Cases & Deals

Client's trial discontinued after insufficient evidence failed to meet state's burden of proof

Clients Montgomery County Office of the Public Defender

For several years, the Washington Office has represented defendants, on a volunteer basis, in criminal cases in Montgomery County under the auspices of the Office of the Public Defender. Garfield Simms and Joe Clark represented a client charged with Assault in the Second Degree (Count one), Failure to Register (Count two), and Reckless Endangerment (Count three). The maximum sentence the court could impose was 18 years and $12,500 in fines. The court could also revoke the client's probation meaning that Client C would have to serve nearly five (5) years of the remaining sentence from a prior conviction.

The charges arose when the Montgomery County police responded to a call from Client C's step-mother reporting a fight and possible stabbing involving Client C and two men in front of her home. Upon hearing the sirens in the distance, the two men fled the scene in an automobile. Client C also ran away. The police obtained a description of the automobile and the alleged suspects from both Client C's father and step-mother. The police caught the two men who had fled in the automobile. The police obtained a statement from one of them implicating Client C in a stabbing and a drug sale involving counterfeit money. Based on that statement, the police sought and obtained consent to search two locations including the home of Client C's father and the apartment occupied by Client C's girlfriend. A search of both properties yielded no drugs or counterfeit money. Instead, the police found; at the girlfriend's apartment, several letters addressed to Client C and concluded that Client C resided in that apartment. Client C had a prior conviction that required him to register as a sex offender in nearby Prince George's County ("PG-County") where he resided with another relative. Client C was registered in PG-County, however, he was not registered as a sex offender in Montgomery County.

The State's principal "evidence" regarding Counts one and three consisted of the statement from one of the two men implicating Client C in the stabbing. However, Jones Day's investigation revealed, that the two men were the primary aggressors and that Client C was merely defending himself. The State ultimately realized that it was unable to meet its burden and decided not to proceed on Counts one and three but intended to go to trial on only Count two (failure to register). The State's principal "evidence" for Count two consisted of the several letters seized during the search of the girlfriend's apartment in Montgomery County. Garfield and Joe continued their investigation and had subpoenas served on various government employees in Montgomery and Prince George's County whose testimony would prove that the defendant had properly registered in Prince George's County and that he did not reside in Montgomery County. As a result of their efforts, the State ultimately filed a nolle prosequi – conceding that it lacked sufficient evidence to proceed to trial on all counts.

In addition, because Client C's probation had been revoked and he remained jailed for another three weeks, Garfield and Joe worked with the Montgomery Board of Probation and Client C's parole officer to reinstate his probation and to obtain Client C's immediate release from imprisonment.

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