Convicted officers cite prosecutor's remarks in motion for new trial

Officers also claim judge gave improper jury instructions

May 12, 2011|By Justin Fenton, The Baltimore Sun

Lawyers for two Baltimore police officers convicted of misconduct in a case tried by State's Attorney Gregg L. Bernstein have filed motions for a new trial, citing "astonishingly inappropriate" remarks by prosecutors and improper jury instructions.

In court filings, attorneys for Detectives Milton Smith and Tyrone Francis cited a comment made by Bernstein in response to the defense's contention that the officers had never previously been accused of wrongdoing: "We're not saying … that all of a sudden their behavior just changes. We're saying that this time they got caught," Bernstein told jurors.

Francis' attorneys, Michael J. Belsky and Megan E. Oleszewski, said there was not a "single piece of evidence" to support the idea that the officers had previously kidnapped people, making it "egregious, unwarranted, prejudicial, and just wrong," according to court records.

Kenneth W. Ravenell and Milin Chun, attorneys for Smith, said in a separate filing that the remark "is shameful in itself but more so when considering that he is the leader of an office of young impressionable attorneys who look to him for guidance and leadership."

Through a spokesman, Bernstein declined to comment on the allegations.

The attorneys also say Judge Timothy J. Doory gave the wrong instructions when describing how the jury should decide on misconduct charges.

Smith and Francis were accused of stranding two West Baltimore teens far from their homes in May 2009, which prosecutors said was done to teach them a lesson. While a jury acquitted the officers of kidnapping, false imprisonment, assault and conspiracy charges, they were convicted on two counts of misconduct each.

A third officer, Gregory Hellen, opted for a bench trial and was cleared of all charges by Doory.

Bernstein's decision to personally try the case led to criticism in some police circles because he was endorsed in last fall's election as a change of pace from the perceived anti-police stance of his predecessor. Bernstein said he believed the evidence supported convictions and that he wanted to show he would hold officers accountable.

Smith and Francis are scheduled to be sentenced by Doory on June 1.

justin.fenton@baltsun.com



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