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Defense requests officer personnel files in burglary case

Defense requests officer personnel files in burglary case
is charged with burglary, theft and related counts after Westminster officers searched Martin's then-residence and found large amounts of copper wire believed to be stolen from a Finksburg garage. A judge will determine whether a defense attorney will be allowed to view the personnel files of former Westminster Police Department officers involved in his client's case. Full story (HANDOUT)

A judge will determine whether a defense attorney will be allowed to view the personnel files of former Westminster Police Department officers involved in his client's case.

David Alan Martin, 28, of the 7300 block of Spout Hill Road in Sykesville, is charged with burglary, theft and related counts for allegedly stealing copper wire in August 2014, according to court records.

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Westminster officers searched Martin's then-residence on Aug. 16 and found large amounts of copper wire believed to be stolen from a Finksburg garage, according to charging documents.

Defense attorney Matthew Williamson subpoenaed the personnel files of two former officers involved in the investigation who have since left the department.

In a memorandum supporting his request, Williamson said one of the former officers was the initial investigating officer and arresting officer in the case, and also gave statements used to obtain a search warrant, making his credibility "enormously relevant."

The second officer was assigned to secure Martin's residence after his arrest and the residence was broken into during his shift, according to Williamson.

Westminster City Attorney Elissa Levan, on behalf of the Police Department, filed a motion to set aside the subpoena on the grounds that the files are presumptively privileged from public viewing.

Williamson argued Wednesday that his client's right to confront witnesses against him and receive all evidence favorable to him overrides any privacy interest of the officers and the department.

"I can at least see it," Williamson said of the information in the files, requesting a review in the judge's chambers to determine if there is any usable evidence.

Levan countered that Williamson needs to show an overriding necessity to have access to the records as well as a reasonable possibility that a review will find useful evidence. She cited two Court of Special Appeals of Maryland cases in which requesters sought police records in civil cases and the court found the records should not be disclosed.

Williamson said Martin's situation is different because Williamson is not acting as a citizen asking for private records but rather as an officer of the court subpoenaing records for a criminal case where his client's constitutional rights are involved.

"I need everything that the state has and, in this case, doesn't have," he said.

Assistant State's Attorney R. Aron Benjamin said prosecutors have not looked at the personnel files and are awaiting the court's direction.

Judge J. Barry Hughes said he will read the case law provided by the attorneys and issue a ruling.

An additional hearing will be scheduled after Hughes' ruling where Williamson will argue that evidence should be suppressed. A two-day jury trial is planned for September.

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