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Man convicted of shooting 2 Egg Harbor Township police officers denied latest appeal
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Man convicted of shooting 2 Egg Harbor Township police officers denied latest appeal

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Christopher Blank

Christopher Blank, 42, has been denied his latest appeal by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit in a written opinion issued Tuesday.

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MAYS LANDING — A man who shot two Egg Harbor Township police officers in 2006 has lost his latest case appeal, the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office said Tuesday.

Christopher Blank was sentenced to 85 years in prison in 2008 after an Atlantic County jury found him guilty of attempted murder, assault and related charges.

Blank, 42, has been appealing the case in state and federal courts ever since, Prosecutor Damon G. Tyner said.

In Blank’s latest appeal, before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit, he claimed Judge Michael Donio 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, Tyner said. 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 Donio did allow “the jury relatively generous access to exhibits, sending the firearm, holster and ammunition to the jury room,” Tyner said.

Finally, the court observed that during the 2008 trial, “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,” Tyner said.

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“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 three brave police officers,” Atlantic County Deputy First Assistant Prosecutor Mario C. Formica said in a statement.

Blank was a passenger in a car driven by his girlfriend July 13, 2006, when Egg Harbor Township police Officer Christopher Leary stopped the vehicle just after midnight.

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. He also shot Leary in the chest, but Leary’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 him in the arm.

After Blank ran off, he was captured hours later with the help of a police dog.

“This case demonstrates the significant danger that police officers encounter during ordinary traffic stops. I am thankful for the courage and bravery of Officers Leary, Costantino and Loder. We owe them a debt of gratitude for protecting us,” Tyner said.

Contact Vincent Jackson: 609-272-7202

vjackson@pressofac.com

Twitter@ACPressJackson


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