Thirteen convicted murderers have already been freed in the wake of an Appeals Court ruling and it’s likely that many more will also be set free. As many as 200 inmates convicted prior to 1980 have been given the chance to demand new trials. Because these are people convicted of things like murder and rape, not everyone is pleased with the ruling or the subsequent releases.
According to the Baltimore Sun, the Court of Appeals said that prior to 1980, jurors were not receiving accurate instructions. They were told by judges at the time that they could consider the facts of the case and what the law meant, “inviting them to throw out the concept of reasonable doubt if they chose.”
“These were lawless trials,” said University of Maryland law professor Michael Millemann, calling the trials of the time fundamentally unfair. “There is absolutely no reason to trust the results in these cases.”
So far, fourteen people have been released, one of them convicted for attempted murder and the others for murder. But, prosecutors aren’t releasing everyone who requests a new trial as they’ve been flooded with petitions and are resistant to grant any at all. Those who have been released are elderly ranging in age from 55 to 75. They use canes and wheelchairs. One died of a heart attack within 24 hours of his release.
Prosecutors face an uphill battle. If those convicted are eligible for a new trial, prosecuting someone for something that happened more than 30 years ago could be near-impossible. Witnesses’ memories are fuzzier (if they are still alive) and evidence may have been destroyed. Some judges are on the prosecutors’ sides and are blocking attempts for new trials altogether.
Victims and their families are understandably up in arms over the possibility that their aggressor may be freed, or already is. But, when the courts don’t give someone a fair shake, justice can only be found in righting that wrong.
Court personnel, including judges, make mistakes. And when they do, the mistakes often infringe upon the rights of the accused. When this happens, it may offer a sound basis for an appeal. But when the police or prosecution trample on your rights, there’s a chance it could result in an acquittal or a finding of not guilty.
If you are facing criminal charges and want someone on your side, looking out for your rights, contact our office today. We help people charged with misdemeanor possession cases and disorderly conduct, all the way to those accused of rape and aggravated assault. We may be able to help you too.