Christopher Blank who was sentenced to 85 years in prison for the shooting of two Egg Harbor Township police officers during a 2006 motor vehicle stop has been denied his latest appeal by the United States 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals in a written opinion issued on March 30, 2020.
According to officials, in 2008, an Atlantic County jury found Blank, 42, guilty of attempted murder, assault and related charges and he was sentenced to 85 years in New Jersey state prison. He’s been appealing the case in the State and Federal courts ever since.
“This case demonstrates the significant danger that police officers encounter during ordinary traffic stops," Atlantic County Prosecutor Damon G. Tyner said. "I am thankful for the courage and bravery Officers Leary, Constantino, and Loder. We owe them a debt of gratitude for protecting us.”
In Blank’s latest appeal, he claimed that the trial judge, the Honorable Michael Donio, J.S.C. 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.
Atlantic County Deputy First Assistant Prosecutor Mario C. Formica represented the state in this matter. 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 Judge Donio did allow “the jury relatively generous access to exhibits, sending the firearm, holster, and ammunition to the jury room.”
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.”
“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 3 brave police officers,” Atlantic County Deputy First Assistant Prosecutor Mario C. Formica said.
According to officials, Blank was a passenger in a car driven by his girlfriend on July 13, 2006, when Egg Harbor Township 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.
Police said that 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. Blank also shot Leary in the chest, but that officer’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 Blank in the arm. After Blank ran off, he was captured hours later with the help of a police K-9, according to police.
Blank is currently serving his time in New Jersey state prison.