A mistrial has been declared in Washington County Circuit Court in the case of a New York man charged in a 2006 murder in Hagerstown, because his defense attorney had represented a key state witness in a custody case.
Joshua Edwards, 25, spent more than five years fighting extradition from England before he was returned to Hagerstown last year to face first-degree murder in the July 23, 2006, killing of Jackson A. Rodriguez in an apartment in the Washington Gardens complex.
Brooklyn, N.Y., also was charged in the same incident with the attempted murder of Tony Perry, who survived a gunshot wound to the head.
The trial was entering its second day on Feb. 20 when Washington County Circuit Judge John H. McDowell noted that defense attorney Bernard W. Semler II had represented state witness Kimberly Duckfield in a custody case, including hearings before McDowell, according to a recording of the proceedings.
“I did not know Ms. Duckfield’s critical involvement in this case,” said McDowell, who recently was assigned to be Edwards’ trial judge.
Because Duckfield had not waived her attorney-client privilege with Semler, McDowell advised Edwards that Semler’s ability to try and impeach her testimony on cross-examination could be severely limited. Semler would not be able to question her about anything he learned while he was her attorney, including details of the murder, her mental health and history of substance abuse, McDowell said.
Edwards asked if Semler could “delve into her credibility as far as lying numerous times in police interviews.”
“Probably not,” McDowell replied.
McDowell told him the only way to get the case continued was through a mistrial.
“There is an irretrievable conflict of interest ... that has not been waived by Ms. Duckfield at this time,” McDowell ruled in declaring the mistrial.
Semler was removed as Edwards’ attorney, court records said.
Edwards is accused of committing the drug-related murder with Olusegun Hakeem Ogundipe, of New York City, who was convicted in 2008 and is serving a life sentence.
After the shooting, Edwards fled to New York and then England, where he was held in an English prison while fighting extradition.