EvidenceProf Blog

Editor: Colin Miller
Univ. of South Carolina School of Law

Friday, September 4, 2015

Undisclosed Extra: An Audio Answer to an 11th Twitter Question on My Blog

I recorded 10 responses to Twitter questions for Monday's Undisclosed Minisode. I passed 10 of them along to our sound editor, leaving on additional Twitter question and answer. Here's the raw audio for that answer, in which I discuss one of my favorite Supreme Court cases, which involves none other than Detective William Ritz:

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September 4, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (19)

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Cropped Video Deemed Inadmissible Due to Rule of Completeness, Best Evidence & Chain of Custody Issues

There's an interesting case out of Arizona that ties directly into the subjects I'm covering both in Evidence class and on the Undisclosed Podcast. That case is State v. Steinle, 2015 WL 4497917 (Ariz.App. 2015).

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September 3, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (20)

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

More on Jay's Ride-Along Notes and The Mom Call

On Monday's Addendum Episode, we talked about the notes from the ride-along that Jay did with detectives on March 18, 1999. Here are the notes in which Jay explains how he dropped Adnan off (late) for track practice on January 13, 1999:

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I described the listed phone call as "The Mom Call."

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September 2, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (32)

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

What Can the Video of Hae Min Lee's Sentra Tell Us About the Windshield Wiper Lever?

Today, Rabia ChaudrySusan Simpson, and I appeared on The Docket with Seema Iyer. The full episode can be accessed by clicking on this link. Part of our discussion focused on the video taken of the "broken" windshield wiper lever in Hae Min Lee's Nissan Sentra. The background for that video can be found in this post. That post, of course, was written before we had the video. Now, we do. So, what does it show us?

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September 1, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (34)

Monday, August 31, 2015

Texas's In Camera Approach to Releasing CrimeStoppers Information to Defendants

In a comment to my post last Thursday, I noted how the State of Maryland could respond to requests about CrimeStoppers tips. Under this procedure, CrimeStoppers tip information would be given to the judge to review in camera. If the judge thought that this information contained possible Brady material, he would turn the information over to the defense. If the judge thought that this information did not contain possible Brady material, it would be returned to the State. Interestingly enough, this is the exact procedure followed in Texas.

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August 31, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (21)

Friday, August 28, 2015

Answering Two Questions About the Intersection of CrimeStoppers & Brady

Over the past week, I've been following up on Monday's episode of the Undisclosed Podcast and digging into the possible legal implications of the State's failure to disclose that a CrimeStoppers tipster received the full $3,075 reward for information supplied in connection with the death of Hae Min Lee. In today's post, I will delve even deeper into the weeds by answering a couple of questions.

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August 28, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (25)

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Discoverability & Admissibility of CrimeStoppers Information in Maryland

The next big question in the Adnan Syed case is whether and when the State will disclose the identity of the CrimeStoppers tipster and the content of his or her tip. The one thing I am confident about is that the State should be required to disclose this information. The reason for this is that, as I noted on the podcast, attempts to limit the discoverability and admissibility of such information in Maryland have been shot down.

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August 27, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (25)

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Long Way Home: Would Jay Angling for the CrimeStoppers Reward be Enough for a New Trial?

On Monday's episode of the Undisclosed Podcast, we noted how a CrimeStoppers reward of $3,075 was collected on November 1, 1999 in connection with the Hae Min Lee case. We also speculated that this reward could have been claimed by Jay based in part on some interesting documents relating to a motorcycle being sold by Jay's former soccer coach. Let's assume, however, for the sake of argument that Jay didn't actually receive the CrimeStoppers reward. Even in that scenario, there's a good argument that Adnan is entitled to a new trial.

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August 26, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (25)

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Long Way Round: More on CrimeStoppers and Episode 10 of Undisclosed

In last night's Episode 10 of the Undisclosed Podcast, we noted that a tip was made to Metro CrimeStoppers on February 1, 1999 that led to the tipster receiving the full reward amount of $3,075 on November 1, 1999. In this post, I will provide further information about the tip and its possible legal consequences.

