Man Convicted for Shooting Egg Harbor Township Cops Has Latest Appeal Denied
A man who has been sentenced to 85 years in prison for shooting two Egg Harbor Township cops nearly 15 years ago has had his latest appeal of his conviction denied by the United States 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals.
In 2008, an Atlantic County jury found 42-year-old Christopher Blank guilty of attempted murder, assault, and related charges. Atlantic County Prosecutor Damon Tyner says he's been appealing the case in the both state and federal court ever since.
The case began on July 13, 2006, when Blank was a passenger in a car driven by his girlfriend. Egg Harbor Township Police Officer Christopher Leary stopped the vehicle just after midnight. The account continues,
When Leary learned Blank was wanted on a warrant, he called for backup and Officer Clear Costantino arrived on the scene. As Leary tried to handcuff Blank, he broke free and ran toward a nearby vacant house. In the yard of that home officers caught up with Blank, who struggled with them before pulling the gun from Costantino’s holster and shooting her in the abdomen and thigh. Blank also shot Leary in the chest, but that officer’s bulletproof vest protected him from serious injury. Officer William Loder confronted Blank a short time later and ordered him to drop the gun, but Blank fired back, missing Loder by inches. Loder then returned fire and wounded Blank in the arm. After Blank ran off, he was captured hours later with the help of a police K-9.
Tyner says in Blank’s latest appeal, he claimed that the trial judge denied him a fair trial by refusing the jury’s request, during deliberations, to remove a safety device attached to the gun used in the shooting. The 3rd Circuit Court rejected that claim, citing federal precedent that gives trial courts broad discretion in the handling of exhibits.
The Court further noted that the judge did allow, "the jury relatively generous access to exhibits, sending the firearm, holster, and ammunition to the jury room," and "the State called an expert witness who demonstrated how the specific firearm used in the shooting could be removed from the specific belt worn by the police officer, and Blank’s counsel directly challenged that expert’s testimony and conclusions on cross-examination."
Atlantic County Deputy First Assistant Prosecutor Mario C. Formica said in a statement, "I am very pleased with the Court’s opinion as it represents yet another judicial imprimatur that the defendant received a fair trial, and that he was justly convicted and sentenced for his vicious attack on 3 brave police officers."
Tyner also commented, "This case demonstrates the significant danger that police officers encounter during ordinary traffic stops. I am thankful for the courage and bravery Officers Leary, Constantino, and Loder. We owe them a debt of gratitude for protecting us."