WELCOME TO THE OFFICIAL RICHARD E GERSTEIN JUSTICE BUILDING BLOG. THIS BLOG IS DEDICATED TO JUSTICE BUILDING RUMOR, HUMOR, AND A DISCUSSION ABOUT AND BETWEEN THE JUDGES, LAWYERS AND THE DEDICATED SUPPORT STAFF, CLERKS, COURT REPORTERS, AND CORRECTIONAL OFFICERS WHO LABOR IN THE WORLD OF MIAMI'S CRIMINAL JUSTICE. POST YOUR COMMENTS, OR SEND RUMPOLE A PRIVATE EMAIL AT HOWARDROARK21@GMAIL.COM

Monday, October 16, 2006

WHAT WE DO, II.

Abe Laeser said...
Rumpole,
Can you really be surprised that no one described what they really do? Why would I let anyone into the recesses of my soul? Do I go about my tasks blithly oblivious to their effect, or do I live in a tortured purgatory of psychic pain?

Capital prosecution is not an unexamined life. It just cannot be shared.

Rumpole ruminates:


People who know me (as me, no one knows me as Rumpole) know I am an intensely private person. The very hardest post I wrote was the post about what I did. I sat with it for a few days, feeling very uncomfortable, as I found it hard to lay my feelings bare for readers to see.

I am a big proponent of a life examined, although the prospect of examining it in front of my colleagues is more than a bit troubling. All the more reason I protect my identity like the confidences of my clients.

There are however, stories to be told and lessons to be learned.
The question is whether the possessor of those stories
chooses to be the teacher of those lessons.
Your insights would be most valuable. But they belong to you.

As a young lawyer, I watched in fascination as Judge Norman Gerstein struggled over the re-sentencing of defendant Manuel Valle, who stood convicted of murdering a police officer. Valle had been tried, convicted, and sentenced to death in less than a month after the murder, Judge Morphonios presiding. That conviction and death sentence was vacated. Valle was again convicted and sentenced to death, but the sentence was overturned, and thus ended up before Judge Gerstein, who was not a proponent of the death penalty.

Day after day Judge Gerstein’s courtroom was crowded with uniformed police officers, even on days that no hearing was scheduled. In the end Judge Gerstein sentenced Valle to death, closing his remarks with the quote from the Poet John Donne: Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind.”
(My apologies to Judge Gerstein if I have got anything wrong. This is from memory, but the memory of those days appears pretty vivid.)

It would be fascinating to hear from Judge Gerstein on that case, or from any Judge who has struggled over a sentence, or from a defense attorney who has struggled to do their level best for a client they detest, or from a prosecutor involved in the decision to seek the death penalty.

These are the decisions that fascinate us. The struggle of an individual’s morality versus their intellect, versus their beliefs, versus the duty to uphold the law.
Where are the lines drawn? How are the decisions made?
In retrospect would they make the same decision again?

As a lawyer, I have contempt for Judges who make the popular decision rather than the correct decision.
But how do I feel when my client benefits from that decision?

Ah, there’s the rub- the deep dark place none of us wants to examine, where troubling outcomes turn to guilt, which festers until it erupts into a substance abuse problem, or troubles at home. How do we handle that aspect of our job without letting it affect our life?

What about the Judge who issues sentences or denies motions to avoid the wrath of prosecutors or the police? As the election fights over judicial seats reach unprecedented levels of rancor, Judges feel increasing pressure not to do anything that brings them into the limelight in a manner that the public may misunderstand. Are there any Judges who want to (anonymously) write about the decisions they have made? Wouldn't that be something to read?
[As an aside, the more we examine this issue, the more we are against Judges having to stand for election.]


The poet Robert Frost wrote:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took the one less traveled by
And that has made all the difference.


I think about those words often, and have come up with this:

There is a great benefit in the life examined.
The path each of us has chosen
And the sum of those choices
Is nothing less than who we are.


