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Baltimore, MD 21201
Phone: 410-244-5444
FAX: 410-934-3208

Our Story

Brown Law was formed with a fundamental goal: to provide high-end legal counsel with integrity. We are driven by the understanding that many of our clients face life-altering challenges. We thrive when the stakes are highest. Because of our past success, we are confident that we can deliver for you.

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“Mr. Brown saved my life. I owe him everything.”

B.P. (former client),

“We owe C. Justin Brown such a debt of gratitude and there is nothing I can write… that will do justice to how my family and I feel about him and the job he did in representing my brother in a recent criminal defense case.”

J.N. (former client),

“This firm is extremely good at what it does and offers an excellent professional relationship with clients by making them feel at ease even in the most dire situations. The firm rose high above my expectations…”

B.P. (former client),

“I highly recommend this firm . They put in the hard work it takes to win. They really see you as a person not just another client… They keep you well informed and explains everything clearly and listen.

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Recent blog posts

NOT GUILTY: Brown Law Wins Federal Jury Trial

January 12, 2020
Jury trials are very rare in the federal system. Acquittals are even rarer. Despite the overwhelming odds, C. Justin Brown and Lylian Romero won a hard fought “not guilty” verdict last week, vindicating their client in United States v. Johnson, CCB-19-22. Johnson was charged with federal witness retaliation, and prosecutors aggressively pursued the case. Johnson maintained his innocence from the outset. A four-day jury trial ensued in the United States District Court for Maryland, with Judge Catherine Blake presiding. Prosecutors attempted to focus the trial on prior bad acts that Johnson had committed earlier in his life, but the defense was able to fight off much of this evidence in pretrial motions litigation. Once the jury was seated, prosecutors tried to hang their case on the testimony of two cooperating witnesses, both of whom claimed that Johnson had confessed to them. The jailhouse cooperators were promised reduced sentences in exchange for their testimony. The Government proceeded in this manner despite the fact that jailhouse informants are among the least reliable witnesses. In fact, one of the Government’s cooperating witnesses had testified against two other defendants in unrelated cases, and both of those cases resulted in acquittals. (The judge, however, found that this fact was irrelevant and did not allow it into evidence in Johnson’s case). Brown and Romero defended the case by attacking the credibility of the cooperators, pointing out weaknesses in the Government’s investigation, and articulating a counter-narrative – telling the Jury what really happened. Mr. Johnson testified credibly in his own defense. After hearing all the evidence, the Jury deliberated over the course of two days. On January 10, 2020, they reached a decision and passed a note to the Judge. The courtroom deputy asked the Jury for its verdict as to count one of the indictment, and the Jury Foreman solemnly stated “Not Guilty.” While we will never know how and why the Jury reached its decision, it would appear that the Jury wisely rejected the testimony of the Government’s cooperating witnesses and sided with the more credible testimony of Mr. Johnson and other defense witnesses. *** So how hard is it to win a federal jury trial? In the most recent statistics, from 2018, less than 1 percent of federal defendants won at trial. According to the Pew Research Center, there were only 320 acquittals nationwide out of some 80,000 federal cases. This represents a fundamental flaw in our criminal justice system. The laws and rules have become so favorable to the Government that the notion of a “fair” trial is questionable. Federal judges penalize defendants so severely for going to trial that the risk often becomes untenable. Meanwhile, prosecutors, who have all the resources in the world, take advantage of this dynamic, and threaten recalcitrant defendants with sentencing enhancements and additional charges if they exercise their constitutional right to a trial. The result is that most defendants – even those who are innocent – decide to cut their losses and accept a guilty plea on

Firm Wins Post-Conviction, Reverses Murder Conviction

September 4, 2019
Brown Law won another Maryland post-conviction proceeding recently, reversing a murder conviction and winning a new trial for Mohammad Biglari, a man who has maintained his innocence for the past 27 years. This marks the seventh time the Firm has obtained an order reversing a life sentence. The Opinion can be uploaded HERE. The Baltimore City Circuit Court’s ruling granting post-conviction relief was based on ineffective assistance of trial counsel that occurred in 1994. Trial counsel at the time made an inexplicable error by not using a police report to impeach the lead investigating detective when he testified at trial. The police report memorialized the victim’s complaint that her ex-husband had previously assaulted and threatened to kill her. This established the ex-husband as strong alternative suspect. Yet, the Jury never heard this information – because trial counsel never brought it up. Instead, Biglari was convicted on weak, circumstantial evidence. Biglari, meanwhile, steadfastly asserted his innocence, and, after his first conviction was reversed on other grounds, he was tried a second and, eventually, a third time. At the third trial, new defense counsel attempted to suggest the same alternative suspect who was never brought up in the first case. Counsel attempted to do so by introducing the exculpatory contents of the police report, but he could not do so because the investigating detective had died. Without the detective, there was no viable way to introduce the evidence to the Jury, and trial counsel’s hands were tied. Biglari was then convicted a third time. The post-conviction court in its recent opinion ruled that the ineffectiveness of the first trial counsel, from 1994, could be transferred to the third trial because the deceased police detective’s testimony had been read to the Jury in the third trial. Thus, the third trial had been infected by the errors from the first trial, and Mr. Biglari had been denied his Sixth Amendment right to the effective assistance of counsel. The Baltimore City Circuit Court vacated Biglari’s conviction and ordered a new trial. The argument that won the post-conviction is likely the first of its kind. UPDATE: On Feb. 21, 2020, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals denied the State of Maryland’s Application for Leave to Appeal, thereby affirming the Circuit Court’s decision granting post-conviction relief. This means Mr. Biglari’s conviction is officially erased from the books and he will get a new trial!

