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. THIS BLOG HAS BEEN CALLED "THE DEFINITIVE BLOG ON MIAMI CRIMINAL LAW" BY THE NY TIMES, THE WASHINGTON POST, THE POPE, AND DONALD TRUMP WHO ALSO ONCE SAID IT WAS "REALLY GREAT". POST YOUR COMMENTS, OR SEND RUMPOLE A PRIVATE EMAIL AT HOWARDROARK21@GMAIL.COM

Monday, October 05, 2009

FEAR SATZ

THE FOLLOWING IS ON THE BROWARD BLOG AND IS ABOUT MIKE SATZ AND HIS REIGN OF TERROR IN BROWARD COUNTY. NO OTHER LAWYER IN THE UNITED STATES HAS MORE EVINCED A COMPLETE DISREGARD FOR THE ETHICAL STANDARDS ALL PROSECUTORS ARE REQUIRED TO ADHERE TO. SATZ'S DEMAND THAT PROSECUTORS BRING INNOCENT INDIVIDUALS TO TRIAL UNDER THE AUSPICES THAT "THE JURY SHOULD DECIDE" IS UNETHICAL AND DOWNRIGHT FRIGHTENING. THE RECENT DISCLOSURES OF HIS OFFICE AND HIS PROSECUTORS HIDING EVIDENCE SHOWING THE INNOCENCE OF DEFENDANTS BEING PROSECUTED FOR MURDER AND RAPE MAY WELL BE CRIMINAL. THE RESULTS OF SATZ'S REIGN OF TERROR, AS DISCUSSED ON THESE PAGES AND THE PAGES OF THE BROWARD BLOG (INNOCENT MEN SENT TO DEATH ROW, ONE OF WHOM DIED THERE) SPEAK FOR THEMSELVES.

WHEN WILL BROWARD COUNTY DECIDE THEY NO LONGER WISH TO HAVE THEIR CITIZENS SUBJECT TO THE PROSECUTORIAL MADNESS OF MIKE SATZ?

Why innocent people should fear your State Attorney
by The Escaped Crusader

In a recent case a hospice chaplain was acquitted of a sexual battery charge on a dying woman. The charges are so inflammatory that anyone reading the initial news account of the chaplain's arrest wished him the worst penalty the law could impose. However, after the jury found him not guilty, the prosecutor was quoted as saying the jury reached a fair and just verdict based upon the evidence. That is because there really was no evidence. No DNA to show the chaplain touched or sexually fondled the woman. No fingerprints, no sexual exam showing evidence of some sexual act, and no prior criminal history. Nothing. Rather, the word of another employee who had seen the chaplain kneeling at her bedside and "believed he was touching her inappropriately". Nothing more.

This is an example of the worst of prosecutorial discretion. In other words, your State Attorney has indoctrinated his employees to be afraid to let a case go or be unfounded after arrest. Rather, they would have a jury let the person be acquitted than exercise their informed opinion that the case should not go to trial. That way God forbid the accused ever gets arrested again, the prosecution can say the jury erred in their verdict. Sounds good in practice if you are concerned about your reputation about being a hard line prosecutor. Very disturbing if you are an innocent person.

Just as we would not want to imagine the horror of a dying woman being sexually assaulted by her chaplain, we should be equally outraged at the indoctrination of our prosecutors to let an innocent person go to trial for fear of a dropping a case where the prosecutor knows it is a "fair and just" outcome before the trial begins.

Imagine the horror of the chaplain who had to wrestle with the reality of an arrest and prosecutors urging a jury to convict him when they knew the opposite innocent verdict was the fair and just outcome to the case. That should be more outrageous to our citizens than failing to indict someone who might be guilty. Unless you have watched a trial and waited the painstaking hours while a jury deliberates your fate only to hear a momentary verdict that may go the right way, you cannot imagine his horror and shame. Who knows if we can ever erase the damage to his reputation and psyche. This is all because your elected State Attorney has chosen to rule his prosecutors from a doctrine of fear to ever drop charges.

