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Suspect in Knupp case seeks Maryland high court opinion to dismiss charges

Attorneys for Tyler Mailloux, 23, of Berlin, have petitioned the Supreme Court of Maryland in an attempt to reinstate dismissal of charges stemming from the hit-and-run death of 14-year-old Gavin Knupp.

Knupp memorial

A memorial is pictured on the side of Gray’s Corner Road where 14-year-old Gavin Knupp was killed in a hit-and-run incident in July 2022.
File photo

By Bethany Hooper, Associate Editor

Tyler Mailloux, a local man accused in the hit-and-run death of Gavin Knupp, has petitioned the Supreme Court of Maryland to review an appellate court opinion in his case.

On April 29, Mailloux petitioned Maryland’s highest court to review an opinion from the Appellate Court of Maryland, which reversed an order from Worcester County Circuit Court to dismiss all charges against him. As he does not have the right to an automatic appeal, Mailloux is asking the Supreme Court of Maryland to review the decision.

“Petitioner, Tyler Allen Mailloux, by and through undersigned counsel and the law offices of Rice, Murtha & Psoras, LLC, petitions this Court to issue a writ of certiorari to the Appellate Court of Maryland to review that Court’s Opinion in State of Maryland v. Tyler Allen Mailloux … which reversed the Order of the Circuit Court for Worcester County which dismissed all charges against Mr. Mailloux.”

Last April, 17 traffic charges – including failure to immediately stop at the scene of an accident involving bodily injury and failure to immediately stop a vehicle at the scene of an accident involving death – were filed against Mailloux, 23, in the death of Knupp, a 14-year-old who was struck and killed by a motorist in a black Mercedes while crossing Grays Corner Road on July 11, 2022. Knupp was returning to a vehicle driven by his older sister and died from injuries sustained in the collision. Mailloux allegedly fled the scene and did not return, according to charges filed.

During a motions hearing in Worcester County Circuit Court last August, Mailloux’s attorney argued the district court had “exclusive and original jurisdiction” and that the judge should either dismiss the case or transfer it to district court. The Worcester County State’s Attorney’s Office, however, argued state statute provided exceptions allowing the case to be tried in circuit court, including that the penalty for such charges exceeded three years. Following the hearing, Judge Brett Wilson granted the defense’s motion to dismiss the case, and the matter was immediately appealed.

In March, the Appellate Court of Maryland heard oral arguments from both the Office of the Attorney General and the Office of the Public Defender, Mailloux’s legal counsel for the appeal. In an opinion issued March 27, the appellate court reversed the circuit court ruling to dismiss over lack of jurisdiction.

“When the State filed the information in the circuit court to include offenses charged in Counts 9 through 17, which undisputedly arose out of the same circumstances as offenses charged in Counts 1 through 8, the District Court was divested of exclusive original jurisdiction in the criminal case, and the circuit court had exclusive original jurisdiction over all the offenses …,” the opinion reads. “We, therefore, hold that the circuit court erred in dismissing the information filed in the circuit court on the ground that exclusive original jurisdiction lay in the District Court.”

During oral arguments this spring, Mailloux’s attorney, Assistant Public Defender Celia Davis, asked the appellate court to uphold the circuit court’s decision in her client’s case. She argued that while there were exceptions where the case could be tried in circuit court, the district court had “starting point jurisdiction.”

“The term exclusive original jurisdiction does not define where the case must be tried, it defines where the case starts …,” she said at the time. “In fact, the state has not brought us any examples of cases with these particular charges that started in the circuit court. They always start in the district court.”

While it initially appeared the case would continue in circuit court, Mailloux filed a petition with the Supreme Court of Maryland on April 29. The petition asked the state’s highest court to review the decision on the jurisdictional matter, which is noted as being a new legal issue never before considered by the Appellate Court of Maryland.

“Without analysis, the Appellate Court summarily concluded that ‘concurrent jurisdiction’ is an exception to exclusive original jurisdiction,” the petition reads. “The rationale is fundamentally flawed in that the Court equates the definition of ‘concurrent’ jurisdiction with ‘concurrent original jurisdiction.’ In addition, the Court’s analysis fails to consider the various types of jurisdictions that fall under the umbrella term of jurisdiction generally. Accordingly, this issue requires clarification from this Court.”

In a response issued May 13, the Office of the Attorney General asked the high court to deny Mailloux’s petition. The attorney general’s office argued a review was not necessary or in the public interest.

“While it is true that the specific issue here had not previously been addressed by the appellate courts, not every issue of first impression needs a second look,” the response reads. “Indeed, the conclusion reached by the Appellate Court in this case is the only rational interpretation of the plain language of the relevant statutes. Given that the reported opinion of the Appellate Court is clearly correct, further review of this issue is unnecessary.”

Both the petitioner and the respondent now await a response from the Supreme Court of Maryland. Should the state’s highest court deny the petition, the appellate court decision stands. If it decides to hear the appeal, the Supreme Court of Maryland can either confirm or overturn the decision. How long the process takes remains to be seen. 

This story appears in the May 30, 2024, print edition of the Bayside Gazette.