Tuesday, August 4, 2015
In yesterday's Addendum Episode of the Undisclosed Podcast, I talked a bit about the symbiotic relationship between Adnan's eventual DNA petition and his developing Brady claims. In this post, I will expand upon this point and also provide follow-up regarding yesterday's post.
On February 25, 2000, Adnan was convicted. On June 6, 2000, Adnan filed his direct appeal, based upon alleged errors that were apparent from the trial transcript. On March 19, 2003, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland denied Adnan's direct appeal. On June 20, 2003, the Court of Appeals of Maryland denied Adnan's petition for writ of certiorari, meaning that it would not hear his appeal. This was the end of Adnan's direct appeal.
Thereafter, on May 28, 2010, Adnan filed his Petition for Postconviction Relief under Section 7-103 of the Maryland Code of Criminal Procedure. This was a collateral appeal, based upon alleged errors not apparent from the trial record. Section 7-103(a) reads as follows:
One petition for each trial or sentence
(a) For each trial or sentence, a person may file only one petition for relief under this title.
In other words, a defendant usually only gets one bite at the apple under Section 7-103 and cannot files multiple petitions for postconviction relief. On January 6, 2014, the Baltimore City Court Court denied Adnan's petition. Thereafter, however, on February 6, 2015, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland granted Adnan leave to appeal. Then, on May 18, 2015, the Court of Special Appeals remanded the case back to the Circuit Court so that Adnan could file a motion to reopen under Section 7-104 of the Maryland Code of Criminal Procedure, which states that
The court may reopen a postconviction proceeding that was previously concluded if the court determines that the action is in the interests of justice.
If the court reopens the postconvction proceeding, Asia McClain will testify, and other evidence might be introduced. As a result, the Circuit Court might change its prior decision or keep it the same. In either event, the losing party will likely appeal to the Court of Special Appeals, and the losing party there will likely appeal to the Court of Appeals of Maryland. If the court does not reopen the postconviction proceeding, the case will return to the Court of Special Appeals, which will either reverse or affirm, with the losing party again likely appealing to the Court of Appeals.
As we noted on the podcast last night, Adnan has two other possible grounds for filing a new postconviction proceeding: (1) emerging Brady claims; and (2) DNA testing. As I noted in this post, the "one petition" rule contained in Section 7-103(a) does not apply to DNA petition so Adnan could file a petition for DNA testing before his current petition is resolved.
As I said in that post, I think that Adnan's has a pretty good chance at succeeding...but it's not a sure thing. The biggest question mark seems to be Jay. How likely is it that an unknown third person committed the crime based upon Jay's statements and testimony? And would the discovery of Jay's DNA actually be favorable for Adnan? I think the State could present reasonable opposition to a motion for DNA testing.
That's where the Brady claims come into play. We mentioned one last night: The notes from Patrice's police interview were "lost," and she might very well have remembered Jay being at her house on January 13th. If that's true, it calls into question Jay's statements and testimony. It also significantly bolsters the DNA petition.
Moreover, assume that, before the Brady claims are developed, the DNA petition is filed, granted, and does not produce an exculpatory result. That would leave Adnan asking for the court to again reopen his postconviction proceeding after he was given two bites at the apple (initial petition and DNA petition) and one opportunity to reopen (what's going on now). I could see the court being very reluctant to give him this additional chance, despite possibly meritorious Brady claims.
So...the current strategy is to wait. See how the current petition plays out. Keep working on the Brady claims. If the current petition succeeds, Adnan gets a new trial. If not, Adnan files a DNA petition that contains these new Brady claims. This provides the best chance for all of Adnan's claims to be heard.
Yesterday, I noted that, contrary to the claim by the State, a number of Adnan's fellow students wrote bail letters in support of him. How many? I can't say for certain. I included the summary letter from Adnan's attorneys, three letters in the body of my post, and another one in the comments. I don't know the exact number because I don't have the full list of students who attended Woodlawn in 1999. I can say, however, that the number of letters that came from fellow students is easily in the double digits. I have attached two more of these letters below: