On Nov. 19, 2019, the Maryland Court of Appeals voted unanimously to adopt Maryland Rule 4-333, which implements the statute passed by the General Assembly last year allowing prosecutors to move to vacate a conviction in light of newly discovered evidence that makes it likely that the outcome of the trial would have been different. The statute also permits prosecutors to move to vacate a conviction if new information questions the integrity of the conviction.
The new rule adopted by the Court of Appeals provides that prosecutors may file a motion, at any time after conviction or entry of a probation before judgment, to vacate the conviction or probation before judgment on either of two grounds: the discovery of new evidence, or the receipt of new information that calls into question the integrity of the conviction or entry of probation before judgment. In cases involving newly discovered evidence, the prosecutor bears the burden of establishing why the evidence could not have been discovered by due diligence in time to move for a new trial, that the newly discovered evidence creates a substantial or significant possibility that the result of the trial would have been different, and that the interests of justice and fairness justify vacating the conviction or probation before judgment.
With regard to new information challenging the integrity of the conviction or probation before judgment, the prosecutor must prove how the new information calls into question the integrity of the judgment and that the interests of justice and fairness justify vacating the judgment. If the motion is granted, the prosecutor has 30 days from that date to dismiss the charge(s) or to take other appropriate action.
The new rule and statute were born of the laudable admission of truth by Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby that judgments of conviction in cases turning on the credibility of members of the corrupt Baltimore police Gun Trace Task Force are forever tainted and should not be permitted to stand. Once the dishonest operations of some within that force were revealed in 2017, leading to federal convictions, Mosby’s office, including Deputy Janice Bledsoe, undertook efforts to undo convictions obtained through the work of those rogue police officers. No one expected that simply filing a joint motion by the defendant and state would be insufficient to vacate the convictions. However, several judges refused to vacate convictions holding that there was nothing in the law that permitted such an action. Mosby’s office worked tirelessly to have the legislature pass the law that went into effect on Oct. 1, 2019, opening a pathway to vacating these convictions. It was also the fine work of Mosby’s office that led to passage of the new rule implementing the current law.
Now the bad news: Mosby has discovered nearly 800 convictions that, in her estimation, require motions to vacate. This is bad news because it reveals the actual depth of the outrageous conduct committed by these police officers. Mosby’s commitment to justice and fairness will, and should, overshadow the task force felons. However, what her commitment can never overshadow, nor should it, is why there was a need for this new law and rule to begin with: a startling and longstanding culture of corruption in the Baltimore Police Department to which many in city leadership turned a blind eye. We look forward to the day when kudos for cleaning up corruption are unnecessary.
Editorial Advisory Board members H. Mark Stichel and Vanessa Vescio did not take part in this editorial.
EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD MEMBERS
James B. Astrachan, Chair
James K. Archibald
Arthur F. Fergenson
Ericka N. King
Stephen Z. Meehan
C. William Michaels
Angela W. Russell
Debra G. Schubert
H. Mark Stichel
Michael P. Van Alstine
The Daily Record Editorial Advisory Board is composed of members of the legal profession who serve voluntarily and are independent of The Daily Record. Through their ongoing exchange of views, members of the board attempt to develop consensus on issues of importance to the bench, bar and public. When their minds meet, unsigned opinions will result. When they differ, or if a conflict exists, majority views and the names of members who do not participate will appear. Members of the community are invited to contribute letters to the editor and/or columns about opinions expressed by the Editorial Advisory Board.
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