See You In Court.


69 comments:

Anonymous said...

More importantly, why do the Dolphins suck so bad and where are the fools who predicted they would be in the Super Bowl (SI)?

jealous lawyer said...

That was a phenomenal post and should attract some great discussion, but how does it fit in with my obsession with trashing people on this blog for no reason, especially people I've never met?

I guess I'll have to go crawl back into my hole for a while. But if I see any of ya in the paper or on tv - i'm coming after you hard.

Anonymous said...

i was involved in the valle matter. so, we now know that rump started out around 1978. valle killed a trooper near the old toll plaza on the 836 near 27th ave.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes the popular decision is the right decision. And, sometimes it is not. Problem is that the right decision that is popular is not often chosen because people are inherently weak kneed.

Anonymous said...

Remember that most (99%) of elected officials have one goal - to stay in elected office. You dont stay in elected office by making controversial decisions.

Jason Grey said...

S'io credessi che mia risposta fosse a persona che mai tomasse al mundo, questa fiamma staria senza piu scosse. Ma per cio che giammai di questo fondo non torno vivo alcun, s'i'odo il vero,
senza tema d'infamia ti rispondo.

Dante,The Inferno

abe laeser said...

"Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back."
ROBERT FROST

You were an observer in the VALLE case. An observer can never know the impact of such cases. This was the third trial of a cop-killer, who murdered because he had been stopped in a stolen car while on probation.

Tears flowed fron Judge Gerstein's eyes as he pronounced sentence. The defense team had Elliot Sherker and Karen Gottleib leave office very soon after the trial, as did my trial partner, Joe Rosenbaum. The date of impostion was Judge Gerstein's last in Criminal Division - to this day.

The PENA family calls me regularly to discuss the post-trial status of this case, and why MANUEL VALLE is alive 28 years after the crime.

For some of us, it is not that we choose to keep these feelings to ourselves -- I believe that we have no other choice. We can, at best, justify our lives to ourselves. How could we ever do so to strangers?

Anonymous said...

two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and I, I took the one less traveled by - and that is why I am in prison - I thought it was ok to rob stores, fuck kids, and kill people-either with guns or drugs. Kudos to the elected officials of Miami and all leo, the murder rate is down this month to one a day.

Anonymous said...

michael von zampft was the defense attorney who blew the valle case. he is abe's lap dog now at the SAO. isnt a rule 3 in order?

Anonymous said...

S' I believed that my answer was to person who never tomasse to the mundo, this staria flame without piu jolt. But for cio that giammai of this bottom I do not return alive some, s' i' I hear the true one, without infamy topic I answer to you.

Jason, you don't speak Italian or Latin for that matter...neither does bablefish translation...so, why don't you do us a favor and post dante en English?

Anonymous said...

Rump,

After much thought, I decided to answer your question as to what I do and who I am:

I defend clients who are deemed society's lowest of the low; a few of them are truly innocent, but the vast majority are guilty. Most people look at my clients with disgust/contempt.

I do this not because I'm a bleeding heart liberal or because I think everyone accused of a crime should walk, but because when the government accuses someone of a crime, they need to prove they've got the right person.

I appreciate ethical, honest, and hardworking ASA's who have common sense and perspective. (And yes, there are some of those out there.)

I also appreciate the ethical and honest police officer who knows how to protect the community while following proper procedures.

I like some of my clients and loathe a few others, but all the same, I defend their cases to the best of my ability because that is my job, my challenge, and it's what I'm sworn to do.

I think I can help some people; as for others, I'm resigned to the fact that they've chosen this lifestyle and nothing will sway them.

I love trying cases, and I love when justice is actually done... even when I lose. That may sound hard to believe, but if I've done my best and presented my client's defense and a jury still convicts, then so be it.

In case you haven't guessed, I'm a PD. And I love my job.

Anonymous said...

Jason,

Ma tu sai parlare italiano veramente o sai solo scrivere quello che trovi nei libri?

