DENTON — In a late change of plans, the man facing murder and firearm charges in connection with a fatal shooting in Denton in July 2020 fired his attorney and requested a jury trial.
Jamaine V. Cheers, 34, of Denton, was expected to accept a plea offer and face sentencing for his alleged crimes at plea hearing on Tuesday, Dec. 22. However, just before the hearing began, Cheers informed the court of his intent to seek new counsel and request a jury trial.
Court records indicate that Cheers was originally scheduled for a two-week jury trial earlier in December, but he had waived his right to the jury trial on Nov. 24.
Cheers is facing charges of first- and second-degree murder, first- and second-degree assault, use of a firearm in a felony/violent crime, carrying concealed deadly weapon, carrying a handgun, carrying a loaded handgun and reckless endangerment in connection with the July 2020 murder of 30-year-old James Wilmer.
During the hearing, presiding judge Daniel M. Long asked Cheers why he wanted to discharge his defense attorney, Brandon Mead.
Prior to bringing up his concerns, Cheers made several allegations regarding discovery of a surveillance video from the day of the shooting: that Mead wasn't showing him the video, that the Denton Police Department had deleted the video or that the prosecution didn't forward Mead the video. He added that he wasn't sure if the video wasn't forwarded, or if he just didn't see it.
Later, Caroline County state's attorney Joe Riley said that Mead was welcome to come view the video he had in discovery, but to his knowledge, Mead already had everything.
Cheers told the court that there were multiple things that he didn't agree with under Mead's counsel. One particular grievance Cheers shared with the court was the waiver of his Hicks date — his right to a speedy trial within 180 days of his first appearance in the Caroline County Circuit Court.
A jury trial for the case had been scheduled for the beginning of May, but Cheers told the court that he felt like his back was against the wall and that he waived his Hicks date because of Mead.
Mead spoke after Cheers, stating that he'd advocated to waive the Hicks date for scheduling purposes. Cheers had seemed on board with the waiver, he said.
However, Mead told the court that he'd experienced issues with Cheers and his family. Because of that, he felt that there was no clear path to continue representing Cheers.
Mead added that he'd met with Cheers six or seven times and had provided him with discovery, or evidence in the case.
"(It) hasn't been easy, but I've done everything I can for Mr. Cheers to the best of my ability," Mead said.
Cheers stated that he would rather go forward with a public defender.
After hearing from both men, Long stated that he was inclined to believe there was no meritorious reason, or good cause, from Cheers to fire Mead. However, he commended Mead for being candid with the court and allowed him to be discharged from the case.
Following Mead's discharge, Riley told the court that any plea offers that had previously been extended were terminated. He added that in Nov. 2020, the state filed a motion declaring their intent to seek a life sentence without the possibility of parole for Cheers.
Judge Long then allowed the court to schedule a new trial for Cheers. He emphasized to Cheers that he needed to obtain counsel prior to the new trial dates or else he would have to represent himself.
Cheers is scheduled for a status hearing on Feb. 23. The new jury trial for his case is scheduled for March 7 through March 11.
Under Maryland law, a defendant is allowed to discharge their attorney and withdraw their waiver of a jury trial. However, the act is rare, Riley said after the hearing.