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Lionel Brogen was convicted of "wearing, carrying and displaying" a handgun in public and sentenced to three years in prison on that charge. He was also convicted and sentenced for burglary, but the appeal and subsequent ruling on the appeal did not affect the second charge or sentence, only the possession of a handgun charge.
The court basically held that the trial judge exceeded his authority and discretion when he gave supplemental instructions to the jury that the burden to prove the gun was licensed rested with Brogden. Since the licensing status of the weapon was not an issue at trial, and was not brought up during it, the appeals court ruled the judge had no discretion to introduce the point to the jury. So it overturned the verdict and sentence on that one charge.
In this case, the appeals court ruled for the plaintiff and found that the judge in Brogden's case had made an error that was serious enough to cause the verdict to be overturned. Two judges on the panel dissented, but the majority held that the trial judge's error was not a "harmless error." The entirety of the appeals court's opinion can be found at the state.md.us link below.
The appeals court held that a judge should not give "extra" information to the jury when that information has no bearing on the case at hand. The appeals court ruled that giving the jury extra, irrelevant information can distract them from the true issues in the case that they are supposed to be deciding. The court said that the trial judge should have simply told the jury to confine their deliberations to issues and the evidence that had already been presented to it instead of answering their question about an issue that did not matter to Brogden's case.
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