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

Friday, July 29, 2011

REGIONAL COUNSEL APPLICANTS & MORE

THE CAPTAIN REPORTS:

BREAKING NEWS -

GROSSBARD - LAESER - PLOSS - SMITH - ZENOBI -

REGIONAL COUNSEL - 3RD DCA APPLICANTS .......

What a crowd of applicants! And such a diverse group. One lists his home address with the Bar as "United States"; six other candidates live outside of Miami; two are current APD's; two currently work for the OCCCRC; and one candidate has been practicing law since the Johnson administration (as in "All the way with LBJ"). Here are your candidates for the next Director of the Office of Regional Counsel for the Third District:

Gregory T. Brown (1988), no office address
John D. Bruhn (1989), office in Bradenton
Gena Lauren Cohen (2002), pers. injury atty in Sunrise
Roland Falcon (1997), office in Jacksonville
Robert Friedman (1985), APD in Tallahassee
Joseph P. George, Jr. (1994), Incumbent
Ana Gomez-Mallada (1989), office in Lighthouse Point
Steven Grossbard (1973)
Kevin J. Hellmann (1996), APD in Miami
Marie H. Kim (not listed in the Bar)
Abraham Laeser (1973), retired ASA
William Earl Ploss (1978)
Russell A. Shepherd (1992)
Sky E. Smith (1965), that's 46 years practicing law
Shari L. Vrod (1998), OCCCRC in West Palm Beach
Eugene F. Zenobi (1970), OCCCRC in Miami

CIRCUIT COURT JUDGE

No changes in non-incumbents that have filed to run in Miami-Dade:

Maria Elena Verde
Miguel de la O
Maria de Jesus Santovenia
Richard Hersch

None have opposition.

COUNTY COURT

Non-Incumbents include:

Ivonne Cuesta (no opposition)

Tanya Brinkley & John Malgoza Rodriguez filed in same race. Rodriguez has thrown down $100,000 of his own money to fund the campaign.

NEW JUDGES ON THE WAY

We are two weeks away from the appointment of two new Circuit Court Judges. Candidates that are on the Governor's desk include:

Miguel M. De La O
Rosa C. Figarola
Richard Hersch
Thomas J. Rebull
Alan D. Sackrin
Deborah White-Labora

We are four weeks away from the appointment of two new County Court Judges. Candidates that are on the Governor's desk include:

William Altfield
Tanya Brinkley
Ivonne Cuesta
John Goran
Steven Lieberman
Spencer Multack
Thomas Rebull
Martin Zilber

We are three weeks away from the appointment of a new 3rd DCA Judge. Candidates that are on the Governor's desk include:

Judge Jennifer D. Bailey
Bambi Groff Blum, Esq.
Judge Ivan F. Fernandez
Thomas W. Logue, Esq.
Judge Jose M. Rodriguez
Edwin A. Scales, III, Esq.



Have a great weekend.



CAPTAIN OUT .......

Thursday, July 28, 2011

MENS REA

Hello Miami criminal lawyers. I am Tilly____, a Solicitor in the UK enlisted by your Rumpole to help supervised the blog in his absence. I was instructed not to get involved unless something big happened. I think this qualifies as BIG:
Mr. Markus emailed Rumpole the news that a Federal Judge has ruled that Florida's Drug Laws are unconstitutional because they do not require Mens Rea to commit the crime. I cannot hope to approximate the type of post your Rumpole will do. But here are the particulars.


FLORIDA'S DRUG LAWS (893.13) ARE UNCONSTITUTIONAL!

So says Federal Judge Mary Scriven from your Middle District:

On May 13, 2002, the Florida Legislature enacted changes to Florida’s Drug Abuse Prevention and Control law, FLA. STAT. § 893.13, as amended by FLA. STAT. § 893.101. By this enactment, Florida became the only state in the nation expressly to eliminate mens rea as an element of a drug offense. This case, challenging the constitutionality of that law, was filed following Plaintiff’s conviction for delivery of cocaine without the jury being required to consider his intent in any respect and the subsequent imposition of an eighteen year sentence following his conviction. Upon consideration of all relevant filings, case law, and being otherwise fully advised, the Court GRANTS Petitioner’s request for habeas relief (Dkt. 1), and finds that FLA. STAT. § 893.13 is unconstitutional on its face.


