Barry Pollack and Adam Braskich Quoted on Efforts to Wipe Conviction from Client's Record in ProPublica

"A Dubious Arrest, a Compromised Prosecutor, a Tainted Plea: How One Murder Case Exposes a Broken System"



Barry Pollack and Adam Braskich were quoted on their motion to change the sentence of their client, Demetrius Smith, who was separately charged and convicted of an assault and murder that occurred months apart in 2008. Smith maintained he was innocent of both crimes, but after being wrongfully convicted of the murder, he reluctantly entered an Alford plea to the assault in order to receive a concurrent sentence. In 2013, Smith was exonerated of the murder, and his assault sentence was converted to time served. Though free from prison, Smith still carried a felony conviction for the assault, even though new evidence that emerged after his release showed that he was innocent of that crime, as well.

Unable to have his conviction vacated because he had entered a plea, Smith filed a motion, with the help of pro bono lawyers Pollack and Braskich, seeking to change his sentence to "probation before judgement," which ordinarily means a judge withholds finding a defendant guilty so long as the defendant successfully completes a period of probation. Since Smith had by then completed his probationary period following his release from prison, the change would essentially wipe the conviction off his record. The State opposed the motion, and the judge denied it, claiming, over Braskich's objection, that he had no authority to change Smith's sentence. "After being wrongfully convicted of murder and then convicted for an assault he didn't commit, Demetrius served five years in prison," Pollack said. "He should not also be saddled with a felony conviction. We didn't think a fresh start was too much to ask, and we're disappointed that Demetrius still can't put this behind him." The next possible step is to apply for a rare pardon from the governor of Maryland.