Maryland high court to hear appeal of convicted murderer of 1989 verdict

Maryland’s highest court will hear the appeal of a man who spent more than 30 years in prison for a Baltimore murder he says he did not commit and the testimony against him at trial was tainted.

The Court of Appeals agreed last week to hear Steven G. Carver’s argument that the only witness who identified him as having shot John Green 33 years ago testified for the state despite the fact that he was the subject of two open but unexecuted arrest warrants, a fact known to prosecutors but not revealed at the 1989 trial.

Carver also said his first-degree murder conviction followed damning testimony from a since-discredited Baltimore police ballistics expert, who confirmed to the jury the prosecution’s theory that Carver and his co-defendant Joe Hodge shot Green at 4:30 p.m. on March 14. , 1989, on Old York Road.

Hodge was also convicted of first degree murder.

Carver, who is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole, said a ballistics expert since retained concluded that Green was shot by a sniper, contradicting testimony at trial by Joseph Kopera, whose claimed gun identification education was proven false in 2007 – but only after testifying in cases for 20 years.

Kopera killed himself in March 2007 amid growing evidence – later confirmed – that he had lied about his credentials while testifying.

Carver, who is in his early 50s, also claims that “newly uncovered” evidence shows the likelihood that Green was shot to prevent him from testifying at a murder trial when Carver was simply standing near him.

Baltimore City Circuit Judge Charles Peters in 2018 denied Carver’s motion for a writ of actual innocence. The Intermediate Special Court of Appeals upheld Peters’ decision in March, saying that if presented at trial, the new evidence would not have created a “substantial or significant possibility” that the jury’s verdict would have been different.

In his successful bid for High Court review, Carver argued through counsel that the lower courts had wrongly taken a piecemeal approach to fresh evidence rather than considering what its cumulative effect on the defense and jury trial strategy.

“Newly uncovered evidence revealed that other people were plotting to kill the victim around the time he was killed, a key witness had a motive to lie and the gun evidence was fraudulent and misleading,” wrote Carver’s appeals attorney, Eva Shell. in documents filed with the Court of Appeal.

“The lower courts applied incorrect legal standards and failed to recognize how the newly uncovered evidence would have changed the case as presented to the jury, including Carver’s trial preparation, the defenses raised, the trial judge’s evidentiary decisions and ultimately the state’s likelihood of proving Carver’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt,” Shell, an assistant public defender from Maryland, wrote.

In response, Maryland Assistant Attorney General Carrie J. Williams said the evidence Carver seeks to introduce has not been recently discovered.

For example, Carver’s trial attorney investigated but did not raise at trial the theory that Hodge acted alone in shooting Green at the behest of Bryant McArthur, whom Green allegedly saw kill Damon Barrett, Williams wrote. at the high court.

McArthur was convicted in 1991 of murdering Barrett.

Moreover, Carver’s trial attorney did not diligently try to find a ballistics expert to contradict Kopera’s testimony, belying the argument that the current expert is newly discovered, Williams added.

“No matter how ‘preeminent’ the state’s expert may be, a diligent defense attorney should seek independent expert advice if that advice may assist the defense,” Williams wrote. “The Independent Firearms Examiner’s report could have been discovered with the exercise of pre-trial due diligence.”

The high court will hear arguments in Carver’s appeal in October and is expected to deliver its decision by August 31, 2023. The case is listed at the high court as Steven G. Carver vs. Maryland Staten° 14, quarter of September 2022.

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