Here is the Amicus brief signed by your famous David O Markus.

Rumpole will be back soon. He is quite liked over here, but of course as his real persona and not his nom de blog.

Te/update/fladruguncon/aspersera

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

MY FINAL OFFER IS THIS: NOTHING....

Veteran actor G.D. Spradlin passed away yesterday at age 90. He was probably best known for his portrayal of Senator Pat Geary in 2:


Senator Pat Geary: I want your answer and the money by noon tomorrow. And one more thing. Don't you contact me again, ever. From now on, you deal with Turnbull.
Michael: Senator? You can have my answer now, if you like. My final offer is this: nothing. Not even the fee for the gaming license, which I would appreciate if you would put up personally.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS

FEDERAL NOMINATIONS: DOM breaks the news that two State Court Judges: Jerald Bagely and John Thornton are among the four nominees sent to the President for the District Court of the Southern District of Florida. Federal Magistrates John O'Sullivan (former AUSA) and Robin Rosenbaum are the other two nominees. FYI: This is not the first time Judge Bagely has been nominated.


In 1978 Manuel Valle shot and killed Coral Gables Police Officer Louis Pena.
Valle was arrested a short time later. 24 days after his arrest he was tried, convicted, and sentenced to death by Judge Ellen Morphonious.

24 days from crime to being condemned was just a little too fast for the Justice system, and his conviction and sentence was reversed.

33 years later Valle is still alive and, as the Herald reports, the Florida Supreme Court has stayed his execution date of August 2, 2011 so a Miami Dade Judge can conduct a sentencing hearing on whether the new three drug cocktail used for lethal injections is painful.

We are no fans of the death penalty, but there is something about holding a hearing on whether a drug cocktail designed to stop a person's heart and kill them is painful that just seems a bit too much. The system is clearly broken.

24 days was way to fast. But 33 years of legal maneuvering seems more than a bit disrespectful to the memory of Officer Pena and his family. It's cases like these that the public latches on to and causes them to believe this is typical of the justice system. Nothing about Manuel Valle's case has been typical. But enough is enough. It's time for this case to end.


REGJB Trivia: Valle was sentenced to death by a Judge who was a former PD and an avowed opponent of the death penalty. That Judge made his opposition to the death penalty well known at the time he pronounced sentence. Name that Judge. (Note: Judge Morphonious's first trial and sentence 24 days after the shooting was obviously overturned. There was a new trial and a new sentencing phase and Valle was sentenced to death. That death sentence (but not the guilty verdict) was overturned and a third sentencing hearing was conducted by a different Judge.)


Manuel Valle, the bell tolls for thee.



mqc-vkay/amberj-dayii/isedit

Monday, July 25, 2011

RUMPOLE ON HOLIDAY





MONDAY UPDATE: NFL LOCKOUT IS OVER! Free agent signings will be allowed by as early as Tuesday. Dolphins not expected to make big splash but may lose one or two of their starting running backs from last year.
NO MOVEMENT ON DEBT CRISIS as competing Republican and Democratic plans falter amid internicine politics.
r-a-blogasst1b2/MOnupd

Even the hardest working attorney takes holiday every now and then.

Bu fear not, a loyal army of blog assistants will pitch in and the blog will run smoothly. So post your comments and we'll try and stay on top of the issues as they emerge.

A heat wave has blanketed most of the country (but if you're a Republican it was not because of global warming, so just keep praying for cooler weather).

