BALTIMORE (AP) Gerald Robinson was serving time in a Hagerstown prison when a 30-year-old man in west Baltimore died of gunshot wounds.
Still, homicide detectives charged Robinson with the murder.
Robinson is one of at least 34 persons accused of murder whose charges were dropped during the past 19 months because police investigations had produced evidence that was seriously flawed.
Experts told the Baltimore Sun that the 34 cases reveal that police are bringing charges on thin evidence, sometimes basing murder charges on faulty and uncorroborated “eyewitness” identifications.
The Robinson case, they say, is one example of what happens when police under pressure to bring killers to justice act on wrong information.
Some of the dropped cases involved assertions of self-defense, later proved to be valid, and those arrested were eventually released.
Two cases involved armed robbers slain by their victims. And some involved murders in which suspects were considered such a threat to public safety that police arrested them to get them off the street during preliminary investigations.
In one such case, Lawrence Owens was charged with murder to protect public safety after witnesses said they had seen him with a woman hours before she was found dead. He was released when detectives could not connect him directly to the murder.
Mayor Martin O’Malley and Police Commissioner Edward Norris acknowledge weaknesses in the system. “It’s not a perfect system, but it’s the best one humankind has come up with on the planet,” Mr. O’Malley said.
During the past few months, steps to improve the system have included hiring a former prosecutor to work with the squad; creating a Homicide Case Review Team of senior officers, detectives and prosecutors to assess cases set for trial; and using videotapes of murder trials to identify weaknesses in police testimony.