For those of us who toil in the foxholes of our county's criminal justice system we recoil at the lack of discretion given our prosecutors. And this is in comparison to other counties next door to us which allow prosecutors discretion. This prosecutor congratulated the jury for a fair and just verdict of innocence. If he truly believed that, shouldn't a seasoned prosecutor who has tried cases and knows the probable outcome of an acquittal have the discretion to avoid that nightmare for an innocent person?

We can never undo the trauma of a crime being committed on a citizen. But our State Attorney should not force a nightmare of life changing accusations and a trial on one who we know is innocent. Just imagine if the jury erred and convicted. Does anyone think the prosecutor would have made those same remarks about the lack of evidence? And an innocent life would have been lost.

This has been the way our county has prosecuted crimes since Mr. Satz's election in 1976. In many instances, a hard line prosecutor is what our citizens want when a case is open and shut for guilt. But to run an office like that in the gray areas of questionable accusations against a chaplain with no criminal history is more outrageous than the evil of letting a guilty person go free. Those of you who have ever been wrongfully accused know the true horror of our system of justice in this county. We should pray for a change as hard as we pray for justice for the true victims of crime.

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wow Rump. And I thought you were above this kind of blogging.

You (and the JAA Blog) are being totally unfair to this prosecutor by taking his quote out of context (I express no opinion on Satz or his office, just the prosecutor in this case). Here's what the prosecutor actually said according to the paper:

"After the trial, Prosecutor Justin Griffis said that though the hospital employee was "so certain about what she thought she saw" and never wavered, he believed the jury returned a 'just and right verdict' based upon the evidence."

That's all he said. He didn't say that his only evidence was an aide who "believed [the chaplain" was touching her inappropriately" or any of the other things the post suggests he said.

Regardless, the comment on the jury verdict does not, of course, mean that the prosecutor believed the chaplain is innocent. The prosecutor could have been recognizing the difficulties of his case. It amazes me how so many are so quick to give murders, rapists and child molesters the benefit of the doubt, but not public servants. Think about what you're doing: you're trying, convicting and sentencing this young prosecutor without knowing all the facts or hearing his side. Something you would criticize everyone and their uncle for if they did that to one of your clients.

Slam Satz all you want, it's your right. But, don't take out your frustration on individual prosecutors who work for him unfairly.

PS----If the prosecutor said: "those jurors are morons. What were they thinking?," you'd be on the prosecutor like white on rice.

Anonymous said...

Broward County criminal lawyers are a disgrace.

Rumpole said...

I think the problem you don't see is prosecutorial discretion- in this case the prosecutor needed to say to the witness- I am sure you are telling the truth as you saw it. But we don't have enough evidence here to prosecute the case. Unspoken should have been the professional knowledge that the witness , while telling the truth, may and probably was was mistaken about what they saw. The bigger tragedy would have been if the jury had found the defendant guilty. How would YOU feel if you or a family member were prosecuted on the word of one witness without supporting evidence on the type of crime which has a name that by itself will tarnish you for the rest of your life?

It's the difference between a professional prosecutor and what goes on in Broward.

Anonymous said...

Broward "defense" lawyers need to stop whining and try more cases. period. Suck it up. Don't be scared. Do what you are paid to do: fight for your client. Stop taking sissy pleas. by running from trial, you enable rogue prosecutors.

Anonymous said...

Agree with 8:49 am - and that includes the public pretenders, who are a disgrace to those of us who served as PDs elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

I say a big AMEN for Janet Reno and Kathy Rundle

CAPTAIN said...

Rump:

Clarence Thomas & your thoughts:

Thomas, who is well known for not asking any questions during oral arguments, has often been critisized, for this practice. Some people have even questioned his intellect as a reason for why he does not speak.

In a forum he participated in with Ted Olsen, Thomas was critical of his brethren on the Supreme Court. He felt that they all interrupted the attorneys way too much and that they may be doing so just "to get a chuckle out of the audience". He thought the best practice is to let the attorneys speak uninterrupted to try and get their points across. This was their last chance to try and convince the court of their position, and why interrupt them when they only have a short time to do it.

Now, Rump, I am not taking sides on this issue, but I was wondering whether you had any thoughts on Thomas' position, (forgetting for a moment, if you can, the ultimate decisions that he makes on the cases).

Cap Out ....

CAPTAIN said...

THE CAPTAIN REPORTS:

Are they listening in ?????

"Is Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee really saying that the only way an attorney can talk confidentially with a client at his jail is through a personal visit? Is he really taking the position that it is okay to record attorney-client phone conversations that prosecutors can easily access? If so, the sheriff is way off base and should review the law. . . .

The issue arose when defense attorney John Trevena discovered that his telephone conversations with jailed client Richard Daniel Decoursy had been recorded. During routine records disclosure, prosecutors turned over to Trevena a CD with the conversations. Trevena was pretty upset, as any attorney would be, and he is seeking legal redress. . . .

The sheriff's position is that because the policy of recording all calls is disclosed, there are no constitutional or ethical issues. . . .

That's not how it works. The jail has a responsibility to protect attorney-client privilege in phone conversations just as it does for mail exchanges."

For the entire editorial from the Tampa Tribune go here:

http://www.tampabay.com/opinion/
editorials/protect-lawyers-calls-with-clients/1041097

Cap Out ....

Faux Fakey Fakerstein, Esq. said...

Rumpole --

You had a hospital employee who was adamant that she saw the Defendant committing a sex act on a dying 70-year old woman.

Eyewitness testimony is (and has been repeatedly been shown to be) iffy at best, but a prosecutor doesn't just tell a witness -- "Well, we only have your testimony, so we're dropping the case."

The guy was accused (excuse my crudeness) of fingering an old lady dying in a hospital bed.

What DNA would there necessarily be in this circumstance unless he has a magical ejaculating finger? Granted, some possibility of DNA for this alleged offense, but not probable.

Similarly, what fingerprints get left on a living body. None. Absent some substance on the finger that leaves a mark, you're not pulling fingerprints off a live victim.

So in the end, you have a witness with no axe to grind saying she saw a crime being committed and a defendant protesting innocence.

But in this case, do we get to say there should have been no prosecution based on what has been reported?

Sounds like the guy should have been acquitted unless there was evidence that wasn't in the news report (always a possibility).

Did the jury make the right decision? Probably.

But the alleged victim, a 70-year old dying woman, didn't have the ability to testify as to what happened, so we are left with a witness who in good faith reported what she saw (or thinks she saw).

There are crimes for which there will be no physical evidence, in which the only evidence is a person who says "It happened and I saw him do it". That in and of itself doesn't mean you shouldn't prosecute the case.

Satz deserves to be criticized for about a billion things, including the lack of discretion given to line prosecutors in his office.

This certainly would be a sensational story to add to the bandwagon of crap that you can use to slam Satz. But when you hold up what was there and what wasn't there, I don't know if you can say the Sex Crimes Unit didn't have a good faith basis to bring this charge and let the jury decide.

Anonymous said...

Assistant State Attorneys should never forget the power that they have at their fingertips! When I was an assistant in a specialized unit, oh so many years ago, I had a case that overlapped with a Broward case. The mentality across the border was to charge the defendant with everthing because "he would eventually plea to something".

I am a strong believer in the philosophy of Janet Reno in that you do not file charges if there is a "reasonable hypothesis of innocense". The anonimity of FSU (the Felony Screening Unit) makes it too easy to file charges that are impossible to prove, the actual trial attorneys that are going to try the cases should be the ones to assess the viability of the cases and whether they are worthy of prosecution. That way you can avoid months of "State Attorney time" prior to a nolle prosse. Hire attoreys that you trust to make the correst decisions, that is the way it worked in the 1980s.

Anonymous said...

Thomas is right and wrong. Attorneys should be given an opportunity to make oral arguments designed to convince the justices. But, the questions do not prevent this; they help. If a specific justice has a specific issue, the question raised provides the attorney the best opportunity to address the issue and thereby convince the justice. No questions? Then why bother having oral argument. Just let it be decided on the papers.

Anonymous said...

Is Eig out again??? Can anyone confirm he's losing his division once more?

Anonymous said...

I have been defending cases in Dade and Broward for over 20 years.

Numerous times, Broward ASA's have told me that they know they can not get a conviction but, will try anyway and let the jury decide.

When you show them that your client is innocent, they offer a withold.

The Feds laugh about how the Satz office is simply not interested in prosecuting bad cops or corrupt politicians.

Satz needs to go.

Anonymous said...

Rump,

I'm not missing that at all. You're not considering the possibility that the prosecutor believed he had enough evidence to win. We all know that jury trials can be crap shoots. Why assume that this particular prosecutor is unethical? That's the part I have trouble with.

You want to slam him for trying a case with so little evidence, that's your prerogative (I don't see how you could without reviewing the testimony yourself. You really think it's appropriate to rely on an newspaper article? Come on!). But you did more than that. You suggested that the prosecutor either believed the defendant was innocent or felt his case was unprovable. You suggested that he went forward anyway because he didn't have the guts to do the right thing. There's no evidence of that and that kind of allegation is way to serious to just throw around (if it was true, he doesn't know the first thing about what it means to be a prosecutor and should be disbarred).

BTDT (yes, I posted the 8:27 post, I just forgot to sign it).

Anonymous said...

Boo hoo cry baby defense attorneys who are upset at the big bad prosecutors. Do you do anything but complain about your lot in life? Do you file bar complaints against prosecutors who are handling cases unethically? Do you campaign for new leadership at the SAO? Do you take the bad cases to trial, or just plead them out and get the biggest fee you can from your client? Oh you don't do anything? Yeah, that's what I thought.

Rumpole said...

Faux wrote:

but a prosecutor doesn't just tell a witness -- "Well, we only have your testimony, so we're dropping the case."

Actually Faux they do. When the case comes in they tell the detective and or the witnesses- you have something here, but you don't have enough. I'm concerned and we need more work, but while I'm very suspicious there is also an equal chance the witness misinterpreted what they saw and the defendant is innocent so I cannot file charges without more evidence.

Good prosectors do this every day. I don't know if Mr. Laeser in retirement still reads our blog, but I suspect he would support my view here, as odious as supporting me on anything would be to him.

Scott Saul said...

I have had a lot of acquittals in Broward, not only because of my lawyering skills, but also because the case simply should not have gone to trial.

Do you ever notice that when you list defense witnesses, the Broward State Attorneys Office (for the "pit" cases, the higher level ASAs are just as professional as anywhere else) rarely issues subpeonas to take their depos?

Could it be that they do not care what they have to say?

They do not care about the components of a defense?

The possibility of learning about exonerating evidence?

I actually feel bad for some of these prosecutors. Since they do not get to act like real lawyers by exercising some discretion, it inevitably hampers their development as attorneys. They leave that office with inferior experience as compared to Miami-Dade or Palm Beach.

Scott Saul said...

Some of you have the Broward thing wrong. The defense bar is not passive. The "regular" players in that court house work their butts off house because you cannot resolve the cases. One of my best friends, Sid Fleischman, is a regular there and, at age 47, he works way too hard. That is a very tough environment to be an aggressive defense lawyer.

BTW, Justin Griffis is a pretty reasonable, hardworking and decent- minded ASA. They can get a whole lot worse

Rumpole said...

3:10- I have six not guilty's hanging on my wall on Broward cases where I was told they knew they should not proceed to trial but had not authority to dismiss the case and their supervisors position was "let the jury decide".

I also have a 1983 (federal action) settlement against the State for a Broward case they tried, but the terms were sealed pursuant to the settlement agreement so I can't talk more than saying this- when I sent a return receipt letter to Satz outlying the problems with the case (the arresting officer said in depo my client was innocent but his supervisor made him arrest my client) . Of course the line prosecutor had no authority to dismiss the case and it went to trial and I got a 10 minute not guilty. When we showed the letter to Satz to the county attorney we had a deal on our desk by 5pm.

It's disgusting what happens in Broward. They are the joke of the State. Judges in other jurisdictions like Tallahasse, Jax, Pensacola, have asked me why things are so bad in Broward? It makes me sick and I hate going there and I have no idea how anyone works there on a regular basis.

Anonymous said...

Laeser has joined your ranks and is now a defense attorney.

Anonymous said...

12:57:00 pm, remember pre-file weeks in the 80's? ASA's had to do the pre-files of the cases they were going to try? That prevented a lot of garbage from being filed because no one wanted to add to their own workload by filing crappy cases.

abe laeser said...

Rumpole,
We may have been adversaries on some distant date, but I would never consider a "true believer" to be odious. Now you insult me, sir.

Justice is served when two noble and prepared adversaries do their best to present their case in its best light - for the jury to decide where truth lies.

As to your premise: Yes, I am far more proud of those cases in which I have declined to prosecute than any which I did prosecute. The reason is simple. I thought of the Gerry Spence phrase: the Citizen Accused.

I thought about that "citizen" who is at home with his family, or at work - and whose life I can alter forever with a single word. Does he deserve that treatment unless I can prove this case - in complete good faith - to a jury of peers? Can I, even using my most persuasive arguments, prove this case beyond a reasonable doubt? Then I took a second analysis. I assumed that my opposing counsel was unskilled in the courtroom. Then I asked myself, even if that takes place - would the evidence support conviction, beyond the Rule 3.850 which would come one day; but in my heart - did this citizen deserve to be convicted on the available evidence?

Far too many very evil people are walking amongst us because I told a detective to gather more evidence before I would approve an arrest warrant. Perhaps that should frighten me, but I put my personal blinders on and told myself that no one is guilty until a jury says they are. My beliefs about actual guilt always took a back seat to my capacity to prove guilt by admissible evidence.

Sure, it sounds like I am patting myself on the back, but lots of members of the defense bar know for a fact that their clients have obtained the full measure of my personal standard of reasonable doubt.

I am as frightened as any other citizen when a prosecutor says that a jury can decide in cases where the evidence is so weak as to create inherent doubts. I read some news articles with dread when a prosecutor makes short shrift of a person's life and reputation. Even the ABA Standards for prosecution suggest that no case should be filed unless there is a reasonable likelihood that a jury would convict on proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

My family lived and died in a world that had no standards. I never sought to repeat those errors. No case is worth my reputation, or my soul. Perhaps that is why I have time to write to you at this hour, but it was always the right choice for me. I do not regret it for a moment.

Anonymous said...

I don't have a problem with the State taking cases to trial. That's the job of the SAO?

I would like to see some compromise with cases such as this one in which you have one witness who says what she saw is fact, and a defendant who says he is innocent.

First, the SAO should offer the witness a polygraph and if the witness fails (shows deception) just drop the case.

If the witness shows no deception the State should offer the defendant a polygraph with a promose that if the defendant shows no deception the case will be dismissed.

Compromise is the solution for a tough case like this. The SAO has to be sure a sicko is not set free without a jury hearing the case.

Remember there is a witness. How do you compromise a case like this one?

Anonymous said...

6:32

Poly the eyewitness? Will the poly show you an honest mistake? The issue is mistake, not deception. We don't call them "lying identity" cases, now do we?

ASA Griffis said...

