspects testified pursuant to plea agreements. In addition to their testimony, the State presented testimony from detectives and forensic experts and offered physical evidence. None of the physical evidence directly implicated Jones. Jones was convicted of conspiracy to commit armed carjacking. Jones appealed.

The Court of Special Appeals held that the accomplices’ testimony was not independently corroborated by other evidence and that the accomplice corroboration rule had been violated. However, the panel of the Court of Special Appeals suggested that the Court of Appeals reconsider the accomplice corroboration rule.

The State filed a petition for writ of certiorari which was granted by the Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals noted that the rule applies in only a minority of states and determined that it was grounded in outdated legal reasoning. The Court then abrogated the accomplice liability rule as it was previously structured. This decision now leaves exclusively to the jury to assess the credibility of accomplice testimony. In place of the rule, the Court of Appeals has instructed trial judges to give a cautionary instruction when the State chooses to introduce accomplice testimony. As the current Maryland Pattern jury instruction dealing with accomplices covers the now abrogated rule, the jury instruction must be modified.

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