Lloyd Hall is Free after 34 years

July 14, 2018
(Photo by Alan Chin)   A Montgomery County Circuit Judge ordered Lloyd Hall to be released from prison on Thursday – immediately – vacating a life-without-parole sentence and ending an injustice that had persisted for 34 years. Hall walked out of the courthouse in a new black suit around 1:15 p.m., and was greeted by a cheering crowd of family and supporters. Hall had been convicted in 1984 for burglary and related offenses. Because he had three prior convictions for burglary and housebreaking, he was sentenced to mandatory life in prison under Maryland’s “three strikes” law. The law considered Hall to be a violent re-offender – even though none of his predicate convictions encompassed any acts of violence. Rather, Hall had struggled with drug abuse and had committed a string of petty offenses to support his habit. At the age of 29, Hall was condemned to live out the remaining days of his life in prison. In a cruel twist that made his fate even more difficult to accept, Maryland soon thereafter changed the law that classified Hall as a violent offender. After Hall’s sentence was imposed, the Legislature changed the “three strikes” rule so that Hall’s predicates were no longer considered crimes of violence. But, for Hall it was too late. He had no way to get back into court. Many years later, Hall came to us seeking help. He was supported by the tireless advocacy of his sister, Carolyn Williams, who had pledged to him many years ago that he would not die in prison. After research and investigation, we filed a post-conviction petition raising a single issue: that Hall’s trial counsel, back in 1987, had been constitutionally ineffective for failing to file a motion seeking a modification of Hall’s sentence. If trial counsel had filed that routine motion, we argued, Hall would have been able to get back into court and obtain a new sentence in light of the changed law. Rather than confront the State with our petition in open court, we decided to negotiate with the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office, and persuade them that relief was merited. Hall had been a model prisoner, he had a supportive family, and he had developed a detailed plan for what he would do upon release. After extensive negotiation and vetting, the Montgomery County State’s Attorney – to his credit – agreed with us that Hall should be granted the relief we were seeking: his immediate release from prison. The final step was to convince the court to honor our bargain. On July 12, 2018, we appeared before Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Ronald B. Rubin and presented our arguments. In an hour-long hearing in a packed courtroom, Judge Rubin heard from witnesses, including forensic social worker Rebecca Bowman-Rivas, considered the appropriate law, and issued his order. “I order you released, forthwith,” Judge Rubin said.

Brown Law: Witness Intimidation Bill Won’t Help

February 24, 2020
With the rash of violence currently plaguing Baltimore, Governor Hogan and Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby are advocating for a bill that will address what they see as one of the major issues facing the city: witness intimidation. We think this bill is a bad idea. During his State of the State address earlier this month, Governor Hogan promoted the “Witness Intimidation Protection Act,” and described it as a tool to fight back against those who intimidate and threaten witnesses. He promised harsher penalties in an attempt to intimidate the intimidators. In a recent press conference, in which he chastised the legislature for not doing enough to stem the bloodshed in Baltimore City, Governor Hogan referenced the lack of movement on his witness intimidation bill and officially designated it as “emergency legislation.” However, the bill isn’t the solution the city needs. The bill focuses on easing restrictions on the State’s use of hearsay evidence offered by witnesses who were purportedly intimidated. Hearsay is an out-of-court statement made by someone who is not testifying. It can only be introduced at trial in certain circumstances. In Maryland, there is an exception allowing hearsay only when the court finds by “clear and convincing evidence” that the person who the statement is offered against engaged in witness intimidation in felony drug crimes and crimes of violence. Under Governor Hogan’s proposed bill, the standard would be lessened to “preponderance of the evidence” and would be applicable to any criminal case, not just felony drug crimes and crimes of violence. The bill also would add harsher penalties for those that participate in witness intimidation resulting in serious physical injury or death. In reality, the bill isn’t as forceful – or necessary – as its advocates claim. There are already existing statutes that penalize witness intimidation and the penalties the new bill touts are already accessible to prosecutors in cases of serious physical injury or death. This bill is essentially recreating a law that already exists under a shiny new name. Adding these penalties and lessening the evidentiary standard won’t end witness intimidation. The bill fails to address the root issue, which is that people are fearful to come forward because they do not have faith in the systems that are meant to protect them. Taking away protections guaranteed to a defendant – such as protections against being convicted by unreliable hearsay – will not help, but instead will continue to plant seeds of mistrust against those who are meant to protect the community. We also question whether witness intimidation is as widespread as Governor Hogan wants the community to think. In 2019, only 12 people were found guilty of felony witness intimidation across the state of Maryland. Governor Hogan should focus on actual solutions to the violence in Baltimore City instead of promoting legislation that simply covers up political inaction. — Carolyn Schorr

