Thursday, March 29, 2007

Jones v. State (Ct. of Special Appeals)

Filed March 29, 2007—Opinion by Judge Sharer

Tyshawn Jones was convicted by a Washington County jury of first-degree felony murder, depraved heart second-degree murder, conspiracy to commit armed robbery, armed robbery, and numerous other related and lesser included offenses. He appealed based on alleged error in allowing his statement into evidence; sufficiency of the evidence for the armed robbery, conspiracy to commit armed robbery, and first-degree felony murder convictions; and error in not polling the jury or hearkening the verdict before the jurors were discharged.

The court reversed the first-degree felony murder conviction, holding that the State did not establish a casual connection between the robbery of Victim A and the later shooting of Victim B. The Court remanded for a new trial on the other counts because the verdicts were not perfected by either a jury poll or the verdict being hearkened. The court noted that failure to poll the jury, absent a request, is not error as long as the verdict is hearkened. The Court ruled that a poll of the jury is a fully commensurable substitute for hearkening, which is of ancient origin, but in the absence of a request for a poll, hearkening is required. The Court nixed a recall and swearing of the same jurors weeks later as ineffective to cure the defect since once jurors are discharged and dispersed, they no longer constitute a jury.

The opinion is available in PDF.

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