We hereby humbly offer our Summer Cooler ( (c) Rumpole 2011) to help our northern friends stay cool:

Squeeze one large organic navel orange into a container along with the juice of two organic lemons and one organic lime. Pour in three quarts of cold water and two tablespoons of agave sweetener. Pour in some ice and let sit. While waiting, go into the refrigerator and start drinking cold beer. When done, your summer cooler will be ready. Rinse. Repeat.



DEBT CEILING ANSWER?
Does section 4 of the 14 Amendment allow the President to raise the debt ceiling all on his own?

Section. 4. The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned. But neither the United States nor any State shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void.

The NY Times article is here.

See You In Court when we get back.


mqc-vkay/amberj

Thursday, July 21, 2011

CALLED OUT

FRIDAY UPDATE: DOM reports that Bob Scola's nomination to the Southern District was unanimously approved by voice vote by the Senate judiciary committee. That prompted Southern District Chief Judge Fred Moreno to send a letter to Senators Reid and McConnell imploring them have the full senate act on the nominations of Kathy Williams (currently the nominee waiting the longest for a vote) and Scola, of whom Moreno writes "litigants are eagerly awaiting" his appointment.

And all along we thought judicial shopping was disapproved of.


It's not enough that Federal prosecutors lose their job and get bar complaints when they tangle with him in trial, now everyones favourite federal defender has CALLED OUT Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer over remarks Breuer made at the recent National District Attorneys Association Summer Conference (Motto:
"Convict em all- let the innocence project sort em out." )

In any event, I challenge Mr. Breuer to a debate on the subject of prosecutorial and defense ethics. Just for starters, I would ask Mr. Breuer why DOJ is opposing a change to Rule 16 (as suggested by the ABA and on July 7, by NACDL) requiring what their guidelines merely suggest.


Sunday morning traffic accident=Wednesday Mourning Lawsuit.
The Herald reports Spencer Aronfeld has filed suit against Alonzo Mourning Wednesday for the traffic accident on Sunday. (Hat tip South Florida Lawyers).
Obviously things are slow on the civil side.


Alex On Track:

The Herald reports that as the murder trial of one Coral Gables Highschool student accused of killing a fellow student began, Alex Michaels was up to his old tricks:

The trial, expected to last about two weeks, should provide plenty of drama and legal theatrics -- Rodriguez’s lead lawyer, Alexander Michaels, is known for his combative, aggressive style and on Tuesday he and Circuit Judge Dava Tunis exchanged loud, sharp words over legal objections.

Go Alex Go.
(A defense fund for Mr. Michaels will be set up shortly.)

See you in court.


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A LINE OF THE TIMES

BREAKING....ZO HIT AND RUN ON THE BEACH.... Rumpole says- our policy is to
avoid former Heat players in a Porsche. But that's just us.

Say it ain't Zo. (We couldn't resist.)


We nearly forgot- July 20th- one of favourite days. Talk about American exceptionalism....
this was the real deal.
Godspeed Neil and Buzz...
....




Some significant moments on the video: 1:48 the go/no for undocking; 3:25 the go/no
for landing; 3:42 the infamous 1202 alarm; 4:35 the "60 seconds" left of fuel call;
4:58 "The Eagle has landed." 7:30- the first EVA on the moon.



Fools rush in where Angels fear to tread....

By popular demand, we re-post the comments everybody is
talking about:

Scott Saul said...

The "line" situation is ridiculous and the adminstration needs to not only assume the blame but also come up with a solution.

This is not a recent phenomena but has been perculating up for a long time.

The cause for it is obvious;

The security is undertrained,

There is a lack of manpower and a

lack of machines.

While I understand the immediate cause of the problem, I am baffled by the lack of effort to, at the least, try to mitigate the problem.

Listen, you can't have people standing in the hot sun for an hour. You cannot have professionals treated like they are cattle and get prodded by an untrained person. You cannot have people, nervous at it is because they are going to criminal court, get worried because they feel that they will suffer the consequences of being late or missing court. One day, serious violence will erupt because this is a riot waiting to happen.

If this was scrutinized by a private sector, it would be deemed wholly unacceptable.

