Articles Posted in Civil Rights

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After a jury trial, Petitioner was convicted of armed robbery, robbery, and related offenses. The trial court sentenced Petitioner to twenty years’ imprisonment for armed robbery and merged the remaining offenses. Petitioner appealed, arguing that the trial judge abused his discretion in conducting the voir dire of the prospective jurors. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed the judgment of conviction. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the voir dire process in this case reasonably assured that Petitioner was tried before an impartial jury. The Court, however, used the opportunity of this case to encourage trial judges to adopt certain best practices to help achieve the constitutionally requirement of an impartial jury. View "Collins v. State" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of four counts of first-degree murder, among other crimes. Defendant was sentenced to four consecutive sentences of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, one for each conviction of first-degree murder. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed the murder convictions and sentences, holding that CR 2-304 does not give a defendant the right to have a jury determine whether the defendant should be sentenced to life imprisonment with the possibility of parole or life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) under CR 2-304(a), where a defendant is convicted of first-degree murder and the State has given notice of an intent to seek life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, the trial court, not the jury, determines whether to sentence the defendant to life imprisonment or life imprisonment without the possibility of parole; and (2) both the United States Constitution and the Maryland Declaration of Rights permit a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole to be imposed in the same manner as every other sentence except the death penalty, which has been abolished in Maryland. View "Bellard v. State" on Justia Law

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Petitioner, a former researcher employed by Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine (JHU), filed suit against JHU alleging (1) he was wrongfully terminated in retaliation for his repeated protests of research misconduct in violation of 42 U.S.C. 289b and 42 C.F.R. 93; and (2) conversion because after the termination of his employment, he was denied access to stored research materials he had collected. The circuit court granted JHU’s motion to dismiss because Petitioner failed to identify a public policy exception to the at-will employment doctrine and because JHU “could not have converted what it in fact had ownership of.” The Court of Special Appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) Plaintiff was not wrongfully terminated, and his at-will employment came to an end due to the expiration of his employment contract; and (2) Plaintiff’s claim of conversion must fail because JHU owned the research materials pursuant to its stated policies. View "Yuan v. Johns Hopkins University" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was whether a law enforcement officer who detects an odor of marijuana emanating from a vehicle with multiple occupants has reasonable articulable suspicion that the vehicle’s occupants are armed and dangerous and thus may frisk the vehicle’s occupants for weapons. The circuit court denied Defendant’s motion to suppress in this case, concluding that the police officer that searched the vehicle in which Defendant was a passenger had reasonable articulable suspicion that Defendant was armed and dangerous. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding (1) an odor of marijuana alone emanating from a vehicle with multiple occupants does not give rise to a reasonable articulable suspicion that the vehicle’s occupants are armed and dangerous and subject to frisk; and (2) at the time of the frisk in this case, there were insufficient circumstances giving rise to reasonable articulable suspicion that Defendant was armed and dangerous to justify the frisk. View "Norman v. State" on Justia Law

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Defendant was charged with two counts of first-degree murder and related charges. Defendant filed a motion to suppress statements he made to police during an interrogation at the police department. The circuit court granted Defendant’s motion to suppress statements Defendant made to a police officer before the officer advised Defendant of his Miranda rights. The Court of Special Appeals reversed, concluding that the suppression court had incorrectly determined that, from the outset of the interrogation, Defendant was in custody for purposes of Miranda. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that Defendant was in custody for purposes of Miranda for the entirety of the interrogation that preceded Miranda warnings, and therefore, the circuit court properly suppressed Defendant’s statements made to the police. View "Brown v. State" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Petitioner was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed. Petitioner appealed, inter alia, the denial of his motion to suppress the statements he made to police officers during his interrogation, arguing that they were obtained in violation of his Miranda right to counsel. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) the trial judge violated Maryland Rule 4-326(D)(2) by communicating an ex parte answer to a juror’s question without disclosing it to the defendant or any lawyer, but the error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt; and (2) Petitioner did not invoke his Miranda right to counsel by demanding to see a lawyer from his holding cell before being interrogated, and therefore, the circuit court did not err in denying Petitioner’s motion to suppress the statements he made to detectives during his interrogation. View "Gupta v. State" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of attempted second-degree murder and other offenses. Defendant appealed his conviction of attempted second-degree murder, challenging the trial judge’s finding that defense counsel’s explanations for striking jurors were a pretext for racial discrimination. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding (1) the trial judge’s finding that defense counsel’s peremptory challenges were a pretext for racial discrimination was clearly erroneous; and (2) the evidence was insufficient for a rational trier of fact to find beyond a reasonable doubt specific intent for the crime of attempted second-degree murder. Remanded for a new trial as to all remaining counts except for the count charging attempted second-degree murder. View "Spencer v. State" on Justia Law

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Appellant was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. Appellant filed a pro se petition for postconviction DNA testing of a broom and dust pan pursuant to Md. Code Ann. Crim. Proc. (CP) 8-201. The postconviction court dismissed the petition, concluding that Appellant did not have standing to file a petition under CP 8-201(b) because he was not convicted of a crime of violence. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) a defendant convicted of conspiracy to commit murder is not eligible to file a petition for postconviction DNA testing under CP 8-201(b); and (2) the postconviction DNA testing statute does not violate due process or equal protection rights under the United States Constitution or the Maryland Declaration of Rights. View "Washington v. State" on Justia Law

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After a trial, Defendant was found guilty of possession of cocaine with intent to distribute and possession of a firearm during a drug trafficking crime. Defendant appealed, arguing that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress evidence obtained after a Terry frisk because the law enforcement officers did not have reasonable suspicion to justify the frisk. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed the denial of the motion to suppress, concluding that the facts created reasonable suspicion that Defendant was armed and dangerous and that he had committed or was planning to commit a crime. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that, under the totality of the circumstances, the officers did not have reasonable articulable suspicion to frisk Defendant, and therefore, the Court of Special Appeals erred in concluding that the evidence was correctly suppressed. View "Sellman v. State" on Justia Law

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Defendant was indicted for several drug offenses. Defendant filed a motion to suppress evidence seized by police officers from his person, alleging that his detention in handcuffs while in a car that he had been driving was searched constituted an unlawful arrest and that the evidence obtained by the officers were the fruits of that arrest. The motion to suppress was denied. Defendant entered a conditional guilty plea to one count of possession of cocaine with intent to distribute. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) the police officers possessed reasonable suspicion to stop Defendant and ask him to leave the vehicle based upon their belief that Defendant may have been armed and dangerous; and (2) the use of handcuffs per se does not ordinarily transform a Terry stop into an arrest, and the continued use of handcuffs by the police officers in this case constituted a Terry stop because of an ongoing concern for officer safety. View "Chase v. State" on Justia Law