Wednesday, October 18, 2006


Yesterday the Herald reported on two seemingly separate stories: the decision by Judge Pinero to suppress a confession and the decision by Judge Farina to continue to allow cases to be super sealed.

What occurs to us is how these cases are related in philosophy if not in fact.

Benjamin Disraeli said “Justice is truth in action.”

What can be more important to justice in a free society than to see it in action? The fact that any person could have walked in and taken a seat in Judge Pinero’s courtroom to watch a defendant ask a Judge to enforce the constitution is remarkable. The importance of this openness in safeguarding the Constitution cannot be overestimated.

While there may be legitimate reasons to keep a case secret, they should be few and far between.
Secret court cases are the thin edge of a larger wedge. First its just a few cases, then its all terrorist cases, and before you know it, the criminal docket is conducted in secret in the name of “national security.”

As a country we have a lot of dirty laundry to air. From the Christmas bombing of Hanoi and Haiphong
(We don’t even want to think about the fact that we litigate against lawyers who were not born during the Vietnam War) to the shameful conduct at Abu Garef, the strength of our country comes from our public discussion of our shortcomings.

Just a word to the wise to our Judges the next time some lawyer has a great reason to make a case secret.
There may be even more important reasons to keep the case public.

See You In Court where all of our cases are public, and no one cares.


PS: Anyone else have trouble seeing the blog today? Or did we just have too much to drink last night?


Anonymous said...

is everything in broward still under seal?

Anonymous said...

What does it say about the this Blog that Rumpole posted this insightful commentary at 10:00 in the morning, and no one replied until 8:08 at night? All you guys want to do is call people names and spread hateful rumors. When the post involves reflection, thought, and introspection, everyone goes mute. You all are an embarrassment to our profession. Keep up the good work Rump. And don't let the idea that you're too intelligent, insightful, and articulate for these highschoolers stop you from running the blog.

Rumpole said...

No- hang on a moment. We wrote the piece last night and again this morning but as we said we couldn't get on the blog all day, so this probably was not up until about 8pm. Thanks for the good thoughts but we have good readers- if you look at the last post there was discussion throughout today.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous is a jerk. Your readers say all kinds of things besides attacking people anonymously. But I can't think of anything right now --- so let me simply say that Anonymous is a jerk.

Anonymous said...

I agree with rumpole I tried to post all kinds of rumor, libel and out right lies about people all day and the blog server was down.

I promise to make up for the lose in the morning.

Anonymous said...

11:16 your a jerk

Anonymous said...

Of course, the unnamed attorney was Mark Seiden, husband of police officer Cheryl Seiden. Mark left Roy Black's office and has gone on to a very successful law practice of his own

Anonymous said...

Apologies for the length of the following, but it is important enough that it needs to be printed in full, as it sheds much light on the Laeser - Seiden issue:

In a stern rebuke to the Miami-Dade state attorney's office, an appellate court on Wednesday cleared the way for a new trial -- or possible release -- of an alleged accomplice in the 1982 murder of county police Officer Cheryl Seiden.

While not mentioning State Attorney Katherine Fernández Rundle by name, the Third District Court of Appeal tersely stated that her office was ''indisputably in serious, material and inexcusable breach of its agreement'' with defendant Dwight Echevarria.

The court said Echevarria should be permitted to withdraw his plea, which would nullify the conviction and sentence. It sent the case back to Circuit Judge David Miller.

The three-judge panel cited a previous ruling that said ''the state, above all parties, must keep its word'' and that any attempts to convince a court that ``it should be allowed to break it are unseemly and unworthy.''

Then the judges wrote: ``The last observation applies with even greater force to those individuals who knowingly broke the state's promise in the first place.''

They also noted that the ``[case] prosecutor [Abraham Laeser] who made the plea agreement and steadfastly insisted that it be honored is to be commended.''

As part of a 1983 plea agreement, prosecutors pledged not to oppose Echevarria's bids for parole. In exchange, he testified against the triggerman who killed the off-duty detective on July 14, 1982, during a botched robbery outside her West Kendall home.

But in September 1999, Fernández Rundle -- under pressure from the county police union and with her reelection on the horizon -- wrote a letter to the Florida Parole Commission. She mentioned that she wasn't supposed to comment about Echevarria because of the plea deal, but then she bluntly stated that killers of police officers ``should serve the maximum time possible under the law.''

Afterward, the board indefinitely suspended Echevarria's recommended release date of Nov. 18, 1999. Echevarria, now 42, the getaway driver in the botched robbery, has served more than 20 years in prison.


For Fernández Rundle, the Echevarria case exploded into a political fiasco during her 2000 reelection campaign -- fueled by a feud with the powerful 6,500-member Miami-Dade Police Benevolent Association, whose endorsement is coveted in judicial politics.

Fernández Rundle, who was not involved in prosecuting the murder of Seiden, 33, could not be reached for comment. Messages were left at her office and with staffers, who said she would call back and fax a statement.

Her spokesman, Ed Griffith, said: ``We need to assess our options and then evaluate any future action.''

Laeser, the prosecutor, also could not be reached for comment.

In a 2001 Herald interview, he said: ``Deep down, it does bother me that this guy [Echevarria] got screwed.''

The appellate panel, including Chief Judge Alan Schwartz and Judges John Fletcher and Joseph Nesbitt, said the actions of Fernández Rundle's office left them with ''no choice under the law'' but to rule for Echevarria.

The ruling means prosecutors may have to try him again -- a dicey proposition with a two-decade-old case.

Echevarria's trial attorney, Peter Raben of Miami, said he hopes prosecutors will cut a new plea deal that allows Echevarria to plead guilty again but then be immediately released from prison for time served.

