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DERRICK HERNDON v. STATE OF MARYLAND

Criminal procedure — Confrontation clause — Limit placed on cross-examination of state’s witness

Derrick Herndon (“Appellant”) was indicted in the Circuit Court for Prince George’s County for attempted first-degree murder, attempted second-degree murder, firstdegree assault, use of a firearm in a crime of violence, reckless endangerment, firearm possession with a felony conviction, and illegal possession of a firearm. Ndhili Jones, the victim, was the State’s only trial witness linking Herndon to the crime. No other witnesses or physical evidence placed Herndon at the scene of the crime. The defense’s case was centered on challenging Jones’s credibility. Jones entered into a plea agreement in an unrelated drug case for which Jones was awaiting sentencing. At trial, the court limited the scope of Herndon’s cross-exam by disallowing questions related to the terms of the plea agreement, including the specific facts underlying the charges to which Jones pleaded guilty.

After a four-day trial, a jury found Herndon guilty on all counts. Herndon was sentenced to life imprisonment with all but 25 years suspended, and to five years of probation upon his release from prison. Herndon presents one question on appeal: . “Whether the trial court violated Mr. Herndon’s right under the Confrontation Clause by refusing to allow defense counsel the opportunity to cross-examine the key prosecution witness regarding the specifics of his pending case and plea agreement that he had entered into with the State?”

Read the opinion here: