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Detention center wrist-band was not identifiable prison attire, CSA holds

A wrist-band from the Baltimore City Detention Center was not identifiable as “prison attire” that could have prejudiced the defendant’s right to a fair trial, the Court of Special Appeals has held.The decision affirms Michael A. Williams’ conviction on cocaine possession charges, for which he was sentenced to 18 months in prison.At trial, the defense attorney asked the judge to order the removal of Williams’ detention center identification bracelet. The judge refused.“I have removed the shackles. I have removed the handcuffs, but that can be a hospital band for all [the jurors] know,” the judge responded.The appellate court used that statement to distinguish this case from Knott v. State, in which the Court of Appeals reversed the conviction of a man who was forced to stand trial in an orange jumpsuit.“Although a person in an orange jumpsuit might stand out like the proverbial sore thumb, the same cannot be said when a person wears an institution’s identification bracelet,” Judge Ellen L. Hollander wrote for the appellate court.Here, the trial judge “in effect … made a factual finding that the bracelet was not readily identifiable as a type of prison attire,” Hollander wrote. Nor was there any evidence on record to indicate the size of the courtroom, the distance between the defendant and the jury, or whether Williams asked for clothing that could have concealed the bracelet from the jury. In fact, there was no evidence that the jury ever saw the wrist-band, Hollander noted, although Williams’ lawyer moved for a mistrial on that ground.“We also cannot overlook the fact that, even if the bracelet revealed [William’s] status as a detainee, the BCDC has a compelling interest in maintaining the identification of those within its custody, and that interest outweighed the minimal indicia of custody caused by the bracelet,” the court concluded. The appellate court also rejected Williams’ claims of prosecutorial misconduct during closing arguments at trial.<table width=”100%” border=”0″ cellspacing=”0″ cellpadding=”0″

WHAT THE COURT HELD

Case: Michael A. Williams v. State, CSA No. 1233, Sept. Term 2000. Reported. Opinion by Hollander, J. Filed Mar. 9, 2001.Issue: Did the trial court err in refusing to permit the defendant to remove a detention center identification bracelet and in refusing to grant a mistrial once the jury panel observed the bracelet?Holding: No; conviction affirmed. The record indicates that the judge made a factual determination that the bracelet was not readily identifiable as a type of prison attire. Even if the bracelet revealed the defendant’s status as a detainee, it represented a minimal imposition compared with the detention center’s needs for security and ability to identify its prisoners.Counsel: Asst. PD Sherrie B. Glasser for appellant; Asst. AG Leigh S. Halstad for appellee.RecordFax: #1-0309-06 (16 pages)