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
  • Ipswich selectmen act to stop clam raiders IPSWICH -- The Southwest is not the only border under siege. Ipswich is taking emergency action to deal with clammers coming across the Essex and Gloucester border on Sundays to harvest on the richest clamming beach in Ipswich. It's not as serious, o

    July 22, 2014

  • Court finds Danvers nursing home at fault DANVERS -- The estate of an elderly woman who died after a fall and weeks of neglect at a Danvers nursing home has won a $14.5 million verdict in a wrongful death and negligence case. A Middlesex Superior Court jury awarded the estate of Genevieve Ca

    July 24, 2014

  • New Brimbal Avenue design to be presented Thursday

    BEVERLY -- Residents will get their first chance to weigh in on the new design proposal for the Brimbal Avenue/Route 128 interchange on Thursday. City and state officials, along with designer Jacobs Engineering, will host a community meeting Thursday

    July 22, 2014 6 Stories

  • chism2 [Duplicate] Chism arraigned in second attack

    BOSTON -- When the woman came out of the bathroom, accused murderer Philip Chism was standing a foot in front of her. He put his hands around the clinician's neck, started choking her and pushed her up against a cinder block wall, a prosecutor said.

    July 24, 2014 3 Photos 7 Stories

  • Marblehead diver rescue 2 Body of diver recovered off Marblehead

    State Police divers found the body of a 59-year-old man in the waters off Marblehead at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, according to state police.

    July 22, 2014 2 Photos 1 Story