Warnken, LLC Attorneys at Law, Attorneys & Lawyers, Pikesville, MD

Adams v. State

Adams v. State, 415 Md. 585 (September 3, 2010)

Defendant was charged with possession and distribution of cocaine after she sold cocaine to an undercover police officer.  The transaction was recorded by a hidden camera, but because the Defendant never went to the passenger side of the officer’s car, where the camera was pointing, the Defendant was not visible.  The camera was equipped with audio recording, so the Defendant’s voice was audible.

At trial, the court admitted the video tape as evidence.  When the jury retired to deliberate, the jury asked if they could take the evidence in the case with them.  The judge said “I’m going to send it in there.”  After retiring to deliberate, the jury asked to see the video tape.  The judge denied the request to see the video tape.  Defendant was convicted.  The CSA upheld the court’s decision under abuse of discretion.

The COA reviewed the history of the rule in question, noting prior to the rule, judges had complete discretion as to which exhibits to allow the jury to take with them while deliberating.  The rule, over the years, had been changed such that exhibits may be presumptively given to the jury, absent a finding from the judge that there is “good cause” for the jury not to have the item.  The COA noted that the judge did not give a reason why good cause existed for excluding the video tape from the jury’s possession while deliberating prior to the time the jury retired.  The court reasoned that the judge, by his actions, intended for the videotape to be released to the jurors when he said that he would send back the evidence.  The COA held that the videotape is an exhibit, rather than testimony.  As such, the COA looked to rule 4-236(b) rather than to section (c).

Dissent

The dissent agrees that section (b) applies, but argues that the trial judge gave good cause for refusing to give the jury the videotape.  The dissent argues that the judge had discretion to not allow the jury to see the videotape and gave reasons for his decision on the record.