When is a Haircut Spoliation? Certiorari Granted.

Notice of Proposed Changes to the Maryland Rules
December 18, 2021
No Spoliation Instruction Regarding Surveillance Video in Supermarket Personal Injury Case
January 16, 2022

On January 11, 2022, the  Maryland Court of Appeals granted certiorari in the “haircut spoliation” case that I wrote about in “When is a Haircut Spoliation?”  The Court’s website lists the issues on which certiorari was granted:

“Issues – Criminal Law – 1) As a matter of first impression, can a suspect’s change in appearance (in this case, a change in hairstyle) at some point between the time of the crime and the time of his arrest, support a destruction-of-evidence jury instruction? 2) Under the four-inference test adopted in Thompson v. State, 393 Md. 291 (2006), consciousness-of-guilt jury instructions may not be given unless evidence supports all four of the necessary inferences. As a matter of first impression, is a trial judge required to consider the four inferences on the record before giving a consciousness-of-guilt jury instruction, here a destruction-of-evidence instruction? 3) Even if the trial court is not required to state its reasoning regarding the four inferences on the record: (a) was it improper to give the instruction in this case where the evidence did not support the four inferences because petitioner had not been charged or arrested at the time of his haircut and there was no evidence that he was aware that he was the subject of an investigation, and (b) is reversal required where there is no indication in the record that the trial court considered the four Thompson inferences? 4) Did CSA err in holding that although “it is preferable, in all cases in which a defendant has allegedly changed his appearance in order to avoid identification, to employ a custom instruction that focuses on the change of appearance as potential evidence of consciousness of guilt,” the giving of the destruction-of-evidence instruction was harmless in this case because a different modified instruction that does not include the language “You have heard evidence that the defendant destroyed evidence” could have been given but was not? 5) Was giving the destruction-of-evidence jury instruction harmless error where the pattern instruction was not modified, the prosecutor relied on the instruction in closing argument, the jury asked multiple questions during deliberations regarding changes in Petitioner’s appearance, and significant evidence pointed to the guilt of another party?”[Emphasis added].

The case is docketed as No. 54 (Sept. Term, 2021).