Simple things like staggering court schedules, scheduling appearance 30 minutes early, doing away with the frisking of professionals and, most importantly, when one person is being screened, have another security personel keep the line moving.

The current situation is embarassingly assinine. I watch females get poked in an improper manner. There is a definite noticeable difference between how different races are screened. It is inexcusable that there is not a law enforcement officer positioned in front of the line assisting and preparing those about to enter into the building.

The current system can only be accurately described as "sucking". However, the powers that be that are responsible for monitoring or improving should be the most ashamed.

I could do better! There's room for improvement. Whose got the common sense, decency and motivation to recognize that this is a problem and, whether you are a professional or a defendant, nobody should have to stand in line, in the hot sun, to get into a public building?

Come on! Don't be a poser! Do something! When there is a problem, you don't complain about the problem, you solve the problem.

Monday, July 18, 2011 7:34:00 PM



FACDL Miami said...

Scott:

You are always fair and straight to the point with your posts. You use your name, which very few are willing to do on this blog. Your comments are nearly always right on!

Yesterday, you posted a great post and you ended it with:

"I could do better! There's room for improvement. Whose got the common sense, decency and motivation to recognize that this is a problem and, whether you are a professional or a defendant, nobody should have to stand in line, in the hot sun, to get into a public building?

Come on! Don't be a poser! Do something! When there is a problem, you don't complain about the problem, you solve the problem."

In response to your post, you are being sent a membership application to finally join the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Miami Chapter. That way, you can join our effort that Betty Llorente, Bob Pardo and others on the Board have been working on for several weeks now. We met with the Chief Judge about this issue in June. As a result of that meeting, we believe that we should be able to get private attorneys passes to enter the GJB similar to those used by the SAO and the PDO.

Of course, the private attorneys will have to become members of FACDL-Miami and go through the process of obtaining the pass which we are attempting to set up with the AOC and/or the PDO as soon as possible. There are several administrative hoops to jump through, (as you can imagine) all involving security issues, but we invite you to join the effort by becoming a member and then by stepping up to the plate on this issue, as we have always known that:

"[You can] do better"!!!!!

Again, great post.

FACDL

Tuesday, July 19, 2011 11:16:00 AM

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

WOULD YOU BUY A USED CAR

from any of these characters?




REGJB Irregular Alex Michaels is in trial for the defense of Andy Rodriguez who is charged with fatally stabbing a fellow Coral Gables Highschool Student. Jury selection began Monday before Judge Tunis.


If a tree falls in the woods and no one is around, does it make a sound?

Does a business dispute a Judge has, which began when he or she was an attorney, merit discussion on the blog?

If the US deafults on its debt does that mean the Government can't get an AMEX Black card (which is our favourite card and the only one to have. It's anodized Titanium and when we pull it out hotel clerks cannot upgrade us fast enough- plus we get a free night's stay at many top notch hotels like The Mandarin when we book at least one night and that alone plus the travel upgrades is worth the price.).

Appropos of nothing but the last Harry Potter movie was very good and ended the saga in a very satisfying manner.

See You in court. How were the lines Monday?

Monday, July 18, 2011

A LINE IS DRAWN

For those of you not on summer sabbatical, the lines for attorneys to enter the REGJB were interminable last week- and just in time for the real hot and sticky weather!

Once safely ensconced in their air conditioned offices attorneys did what they do best: complain!

Dear Esteemed Colleagues;

Or in this instance “Steamed” Colleagues.

I also go through the line. It is ridiculous, stupid, time consuming, degrading…I have seen many of our Sisters in Law get searched in front of colleagues, I won’t say inappropriately, but it’s worse than the airport at times.

We are on top of this. If we get nowhere next week. I suggest we start an email campaign. I will provide all the names and emails of the powers that be and we will handle it the good old fashioned American way!!

In the interim, Our Public Defender Carlos Martinez has volunteered to use the system set up at the PD’s office to get the ball rolling. We need approval of Sandra Lonergan, the Trial Court Administrator and Chief Judge Joel Brown.

