2 fer Friday
Two disturbing stories in the Herald on Friday.
First we learned that Art “You should tell a lie” Koch counseled his client to lie on the witness stand. There are so many problems with what Koch is alleged to have done, we don’t know where to begin.
1) Koch abandoned his responsibilities as an officer of the court. Too often we as defense attorneys act as if the only person required to act in a responsible manner is the prosecutor. Having a client’s life in one’s hands is an awesome responsibility. Yet Mr. Koch denigrated the very court system that gives attorneys like Koch the power to protect and defend his client.
By telling his client to lie, Mr. Koch spit on the Constitution.
2) Koch’s actions damaged everyone associated with the criminal justice system.
We cannot forget, but nor can we fathom, the pain of the parents of Jimmy Ryce. Their pain was not a reason for Mr. Koch or any defense attorney not to try their level best. No matter how heinous the allegation, everyone is entitled to the very best defense possible. But, Mr. Koch has done the equivalent of rubbing Jimmy Ryce’s death in his parent’s face. Again.
Koch's actions, which reach the heights of irresponsibility, create the very real possibility Chavez may have a second trial, requiring Ryce's parents to live through the horror all over again. Who could blame these people if they lost all hope and respect for our court system and the lawyers who work in it?
3) If Koch was physically or mentally unable to effectively represent his client, he owed it to everyone to withdraw from representation in the case. Indeed, the strange events and allegations surrounding his representation should have led him to immediately inform the court and request a special assistant public defender be appointed from the private bar.
Any way you look at this, Mr. Koch has taken his entire career and ruined his name, tarnished the court system in Miami, and open new wounds in people who have suffered more than anyone should ever have to suffer.
Jimmy Ryce was a little boy who was senselessly murdered. His life should stand for something other than the unmitigated failure of a justice system and the lawyers who work in it.
This is a dark day for all of us.
The Herald also reported on Friday about the court records scandal.
With the Florida Supreme Court about to hold oral arguments on the practice of altering state court criminal records, the Florida Public Defenders Association has called for the appointment of a special prosecutor.
The Dade County State Attorneys Office responded thusly:
''Absurdity doesn't merit comment.''
Altering court records is a crime. If prosecutors and Judges did this, they may have committed a crime, their good intentions to serve justice not withstanding:
“the road to hell is paved with good intentions.”
To restore the integrity of the justice system, a Special Prosecutor is just what this mess needs.
The hubris of the State Attorneys Office we can do without.
What in the name of Abu Gariff is going on at the SAO and PD's office? These two Miami institutions, which traditionally produce some of the finest lawyers in Miami, if not Florida and beyond, are both sporting serious black eyes.
The phrase "Inmates running the asylum" comes to mind.
Bennett Brummer owes an explanation as to how he could allow an attorney who was not physically and mentally up to the task, to take on the defense of the most serious case his office was handling. He also must explain the training and oversight procedures at an office which we find out had a senior trial attorney telling his client to lie on the stand.
Kathy “Fernandle” needs to put a cork in her mouth piece. The seriousness of changing court records needs to be an investigated. One hopes that that the arrogance of the State Attorneys Office does not come back to bite them in their briefs.
We can’t help but think that what both of these offices need is a good shake up.
Starting at the top.
See You In Court, not flipping clients and changing court records.
PS. Thank You El Capitan for writing about a subject that has been on our minds, and needs to be discussed. We need to keep the pressure on until each and every detainee has counsel. The John Adam example was perfect.