By Brian Turner (Flickr: My Trusty Gavel) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Probation over but the appeal goes on

My Friday story about Wendell Griffin, who is suing the Baltimore Police Department for damages from detectives he alleges suppressed evidence at his 1982 trial for first-degree murder, had one question I could not affirmatively answer on deadline: Is Griffin still on probation?

Griffin was granted a motion to modify his sentence in May 2012 to time served plus three years of unsupervised probation after the new evidence was discovered. Lawyers for the police, in court filings, point out his probation does not expire until May 2015; U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz, in throwing out Griffin’s case, said Griffin’s probation means he is still “in custody” and therefore could not bring the civil rights claim.

But Chad Curlett, Griffin’s lawyer, said Griffin’s probation was terminated early. I was able to review Griffin’s criminal file Friday and confirm Curlett is correct. Retired Judge Gale E. Rasin terminated the probation Dec. 19, 2012. Also in the folder was a March 2013 motion from prosecutors in opposition to Griffin’s request to hold a motion for reconsideration in abeyance. Griffin was attempting to strike his guilty verdict in favor a probation before judgment, but prosecutors argued the court did not have jurisdiction “because Griffin’s probation has ended.”

Even without the probation issue, there are still many legal issues and arguments left in the case. Motz ruled Griffin could have obtained relief in state court while in prison, for example. And police argue that although Griffin “denies that the criminal act took place, because he has been convicted by a jury beyond a reasonable doubt, he cannot now dispute that fact in a civil action.”

We’ll continue to track this case as it moves forward.

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