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August 25, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (42)

Monday, August 24, 2015

Adnan's Attorney Files a Supplement to the Motion to Reopen Based Upon Cell Phone Evidence

Today, Justin Brown filed a Supplement to Motion to Re-Open Post-Conviction Proceedings on behalf of Adnan Syed. The Supplement asks the court to consider evidence such as the AT&T Cover Sheet to show that, inter alia, (1) the cell tower pinged by incoming calls was not reliable to determine the location of Adnan's cell phone; and (2) the 5:14 P.M. "call" on Adnan's call log was a missed call that went to voicemail and not Adnan checking his voicemail. Brown is asking that this evidence be considered "in the interests of justice," which is the standard under Section 7-104 of the Maryland Code of Criminal Procedure.

This is a pretty nebulous standard, so the judge has a great deal of discretion in considering the issue. That said, I think one argument by Brown is especially compelling. According to the Supplement (pages 8-9):

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In other words, the State didn't claim at trial or during the PCR hearing that the incoming 3:15 P.M. call could have been the "Best Buy call." Instead, it made this argument for the first time in its Brief of Appellee to the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland to try to show that it could have created a timeline that could have worked even if the Asia alibi had been presented. 

Given that this new argument now needs to be addressed by the Maryland courts, they need all relevant information about that call, including whether the cell tower it pinged was important. Therefore, I think that the court should allow the Supplement.


August 24, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (29)

Friday, August 21, 2015

Adnan's Handwritten Account of His Whereabouts on January 13th & His Role in Planning Hae's Memorial

On August 25, 1999, Adnan was visited in prison by one of Cristina Gutierrez's law clerks, resulting is Adnan talking with the clerk about January 13, 1999 and his role in planning Hae's memorial service. Here's the portion of the clerk's memo dealing with these two things:

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August 21, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (26)

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Why Did the State List Mark Pusateri & "Ann" as Prospective Witnesses in its Amended Disclosure?

As Susan Simpson noted in this post, the State made its first disclosure in the Adnan Syed case on July 1, 1999. That disclosure contained the names of several prospective witnesses at trial and some witness statements. Thereafter, at various later points in time, the State filed Amended Disclosures that contained additional information. One of these Amended Disclosures was dated September 3, 1999. 

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August 19, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (19)

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Baltimore Man Freed After 30+ Years in Prison Based on Numerous Brady Violations After Motion to Reopen

In the last night's Addendum Episode of the Undisclosed Podcast, we talked about the Richard A. Nicolas case and the State's failure to disclose two key witness statements. There was another recent case out of Baltimore that involved a similar fact pattern. It also involved a motion to reopen.

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August 18, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (9)

Monday, August 17, 2015

Can the State File a Petition to Reopen a Postconviction Proceeding in Maryland?

In today's Addendum Episode of the Undisclosed Podcast, I will talk a bit about Adnan's motion/petition to reopen his postconviction proceeding. In doing some research about motions/petitions to reopen, I came across an interesting case dealing with an issue that I thought would be clear but apparently wasn't: Can the State file a motion/petition to reopen after a ruling in favor of the defendant?

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August 17, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Krista Comments on Adnan Assigning Speed Dial Numbers on His Cell Phone

Recently, the February 24, 2000 trial transcript from Adnan Syed's second murder trial was posted. One of the witnesses who testified on the 24th was Adnan's best friend Saad. Saad had a cell phone that was very similar to Adnan's Nokia 6160. With the phone, a caller could make a call to someone who was assigned a speed dial number by simply pushing down that number (e.g., "2") for a few seconds. In Episode 6 of Serial, Adnan said that he had assigned Nisha a speed dial number, meaning that "The Nisha Call" could have been an accidental dial. 

When questioning Saad, however, Cristina Gutierrez didn't ask Saad about speed dialing; instead, she asked him about making calls using the more complicated scroll feature (page 144:

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This has led readers to ask me a question that often gets asked in this case: Did Gutierrez drop the ball?

