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.