Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office – SAO

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Public prosecutor’s office responsible for the original prosecutions relating to Hae Min Lee’s murder. Although Jay Wilds’ attorney Anne Benaroya recalls that they proposed to pass Jay’s case over to Baltimore County, where Hae was last seen, and where the death penalty was still applied.

This is also the team which would be responsible for the prosecution if/when Adnan finally gets the retrial he was granted in summer 2016.

A word about which prosecutor’s office is responsible for which parts of the process in Maryland. Normally, the main stage of a criminal prosecution is handled by the county/city State’s Attorney’s Office. But, when a defendant appeals, the case takes on another dimension. As well as needing to prosecute against the defendant, the state will need to defend the original prosecuting attorneys. So the SAO then becomes a client, and is ‘defended’ by the state-wide body, the Office of the Attorney General (OAG). Something unusual has happened in Adnan’s case, which shows that the relationship is not quite that simple. In the (normally rare) cases where a criminal appeal is remanded back to the Circuit Court, e.g. for further evidence to be heard, such as at Adnan’s 2012 and 2016 PCR hearings, the Attorney General’s office would step back because how the original prosecution was handled will no longer be an issue under discussion. So the responsibility for the case returns to the local office, the Baltimore SAO. This is exactly what happened in Adnan’s case in 2012, when Kathleen Murphy (still at the SAO) was the attorney. However things took an unusual turn in 2016 when the OAG, represented by Thiru Vignarajah, chose to continue to prosecute Adnan’s case, even though Vignarajah was no longer employed by the OAG. As well as acting as if Baltimore SAO was their client, the Attorney General was able to intervene and take over their normal responsibilities. (With thanks to Marlene Jareaux @mjareaux, Amelia MacDonnell-Parry @xoamelia and attorney Erica Suter @SuterLaw for the explanations.)

Vignarajah stood for election as Baltimore State’s Attorney (head of the SAO) soon after acting pro bono in Adnan’s 2017 COSA hearing and ultimately came last, after Ivan Bates and the incumbent SAO Marilyn Mosby. There have been speculations that, despite running against her, Thiru is looking to take up a job under Mosby at the Baltimore SAO which would allow him again to act as the lead prosecutor if Adnan’s retrial ever takes place.