EvidenceProf Blog

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

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

My Sixth Post on the Oral Arguments in the Adnan Syed Case: Crunching the Numbers

This is my sixth post on last Thursday's oral arguments in the Adnan Syed case. This one is on the current panel of judges on the Court of Appeals of Maryland. This post will address two questions: (1) How often has the current panel ruled in favor of the defendant and the State in cases in which there is a dissenting opinion; and (2) how many times has each individual judge ruled in favor of the defendant and the State in such cases? In other words, how does the court rule in "close call" cases?

COAJ

Since the current panel of judges starting hearing cases together in March 2017, I count FOURTEEN criminal cases with dissenting opinions. In NINE of those cases, the judges gave the defendant relief:

-Devincentz, Jr. v. State;

-Fallin v. State;

-Burnside v. State;

-Kranz v. State;

-State v. Brookman & State v. Carnes;

-Green v. State;

-Porter v. State;

-State v. Baker; and

-Norman v. State

Meanwhile, in FIVE of those cases, the judges denied the defendant relief:

-State v. Johnson;

-Johnson v. State;

-Sizer v. State;

-Newton v. State; and

-State v. Copes

Next, how often did each individual judge rule in favor of the defense and the State in each of these cases?

Honorable Mary Ellen Barbera: 7 in favor of the defense; 7 in favor of the State;

Honorable Clayton Greene Jr.: 8 in favor of the defense; 6 in favor of the State;

Honorable Robert N. McDonald: 6 in favor of the defense; 8 in favor of the State;

Honorable Shirley M. Watts: 6 in favor of the defense; 8 in favor of the State;

Honorable Michele D. Hotten: 10 in favor of the defense; 4 in favor of the State;

Honorable Joseph M. Getty: 6 in favor of the defense; 8 in favor of the State; and

Honorable Sally D. Adkins: 11 in favor of the defense; 3 in favor of the State

-CM

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/evidenceprof/2018/12/this-is-mysixthpost-on-last-thursdays-oral-arguments-in-the-adnan-syed-case-this-one-is-on-the-current-panel-of-judges-on-th.html

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Comments

Colin,
This is a question from a layman so forgive my ignorance but if Syed prevails at this level does the State have any recourse in Federal court or is the matter settled?

Posted by: Bryan | Dec 4, 2018 11:15:57 AM

The State could try to appeal to the Supreme Court, but it's highly unlikely they take the case. BUT, they did take and grant the State's appeal in the Kulbicki case out of Maryland.

Posted by: Colin Miller | Dec 4, 2018 11:32:14 AM

Of the 14 cases, how many of those cases were where the state had won cert and what were the results of those particular cases?

Ben

Posted by: Ben | Dec 4, 2018 10:56:22 PM

Ok, I think I might be able to answer my own question.
So the cases the state won cert on are obviously the ones where the State’s name comes first - so the state won 2 and lost 2.

I wonder how many of the four cases were where the case was previously at COSA and there was a dissent there?

Posted by: Ben | Dec 4, 2018 11:01:53 PM

Colin, from a layperson’s perspective, there are similarities to the Brendan Dassey appeal, where the decisions by the judge and appellate panel were overturned by the full panel. There were similar Brady violation arguments regarding coerced confession and ineffective counsel. Is Adnan’s case stronger?

Posted by: Cebra | Dec 5, 2018 4:38:42 AM

Ben: Ben: Let’s see. (1) In Copes, the Circuit Court and Court of Special Appeals had ruled in favor of the defendant. There was no dissent in COSA. The Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the State; (2) In Johnson, the Circuit Court denied the defendant’s suppression motion, and the Court of Special Appeals reversed and ruled in favor of the defendant. There was no dissent in COSA. The Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the State; (3) In Baker, the Circuit Court entered an interlocutory order against the defendant, and the Court of Special Appeals reversed and ruled in favor of the defendant. There was no dissent in COSA. The Court of Appeals affirmed COSA; and (4) In Brookman/Carnes, the Circuit Court ruled against the defendants, and the Court of Special Appeals reversed and ruled in favor of the defendants. There was no dissent in COSA. The Court of Appeals affirmed COSA.

Cebra: I would say the Dassey case was much more fact sensitive. The case law is clear that interrogation techniques can make a confession involuntary, and each case very much turns on its own facts. By way of contrast, I would say that the precedent on IAC/alibi claims is much less fact sensitive. As I've noted, I've found no case in which failure to contact an alibi witness has been found to be reasonable.

Posted by: Colin Miller | Dec 5, 2018 6:31:18 AM

Is it a bad sign that the panel chose to take the case? I know that when the Supreme Court takes a case, it is more likely to reverse the lower court’s ruling than to affirm it. I also know it was a very bad sign for Brendan Dassey when the full 4th circuit decided to take up the case rather than just letting the three-judge panel’s ruling stand (and indeed, they ultimately overturned the ruling).

Posted by: Emma | Dec 5, 2018 1:51:39 PM

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