I will advise.



Rumpole (sitting behind a large desk in his study)


Bonasera, Bonasera, what have I ever done to make you treat me so disrespectfully? If you'd come to me in friendship, this scum who ruined your suit would be suffering and sweating this very day. And if by some chance an honest man like yourself made enemies they would become my enemies. And then, they would fear you.


We have known each other many years, but this is the first time you've come to me for counsel or for help. I can't remember the last time you invited me to your house for a cup of coffee. But let's be frank here. You never wanted my friendship. And you feared to be in my debt.


I understand. You found paradise in America. You had a good trade, you made a good living. The police protected you and there were courts of law. So you didn't need a friend like me. Now you come and say "Rumpole, make the line shorter." But you don't ask with respect. You don't offer friendship.


You want respect from those who make the decisions? You can try your little email campaign from your namby pamby "list serv" or you can use the blog. Your choice.


Keep cool baby....




Thursday, July 14, 2011

OPEN FOR BUSINESS

SATURDAY UPDATE: Well here we are, right in the middle of a hot summer. It's raining on the English Coast in Sandwich as they play the British Open. If you've finished reading Matterhorn (and you should be done by now. Do try and keep up.) then try "Memory Of Running" by Ron McClarty. It's a great debut novel and it's what Rumpole is reading to pass the long steamy summer days.


UPDATE: We would be remiss if we did not acknowledge that Judge Linda Wells is the new CJ of the 3rd DCA (motto: No More Extensions!). And a Rumpolian "Well Done Sir" to Judge Juan Ramirez who concluded his tenure as Chief Judge.

Minnesota is open for business again, doncha know.

The land of 10,000 lakes now has a government back in business.

The Times reports here.

Now it remains to be seen if the Federal Government can get its act together.

Meanwhile, one of our summer time favourite events- watching the British Open, promises to provide us with several enjoyable hours this weekend.

See You in Court.
THE CAPTAIN REPORTS:







"The hero and the coward both feel the same thing, but the hero uses his fear, projects it onto his opponent, while the coward runs. It's the same thing, fear, but it's what you do with it that matters." Gus D'Amato

If you missed the ESPY's on Wednesday night, you missed the story of DEWEY BOZELLA. Bozella was presented with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award for 2011 at the annual ESPN awards show last night. http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/news/story?id=6740501.

During his acceptance speech, Bozella used a quote from the great boxing trainer Gus D'Amato about fear. You see, for 26 years Dewey Bozella stood strong and stared fear directly in the face, and finally, fear blinked.

In 1977, Emma Crasper was 92 years old when she was robbed, beaten, and murdered near her home in Poughkeepsie, New York. In 1983, six years after the murder, two inmates told prosecutors that it was Dewey who'd murdered the old woman. They lied because it enabled them to cut deals that would get them released. Despite the fact that there was absolutely no physical evidence connecting Dewey to the crime, a jury found Bozella guilty and he was sentenced to 20 years to life. The case was appealed and Bozella was granted a new trial. In 1990, during the second trial, the ADA offered Bozella the chance to plead guilty and get credit for time served. Bozella turned down the offer - the jury convicted him again - and he returned to prison. Once again he faced the prospect of spending the rest of his life behind bars.


During his time in prison, Dewey was a model prisoner. He earned a bachelor's degree from Mercy College. Then a master's from New York Theological Seminary. He got married. Several guards wrote several times to the Parole Commission recommending Dewey be released. At each parole board hearing thereafter, with a chance to walk out of jail if he just confessed to the crime he was convicted of, Dewey maintained his innocence.

