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Do Md district court judges "common[ly]" decide to "return the exhibits/evidence to the parties" at the end of criminal trial?!

Annapolis, MD |

Receiving nonsensical answer from court, effectively declaring exceptional phrase in Rule 4-322 ("unless...court orders otherwise") means judge free if (s)he likes not to keep in case file/court custody submitted/admitted exhs...that it's a "common practice" when de novo appeal "may occur" (uhm, true in virtually Every Damn Case, with exceptions). Isn't assertion crazy, or am I? Only case I see spking to 4-322 is Bradley v. State, 333 Md. 593 (1994), + even then wasn't matter of trial court not keeping custody of ANY exhs but COA chiding it for not kping custody of a phone bill + photos (gave back to State who "lost" 'em). What's silly is exhibits in question are copies of emails/ltrs + no logical reason not to preserve such in court record. I say court wants evid out of public view

If what you say is true; it's like saying exception IS rule + rule back seat to exception. Case cited has COA say: "when exercising .. discretion in determining whether exhs should/should not remain in .. custody of .. clerk, a trial judge should consider how inconvenient it is for .. clerk to preserve .. exhs and ... importance of preserving exhs ... Paper exh ... in .. instant case c/be easily preserved by .. clerk within .. case file. Further, if .. court determines .. exhs s/be returned to .. parties, it should attempt to assure/guarantee .. parties preserve them so .. available for appellate revw or in .. event of a new trial." Notion copies of 12 pages couldn't be kept in custody of court/case file is nonsense. Given certain evid (text msgs) was allowed via oral testimony of witness by reading msgs off phone + no tangible exh for all to see (not even photos of texts), think ct didn’t much care about integrity let alone preservtion of evid. ... + thanks, but not concerned ovr identifying info.

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Attorney answers 3

Posted

Most judges I've seen return exhibits at the end of a criminal trial. If a problem arose, I strongly suggest you contact a lawyer and do not use a public forum, such as this, to detail your issues.

Posted

I almost every case I have seen in the District Court, the exhibits are returned to the parties by the court. Because there is a de novo appeal, if the matter goes to the Circuit Court, that party would have the obligation to admit the documents again. In the Circuit Court, by contrast, everything is retained by the clerk. The issue is the nature of a de novo appeal. Since everything is "starting over" it is in each party's interest to preserve the exhibits. If they can't, it will come back to haunt them in the second trial. There is nothing unusual about this. Additionally, even if the documents remained in the file, on appeal the proponant of the evidence still needs to meet all the evidentiary requirements to admit the evidence.

Please understand, without forming an attorney/client relationship this office is not providing legal advice. We are simply providing general information which should not be acted upon without careful consideration and the assistance of an experienced attorney.

Asker

Posted

I think what I mean that presuming a de novo trial MAY occur (not up to the court to decide) isn't proper consideration for a DC to decide not to preserve evidence to comply with Rule 4-322; otherwise, it effectively declares the usually persnickety Court of Appeals stupid in its construction of the rule in not recognizing the basic makeup of Maryland's system, where it differentiates between them in any # of rules. A lower tribunal deciding in advance it will never ever need to refer to its trial record in a future proceeding (as mentioned in Bradley) seems odd. Never mind that in the subject case there was a ... PBJ; there are reasons why that person may need to be able to point to the official record or collaterally attack the court's record down the road. (And if one side claims that its copy of X is a true copy of Y document evidence and the other says "nuh-uh" how does court reasonably decide who is lying if it didn't bother to keep a copy?

Posted

Yes. But, you may be required to return the evidence on any appeal.

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