Gregg Bernstein, meet John L. Brady.
Mr. Bernstein, who became Baltimore’s state’s attorney after running a campaign complaining about what a horrible state’s attorney Patricia Jessamy was, just met Brady the hard way.
All you brilliant Balti-morons that voted Jessamy out, that bought into Bernstein’s okey doke about what a pathetic job Jessamy did as state’s attorney should now tell us how you feel about Bernstein’s office committing one of the most egregious Brady violations ever.
I’m not saying Jessamy’s office never committed a Brady violation. But it certainly wasn’t one as, as, well, as downright Brobdingnagian as the one Bernstein’s office committed. And the Brady violation certainly wasn’t committed in a high-profile case.
Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Alfred Nance, who was supposed to sentence Michael Maurice Johnson for murdering Phylicia Barnes, instead ordered that Johnson be given a new trial. Then he nailed Bernstein’s prosecutors for committing the Brady violation associated with the case.
A brief summation might be in order. In 1963, the Supreme Court handed down a ruling in the case of Brady v. Maryland. The justices contended that prosecutors, by law, must turn over any evidence to defense attorneys that might point to the innocence of their clients.
The Brady case involved two losers: one was named John L. Brady and the other was named Charles Donald Boblit. Both were charged with felony murder after a man named William Booth was fatally strangled during a robbery Brady and Boblit committed.
Both men were tried, convicted and sentenced to death. Brady’s lawyer contended that since his client didn’t commit the actual murder, he shouldn’t have received the death penalty.
It transpired that prosecutors did indeed withhold statements from Brady’s attorney in which Boblit admitted to strangling Booth.
NOTE: Bernstein’s office committed a major screw-up in a major case.
The Brady violation in the Phylicia Barnes case involved prosecution witness James McCray, who testified that Johnson told him about the murder and asked McCray for help in disposing of Barnes’ body.
Throughout Johnson’s trial, prosecutors contended that McCray was in a Charles County jail when Johnson was arrested. There was no way, prosecutors repeatedly hammered home to jurors, for McCray to know details of the case unless Johnson provided them.
McCray, prosecutors alleged, had no access to either the media or the Internet at the Charles County facility.
Nance ruled that, at the time of Johnson’s arrest, McCray was in the Baltimore County Detention Center, where he could easily have heard about Johnson’s arrest and details of the Barnes case. Nance said the prosecutors were late in providing that information to Johnson’s lawyers.
Oh, this tale of prosecutorial incompetence and misconduct just gets better and better, but not for Bernstein.
Having nailed prosecutors for a Brady violation, Nance moved on to what he called “newly discovered evidence” in the case. That would be the revelation that a Montgomery County detective with the last name of Ravin did an interview with McCray. After that interview, and after talking with detectives from other jurisdictions, Ravin concluded that McCray wasn’t a credible witness.
“This Court finds that the newly discovered evidence is material and persuasive,” Nance ruled. “As discussed…..the State rested its argument that McCray was credible, because he could not have known any facts about the case other than first-hand knowledge because he was incarcerated in Charles County without access to the Internet.
“However, evidence also shows McCray was also incarcerated in Baltimore County and Montgomery County for periods of time where he may have had access to the media. The State’s handwritten disclosure of McCray’s record fails to meet Brady requirements. “The newly discovered evidence that asserts that McCray was found not credible in Montgomery County compounds with the Brady violations…..and indicates material prejudicial to the Defendant.”
Allow me to break that down into plain, simple English: Bernstein’s office committed a major screw-up in a major case. I challenge this guy that had the nerve to dog Jessamy about her record to find a similar screw-up in a similar case on her watch.