Appeal of Very Old Criminal Case in Charles County

police manAn interesting local news story in the Independent caught my eye Wednesday. A criminal trial from 1952 is going to be appealed. Another criminal trial from 1975 will also be appealed, for the same man! 

Criminal trials being appealed are nothing new. In fact, most defendant’s convicted of a crime get one appeal as a matter of course. However, an appeal from 63 years ago is NOT something you see very often. In fact, I bet the ruling will itself be the subject of an appeal because it is so old.

Charles Ford is now 84 years old, and has been in prison since the 1950’s for the shotgun and beating murder of a man at Colony South in Clinton, Maryland. He claimed someone else did it, and he knew who, but wasn’t going to say. He claimed he was taking the rap for someone else. 

Apparently his attorney at the time never advised him that he had the right of appeal, or the right to at least get his sentence reconsidered by a panel of 3 judges (sometimes called the “poor man’s appeal”). He never even filed a motion for reconsideration of sentence, which is almost automatic. I once had a Judge tell my client that I was going to go back to my office and “hit the reconsideration button” on my computer. The Judge presumed I had a form for that (and I did, of course). 

So, despite the VERY lengthy time period that has passed, the Court ruled that this man’s appeal should go forward. Appeals take years to work out. I wonder if they will expedite it for a man who is already 84 years old! To be honest, I don’t know if there is a process for that. I presume his attorneys will give it a shot by filing a motion anyway.

In another eye catching development, the Court ordered an appeal for an assault conviction the same prisoner had from 1975. How could he have an assault charge if he was locked up for life? Turns out he was out on some sort of family furlough program. Those are usually only granted for things like a funeral of a parent. I don’t know what happened as a result, since he was already in prison for life. Technically he got another 10 years in jail, which is a stiff sentence. It was probably so harsh because he was out on furlough at the time, and the Court felt he wasn’t exactly on his best behavior. 

It makes for a seemingly interesting story, both from the personal angle and the legal analysis angle. I will be interested to see what the appellate courts do with this case.

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