Montgomery County Robbery Convict Wins New Trial

By Dan Morse
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A Maryland appeals court has ordered a new trial for a Montgomery County man convicted two years ago of taking part in a wild, midday shootout between robbers and armored truck guards in a strip mall parking lot, attorneys in the case said yesterday.

Emanuel Tejada, 32, did not receive fair jury selection because the trial judge let it extend over two days, with two panels of prospects, according to an opinion filed last week by the Maryland Court of Special Appeals. The opinion was highly technical and did not address testimony or evidence from the week-long trial in October 2007. After the trial, Tejada was sentenced to 110 years in prison.

Tejada's attorney, Andrew Jezic, said his client "is ecstatic about another chance to be found innocent." Jezic said no eyewitness placed his client at the scene, and jurors deliberated 15 hours before returning their verdict.

"They obviously had a very difficult time with it," Jezic said.

Tejada remains in custody and indicted in connection with the crimes. Prosecutors said they respected the court's opinion but are prepared to try Tejada again. "We remain confident that the evidence is sufficient," said State's Attorney John McCarthy.

The appeals court said Tejada is an illegal immigrant with a "rebel" status in El Salvador, where he is accused in the armed robbery of a bank.

The original trial stemmed from events that occurred Dec. 14, 2006. Prosecutors said Tejada was one of five men who confronted two armed guards as they unloaded cash from a Dunbar truck near a Bank of America branch. The guards and robbers opened fire at 11 a.m. in the 2100 block of Bel Pre Road. One of the guards was shot in the back and nearly paralyzed.

In the aftermath, two of the robbers missed their getaway van, Jezic said. His client was accused of carjacking a Volkswagen Jetta and driving it under a gazebo near a school -- out of view of a police helicopter, Jezic said.

Police connected Tejada to the robbery in part through surveillance video at a CVS in Virginia, where they say Tejada went to buy medical supplies for one robber who had been shot in the leg, Jezic said.

Jezic acknowledged that DNA on clothing found near the Jetta matched his client's. But it also matched at least two other people, Jezic said.

Jury selection in Tejada's trial began Oct. 9, 2007. As prospective jurors were evaluated, prosecutors and defense attorneys issued challenges to people they did not want on the jury, according to the appeals court ruling. By the end of the day, they were out of prospects but did not have a jury seated.

Circuit Judge Eric Johnson chose to continue jury selection the next day, with a new pool. In the appeal, Jezic said the move was unfair because attorneys were not able to pick jurors from the totality of the prospects. In other words, they might not have agreed to certain jurors from the first pool had they known about jurors in the second pool.

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