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Man convicted of attempting to kill three EHT police officers loses another appeal

An Egg Harbor Township man convicted of trying to kill three township police officers in 2006, has lost his latest appeal.
Christopher Blank, now 42, is currently serving an 85-year sentence for the July 13, 2006, incident that started as a traffic stop and ended in a chase that left one officer severely wounded and another saved by his bulletproof vest.
Tuesday’s decision by the U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals comes a decade after he lost his first appeal in April 2011.
Blank was wanted on outstanding warrants when the car he was a passenger in was pulled over that day in July.
During trial, both sides agreed that Blank fled as Officers Christopher Leary and Clear Costantino tried to arrest him, but Blank said he was scared because the officers had attacked him.
Later, as they tried to apprehend him, there was a struggle, and Blank got Costantino’s gun.
Costantino was shot three times, which required surgery. Leary was shot in the chest, but was saved by his bulletproof vest.
Blank fled and then had a short shoot-out with Officer William Loder. A bullet shot by Blank missed Loder; Blank suffered a wound to the arm and then fled into the woods. He was apprehended by a K-9 dog hours later.
Costantino and Leary testified at Blank’s trial that he took the gun from Costantino’s holster. He alleged it fell out while the two officers were beating him.
In his latest appeal, Blank claimed now-retired Superior Court Judge Michael Donio denied his rights to a fair trial and due process when he told the jury that the locking mechanism on a firearm in evidence could not be removed during jury deliberations.
Blank’s attorney suggested at the time that the jury was trying to confirm how easily the unlocked gun could be removed from the holster.
But the state countered that the jury had live ammunition for the gun, and the judge noted that Superior Court’s and sheriff’s safety protocols required that weapons in evidence be secured with locking mechanisms.
“Since the main factual dispute at trial was what transpired during the altercation in which Blank obtained the police officer’s weapon, Blank argues that the trial court’s refusal to remove the locking mechanism prevented the jury from competently assessing the credibility of the officers’ testimony and Blank’s competing self-defense justification,” the appeals panel wrote Tuesday.
But, the judges wrote, Blank did cite any law that supported his arguments.
In fact, they said, that given the “relatively generous access to exhibits” the jurors were given, it was “unclear why the jury could not competently assess credibility unless the trial court took the additional step of unlocking the firearm…”
The appeals judges also noted that a state expert demonstrated how the firearm used could be removed from the belt Costantino wore, and that “Blank’s counsel directly challenged that expert’s testimony and conclusions on cross-examination.”
Blank currently has a parole date of October 2078, meaning he would have to live to be 100 in order to be released. He is in New Jersey State Prison.
He does have another court date coming up in Atlantic County Superior Court for post-conviction relief. It will be his third such hearing there.

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