Se sei un vero italiano traduci
queste parole per me - stronzo che
non sei altro, ti faccio culo cosi!

Chris D.

Rumpole said...

Mr. Laeser said:
You were an observer in the VALLE case. An observer can never know the impact of such cases. This was the third trial of a cop-killer, who murdered because he had been stopped in a stolen car while on probation.

Rumpole says: You are 100% correct. The Valle case
was a drama beyond anything that could be fictionalized. I have no idea how any of the participants felt, and I would never demean the memory of the murdered officer, who was gunned down during a traffic stop without the ability to defend himself.

I would like to hear what the participants were thinking, and what they think today.

And as to your last line, the only person on the planet who needs to justify their actions in this case, is Valle, and only his maker can sit in judgment on his vicious, vile actions.

Rumpole said...

1) Thanks to the PD for the post. Nice job.

2) Do I have to make this an English Only blog??

Anonymous said...

To Jason Grey: como sey dice en italien - tutto bene- tu es un asshole- pinga- fongule- fondue-.Jason stop criticizing lawyers who actually try cases and don't charge 5000 to seal a file leading to a change in the law.you are an idiot. julio.

Anonymous said...

I had a case with eiglarsh years ago. the victim was high profile and case was in papers. he got off it as quick as possible, court appointed. comparing sharpstein's accomplishments to eiglarsh is like comparing shaq to michael doleac.

Jason Grey said...

The English is...If I thought that my reply would be to someone who would ever return to earth, this flame would remain without further movement; but as no one has ever returned alive from this gulf, if what I hear is true, I can answer you with no fear of infamy.
It is repeated at the inception of Eliot’s prufrock, which I thought to appropriate to the discussion.

Jason Grey said...

3:17 I think you have me confused with someone else. Your post makes no sense. I do try cases; you won't find a post where I criticized anyone without facts to back up the criticism. What is sealing a file? Obviously you are not a lawyer. And yes sometimes I can be an asshole

Anonymous said...

Well that says it all, doesn't it?

Jason Grey said...

To Chris D. Il mio italiano è soltanto giusto. La mia grande madre è venuto da Firenze ed ha parlato poco I Inglese può leggere dentro migliore italiano di posso comunicare e sì posso essere un asshole

Anonymous said...

che cazzo voi - you're italian is shite grey.

Anonymous said...

Please stop the Italian bullshit!

Anonymous said...

ani tzarich l'lechet l'hasherutim

Jason Grey said...

To Rumpole and all, I am truly sorry I started that whole string string.

Anonymous said...

Abe is the coolest. I am a former ASA that was interviewed by Abe. I probably didn't impress him much and he probably didn't recommend hiring me but I always thought he was the consummate lawyer and gentleman.

abe laeser said...

To the 1:29 blogger: Check your facts! Von Zamft was working for an insurance defense firm and NEVER had anything to do with the case. Check with Edith Georgi (trial counsel).

To the 5:01 blogger: I must have liked you, and recommended your hiring -- although I admit it is hard to tell when I like anything. If I had not, there never would have been a second interview, or a chance to be a former ASA.

Anonymous said...

abe, is valle the killer of the trooper on the 836? if so, von Z was counsel to him in sept. of 78. or was valle the killer of some gables cops. it is posssible that i got them mixed up. please clarify...

Anonymous said...

"Abe is the coolest." Please. I agree that Abe is one of the best lawyers and prosecutors we'll ever see, but...........he can be incredibly disrespectful and condescending, particularly to young ASAs whom he regularly ignores when passing them in the hallway
(if they're reeeeeeeeeeeeally lucky, he may grunt back when they says hello). There's just no reason for that. You must have been one of the few lucky ones.

Rumpole said...

Manuel Valle murdered a Coral Gables police officer in cold blood during a routine traffic stop. The man never had a chance.

Anonymous said...

