Wednesday, December 16, 2015
Yesterday, Judge Martin Welch scheduled the post-conviction proceedings in the Adnan Syed case. Here is a copy of the order. You can replace most of the "2015"s in the order with "2016"s. First, there will be a status conference on January 12, 2016, during which both sides will likely inform Judge Welch of how everything is proceeding, whether there are any issues with witnesses, etc. Then, the actual proceedings will be held on two days: (1) Friday, February 5, 2016; and (2) Monday, February 8, 2016. As Adnan's attorney tweeted, "Maryland has a law that prohibits the broadcasting of court proceedings. No cameras allowed." As Rabia tweeted, "Adnan will be present at the hearing." Rabia and Susan will also likely be there. I will not.
Pursuant to the order, (1) Adnan has to provide the names of expert and fact witnesses he intends to call, a summary of their testimony, and the written statements of any fact witnesses that relate to the subject matter of their testimony no later than 45 days before the February 5th hearing date; and (2) the State has to provide the same no later than 30 days before the February 5th hearing date. This makes sense. Adnan is the moving party asking for relief, so the State is entitled to earlier disclosure of his witnesses so that it can decide who it wants to call to try and rebut their claims. In any event, these disclosures will take place pretty quickly.
As you might recall, there are two issues that Judge Welch is considering: (1) Did Adnan receive the ineffective assistance of counsel based upon Cristina Gutierrez's failure to contact potential alibi witness Asia McClain; and (2) Did the State violate Brady by misleading the defense and its own expert witness about Exhibit 31, the cell tower exhibit. If Judge Welch finds in Adnan's favor on both either of these issues, he will order a new trial, and the State will almost certainly appeal. If Judge Welch finds in Adnan's the State's favor on either both of these issues, he will not order a new trial, and Adnan will almost certainly appeal. In either event, the Court of Special Appeals will likely consider both of these issues as well as the issue that is currently still parked with the appellate court: whether Gutierrez was ineffective in failing to ask about a plea deal. And then, whatever the court decides, the losing party will almost certainly appeal to the Court of Appeals of Maryland, which will likely have a final word.
That endgame is still far off on the horizon, but the start of this process is now less than two months away.