they needed to appoint an experienced criminal defense lawyer, and no one agreed to take the case?
Judge Will Thomas is right in the middle of trying five individuals who are alleged to have committed the most heinous of crimes. One has already been convicted and the jury voted for death. On the pages of this very blog, the lead prosecutor commended the defense attorneys. He recognized what we all do- that a vigorous defense leads to a fair and just verdict.
It is very clear that the Florida Legislature will not continue to pay for the type of defense necessary for these types of cases. With the trend towards higher minimum mandatory sentences, and the fervent belief that any and all criminal cases should result in life altering lengthy prison sentences, why should we as criminal defense attorneys be surprised that the Legislature does not want to pay for the defense of the individuals they want to incarcerate forever and a day?
The first thing the prosecutor’s office does not want to do is lose a case at trial. The second thing they do not want to do, after having given a victim or next of kin some closure on a case, is to go back to them several years later and tell them that the whole process has to start over. Remember the spectacle of Jimmy Ryce’s parents sitting through the sordid Rule 3.850 hearing recently? Who among us did not feel their pain and angst as they wondered when the process would end? When the Legislature takes away funding for experienced criminal defense attorneys, in the end, like some Greek Tragedy, they will hurt those they pretend to want to help- good people like Jimmy Ryce’s parents.
Perhaps it is not enough to pontificate on these pages that the Florida Legislature will get what it pays for. But it needs to be said. Tragedies are currently happening now in the criminal justice system, and they will accelerate at a greater pace. Eventually, some nephew of a politician will be convicted of enhanced criminal mischief and sentenced to a 20 year minimum mandatory, and someone will stop and wonder what all this pandering to “being tough on crime” has wrought.
Until then, we can do what we have always done. Continue representing accused individuals to the very best of our ability. And some time in the hopefully not too distant future we will look back on these as the dark days of criminal defense.
See You In Court, doing what we always do, and doing it well.
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