Abe may not always sing out "good morning" when he see's you, but he is straight up and will back you up. A story he will not remember because I will not give out a lot of details: He was asked to ask myself and another prosecutor about something we may have heard a friend of ours (not a prosecutor) say in a bar about a big criminal case.
We were called into Abe's office. My friend listened to Abe and said he didn't know what he was talking about. It was obvious we didn't want to rat on a friend and Abe knew it. He said something to the effect of "Get the F out of my office...but you guys are good friends to have." He knew we knew.

abe laeser said...

The VALLE case involved the shooting of two Gables officers, one of whom died from a head wound, while the other was shot multiple times in his vest.

P.S. I believe (not know) that the 836 shooting you refer to was the Merritt SIMS case, prosecuted by Rosenberg, but also after Von Zamft had left for private practice.

To 5:28 blogger: And yes, I am unfortunately all too guilty of nodding or grunting only. Perhaps it is a defense mechanism, but none of us is always at anything resembling his best. Frankly, if the passing parade of 50-60 new faces each year passed more slowly (or stayed a few years longer), you may have learned that I relish in the chance to help newer lawyers get better at their craft - and make ethical decisions. I am sorry if you were one of those with whom I did not get to spend enough time.

Tony Soprano said...

Who ever thought that Italian would break out on a Miami blog populated by Cuban lawyers? Not me.

Uncle Junior said...

My nephew...that ass....what about the money Pussy Malanga stiil owes me??

Anonymous said...

Jason,
Il tuo italiano e abbastanza buono.
Almeno lo parli e poi capire l'italiano scrito. Allora si vede che mi hai capito, pero non ti preoccupare stavo solamente scerzando con te.
Sei un bravo avvocato e mi fa piacere sapere che ci sono altri avvocati italiane qui a Miami.
Forza azzurri!!!
Chris D.

Anonymous said...

ah yes... i remember the days of being on various "hit squads" or "death squads" in my PD days. I've always taken it as a badge of honor that David or Bennett would take some of the more zealous advocates in order to test and go after out of control judges.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of both Edith and Abe; who can forget or shall I say... re-member when Abe needed to remind Edith who's man enough to whip it out. Of course Abe has grown up since then and has become reflective as he prepares new and creative ways to argue to have the state kill people. A truer barbarian amongst us, there is not.

Anonymous said...

the death squad as they were known was nothing more then a bunch of hack public defenders. none of them were talented litigators. far from the cream of the crop... and bennett and weed are afraid of their own shadows. couldnt try their way out of a juvi trial.

Anonymous said...

my question is how did Rothenberg succeed when other judges got forced out?

what made her special and stayed in criminal court from 1992 until 2002 when farina sent her packing to Civil.

many judges are transfered around every two years or so? But not Rothenberg WHY?

abe laeser said...

Thanks to 8:09 blogger: I am sure that under the guise of anonymity you can be as brave as you want -- and still be a coward when using your real name.

P.S. Perhaps the barbarian is the person who takes the random innocent lives, and causes me to have another case to prosecute.

Anonymous said...

Rumpole can you tell us (1.) the death squad included you? or (2.) you hate the death squad because you worded for the State.

What is you take on this. I am a young lawyer not around back then

Anonymous said...

worked for the state

Anonymous said...

looks like abe needs to stop blogging and get back to work.

Anonymous said...

abe needs to start a death squad. he could be rumpole

Jason Grey said...

Li ringrazio il mio amico, ma dobbiamo arrestare questo prima che i barbarians li taglino a pezzi ai peices

Rumpole said...

Anonymous said:
Rumpole can you tell us (1.) the death squad included you? or (2.) you hate the death squad because you worded for the State.

What is you take on this. I am a young lawyer not around back then

Rumpole says 1) NO 2) one hint a day is enough.

