Prosecutors upset over DUI acquittal Defense lawyer denies impropriety

October 11, 1992|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Staff Writer

A former Carroll assistant state's attorney who represented man charged with his fourth drunken-driving offense had helped to prepare the case against him, according to court records.

David M. Littrell, who was asked to resign from the prosecutor's office on July 31, took on Timothy R. Angles as a client last month. Mr. Angles, who already had three drunken-driving convictions on his record, faced his fourth charge stemming from a one-car accident in January in which two people were injured.

At his Circuit Court trial last week, Mr. Angles was acquitted, after a judge ruled that Mr. Littrell was not given a list of the names and addresses of the prosecution's witnesses.

"The state failed to follow the rules," Mr. Littrell said after Circuit Judge Francis M. Arnold made his ruling at the bench. "He ruled that they failed to disclose evidence to me before the trial."

He and Assistant State's Attorney Eileen McInerney spent nearly 40 minutes in a closed bench conference after the state called its third witness.

After returning from chambers, Judge Arnold ruled that the state could not call any more witnesses.

The state rested its case -- a fairly weak one because of the shortened witness list, Ms. McInerney said -- and Mr. Littrell moved for an acquittal.

Ms. McInerney and State's Attorney Thomas E. Hickman were livid at the ruling and at Mr. Littrell.

"Out of all of the attorneys who have worked for me in 18 years who have left the office and gone into defense work, this has never happened," Mr. Hickman said Friday. "We are absolutely stunned."

Stunned, he says, because Mr. Littrell not only prepared preliminary witness lists for the state's case against Mr. Angles -- the state's automatic discovery and request for discovery motion dated Jan. 31 bears Mr. Littrell's signature -- but because Mr. Littrell represented the state at one of Mr. Angles' previous sentencings.

"How can he say he didn't get a list, when he prepared it?" Mr. Hickman said.

Mr. Littrell denied having had a hand in the state's case against his client.

From his office at the Frederick County Public Defender's Office -- where he has worked since Oct. 1 -- he called the situation "unfortunate."

"I deny the allegations fully, and I can't believe that people in the state's attorney's office would make those allegations," he said.

The paperwork bearing his signature in the case file were standard forms, stamped with his signature, he said.

Rules that Maryland lawyers use to govern their behavior prohibit conflicts of interest, said Melvin Hirshman, bar counsel for the Attorney Grievance Commission.

One of those rules prohibits former assistant state's attorneys from representing clients in cases in which they had input while working for the prosecution.

"You have to avoid conflicts," Mr. Hirshman said. "But it's standard for prosecutors to go into criminal defense work. It's usual rather than unusual."

When he left, Mr. Littrell was District Court supervisor in the state's attorney's office.

In that position, Mr. Littrell was responsible for reviewing all driving-while-intoxicated cases, including the one against Mr. Angles.

After Mr. Angles' acquittal, Mr. Littrell said to Ms. McInerney, "I hope there's no hard feelings."

"No hard feelings?" she said Friday afternoon.

"I'm stung so bad right now." Ms. McInerney organized the going-away party for Mr. Littrell, and helped foot the bill for the Aug. 11 fete at the Westminster Inn.

"But you know what's really tragic here?" she said.

ZTC "After all the office politics and all the personal animosity is put aside, a four-time DWI defendant is still on the streets."

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