Bozella began writing to the Innocence Project, and he did so every month for several years before they finally responded. But when they finally got a chance to look at his file, all of the physical evidence had been destroyed. Eventually, the Innocence Project was able to convince the high-powered law firm of WilmerHale to handle the case on a pro bono basis. Two associates (with no prior criminal defense experience) spent 2,500 hours on the case between 2007 and 2009. Finally, in October of 2009, they convinced the trial judge to grant Dewey yet a third trial. Given the Judge's ruling, the State dropped the charges against him, and on October 28, 2009, after spending 26 years in jail for a crime he did not commit, 50 year old Dewey Bozella walked out of the courthouse a free man. He had spent more than half of his life behind bars for a murder he did not commit.

There are hundreds, if not thousands of Dewey Bozella's in our prisons throughout the State of Florida and all across this country. And the only thing standing between our clients and their freedom is you, the criminal defense attorney. So, the next time your client tells you he/she didn't do it, think about Dewey Bozella and how he handled fear. He stared it down for 26 years until fear finally lost. Don't ever back down from your convictions when fighting for the freedom of your client. You owe it to all of the other Dewey Bozella's of this world.

And, if you want to do more, contact David Rothman locally (he is Board Treasurer of the Florida Innocence Project) or contact the Florida Innocence Project directly at 850-561-6767 or visit their web site at http://floridainnocence.org/index.php .

CAPTAIN OUT ......


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

THAT TRIAL EXPLAINED

Update: Rumors of a young ASA firing a weapon in the presence of his girlfriend ASA are unfortunately true. The Herald article is here. Lets not get too crazy. People make mistakes. Thankfully no one was injured and one young man lost his job that he worked very hard to get. That's enough. Move on.

Against our better judgment we make one final reference to THAT trial. And actually we are saying nothing. Mr. Abe Laeser said it in an article the Miami Herald ran last Sunday
here. Here are some excerpts, but please use the link and read the entire article on the Herald's website.

WHY IS CAYLEE DEAD?

Think you know? Why — did you see her die? Did you look any witness in the eye and ask them questions? Or are you relying on a commentator’s beliefs about what is a just verdict? If so, you are not alone — but you were not a juror in the Casey Anthony trial....


Let us talk about this cottage industry of each media hiring an expert to analyze the case. I would compare the use of these ‘talking heads’ to choosing a doctor. If your personal physician was an experienced general practitioner, or even a skilled hand surgeon, would that doctor be your first choice in case a family member had severe brain injuries caused by a car accident? Not all doctors are the same, nor are all lawyers. Getting on television may bring in more legal business, but it does not make one any smarter — or right....


Because a lawyer may have been in a courtroom during their careers, what do they know about building a case in which the death penalty is being sought? The death penalty is rarely sought, and properly so. Very few have ever stood in the pit and asked that another person be put to death, or try to prevent it. It is daunting in the extreme, and requires the most thorough possible level of preparation...

The use of lawyers on television as a part of the drumbeat for conviction is immoral, unprofessional, and downright frightening. The use of ‘talking heads’ in the media screaming about their expectation of a certain verdict is no more or less than a form of televised lynch mob. If the press and their hired experts are calling for a conviction, or even the death penalty, they are doing so in the knowledge that they are not using the same evidence that the jury has heard in the courtroom. The legal profession must take itself to the woodshed for fueling such improper speculation. Those lawyers must act professionally, and not as advocates or even shills shouting over each other for one result or another...


Why is Caylee dead? It becomes nothing more than a part of one side’s theory of a motive to commit the acts. But it is only a theory. Yes, it seems horrible that she partied, perhaps even after knowing that her child was dead. That makes her seem evil, and it is a simple mental link to believe that she could have caused the death. Quite obviously there are contrary theories; including the most obvious one: even if Casey benefited from the death, was able to restart her life without the “burden” of a child, reach out for a second chance at Bella Vita — no matter how terrible the concept behind that theory is — it still does not give us one bit of proof as to how and why Caylee is dead...


