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.
During proceedings in 2011 on Mr. Griffin's petition for post-conviction DNA testing of certain items of evidence, counsel for Mr. Griffin obtained police files pursuant to the Maryland Public Information Act that contained statements by two eyewitnesses who failed to identify Mr. Griffin in three photo arrays conducted by police. Also discovered were other witness statements that contradicted the eyewitness testimony introduced by the State at Mr. Griffin's trial. Further, evidence tending to show that others may have committed the crime was similarly suppressed, depriving Mr. Griffin of the opportunity to construct an adequate defense. The police detectives responsible for the investigation, Defendants Jerry Landsman, Donald Kincaid and Edward Brown ("the Detectives"), did not disclose the results of the photo arrays, the contradictory witness statements, or the evidence incriminating others to the State's Attorney's Office, a violation of the extension of Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963) as recognized by the Fourth Circuit.
The newly discovered evidence showed that the Detectives suppressed direct, exculpatory evidence that Mr. Griffin did not commit the April 22, 1981 murder of James William Wise. The internal police records produced for the first time in 2011 reveal that shortly after Mr. Wise was murdered on April 22, 1981, the police showed photo-arrays containing Mr. Griffin's picture to two key witnesses: Annie Wyche, who heard the shots fired that killed Mr. Wise and came within 8-10 feet of the shooter; and Mark Williams, who stumbled upon the crime scene immediately after the shooting and saw a person from 10 feet away dragging the body of Mr. Wise. Both witnesses failed to identify Mr. Griffin. Precisely because these statements excluding Mr. Griffin as the shooter directly contradicted the police theory that Mr. Griffin murdered Mr. Wise, the Detectives suppressed them. In addition to suppressing direct, exculpatory eyewitness testimony, the Detectives also suppressed witness statements indicating that Mr. Griffin was not in possession of a firearm around the time of the murder, statements which contradicted a central aspect of the prosecution's circumstantial case against Mr. Griffin. Finally, the Detectives suppressed witness statements indicating that someone other than Mr. Griffin may have been responsible for the murder.
Based upon this evidence, Griffin filed a Motion for Leave to Reopen Post Conviction and for Post Conviction Relief on February 2, 2012.
On May 23, 2012, the Honorable Gail Rasin of the Circuit Court for Baltimore City, Maryland, indicated that she was prepared to order a new trial, and she granted an unopposed motion reducing plaintiff's sentenced to time served. Plaintiff was freed but placed on three years of unsupervised probation. Plaintiff's conviction remains standing.
Griffin illustrates a three key points. First, there is no time limit on Brady claims because they are based on undisclosed evidence. In Griffin, the defendant's Brady claim was made 30 years after conviction. Second, there have been cases in which the Circuit Court for Baltimore City has granted motions to reopen. Third, it makes sense to include Brady claims in a DNA petition if at all possible. In Griffin, the defendant had little leverage and had to settle for a release rather than an exoneration.