Tamekia Martin was twice convicted for abusing her son in 2008 — first in 2009 for causing him to go into a coma and a second time in 2019 after he succumbed to the original injuries.
The state’s second-highest court ruled this month that later conviction shouldn’t have occurred.The judges didn’t weigh in on her guilt or innocence, but determined rather that the original plea deal prevented Baltimore City prosecutors from bringing the manslaughter charges that sent her to prison last year.
Apparently unbeknownst to the appellate courtMartin’s first conviction also was vacated last summer, court records show.
So Martin has gone from two convictions for the same crime to none.
Martin’s defense attorney, assistant public defender Sharon Dubey, declined to discuss the situation, while city prosecutors said Friday they are reviewing the matter. The Attorney General’s Office said it was reviewing the decision to determine its next steps.
Prosecutors said that in 2008 Martin slapped her three-year-old son, Damaud, while he sat atop a bunk bed, causing him to fall off the bed and strike his head on a nearby television stand. Several other children present during the incident told police that Damaud cried and collapsed to the ground shortly after the attack.
Investigators said Martin consistently denied fault, telling detectives multiple stories about how her son was injured. A group home staffer overheard her whispering to her son “I’m so sorry I hurt you,” according to the state’s attorney’s office.
Martin entered an Alford plea — which allows a defendant to maintain their innocence while acknowledging there is enough evidence for a conviction — in 2009 to one count of child abuse resulting in severe physical injury. She received a 15-year suspended sentence and probation, which she successfully completed.
Damaud remained in a coma-like state until July 2014, when he died at a state-licensed group home in Anne Arundel County that regulators were in the process of closing down for multiple problems, raising questions about his care, The Baltimore Sun reported at the time. A medical examiner later ruled Damaud’s death a homicide as a result of traumatic brain injuries he received in 2008.
Martin was charged again in 2017, this time with child abuse resulting in death and manslaughter. Her attorney argued at the time that her 2009 plea precluded a second round of charges, saying she entered the plea “on the clear understanding that this plea would end forever the legal ordeal that began with her child’s injury.”
A city judge, not identified in the appellate court’s opinion, ruled that expectation was “completely unreasonable” in 2019.
“There were no future promises to any other cases, and that belief was unreasonable," the unidentified judge ruled. “Her attorney could have explained to her that if this child died that she could be charged with the death of her child.”
In March 2019, Martin was convicted by a jury on both counts. Facing a possible 40 years in prison, she was sentenced to six years and filed an appeal. She was released on parole earlier this year, according to Dubey.
The Court of Special Appeals now says that the state “breached, at a minimum, the spirit of the agreement in charging and prosecuting appellant for the death of D.M. resulting from his 2008 injuries.”
“Under the particular circumstances of this case, the very grave medical prognosis of the child, and given the partial advice and inquiry to appellant about other charges, it was incumbent on the court to advise appellant explicitly that should the child die of 2008 injuries, appellant could in the future be prosecuted for murder, child abuse resulting in death, or manslaughter,” Judge Irma S. Raker wrote in the Sept. 10 opinion.
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The court’s opinion makes no mention of the first conviction having been vacated last year.
Electronic court records on Maryland Judiciary Case Search show that Martin’s 2009 conviction was “vacated,” with a notation showing the case was reactivated for a hearing in July 2019 with “all counts disposed” on Aug. 20, 2019.
More detailed information about the hearing was not available Friday afternoon, but the Attorney General’s Office confirmed that it was accurate.
“We’re going to pursue every option we have,” said Emily Witty, a spokeswoman for the State’s Attorney’s Office, who also confirmed the original conviction was vacated last year.
Following Damaud’s death, an investigation by The Baltimore Sun revealed that state officials were unaware of reports of abuse and neglect made to Anne Arundel County police on behalf of foster children living at the Laurel-area group home operated by LifeLine Inc.
State health officials launched their own investigation into whether Damaud received adequate care while living at the home, finding serious violations there, but nothing that contributed to Damaud’s death.