SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Nation/World

November 28, 2013

Dozens of felons freed after court ruling

BALTIMORE — Together, the four men sitting handcuffed in a Baltimore courtroom had spent 151 years in prison.

Nicholas Marshall-Bey: 34 years on a murder conviction. Salim Sadiki: 37 years after being found guilty of rape. Michael Person: 39 years in the slaying of a bartender. Hercules Williams: 41 years in the death of a man in his living room. Yet, after a short hearing earlier this month, the men did something that once would have seemed impossible. They walked out of the courthouse as free men and stood on a city street, hugging family and wiping away tears.

The men were released after Maryland’s highest court decided that judges had given improper instructions to juries that heard the men’s cases decades ago, making them fundamentally flawed. The same faulty instructions have now freed approximately 50 people statewide, and some 200 prisoners could ultimately be released from Maryland prisons as a result.

“I’m not going to let you down,” Person told his attorney, Brian Saccenti of the Maryland Office of the Public Defender, moments after walking out of the courthouse. “I just want to do the right thing.”

The state’s highest court ruled last year that before 1980, judges around the state gave juries instructions that failed to clearly explain in part that prosecutors have to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt and that defendants are innocent until proven guilty. As a result of the court’s so-called Unger decision, anyone who was tried by a jury before 1980 could get a new trial.

But given the length of time that’s passed, that’s tough. Witnesses have moved or died. Evidence has been destroyed. As a result, some counties have agreed to forgo new trials and grant some prisoners freedom in exchange for the commitment to be on probation.

“I’ve been billing this as the largest and most important case in the history of Maryland post-conviction law,” said Becky Feldman, an attorney with the Maryland Office of the Public Defender, which is helping prisoners affected by the decision statewide.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Nation/World

Local News
  • Keenan to resign to take Salem State job

    SALEM — State Rep. John Keenan said Tuesday he will resign from office Aug. 24 to take a new job as vice president of administration at Salem State University.
    His announcement ended months of speculation about where the five-term Democrat would end up after leaving the Legislature. As it turns out, he is leaving four months before his term would have expired.

    July 29, 2014

  • Chism attorney challenging legislation

    DANVERS -- The attorney for the Danvers teen charged with raping and murdering his math teacher last October is arguing that the 1996 state law requiring that he be tried as an adult is unconstitutional. The argument by Philip Chism's attorney comes

    July 30, 2014

  • 140729_SN_DLE_PATROL4 Party problems persist in Point SALEM -- 'Tis the season for parties in the Point. Three years after a large Fourth of July gathering in the densely inhabited neighborhood led to a violent confrontation between partygoers and police, Chief Paul Tucker says his department continues

    July 30, 2014 3 Photos

  • lottery.jpg 'Lucky' Salem store sells $15M lottery ticket

    SALEM -- An anonymous person used a trust to claim a $15 million grand prize Tuesday from a $30 scratch ticket bought at a local corner store. It is the largest instant "scratch and win" prize ever in the state's history. Nicole's Food Store at 406

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • shelter2 Ipswich Animal shelter is looking to expand

    IPSWICH -- Dogs and cats living together -- well, it's easier when you've got the space. And that's exactly what the Ipswich Animal Shelter is hoping to get by expanding their facility on Fowler's Lane. Also in the mix is an understanding of animal

    July 30, 2014 2 Photos