Evidence linking a Maryland man to a murder weapon — the equivalent of a handgun’s fingerprint — has helped prosecutors win a first-degree murder case, the Washington Post reports. The verdict against Robert Garner, 21, marked the first time that prosecutors in Maryland have used information from a statewide ballistics database to obtain a conviction. The conviction comes as some Maryland lawmakers are trying to kill the Integrated Ballistics Identification System because they say it is ineffective.
Although the weapon in the case, a .40-caliber handgun, never was found, police and prosecutors connected it to Garner through 10 shell casings found at the scene. A handgun leaves unique markings on shell casings each time it is fired. The database was created by state lawmakers in 2000; New York is the only other state with such a law. The program came under criticism this year after Maryland State Police issued a report saying it was costly and ineffective. Since the law’s inception, state police have gathered test-fired shell casings from more than 43,000 handguns sold in the state. Police had used the database 208 times, yielding six “hits.” The program had cost the state $2.6 million and had produced no convictions, the report said.