On March 27, 2014, the defense team of Andrea E. Jaskulsky and Joshua T. Ortega secured an acquittal of a man accused of murder. The jury found that the defendant, Micah Mayne, was not guilty of four felony charges, including one count of murder in the first-degree. Mr. Mayne maintained his innocence from the time of his arrest on August 14, 2011.
On June 22, 2011, Andrew Womack, a 23-year-old African American man, was violently gunned-down at the 5500 block of Grindon Avenue. With few leads, the police settled upon Micah Mayne, a 21-year-old African American man, as their primary suspect. Mr. Mayne, it seems, slightly resembled the shooter who witnesses described as a dark skinned African American man with short dreadlocks. Though Mr. Mayne is African American, he had long dreadlocks on the date of the shooting and can be described as having a light to medium complexion. Despite this tepid similarity in appearance to the shooter, the police failed to take reasonable steps to confirm their suspicions of Mr. Mayne.
One key issue in the trial was eyewitness testimony. According to the Innocence Project, eyewitness misidentification has played a role in nearly 75% of all wrongful convictions overturned by DNA testing. This newfound knowledge on the unreliability of eyewitness testimony has caused ripples in legal circles.
One such example of change is the Baltimore City Police Department’s (“BCPD”) 2013 change to their policy on how to present photo arrays. A photo array is designed to allow a witness to select a person suspected of a crime from a group of persons who share like or similar features. The BCPD’s new policy requires the use of a “double-blind” or “sequence” procedure which are designed to help avoid the suggestiveness of the array presentation. The key to the double-blind is that the officer or investigator presenting the photographs does not know which photograph depicts the potential suspect. The sequence method of photographic array, the alternative to the double-blind, permits officers to show photographs to witnesses one photograph at a time. Neither of these policies were in place and neither procedure was used at the time of the investigation into Mr. Womack’s death. In fact, the witnesses were shown a photo array in which Mr. Mayne was the only person with dreadlocks.
Mr. Mayne was initially tried in late 2012 only to have a mistrial declared as the jury failed to reach a unanimous verdict. After a seven day retrial, led by Ms. Jaskulsky and Mr. Ortega, the jury acquitted Mr. Mayne of all charges.