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August 15, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (23)

Friday, August 14, 2015

The University of Iowa College of Law Hiring Announcement

The University of Iowa

College of Law 


August 2015 


            THE UNIVERSITY OF IOWA COLLEGE OF LAW anticipates hiring several tenured/tenure track faculty members and clinical faculty members (including a director for field placement program) over the coming year. Our goal is to find outstanding scholars and teachers who can extend the law school’s traditional strengths and intellectual breadth. We are interested in all persons of high academic achievement and promise with outstanding credentials. Appointment and rank will be commensurate with qualifications and experience. Candidates should send resumes, references, and descriptions of areas of interest to:  Faculty Appointments Committee, College of Law, The University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa  52242-1113.

            THE UNIVERSITY OF IOWA is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer. All qualified applicants are encouraged to apply and will receive consideration for employment free from discrimination on the basis of race, creed, color, national origin, age, sex, pregnancy, sexual orientation, gender identity, genetic information, religion, associational preference, status as a qualified individual with a disability, or status as a protected veteran.

August 14, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, August 13, 2015

DNA Evidence Clears Man Convicted in 1982 Based on Testimony By Jailhouse Informants

Today, there were a number of news reports about a crazy/disturbing case out of Pennsylvania. Let's go to the Innocence Project for the factual context:

On July 31, 1976, the 15-year-old murder victim’s body was discovered by a man who was picking blackberries in the woods near his home. The day before, the victim’s younger sister, who was at their home, was approached by a stranger who wanted to speak with the victim, claiming that their older brother had been injured in a car accident.  After the stranger left, the sister observed the victim, who had been at a friend’s house nearby, walking home. The victim stopped to speak with the stranger and drove away with him in his car. The younger sister provided police with a description of the stranger (which did not match Fogle) and a composite sketch was made. A few days later, a man identified the man in the composite as Earl Eugene Elderkin. Over the next five years, Elderkin, who admitted himself into a psychiatric facility, was interrogated five times about the murder. It was only after his fifth interrogation, during which he was placed under hypnosis by someone with no formal training, that he implicated Fogle.  

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August 13, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (4)

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

More on Adnan Possibly Requesting a Ride From Hae After Track Practice

Yesterday, I posted an entry speculating about whether the ride that Adnan requested from Hae on January 13, 1999 could have been a ride from track practice to his house or his car. This ride would have been similar to the rides that Hae used to give Adnan from football practice. Given that Hae apparently would give Adnan rides to track practice even after their final breakup, such a scenario seemed within the realm of possibility. That said, it was claim without much support...until an hour or so later.

Soon after my post, the trial transcript from February 24, 2000 was posted. On page 32, Detective Ritz gave the following testimony:

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August 12, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (29)

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Adnan's Guidance Counselor Testified That Adnan Picked Up His Rec Letter on January 13th

Today, the February 24, 2015 trial transcript was posted from Adnan Syed's second trial. On that date, there was testimony from Adnan's guidance counselor. One question that has vexed those listening to Serial and Undisclosed is whether Adnan picked up his recommendation letter on January 13, 1999, which is when the letter is dated. This transcript now answers this question (pg. 206-207):

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And then, on page 211:

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So...mystery solved. Adnan made at least one trip to the guidance counselor's office on January 13, 1999. Was that trip at 1:13 P.M., as is suggested by this attorney's note, or was that a mistake because the letter was dated 1/13? Or was the trip at about 2:45 P.M., as Debbie said in her statement? Or did Adnan go to the guidance counselor's office at both 1:13 P.M. and around 2:45 P.M. because the letter wasn't ready the first time, Adnan was following up, etc. Unfortunately, we don't know the answers to those questions.


August 11, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (16)

Was Adnan Requesting a Ride From Hae From Track Practice on January 13, 1999?

I've been asked a lot recently about the possibility that the ride Adnan requested from Hae on January 13, 1999 could have been a ride to track practice. As I noted again yesterday, Adnan got these rides from Hae frequently, even after they had broken up in December. What I hadn't considered until today was the possibility that the requested ride might have been a ride from track practice.

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August 11, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (12)