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.