Saturday, May 25, 2019
On May 23rd, the Supreme Court adopted the Daubert test for the admission of expert evidence in In re Amendments to the Florida Evidence Code. Just two years ago, that same court had rejected the Daubert by a close 16-14 vote. So, what does the change mean?
Wednesday, May 22, 2019
Yesterday, we got the great news that Judge Barbara McDermott had declared Terrance Lewis innocent, leading to his release today. Given this terrific, and surprising, turn of events, I wanted to do an update on the status of all of the cases we've covered on Undisclosed.
Saturday, May 18, 2019
Sixth Circuit Awards New Trial Based Upon Prosecutor's Questions/Comments About the Defendant's Worship of Jesus Malverde Statue
Federal Rule of Evidence 610 states that
Evidence of a witness’s religious beliefs or opinions is not admissible to attack or support the witness’s credibility.
This is a Rule that very rarely comes into play...but it was one of the grounds for a new trial in this week's opinion of the Sixth Circuit in United States v. Acosta, 2019 WL 2120168 (6th Cir. 2019)
Monday, May 13, 2019
Eighth Circuit Finds No Problem With the Admissions of Photos/Video of a Defendant's Unrelated Arrest Weeks Before the Crime Charged
Assume that a defendant is charged with robbery and related crimes.
The store’s surveillance video captured the incident. The man was wearing a black ski mask and sunglasses, so his face was hidden. The robber also donned a black jacket with red and white trim, a red hooded sweatshirt, red shoes with one white shoelace and one red shoelace, and latex gloves.
Assume that the defendant had been arrested a few weeks before the robbery for an unrelated charge and was "wearing a jacket and shoes that matched the jacket and shoes worn by the person that committed the robbery." Should the prosecution be able to introduce video/photos of the defendant at jail from his prior arrest? That was the question addressed by the Eighth Circuit in its recent opinion in United States v. Conner, 2019 WL 2039858 (8th Cir. 2019).
Friday, May 10, 2019
On Wednesday, Senators Dan Sullivan and Dick Durbin introduced the Due Process Protection Act: S.1380 - A bill to amend the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure to remind prosecutors of their obligations under Supreme Court case law. The language of the bill isn't available yet, but a press release contains this statement by Senator Sullivan:
Our Constitution and Supreme Court have long established fundamental, commonsense protections for citizens facing prosecution – including the evidence disclosure obligation outlined in the case, Brady v Maryland....Unfortunately, this obligation is sometimes ignored to the detriment of our entire criminal justice system and inherent notions of fair play. Alaskans are keenly aware of this kind of miscarriage of justice, which was rampant in the high-profile prosecution of the late Senator Ted Stevens, a case that was dismissed following egregious due process violations. Our legislation is flexible and narrowly tailored to ensure that prosecutors abide by their constitutional obligations, and can be held accountable if they do not.
Thursday, May 2, 2019
Court of Special Appeals of Maryland Finds Ineffective Assistance of Counsel Based on Failure to Request an Alibi Instruction
Yesterday, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland issued an opinion in a kidnapping/murder case in which the defendant claimed that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel in connection with an alibi. The primary evidence against the defendant was a witness who did not see the kidnapping/murder but who claimed to know all the details of the crime in a story that changed over various tellings. This case was not the Adnan Syed case, but Adnan's case might have ramifications for this case...because the defendant was granted a new trial.
Wednesday, May 1, 2019
Court of Appeals of South Carolina Finds Wrongfully Convicted Defendants Don't Have a Constitutional Right to Compensation
Recently, the Court of Appeals of South Carolina issued its opinion in Palmer v. State. That opinion answered a simple question: Does a wrongfully convicted defendant have a Constitutional right to compensation for his years of imprisonment? And, according to the court, the answer to that question is "no."
Tuesday, April 30, 2019
Court of Appeals of Minnesota Finds Courts Can and Often Must Infer Causation Under "Forfeiture by Wrongdoing" Hearsay Exception
A statement offered against a party who wrongfully caused or acquiesced in wrongfully causing the declarant's unavailability as a witness and did so intending that result.
In effect, this is a witness tampering rule, and the Minnesota courts have held that the proponent of evidence under this hearsay exception must prove four elements
(1) that the declarant-witness is unavailable; (2) that the defendant engaged in wrongful conduct; (3) that the wrongful conduct procured the unavailability of the witness; and (4) that the defendant intended to procure the unavailability of the witness.
So, what happens when the proponent of evidence under this "forfeiture by wrongdoing" exception has direct evidence to establish (1), (2), and (4), but not (3)? That was the question addressed by the Court of Appeals of Minnesota in its recent opinion in State v. Shaka, 2019 WL 1890550 (Minn.App. 2019).
Friday, April 19, 2019
Thursday, April 11, 2019
Breaking Down the Innocence Network/MacArthur Justice Center Amici Curiae Brief in the Adnan Syed Case
In Tuesday's post, I noted that three amici curiae ("friends of the court") briefs were filed in support of the Motion for Reconsideration in the Adnan Syed case. In this post, I will summarize the argument made in the amici curiae brief submitted by The Innocence Network and the MacArthur Justice Center.
