Robbery Suspect Acquitted Because of Lax Police Work, Juror Says

By Ruben Castaneda
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A Prince George's County man charged with the armed robbery of a Subway sandwich shop was acquitted by a county jury this month after a detective testified that investigators did not collect evidence from surveillance cameras at the eatery.

Detective George Long also said that he did not check to see if a fingerprint lifted from the scene was left by the defendant, that police did not canvass the area for witnesses and that he did not follow up with a Subway customer who gave a statement the day of the robbery.

"The general feeling among the jurors was that the lack of evidence presented was sad," juror Pamela Pine said of the state's case. "To quote the prosecutor, the investigation was shoddy."

Assistant State's Attorney Joseph Wright used that word to describe the police investigation during his closing argument, according to Pine and the defense attorney, Harry J. Trainor Jr. A spokesman for the prosecutor's office said that Wright could not recall whether he used the word "shoddy."

Wright argued to the jury that the state nonetheless had presented enough evidence for a conviction.

Long did not return a phone call seeking comment.

Maj. Andy Ellis, a spokesman for the county police, declined to comment on the case. He said department policy requires detectives to seek evidence from surveillance cameras when possible and to search for available witnesses.

The defendant, Henry Angulo-Gil, 33, was convicted last week of first-degree felony murder in an unrelated case. The killing occurred the day after the robbery at the Subway.

In the armed-robbery case, the jury acquitted Angulo-Gil after deliberating for a little more than an hour, Pine and Trainor said. Just before the verdicts were announced, Pine asked Circuit Court Judge Graydon S. McKee III whether she could make a statement. McKee said she could not.

Pine said in an interview that she planned to tell the court, "The lack of evidence, even when it could have been made available had the investigative work been properly done, was very disappointing and did not let the jury do its job well."

Angulo-Gil, of the 6300 block of Ager Road in Hyattsville, was charged in the April 2007 robbery of the Subway in the 3600 block of Bladensburg Road, in Colmar Manor, near the D.C. border.

In charging documents, Long alleged that Angulo-Gil walked behind the counter, picked up a $100 bill that was on the sink and stuffed it in his pants pocket. When Subway worker Maria Lopez confronted him, Angulo-Gil brandished a handgun and pointed it at her and another worker, the documents allege.

Angulo-Gil and an accomplice fled in a white car, the documents allege. The accomplice has not been arrested.

During the trial, Lopez identified Angulo-Gil as the robber.

Under questioning by Trainor, Long acknowledged knowing about the surveillance video. He did not explain why the recording was not collected as evidence.

"So, no canvass was done?" Trainor asked, according to a transcript. "You didn't follow up with the eyewitness who was in there, no video surveillance was retrieved and no fingerprints that were submitted ever were reported back to you, correct?"

"Correct," Long replied.

At one point during the questioning, it became clear that portions of Long's investigative file had not been turned over to the defense. In the process known as discovery, prosecutors are required to turn over the findings of the police investigation to the defense before the trial.

A recess was called so Wright could make a copy of Long's file and give it to the defense attorney. Ramon Korionoff, a spokesman for the county prosecutor's office, said Wright was unaware of some of the information in the detective's file, including the discovery of the fingerprint.

"The State knew about parts of Detective Long's file," Korionoff wrote in response to written questions. "As part of any discovery, of course the State would have turned it over."

In an interview, Trainor said he did not ask for a mistrial based on the possible discovery violation because he felt he had a good chance to get an acquittal.

Two veteran defense lawyers in Prince George's said prosecutors regularly find and turn over discovery in the middle of a trial. "It happens all the time," defense attorney George Harper said.

Harper and lawyer William C. Brennan said judges often remedy the situation by calling a recess and allowing the state to provide the information to the defense. Judges can also take sterner measures, including preventing the information from being used in the trial or calling a mistrial, they said.

In the unrelated case, Angulo-Gil was convicted of first-degree felony murder Thursday in the April 14, 2007, shooting death of Carlos Millian, 33. According to prosecutors, Angulo-Gil shot Millian while trying to rob him of a gold chain in Langley Park.

He is scheduled to be sentenced April 1.

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