Brown Law Files Post-Conviction for Innocent Man in Salisbury Murder

February 17, 2020
Brown Law today filed a post-conviction petition on behalf of Derrien Douglas, who for more than a decade has maintained his innocence. Douglas was convicted of murder in Wicomico County, Maryland, and is currently serving a life sentence at North Branch Correctional Institution. His conviction was deeply flawed, and he is now seeking a new trial. First, the judge forced Douglas to stand trial in jail clothes, despite the fact that his family had a suit and tie prepared for him. The trial judge claimed that there was not enough courtroom personnel available to allow Douglas to change clothes prior to his presentation to the jury. Thus, a man facing a life sentence stood trial in jail-issued pocketless pants and a white T-shirt. Once the jury was sworn, things got worse. The State had no forensic evidence supporting its theory. Rather, the State rested its case on the testimony of two supposed eyewitnesses – both of whom were incentivized to testify against Douglas. One eyewitness, Charles Moor, claimed to have seen the shooting from afar, but cell phone records seriously undermine his claim that he was at the scene at the time of the shooting. After Moor identified Douglas and testified against him at trial, the Salisbury police dropped charges against Moor for his role in a brutal barroom assault that sent his victim to the emergency room. The second eyewitness was at the scene of the shooting, but he now says police obtained his testimony by pressuring him and threatening him with drug charges. Specifically, police resuscitated old drug charges against the second witness and used them as leverage to induce his testimony. The police then told the witness that, if he followed through and testified for the State, the drug charges would be dropped. Indeed, three days after the witness testified – and Douglas was convicted – the charges were dismissed. This deal between the police and the second witness was never disclosed to the defense – a flagrant violation of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Brady v. Maryland. Under Brady, the State has a duty to divulge to the defense any evidence that is exculpatory to the defendant. A violation of Brady is a ground for a new trial. Read Brown Law’s Petition for Post-Conviction Relief HERE.

Firm Seeks Justice for Man Who Was Shot by Police and Left to Die

October 19, 2019
In the afternoon of April 15, 2008, Charles Atkins, a 26-year-old black man, was walking down a Baltimore street, about to meet a friend. Two plain-clothes police officers happened to be in the neighborhood, and they spotted Atkins walking by. They became interested in him because, they claimed, Atkins was walking in a manner that suggested he was carrying a gun. The police decided to confront him. After Atkins got into a car driven by his friend, the officers pulled their unmarked car in front of the vehicle, cutting it off. The first officer – wearing jeans and a t-shirt – exited the unmarked police car with his gun drawn. Unsure of what was going on and in a state of panic, Atkins’ friend threw the car in reverse and attempted to drive away backwards. The unmarked police vehicle followed. When the car stalled in the intersection, the first officer approached the passenger side of the vehicle – where Atkins was seated – and attempted to break the window with what appeared to be a gun. Fearing for his life, Atkins opened the passenger door to flee. A struggle ensued. At some point, a gun went off, and Atkins ran toward his home, just up the block. As he did, the officers opened fire at him, and Atkins allegedly shot back. The evidence showed that one officer emptied his 14-round magazine, and the other fired nine rounds. Four cartridges were found near where Atkins had been standing. One officer was shot in the leg, in a downward trajectory, suggesting he may have shot himself. Atkins, meanwhile, was shot in the back and shoulder. As Atkins limped home, he allegedly tossed a gun into the grassy area on the west side of his house. Backup units responded and surrounded the home. Two officers entered and, as Atkins retreated out the opposite door, he held his hands high to surrender. The officers waiting for Atkins near the door responded by opening fire, riddling Atkins’ body with bullets. Officers later claimed that Atkins had a gun, however, this was not true, as the only gun associated with Atkins was recovered in the grassy area on the other side of the house, where he had allegedly tossed it earlier (no additional weapon was recovered). During this second round of police shooting – in what appeared to be an effort to kill Atkins – police fired a total of 11 shots at the unarmed man. Atkins crumbled to the ground, face down. When officers demanded he show his hands, he was unresponsive, as he had been shot in the chest, abdomen, both legs, arm, shoulder, and lower back. The officers then tazed him as he laid limp on the ground. Atkins was so badly injured that the police thought he was dead. Instead of giving him immediate medical attention, they covered his body with a white sheet. Only later did an ambulance arrive and transport Atkins to Shock Trauma, where he miraculously survived. Atkins was