A man sentenced to life in prison for raping and kidnapping a Silver Spring woman outside of her apartment complex in 2003 will get a new trial because he was not properly notified of the consequences of dismissing his attorney prior to trial.

Claude King was convicted by a jury in 2012 of raping and kidnapping a woman who had asked him for a cigarette outside of her apartment on Dec. 20, 2003. King assaulted the woman, fracturing her jaw before fleeing the scene, according to court records. She underwent a sexual assault evaluation, and DNA evidence was recovered, appeals court documents say.

He was indicted in 2008 after a swab of his cheek showed a likely DNA match to samples taken from the woman who was assaulted in 2003. He was arrested in 2011 and convicted in January 2012.

At trial, a biologist said the odds of the DNA being someone else’s were about one in 5.7 sextillion, according to appeals court documents.

King appealed his conviction in 2020, alleging that the Montgomery County Circuit Court judge overseeing his case erred in not properly notifying him in 2011, prior to his trial, of the potential drawbacks of firing his attorney, which he did.

At the time, King said he wanted to dismiss his attorney, a public defender, because he was not communicative and King felt he had “already judged me … because of my past,” according to court documents.

Court transcripts included in the appeal decision show the judge told King he could fire his attorney, but that he would have to represent himself at trial.

King agreed. He had a different attorney represent him at his trial, but did not have representation for about three weeks prior, court documents say.

The Court of Special Appeals ruled Thursday that the judge violated state law by not clearly informing King of the importance of having representation, or how counsel could assist him in his case. The appeals court also ruled the judge violated state law by not ensuring King understood the potential sentences associated with his charges.

The Court of Special Appeals overturned King’s convictions and remanded the case for a new trial.

Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at caitlynn.peetz@bethesdamagazine.com

Caitlynn Peetz

Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at caitlynn.peetz@bethesdamagazine.com