A court-appointed defense attorney has filed a rare petition in federal court asking for intervention in a state case, in which he claims his 19-year-old indigent client is being held unconstitutionally on attempted-murder charges without a "scintilla" of proof.
A Baltimore Circuit Court judge threw out last month the only evidence against the defendant, an identification from a paper photo lineup, because police had altered the three-year-old photo by trimming the subject's hair with scissors, according to one officer's account, or drawing facial hair on it, according to a witness.
Suppressing such photo evidence is extraordinary, legal professionals said, as is asking for federal help through a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, which lawyer Gary Proctor filed for his client Tuesday.
"The Maryland state courts have singularly ignored that all roads point to both Petitioner's legal and factual innocence," Proctor wrote in a memorandum accompanying the writ request. "Petitioner is more likely to be struck by lightning on his way to [court] than to be convicted by a jury once within it."
Defendant Christopher Robinson has been held pending his trial, scheduled for Jan. 26, since his arrest in July at his mother's Baltimore home. He is charged with shooting a former city gang member, though he says it's a case of mistaken identity on behalf of the police, who arrested him based on a nickname the victim gave as the shooter's.
In court last month, the victim said Robinson was the wrong man. But prosecutor Charles Fitzpatrick said the state was still investigating and concerned that the victim had been coerced to change his story. Circuit Judge John P. Miller said the charges were too serious to make the $800,000 bail more affordable.
The federal lawsuit names the Baltimore City Detention Center's warden and Attorney General Douglas Gansler, which could be problematic. Gansler's office initially said Wednesday after a quick review that it doesn't represent that warden and isn't yet clear why Gansler was named.
Proctor also filed motions in Circuit Court to appeal the bail decision and to dismiss the case because the "doctored photo" was kept from him until Dec. 29.