''When he initially pleaded guilty, he should have served 10 to 15 years,'' said Raben, who credited state Assistant Public Defender Roy Heimlich for his appellate work.

``Instead, he has served more than 20 years. We want to work out something so the will of the parties can be carried out.''


A prominent Miami defense lawyer and legal expert said that the case ultimately was about a broken promise.

''It's basically a simple case of a contract not being honored,'' said attorney Milton Hirsch, who is not involved in the case. ``In other words, a deal is a deal.

``Once you establish there is breach of an agreement between the prosecutors and the defendant, you have to remedy the problem, and this is what the court decided: The defendant can now go back to Square 1 or try to negotiate a new plea.''

Such a deal would likely reignite the political controversy over the case.

On Wednesday, the head of the Miami-Dade Police Benevolent Association accused Fernández Rundle of possibly shortening the prison time of a convicted killer in one of South Florida's highest-profile police shootings.

''The bottom line now is that a cop killer could be set free because of the incompetence of the state attorney's office,'' said PBA President John Rivera, an outspoken foe of the state attorney. ``Once again, here's further evidence that Kathy Fernández Rundle does more harm than good in the community.''

The court decision also angered Cheryl Seiden's former husband, Miami attorney Mark Seiden.


''There are two tragedies associated with this case,'' Seiden said. ``The first was Cheryl's murder by Echevarria while she was a police officer trying to protect our community; the second was the terrible mishandling of her case by the Miami-Dade state attorney's office.''

The controversy over Echevarria's fate erupted at his fourth parole hearing on Sept. 22, 1999, which was attended by uniformed officers who were PBA members.

The PBA had learned that prosecutors made a 1983 agreement with Echevarria, who was facing a 25-year minimum-mandatory sentence if convicted of first-degree murder. The deal reduced the charge to second-degree murder, also requiring a life sentence but with the possibility of parole after six years.

Echevarria testified against the gunman, Reholga Mack, who was convicted and sentenced to four life terms.

But one part of the deal really irked the PBA -- a promise that no prosecutor would try to block Echevarria's release at any parole hearing.

Laeser signed off on the agreement with the approval of then-State Attorney Janet Reno, Fernández Rundle's mentor and predecessor.

CAPTAIN said...



A 95-minute, award-winning documentary, "After Innocence,"will air Thursday [Oct. 19] on the cable television network Showtime. The winner of a Special Jury Prize at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival chronicles the stories of eight men -- including Wilton Dedge -- who were freed from long prison sentences by DNA tests that proved their innocence. The film details the problems they encountered with trying to get on with their lives. Dedge, of Port St. John, was freed in August 2004 after DNA testing proved he could not have raped a Brevard County teenager in 1981.

CAPTAIN OUT .........

CAPTAIN said...


The Florida Supreme Court has ordered Seminole County Judge John Sloop to appear in Tallahassee Nov. 3 to explain why he shouldn't be removed from office. Sloop is being disciplined because two years ago he ordered 11 people to jail for going to the wrong courtroom by mistake. At a March hearing before a state panel that polices judges, Sloop admitted he'd made a mistake and apologized. The panel later specifically asked the Florida Supreme Court not to kick him off the bench. He agreed to skip oral arguments before the Florida Supreme Court, where he could make one final plea for mercy. But on Thursday [Oct. 12] the high court ordered him to appear.

CAPTAIN said...


Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Gallagher, a Jacksonville-based federal prosecutor, was arrested Tuesday [Oct. 17] on a vehicular homicide charge for what authorities said was his role in the death of a 23-year-old woman in a March wreck in St. Johns County. The Florida Highway Patrol reported Gallagher was speeding in his BMW convertible along Florida A1A on March 25 when he rear-ended a Chevrolet Tahoe about 7 p.m. The Tahoe went off the road, overturned and hit a utility pole. Coty Hastings, a passenger in the Tahoe, died from her injuries two days later.


CAPTAIN said...


Juan C. Elso, 501 N.E. 1st Ave., Suite 200, Miami, disbarred from practicing law in Florida, effective immediately following an Aug. 31 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1987) Among several Bar violations, Elso engaged in criminal misconduct; committed a criminal act that reflects adversely on his honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer in other respects; and engaged in conduct in connection with the practice of law that was prejudicial to the administration of justice. (Case no. SC04-249)

Elso presently resides in a federal prison in Virginia and is scheduled to be released in Sept. of 2012. His State case is still pending before Judge Firtel.

CAPTAIN OUT .........

Anonymous said...

Rumpole, please take down that long post which libels, Ms. Rundle. This is not a case she was involved with. Janet Reno was State Attorney back then.

Sure Ms. Rundle may have written a letter that any same human would given the circumstances. She was not the State Attorney when the deal was made.

Rumpole do the right thing and take down that long and off subject post..

Thank you

Anonymous said...

rundle was criticized for writing the letter Ed. Reno was long gone, and would never have written the letter. That was a time when the SAO had honor.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm. Kathy really screwed that up. And 3:12 is an idiot...that was cut and paste from an old article and the "top cop" should have known about the legal ramifications of such a letter.

Anonymous said...

Captain, I was around when Elso got in trouble. It has been a while and I certainly don't know all the details but I do remember at one point all he had to do was complete Pre-trial diversion and all his problems would be gone. He couldn't even do PTD right. He had a lot of problems in his life but how many times have we gotten a client a great deal, or a bond and all they do is turn around and screw it up...Elso should have been able to do it but he chose not to. Why, by the way, is he doing time in federal prison?

Anonymous said...

Why? Because Elso was too arrogant for his own good. He thought, like so many of our defendants, that he could do whatever he wanted. He was wrong.