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The Court of Appeals affirmed the post-conviction court’s denial of Appellant’s post-conviction motion for DNA testing under Md. Code Crim. Proc. 8-201, holding that the post-conviction court did not err when it concluded that there was no reasonable probability that DNA testing could produce exculpatory or mitigating evidence. After a fifth trial, Appellant was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life without parole. Appellant subsequently filed a pro se petition for post-conviction DNA testing under section 8-201. The circuit court denied the petition, concluding that there was no reasonable probability that the testing could produce exculpatory or mitigating evidence. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in denying Appellant’s petition for post-conviction DNA testing. View "Givens v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The process of involuntary admission of an individual begins with the initiation application for involuntary admission and ends upon a hearing officer’s decision whether to admit or release that individual. If, during the process, a physician applies the statutory criteria for involuntary admission and concludes, in good faith, that the individual no longer meets those criteria, the facility must release the individual. The physician’s decision is immune from civil liability and cannot be the basis of a jury verdict for medical malpractice. Brandon Mackey was taken to Bon Secours Hospital pursuant to an application for involuntary admission after he attempted to commit suicide. Dr. Leroy Bell treated Mackey. Two days before a scheduled hearing to determine whether Mackey should be admitted involuntarily or released, Dr. Bell authorized Mackey’s release. Thereafter, Mackey committed suicide. Plaintiff brought suit contending that Dr. Bell, and Bon Secours vicariously as his employer, were negligent in releasing Mackey. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Chance. The circuit court vacated the judgment based in part on its understanding of the immunity statute. The court of special appeals reversed. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that Dr. Bell’s decision to discharge Mackey, made in good faith and with reasonable grounds, was immune from liability. View "Bell v. Chance" on Justia Law

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Testimony of a forensic examiner that the daughter of Petitioner, who was accused of sexually abusing his daughter, showed “no signs of fabrication” and that the examiner had no concerns about fabrication when the daughter made certain out-of-court statements implicating Defendant impermissibly intruded on the responsibility of the jury to assess the credibility of witnesses. After a retrial, Defendant was found guilty of sexual abuse of a minor and other sexual offenses. The court of special appeals affirmed, concluding that some of the evidence had been admitted in error but that the error did not require reversal of Defendant’s convictions. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the prosecution elicited what amounted to an endorsement of the credibility of an out-of-court statement by its main witness that the jury did not see and could not evaluate for itself, and the error required reversal. View "Fallin v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The trial court properly admitted into evidence a bank statement record and a compact disk (CD) containing video surveillance footage because the evidence was properly authenticated under the Maryland Rules of Evidence. Defendant was convicted of first-degree assault and theft of at least $1,000 but less than $10,000. The court of special appeals affirmed, holding that the disk segment containing the surveillance footage was properly authenticated by a bank employee and that the bank statements satisfied the four requirements of the business record hearsay exception and thus were properly authenticated. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the court of special appeals did not err when it concluded that the CD was properly authenticated and that the bank statements were admissible under the business records exception to the hearsay rule. View "Jackson v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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At issue was whether a teacher in the Montgomery County Public School (MCPS) system is protected by the Maryland State Whistleblower Protection Law (WBL), Md. Code State Pers. & Pens. 5-301-314. Petitioner filed a WBL complaint against MCPS, arguing (1) teachers employed by the county school board are embraced within the WBL because the county school board is a unit of the executive branch of State government, and (2) MCPS should be estopped from asserting that it is not a State agency because it had asserted in other contexts State agency status. The court of appeals concluded (1) the WBL does not apply to public school teachers employed by county boards of education because they are not employees of the executive branch, and (2) an entity may qualify as a State agency for some purposes while being classified as a local agency for other purposes. The Supreme Judicial Court held (1) the county board of education is not a State agency for purposes of the WBL, and WBL protection does not otherwise extend to public school teachers; and (2) judicial estoppel has no role in this case because the appropriate designation of a county school board as either a State or local agency depends on the context of the board’s particular authority or function. View "Donlon v. Montgomery County Public Schools" on Justia Law

