Inmate's trial ends abruptly after testimony questioned

August 24, 2010|By DON AINES

HAGERSTOWN -- The trial of a state prison inmate charged with assaulting a correctional officer ended abruptly Tuesday in Washington County Circuit Court after the testimony -- and handwriting -- of a state witness were called into question.

Robert Jackson, an inmate at Roxbury Correctional Institution, was charged with second-degree assault on a corrections employee in an incident at the prison Jan. 31, 2009. After testimony by the alleged victim, Officer Marvin Gillespie, the state called Officer Aaron Miller to the stand.

On cross-examination, Assistant Public Defender Jerome Joyce questioned Miller about whether he actually wrote a witness statement after the incident.

Miller testified that he had written the statement.

Joyce then showed Miller another document written by another prison officer, Lt. Mark Gonzalez.

Joyce then asked Miller for a sample of his handwriting, and had him write a sentence from the witness statement said to be his.

After comparing Miller's handwriting sample to the witness statement, Joyce said he believed that Gonzalez had written the statement. He then asked Miller if he wanted to change his testimony.


Miller testified that he did not.

Joyce showed the witness statement and the handwriting sample to Assistant State's Attorney Gina Cirincion, who did not ask any further questions of Miller on redirect and then told Circuit Judge W. Kennedy Boone III that the state rested its case.

The jury was sent from the courtroom.

Joyce motioned for acquittal and Cirincion said the state wanted a "confessed not guilty," ending the case immediately. Cirincion told Boone she did not believe Miller wrote the witness statement.

"I cannot and will not put on another witness today," Cirincion told Boone.

"A confession of not guilty effectively (by the state) ends the trial and leaves no room for retrial as double jeopardy attaches," Cirincion said after the trial.

When the jurors returned to the courtroom, Cirincion told them the handwriting sample raised concerns about the case and the truthfulness of the testimony. Cirincion said after the trial she did not know what, if any, action would be taken by the State's Attorney's Office regarding the testimony.

"I don't know what further action might be taken" by the Public Defender's Office, Joyce said after the trial.

The altercation at the prison occurred when correctional officers were taking a new cellmate to Jackson's cell, according to trial testimony. Jackson objected and three guards tried to subdue him, according to the application for statement of charges.

Jackson allegedly forced Gillespie into a wall, injuring the guard's elbow, the application said.

In his opening statement, Joyce said Jackson was charged because he sought medical care after the incident, which required officers to fill out use of force reports. Reports about the incident were "doctored" after Jackson refused to go along, Joyce said in his opening statement.

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