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RONNELL COLE v. STATE OF MARYLAND

Criminal procedure — Writ of actual innocence — Failure to state a claim

In 2005, following a jury trial in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City, Ronnell Cole, appellant, was convicted of second-degree murder, use of a handgun in the commission of a felony or crime of violence, and wearing, carrying, or transporting a handgun. The court sentenced Cole to thirty years’ imprisonment for murder and to a consecutive term of twenty years’ imprisonment for the handgun offense. He appealed and this Court affirmed the judgments. Ronnell Cole v. State, No. 1618, September Term, 2005 (filed April 11, 2007).

In 2012, Cole filed a petition for a writ of actual innocence claiming that, in 2010, he had obtained “newly discovered evidence” that substantiated his defense theory that someone else had committed the murder. This “newly discovered evidence” consisted of two documents: (1) a transcribed statement a witness to the murder had provided to the police, hours after the incident, in which the witness claimed that shortly before the murder he was robbed by two men, one armed, and that shortly thereafter he saw the armed man who had robbed him shoot the murder victim; and (2) a photo array from which the witness failed to identify Cole’s photo as resembling either the robber or the shooter (the “negative photo array”).

The circuit court denied the petition after finding that Cole had failed to state a claim or assert grounds upon which relief could be granted under Section 8-301 of the Criminal Procedure Article of the Maryland Code (2008 Repl. Vol., 2010 Supp.) (the actual innocence statute). Cole appeals that decision.

Read the opinion here: