Deborah S., Arthur, Kenney, James A., III (Senior Judge,
Specially Assigned), JJ.
Amos Patterson, an inmate representing himself, appeals from
the denial of a petition for writ of actual innocence, in
which he challenged his 1993 convictions for first-degree
murder and related handgun offenses. He raises a single
question, which we have rephrased as follows: Did the circuit
court abuse its discretion in denying the petition for writ
of actual innocence on the ground that the unequivocal
conclusion by State's expert on comparative microscopic
matching did not create a substantial or significant
possibility that the result at trial may have been
no abuse of discretion in the circuit court's denial of
the petition, we shall affirm.
background, we set forth part of the factual summary from
this Court's unreported opinion in Patterson's direct
On July 9, 1992, Rudolph Holland was fatally shot at 49 Clay
Street, near Annapolis, Maryland. Several witnesses testified
that they saw two black men, one with dark skin, and the
other with lighter skin, either in the area of the shooting
or running from the scene. Although some were able to
identify [Patterson] as the man with the lighter skin, either
by a photo array or in court, some were either unable
positively to identify [him], or identified someone other
than [him] as the man with the lighter skin.
Officer William Hyatt, of the District of Columbia's
Metropolitan Police Department, was the State's principal
witness. Officer Hyatt testified that on July 17, 1992, he
responded to the area of 24th Street and Benning Road in
Northeast Washington, D.C., after receiving a report that
suspects in another shooting were in that area. On arriving
at the scene, Hyatt observed the three suspects, one of whom
was later identified as [Patterson]. According to Officer
Hyatt, [Patterson] and the other men fled, and [Patterson]
discarded his gun after removing the bullets from it.
[Patterson] was apprehended a short time later and placed
under arrest for possession of a handgun. About four months
later, [Patterson] was arrested by the Annapolis City Police
Department for the Clay Street murder. At trial, a firearms
examiner from the Federal Bureau of Investigation
["FBI"] testified that the bullet recovered from
the victim of the Clay Street shooting had been from the .38
caliber gun dropped in Washington, D.C., by [Patterson] on
[Patterson], as well as several other witnesses for the
defense, testified that [he] was at a barbecue in
Forestville, Maryland, on July 9th. [Patterson] testified
that he did not have a gun with him on July 17th and thus
could not have discarded a gun before being arrested.
Patterson v. State, No. 1932, Sept. Term 1993, slip
op. at 1-2 (filed July 28, 1994) (per curiam).
it was not an issue during Patterson's trial or direct
appeal, the testimony of the FBI firearms examiner is now the
subject of the instant appeal. That examiner, FBI Special
Agent Joseph Williamson, testified, without objection, that
the bullet recovered from the murder victim, as well as
several other bullets recovered from the Annapolis crime
scene, had been fired by the .38 caliber handgun that Officer
Hyatt had recovered from Patterson, "to the exclusion of
any other firearm in the world."
closing argument, the prosecutor relied upon Special Agent
Williamson's unequivocal conclusion that the gun
recovered from Patterson definitely fired the fatal shots. He
told the jury that "the bullet was fired from this gun
to the exclusion of all handguns ever made anywhere in the
world"; that "[n]o other gun anywhere in the world
could have fired those bullets except that one, that gun that
was in the hands of Robert Patterson on July 17th"; and
that the silver handgun, found in Patterson's possession
eight days after the Annapolis murder, "definitely fired
the bullets that killed Rudolph Holland[.]"
prosecutor repeated these unequivocal assertions in the
rebuttal phase of closing argument. There he told the jury
that the "gun was analyzed by the F.B.I. and the bullets
were tested by the F.B.I., and there's no doubt that the
gun and the bullets that Mr. Patterson had in his hand were
fired by that gun, the bullets that killed Mr. Holland."
He concluded with the assertion that "[y]ou've got
Mr. Patterson in Washington, D.C., in possession of the gun
that fired the bullets to the exclusion of all other guns in
the world that killed Rudolph C. Holland."
jury found Patterson guilty of first-degree murder, use of a
handgun in the commission of a crime of violence, and use of
a handgun in the commission of a felony. The circuit court
sentenced Patterson to a term of life imprisonment for
first-degree murder and a consecutive term of 20 years'
imprisonment for one of the handgun convictions.
1993, Patterson filed a motion for new trial on the ground of
newly-discovered evidence - an affidavit, executed by an
attorney who had investigated his case before trial, which
contradicted the testimony of the arresting officer. The
circuit court denied his motion, and this Court affirmed in
an unreported opinion. Patterson v. State,
supra, No. 1932, Sept. Term 1993. Later, Patterson
unsuccessfully pursued post-conviction relief. Patterson
v. State, No. 25, Sept. Term 1998 (filed June 25, 1998)
(per curiam); Patterson v. State, No. 1355, Sept.
Term 2010 (filed Mar. 24, 2011) (per curiam).
2013, Patterson, acting through counsel, filed a petition for
a writ of actual innocence. That petition alleged that
Patterson's trial had been tainted by the admission of
testimony, from Special Agent Williamson, regarding the use
of comparative bullet-lead analysis ("CBLA"), a
technique that has been determined to be unreliable and
inadmissible under the Frye-Reed test governing
admissibility of scientific evidence in Maryland courts.
Clemons v. State, 392 Md. 339, 371 (2006). The
circuit court dismissed Patterson's petition without a
hearing because a review of the trial transcripts led it to