OCEAN CITY — A reversal on one element of an appeal filed by a man convicted of manslaughter was not enough to toss out the entire conviction, the state’s Court of Special Appeals opined this week.
In June 2014, a Worcester County Circuit Court jury found George Nottingham, now 51, of West Ocean City, guilty on all counts related to the January 2013 death of Michael Post including manslaughter, second-degree assault, reckless endangerment and affray. Nottingham was later sentenced to seven years for the manslaughter conviction, the maximum allowed under the guidelines, along with five years each for second-degree assault, reckless endangerment and affray, all of which is being served concurrently.
Nottingham’s appeal asserted when the prosecutors left out the “to the terror of the people” element in the affray definition, they biased the jury on the affray verdict, which, in turn, biased the jury on the verdicts for manslaughter, assault and reckless endangerment. The Court of Appeals reviewed the case and determined the prosecution did err in its definition of affray and ultimately tossed out the conviction on that charge alone.
“Although we do not hesitate to say that, given that portion of the fighting occurred inside the tavern in the presence of others, there was sufficient evidence to establish that the acts and surrounding circumstances were likely to strike terror in anyone, we cannot say that this evidence was overwhelming,” the opinion reads. “We therefore conclude that the error was not harmless and we vacate Nottingham’s conviction for affray.”
Nottingham further asserted the erroneous jury instruction on the affray charge tainted the jury’s opinion on the other charges, including manslaughter, assault and reckless endangerment. However, while it did reverse the conviction on the affray charge, the appeals court opined the error in the jury instruction was not enough to reverse all of Nottingham’s convictions.
The appeals court did remand the affray case against Nottingham back to Worcester County for retrial. However, the Worcester County State’s Attorney Executive Assistant William McDermott, who prosecuted the case, said there is no intention of proceeding on the affray charge.
Nottingham’s appeal attempted to reverse convictions on all counts because of continued delays in his trial. The Court of Appeal ruled unfavorably, reporting, “This contention is without merit.”