Wednesday, April 10, 2019
In yesterday's post, I noted that three amici curiae ("friends of the court") briefs were filed in support of the Motion for Reconsideration in the Adnan Syed case. In this post, I will summarize the argument made in the amici curiae brief submitted by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL).
Tuesday, April 9, 2019
In yesterday's post, I focused upon the fourth argument advanced in the Motion for Reconsideration to the Court of Appeals of Maryland in the Adnan Syed case. Today, there was some interesting news that has bearing upon the first argument made in that Motion: Three amici curiae ("friends of the court") briefs were filed in support of the Motion. In the next three posts, I will summarize the arguments made in these briefs.
Monday, April 8, 2019
Today, the defense filed its Motion for Reconsideration to the Court of Appeals of Maryland in the Adnan Syed case. In this first post on the Motion, I will (1) explain how the Motion will be handled; and (2) describe (what I find to be) the Motion's most compelling argument.
Tuesday, April 2, 2019
In Sunday's fourth (and final) episode of HBO's "The Case Against Adnan Syed," it was noted that the HBO team was able to talk with Jay Wilds in January 2019. Among other things, he told them the following:
So, is this statement credible, and, if so, what does it mean?
Monday, April 1, 2019
In last night's fourth (and final) episode of HBO's "The Case Against Adnan Syed," there was quite possibly a major revelation. The HBO team was able to talk with Jay Wilds in January 2019, and, among other things, he told them the following:
This chyron is correct in a sense: Jay did not mention this event in his February 28th police interview, his March 15th police interview, his March 18th ride along, his testimony at trial #1, his testimony at trial #2, or his interview with the Intercept. That said, what Jay told the HBO team is the very first thing he told police. It's also apparently something that Adnan told to the defense team. And, if true, it has major ramifications for Adnan's case.
Sunday, March 31, 2019
Tonight's fourth (and final) episode of HBO's "The Case Against Adnan Syed" touched upon a topic I've covered extensively on this blog: livor mortis/lividity:
livor mortis is the process by which a victim's blood pools into the tissues of the dependent (lowest) portion of the body after death. After 8-12 hours or so, this lividity becomes fixed, meaning that the pattern of pooled blood won't be changed even if the body is placed in a different position.
So, what did tonight's episode add to the analysis?
Friday, March 29, 2019
Yesterday, it was revealed that there was DNA testing done in the Adnan Syed case last year. Specifically, the State tested twelve pieces of evidence that were found on or around Hae Min Lee. Here is the report on that testing by the Forensic Sciences Division of the Baltimore Police Department:
So, what does it all mean?
Tuesday, March 26, 2019
As I noted in my prior post,
In tonight's 3rd episode of HBO's "The Case Against Adnan Syed," there was a huge revelation that makes its really difficult to believe in Adnan Syed's guilt: Amy Berg showed Kristina (Kristi) Vinson her academic record from the University of Maryland Baltimore County. That record showed that Kristi was taking a short course during the Winter Term in January 1999. That class met three (or four) times on Wednesdays from 6:00-9:10pm, including on January 13, 1999, the day that Hae Min Lee disappeared. As Kristi notes, there's no way she could have blown off that class. Because the class met only three/four times, if she skipped even one of the class sessions, Kristi would have failed; instead, she got a B. Therefore, as Kristi herself concludes, there's no way that the day that Jay and Adnan came to her house was January 13th.
There was, however, a second "potentially" big revelation in the episode. This second revelation is only "potentially" big for a few reasons.
Sunday, March 24, 2019
In tonight's 3rd episode of HBO's "The Case Against Adnan Syed," there was a huge revelation that makes its really difficult to believe in Adnan Syed's guilt: Amy Berg showed Kristina (Kristi) Vinson her academic record from the University of Maryland Baltimore County. That record showed that Kristi was taking a short course during the Winter Term in January 1999. That class met three (or four) times on Wednesdays from 6:00-9:10pm, including on January 13, 1999, the day that Hae Min Lee disappeared. As Kristi notes, there's no way she could have blown off that class. Because the class met only three/four times, if she skipped even one of the class sessions, Kristi would have failed; instead, she got a B. Therefore, as Kristi herself concludes, there's no way that the day that Jay and Adnan came to her house was January 13th. So, what does it all mean?
Wednesday, March 20, 2019
In its recent opinion in McCoy v. Louisiana, the Supreme Court held that the Sixth Amendment guarantees a defendant the right to choose the objective of his defense and to insist that his counsel refrain from admitting guilt, even when counsel’s experienced-based view is that confessing guilt offers the defendant the best chance to avoid the death penalty. As I recently taught my Criminal Adjudication students, in the wake of McCoy, there are interesting questions about the extent to which it prevents "lawyer override." One of these questions was raised in the recent opinion of the Ninth Circuit in United States v. Read, 2019 WL 1196654 (9th Cir. 2019).