Much of the above posting about this case that I prosecuted could not be further from the truth.
It’s precipitated by a partial quote in the newspaper, part of a much larger statement I gave to the reporter, that has been taken out of context. Granted, even in context, this was not the best choice of words on my part. What I had intended my words to mean was not how they were construed.

Beyond that, the above posting neglects many of the facts in this case.

Going in, I knew this case would be very difficult. But then, if cases were dropped simply because the evidence consisted largely of the testimony of a sole witness, there would be numerous cases that would be unjustly dropped. That is not the standard that I gauge cases by.

Prior to the trial, I considered the strengths and weaknesses of the case. I again brought in the witness, a nurse’s aide who witnesses the incident and had never met the defendant. Following that interview, I was confident that there was a reasonable likelihood of conviction. The witness was very specific about what she saw, including the defendant’s sex organ, and what he was doing with it. She was adamant that there was no mistake on her part. The surrounding evidence supported her story. On the stand, the defendant acknowledged he was standing at the head of the bed, not kneeling nor holding her hand.

During the trial, it simply was whether the jury believed the witness was accurate in her observations. They did not. Hence my “comment,” only partially reported and misconstrued as it was.

There was no pressure to proceed from those above me, no “indoctrination”. In fact, I had been told quite the contrary, to drop the case if I felt that there was no reasonable likelihood of conviction. I concluded there was a reasonable likelihood of conviction. Had I felt the defendant innocent, I would not have proceeded to trial.

Anonymous said...

Rump, regarding your comments:
"I have six not guilty's hanging on my wall on Broward cases where I was told they knew they should not proceed to trial but had not authority to dismiss the case and their supervisors position was "let the jury decide".

I also have a 1983 (federal action) settlement against the State for a Broward case they tried, but the terms were sealed pursuant to the settlement agreement so I can't talk more than saying this- when I sent a return receipt letter to Satz outlying the problems with the case (the arresting officer said in depo my client was innocent but his supervisor made him arrest my client) . Of course the line prosecutor had no authority to dismiss the case and it went to trial and I got a 10 minute not guilty. When we showed the letter to Satz to the county attorney we had a deal on our desk by 5pm."

A few months ago you published similar comments, except they said the prosecutor said he could not win the case, but the prosecutor said he was told to try the case anyway by the jury. I chastised you then for being a wimp and not reporting them to someone who could do something about them like the Florida Bar, the judge, or the State Attorney. Of course, it is your style and many others to blog anonymously. Why don't you produce the letter to Satz saying that the arresting officer believed the defendant to be innocent? Unless there is some greatly extenuating circumstances, there is no way that would happen. I would also like to know how you were able to seal a settlement agreement where taxpayer funds are used. I have never heard of such a thing.
One of the rights guaranteed in the constitution, that you have no use for unless it is for one of your clients, is the right to confront your accusers. If you are going to accuse Satz, prove it or shut up.

Rumpole said...

My problems with the Broward SAO in this regard are long standing. Because I am anonymous and wish to remain so, I cannot produce the letter (plus it was many many years ago and I'm not sure I still have the file.) Plus, there is a confidentiality clause and I cannot discuss this without my client's agreement and who knows where s/he is these days?

However, if you read the blog you will see I am one of many defense lawyers who has been repeatedly told by line ASAs in Broward that they are not allowed to drop charges and the policy is to let the jury decide the case. So there.

Anonymous said...

Rump:
Your answer that you would have to get client approval is nonsense. You claim to have sent a letter to Satz. No privilege applies since YOU SENT THE LETTER. Okay, you do not want to lose your anonymity. You still do not tell us why you did not tell the court the state was acting in bad faith, or go to the Fla. Bar or go to a SAO supervisor or the State Attorney. And you do not explain how the settlement of taxpayer's funds was sealed.

Since you are unwilling to prove what you allege happened in the past, then, if it happens again, you and all the other defense attorneys are encouraged to speak with any of the division chiefs or chief state attorney or the State Attorney. It is not the policy to let the jury decide unless there is a reasonable likelihood of conviction.