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The trial court abused its discretion by choosing to wait until Defendant testified before ruling on the admissibility of Defendant’s prior conviction for purposes of impeachment. Defendant was convicted for possession with intent to distribute a controlled dangerous substance. During trial, defense counsel advised Defendant of his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and informed him that because he had a prior conviction for possession with intent to distribute a controlled dangerous substance, counsel would ask the court to conduct a balancing test under Maryland Rule 5-609 to determine whether the State would be allowed to use that prior conviction against him. The trial court declined to conduct the balancing test prior to Defendant’s election not to testify. On appeal, Defendant argued that the trial court failed to exercise its discretion when it chose not to give an advance ruling on the admissibility of his prior conviction. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed, concluding that it would have been “premature” for the trial court to engage in a balancing test without observing Defendant’s testimony first. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the trial judge did not need to wait to hear Defendant’s testimony before ruling on the Rule 5-609 motion, and the court’s failure to exercise its discretion constituted an abuse of discretion. View "Burnside v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Under the totality of the circumstances of this case, Petitioner knowingly and voluntarily pleaded guilty to first-degree murder. Petitioner pleaded guilty to first-degree murder. After unsuccessfully seeking leave to appeal his conviction following guilty plea and failing to obtain requested postconviction relief, Petitioner requested that his postconviction matter be reopened pursuant to Md. Code Ann. Crim. Proc. 7-104. As grounds for his petition, Petitioner claimed that the Supreme Court’s decision in State v. Daughtry, 18 A.3d 60 (Md. 2011), required reopening his case in the interests of justice. The postconviction hearing judge agreed, reopened the case, and vacated Petitioner’s guilty plea. The Court of Special Appeals reversed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) the record of the plea hearing demonstrated that Petitioner entered his guilty plea knowingly and voluntarily; and (2) procedural distinctions precluded Daughtry’s application to the present case. View "Tate v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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At issue was whether the possession and control exception to Maryland’s statute of repose, codified at Md. Code Cts. & Jud. Proc. (CJP) 5-108, which bars certain claims relating to injuries caused by improvements to real property, opens defendants to liability in cases that do not involve asbestos. CJP 5-108(d)(2)(i) provides that the protections of the statute of repose shall not apply if the “defendant was in actual possession and control of the property as owner, tenant, or otherwise when the injury occurred….” The subsections (d)(2)(ii)-(iv) eliminate the statute’s protection for certain defendants where a claimed injury was caused by exposure to asbestos. Here, Plaintiffs filed a wrongful death action against Defendants, the owner and property manager of a shopping center, alleging that the defendants failed to warn the decedent, an HVAC repairman, that the wall he climbed and fell from had no roof access. Defendants moved for summary judgment arguing that Plaintiffs’ claims were barred by the statute of repose and that the possession and control exception applied only to asbestos cases. The circuit court greed and granted summary judgment for Defendants. The Court of Special Appeals reversed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the possession and control exception to the statute of repose applies in non-asbestos cases. View "SVF Riva Annapolis LLC v. Gilroy" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury

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At issue was whether the circuit court erred in admitting controlled dangerous substances into evidence at trial in the absence of strict compliance with Md. Code Ann. Cts. & Jud. Proc. 10-1001, 10-1002, and 10-1003. Prior to his criminal trial, Defendant made a timely demand pursuant to Cts. & Jud. Proc. 10-1003 for the presence of all the members in the chain of custody at trial. The State was unable to call the “packaging” officer as a witness, but the court admitted the suspected controlled dangerous substances, concluding that the State properly established the chain of custody. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) where there has been an invocation of the right to have all witnesses produced pursuant to section 10–1003, the State may not proceed under the streamlined procedure for establishing the chain of custody pursuant to Cts. & Jud. Proc. 10-1001 to -1003 and instead must establish a proper chain of custody that negates a reasonable probability of alteration or tampering; and (2) because the State produced the officer who originally recovered the drugs and the chemist who tested them, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in admitting the evidence. View "Wheeler v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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In this dispute over constitutional limits on the governor’s power to make recess appointments, the Court of Appeals held that a provision in the state budget bill passed by the general assembly that precluded two gubernatorial appointees from being paid a salary exceeded the authority of the legislature was was invalid and unenforceable. In 2016, the governor appointed the two appointees as secretaries for two departments. The governor withdrew his nomination of the appointees during the 2017 legislation session but later reappointed the two secretaries. Anticipating that prospect, the general assembly passed a provision in the state budget bill forbidding payments to administration appointees who were nominated but not confirmed by the Maryland Senate. The cabinet secretaries filed suit demanding pay for their work. The circuit judge ruled that the governor had the authority to make the two recess appointments and ordered the treasurer to pay the cabinet secretaries. The Court of Appeals vacated the circuit court’s judgment and remanded for entry of a declaratory judgment declaring that the appointees were entitled to be paid the salaries set forth in the fiscal year 2018 budget for the times they served as secretaries of their respective departments and for entry of an order enjoining the state from interfering with the payment of those salaries. View "Kopp v. Schrader" on Justia Law