Justia Civil Rights Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Maryland Court of Appeals
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The Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the court of special appeals reversing the ruling of the circuit court that Baltimore City police detective Adam Lewellen had acted within the scope of his employment and that the Baltimore City Police Department was liable for the judgment against him, holding that Plaintiff was not entitled to judgment as a matter of law.Plaintiff sued Lewellen for several torts, and the circuit court found Lewellen liable for negligence, violations of the Maryland Declaration of Rights, and civil conspiracy. The court awarded damages in favor of Plaintiff in the amount of $167,008. The court did not make any finding as to whether Lewellen was acting within the scope of his employment for purposes of the Local Government Tort Claims Act (LGTCA), Md. Code Cts. & Jud. Proc 5-301 et seq. Plaintiff later filed a motion seeking to collect from the Police Department, pursuant to the LGTCA, the damages he had been awarded against Lewellen. The circuit court granted the motion. The court of special appeals reversed, concluding that Plaintiff failed to establish that Lewellen's actions were motivated at least in part to further the Police Department's interests. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the court of special appeals' opinion was unassailable in its analysis and conclusions. View "Esteppe v. Baltimore City Police Department" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals reversed the judgment of the court of special appeals affirming Defendant's convictions, holding that, under article 21 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights, a statement contained in a scientific report is testimonial if a reasonable declarant would have understood the primary purpose for the creation of the report to be to establish or prove past events potentially relevant to later criminal prosecution.Defendant was indicted on charges of first-, third-, and fourth-degree burglary, theft, and malicious destruction of property. At the scene of the reported burglary, a police officer swabbed the burglar's suspected blood from the window frame and a curtain. Thereafter, Molly Rollo, a forensic scientist, conducted a DNA analysis of the samples and produced a report providing a DNA profile for a male contributor. A subsequent DNA records database search identified Defendant as a possible match. At trial, the court admitted Rollo's report into evidence and allowed a different forensic scientist, Tiffany Keener, to convey the report's results to the jury without requiring that Rollo be available for cross-examination. The Court of Appeals reversed the convictions, holding that the trial court violated Defendant's rights to confrontation and cross-examination under Article 21 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights. View "Leidig v. State" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the trial court convicting Defendant of first-degree rape and other offenses, holding that the trial court did not violate Defendant's constitutional rights by allowing the technical review of a report analyzing DNA evidence to testify about the results of that analysis without requiring the primary author of the report to be available for cross-examination.In 2008, an unidentified assailant sexually assaulted a nineteen-year-old woman in her apartment. Forensic evidence was collected from the woman's body and from her apartment, and forensic scientists generated a DNA profile from the evidence for an "unknown male #1." Nine years later, the FBI's Combined DNA Index System produced Defendant as a match for "unknown male #1." Defendant was subsequently convicted with several offenses relating to the sexual assault. Thomas Hebert was the primary author of two reports that analyzed and/or compared DNA evidence relevant to this case. The State did not call Hebert as a witness and instead offered the testimony of two other Forensic Services Division analysts in Hebert's stead. The court of special appeals reversed the convictions, concluding that the trial court violated Defendant's constitutional rights to confrontation. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that Defendant's constitutional rights were not violated under the circumstances of this case. View "State v. Miller" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed Defendant's convictions of numerous criminal offenses related to a drunk driving incident that resulted in the death of a cyclist, holding that Defendant's challenge to the jury selection method in this case was unavailing.On appeal, Defendant argued that the trial judge impermissibly excluded numerous groups of people from his jury without making specific findings of bias or other cause, in violation of his right to an impartial jury. The court of special appeals affirmed the convictions. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that there was no indication in the record that any cognizable group was excluded from the jury as a result of the method of jury selection used in this case. View "Kidder v. State" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals dismissed this appeal of the court of special appeals' denial of an application for leave to appeal in a postconviction proceeding, holding that this Court lacked subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Md. Code Cts. & Jud. Proc. (CJ) 12-202.Petitioner was found guilty of first-degree murder and other crimes. Nearly ten years after Petitioner was sentenced, he filed a petition for postconviction relief, alleging ineffective assistance of both trial and appellate counsel. The postconviction court denied the petition. Petitioner filed an application for leave to appeal, which the court of special appeals denied without explanation. Petitioner then petitioned the Court of Appeals for writ of certiorari. The Court of Appeals dismissed the appeal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, holding that CJ 12-202 is not precluded by article IV, section 14A of the Maryland Constitution. View "Mahai v. State" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the court of special appeals affirming the circuit court's dismissal of Plaintiff's malicious prosecution claim and reversing the grant of Defendant's motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV) on Plaintiff's discrimination claim, holding that the court of special appeals did not err.Plaintiff sued the Town of Riverdale Park and members of the Riverdale Park Police Department for claims including intentional discrimination on the basis of national origin. The circuit court granted the Town's motion for judgment on the malicious prosecution claim and sent the discrimination claim to the jury. The jury found in favor of Plaintiff and awarded damages. The circuit court granted the Town's motion for JNOV, citing Plaintiff's lack of evidence. The court of special appeals affirmed the dismissal of the malicious prosecution claim but reversed the grant of the motion for JNOV. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that Plaintiff presented sufficient evidence of discrimination to withstand a motion for JNOV. View "Town of Riverdale Park v. Askhar" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the court of special appeals affirming Defendant's conviction of murder and attempted murder, holding that Defendant knowingly and voluntarily waived his rights under Miranda and that the circuit court correctly determined that a jury instruction on duress was unwarranted.Before trial, Defendant moved to suppress his confession to a law enforcement officer. The circuit court denied the motion, concluding that Miranda had been complied with and that Defendant's confession was voluntary. The court of special appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) Defendant knowingly and voluntarily waived his rights under Miranda, his confession was voluntary, and his circumstances did not render his waiver of rights involuntary; and (2) the circuit court did not err in declining to give a jury instruction on duress because the instruction was unwarranted. View "Madrid v. State" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the court of special appeals affirming the circuit court's denial of Defendant's motion to suppress, holding that the court of special appeals did not err in holding that the placement and use of a GPS tracking device was legal.In investigating suspected drug distribution activities Harford County Narcotics Task Force applied for and received an "application for court order" to install a GPS tracking device on Defendant's vehicle. The Task Force detectives subsequently applied for a received a search warrant for Defendant's vehicle and suspected residence. After the search warranted was executed, Defendant was indicted on drug-related charges. Defendant filed a motion to suppress, arguing that the GPS tracking of his vehicle was unconstitutional. The circuit court held that the search warrant lacked probable cause but that the good faith exception to the exclusionary rule applied. Defendant then entered a conditional guilty plea. The court of appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) the use of the GPS tracking device was legal because the GPS order satisfied the Fourth Amendment warrant requirement; (2) the issuing judge had substantial evidence for finding probable cause; and (3) the good faith exception to the Fourth Amendment exclusionary rule applied in this case. View "Whittington v. State" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the circuit court denying Defendant's motion to suppress, holding that, under the circumstances presented in this case, the police had reasonable suspicion to conduct a brief investigatory detention of Defendant, and the stop did not violate the parameters of the Fourth Amendment.In response to an anonymous 911 call that provided the location and license plate of a vehicle driven by a possibly intoxicated driver, the responding police officer located he vehicle in a parking lot, knocked on the window, and spoke to Defendant, who admitted to having had multiple drinks and that his driver's license was revoked. Defendant was arrested after he was unable to successfully complete a field sobriety test. On appeal, Defendant argued that the anonymous call could not support a finding of reasonable suspicion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, under the totality of the circumstances, the stop at issue comported with the reasonable suspicion requirement of the Fourth Amendment. View "Trott v. State" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the court of special appeals affirming the denial of Defendant's motion for new trial on the grounds that certain newly discovered evidence was immaterial, holding that there was no Brady violation in this case.Defendant was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder. Following the trial but prior to sentencing, the State informed Defendant's counsel of an interview that took place between two detectives and the family members of one of the State's witnesses. Defendant moved for a new trial, arguing that the nondisclosure of the interview violated Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963). The circuit court denied the motion, finding that the evidence of the interview was not material. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the nondisclosure of the interview did not constitute a Brady violation. View "Canales-Yanez v. State" on Justia Law