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BALTIMORE – Faulty jury instructions given at trials held decades ago have led prosecutors in Maryland to release approximately 50 people, and some 200 prisoners could ultimately be released from Maryland prisons as a result.
The state's highest court ruled last year that before 1980 judges statewide gave juries instructions that failed to clearly explain in part that prosecutors have to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt and that defendants are innocent until proven guilty. As a result of the court's so-called Unger decision, anyone who was tried by a jury before 1980 could get a new trial.
But given the length of time that's passed, that's tough. As a result, some counties have agreed to forgo new trials and grant some prisoners freedom if they agree to go on probation.