I certainly was in the REGJB everyday during that time. My take is Judge Rothenberg blew it out of proportion to assist in her own goals. My kind of Judge is the Judge who relishes the professionalism of prosecutors like Mr. Laeser, AND the ability of vigorous defense attorneys like ( fill in the blank). We have an adversarial system of defense. That means a Judge should not complain when public defenders vigorously challenge the prosecution in a legal an ethical manner.

Abe's mom said...

Abe is the man. You have never litigated against him to hold such a negative opinion of him. It is obvious from your timing and comments that your nothing more then a hack true believer cap lit PD with average opinions. Keep on pleaing those murder clients to life.

abe laeser said...

My mother has passed away long ago, but I am sure that she would share your kind sentiments.

Now everyone settle down + 'let's watch some football.'

Anonymous said...

sorry runmpy the death squad was real. towbin, montaner and the always cheerful joyce brenner were sent in there to fuck with rothenberg. the usual pd mickey mousing file 20 speedy demands etc. she squashed them like cockroaches.

Anonymous said...

Rothenberg did not blow it out of proportion. The "death squad" was sent in to intimidate her. Several members of the squad are notorious for their less than professional tactics (to say the least). I was friendly with one (whom I litigated against and had no problems with), but am well aware of the stuff they pulled while in Rothenberg's courtroom. It wasn't pretty.

Anonymous said...

Abe at 5:42...........Plenty of senior prosecutors bear the same burden you do and still take the time to say hello. Hell, David Gilbert even tried a couple of crappy low level felony cases with some c prosecutors. There's no excuse for not acknowledging the existence of anyone, let alone colleagues.

You have so much to offer, it's a shame you don't do more. The young ASAs think the world of you (and the other senior ASAs). You can make a huge difference in their careers by simply being nice to them. Hopefully, you've mellowed and my comments are untimely. If so, I sincerely apologize.

As for the nasty comment the defense attorney made about your seeking the death penalty, I agree with your response. Keep up the great work.

Anonymous said...

It appears that Manuel Valle was sentenced, or should I say re-sentenced on March 16, 1988. Now all of you pundints can do your math and figure out who is and who is not Rumpole

Anonymous said...

Well, Abe, if you did recommend me then I would consider it a badge of honor. Is there some way to put it on my resume?

Regardless of how you feel about Abe (and I still think he is the consummate gentleman lawyer...with a great sense of humor) we should all feel grateful that, if something really bad happens in this county, Abe is going to handle the case.

Anonymous said...

waaa waaaa waaa, abeee wabee doesnt say hi to me, waaa waa waaa.

Definitely past your bed time.

Sherlock Holmes said...

Anonymous said...
It appears that Manuel Valle was sentenced, or should I say re-sentenced on March 16, 1988. Now all of you pundints can do your math and figure out who is and who is not Rumpole


Yeah. That narrows it down to about 500 lawyers. We don't know if he was an ASA, PD, or just some young lawyer carrying his boss's briefcase.

Tony Soprano said...

I'm taking this blog over and charging a fee for its use. Who wants to be the first to complain?

Anonymous said...

Abe doesn;t even say hello to those who have been in the office for years. He is always unpleasant. However, the majority of ASAs, especially those who have been there for the majority of their legal careers, are ethical, honest, hardworking and have common sense and perspective. For anyone to say otherwise, harbors resentment against those who seek justice and protect the community everyday.

abe laeser said...

OK, I get it.

You want more hugs. You think that no smile is equal to being mean.

Are you telling me that there will be a small crowd at my funeral?

Mea culpa. Mea maxima culpa.

Now watch the game -- Bears just came back from 23-3 to lead 24-23.

Anonymous said...

the death squad, c'mon in Miami ? Never I say Never in Miami.

1. never has a judge been paid to fix a case here... oops sorry

2. never has a ja extorted judges... oops sorry

Ok you win maybe a death squad was in Miami

Anonymous said...

Abe has a right not to say hello if he doesn't want to. After a few failed attempts, it ended up being better just passing him by without saying hello - better to know where one stands. No one owes anyone anything.

He's right, there's no time for happy feel good need for hugs and hand holding. Now get back to work. :)

Anonymous said...

From the Herald on suppressed confession by Pineiro:

The state attorneys office was disappointed with the ruling and is evaluating what to do next in the case, spokesman Ed Griffith said.

HEY ED - HOW BOUT BEING DISSAPOINTED IN YOUR DETECTIVES FOR ONCE FOR BLOWING IT. ARE YOU REALLY DISSAPOINTED THAT THE COERCED CONFESSION WAS SUPPRESSED? YEAH, PROBABLY. HOW CAN YOU EXPECT YOUR YOUNG ASA'S TO RESPECT THE LAW, WHEN YOU CLEARLY DO NOT?

Anonymous said...

Sigh. Abe, you response belies my hope that you had changed. While it was amusing and I appreciate the humor, you still don't get it. That "I don't give a crap" attitude is exactly what I was talking about. It's that type of attitude that creates an atmosphere where the young attorneys feel irrelevant and contributes to the turnover. Of course, you're not the only one who adds to that. But, you can help change it, rather than contribute to it. For someone so dedicated to prosecution and the office, I'd think you'd care about that. I hope I'm not wrong. Nothing will change at the SAO until someone of your stature decides to make a difference.

Anonymous said...

yes Abe, start saying hello and people wont leave

brilliant

Anonymous said...

Abe
We were also wondering if you could, in addition to saying "hi" to young lawyers, contribute a portion of your pay check to keep us at the office longer.
p.s. Stop looking at my tits every time we pass in the halls.

Felix Frankfurter said...

Judge Piniero is a shining beacon of hope; an example to all other Judges.

Anonymous said...

10:20/10:27.........apparently, you've never taken any kind of management course or held a position of leadership. Based upon your sarcastic answers, I hope you never do.

One of the biggest reasons people are leaving (and have left) the SAO in droves is because they feel irrelevant, underappreciated (if not totally unappreciated) and unsupported. A very senior attorney who ignores others only contributes to those feelings. The SAO will not recover until the senior folks start taking morale more seriously, stop the infighting and help the prosecutors understand how important their jobs are. It's not all about the money. Unfortunately, too many SAO managers seem to share your attitude.

fake abe laeser said...

Hello again, hello
Just called to say hello
I couldn't sleep at all tonight
And I know it's late
But I couldn't wait

Hello, my friend, hello
Just called to let you know
I think about you ev'ry night
When I'm here alone
And you're there at home, hello

Maybe it's been crazy
And maybe I'm to blame
But I put my heart above my head
We've been through it all
And you loved me just the same
And when you're not there
I just need to hear

Hello, my friend, hello
It's good to need you so
It's good to love you like I do
And to feel this way
When I hear you say, hello

Hello, my friend, hello
Just called to let you know
I think about you ev'ry night
And I know it's late
But I couldn't wait
Hello

Anonymous said...

abe may not be all warm and fuzzy but he is a hell of a prosecutor. he can also teach anyone who has the balls to actually approach him.

truth is young lawyers should at least respect abe for all he has done for the office. but that is the problem with SAO today--the are hiring alot of snot nosed kids who were born on third base and think that they hit a triple. They dont really care about Public service and are just there to get some trial experience or at least claim that they got some trial experience. What always amazes me is how everyone at sao, at all levels claim that they want to try cases, but never the case they are assigned to try this week.

its too bad becuase when I started the SAO had alot of great enthusiastic lawyers who had a great time doing the job. Now there are a bunch of whiny spoiled lazy asses who think that the state doesnt pay me enough to work past 530.

Anonymous said...

10:32 makes some great points, but theres another problem - kids come to the sao thinking they will be prosecutors, and wind up robots.

My supervisor
My supervisor
My supervisor
My supervisor
My supervisor

Anonymous said...

born on third and think they hit a triple?! hilarious