In truth, having all of these versions of the degree of the crime, the manner of the crime, and little proof as to how any one theory precludes the reasonable doubts raised by the alternate theories —
the jury in the trial of Casey Anthony had no legal option but to find the existence of such doubt. If so, they would have been acting contrary to their sworn oaths to convict. They chose to act lawfully. We should all be proud of their courage, even as some may see the with anger at the result. Sure, the evidence points to Casey and she may have done it; perhaps you think that she probably did it; or that she must have done it — but relying only on the proof presented at trial, and asking yourself all of the questions the jurors’ would be duty bound to ask themselves — do you have a doubt about how, in what manner, at whose hands, and Why is Caylee dead?


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

SEEK ONLY TRUTH

A minor contretemps has broken out on the issue of whether or not a criminal trial is a search for the truth. Louie Jepeway is filing motions to remove signs from our courtrooms saying that we labour in court to seek the truth, and DOM posted part of an op-ed piece written by Professor Alan Dershowitz in the Wall Street Journal here. Professor Dershowitz argues in a nutshell that a criminal trial is about neither truth nor justice for the victim but merely an enterprise designed to answer one simple question- has the prosecution presented proof of the accused's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt?

Dershowitz writes:
That is why a criminal trial is not a search for truth. Scientists search for truth. Philosophers search for morality. A criminal trial searches for only one result: proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

Rumpole rumbles: au contraire good professor. Lets take a closer look before we pahrk that cahr in the Hahvard yahrd.

A criminal trial is a search for truth, just not necessarily for the ultimate truth. The problem with Dershowitz's argument is that he tosses truth out of court like some misbegotten rag doll, neither needed nor wanted. In light of the Casey Anthony verdict courts have a public relations problem, whether we like it or not. The last thing we want to do is rub the public's nose in our judicial process by thumbing our nose at truth.

It is true that a criminal trial is not a search for the ultimate truth: "did the defendant do it?"

By definition and grand tradition, a criminal trial is a decision only on whether the prosecution has presented proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. But within that framework truth has an important place, indeed the most important place, in a criminal trial.

Did the witness tell the truth when s/he said s/he saw the defendant steal the car?
Did the witness tell the truth when s/he said s/he has no bias against the defendant?
Did the officer tell the truth when s/he said the defendant confessed?
Can we believe the officer when s/he said s/he did not trick the defendant into confessing or did not threaten the defendant or his family with more serious crimes?
Did the officer actually see the Defendant possess the drugs before they found the drugs on the floor of the car?
Do we believe the expert is indeed an expert in the field they say they are?
Did the lab technician competently perform the work they said they did?
Did the defendant's alibi witnesses tell the truth?
Did the defendant tell the truth when he said he acted in self defense?

At every stage of the trial the jury is constantly being required to evaluate testimony to determine what is the truth and whether a witnesses was mistaken or lied or was believable.

In Florida the jury is instructed among other things to consider whether the witness "was honest and straightforward in answering the attorneys questions?" In other words, "was the witness believable? Did the witness tell the truth?"

A criminal trial is and must be a search for the truth. The prosecutor has the job of seeking justice while the defense attorney has the obligation to challenge the evidence as he or she sees fit so that the jury can determine which evidence is believable, which evidence is not. From those dozens or sometimes hundreds of decisions an individual juror makes during a trial a decision is eventually reached- the prosecution did or did not present evidence in the form of witnesses and physical evidence that proved the accused's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

So Professor Dershowitz, we say you acted a bit too hasty in your defense of the American criminal justice system when you tossed truth out the door. Truth remains the anvil upon which evidence is hammered by one side or the other until a decision is reached.

Without truth there can be no verdict. Lest the good professor forget, "Verdict" is a word derived from two Latin words- "Veri'- meaning "truth" and "dicta"- meaning to speak.

When a jury renders a verdict, they speak the truth. So lets be careful before we toss truth out the door.

See You In Court.


Monday, July 11, 2011

WE WHO LABOR HERE...


UPDATE: This was the scene Monday morning as lines to enter the REGJB streatched around the block as thousands of Dade County citizens lined up to view the signs hanging in courtrooms in the REGJB.

Not since old Judge Willard said he saw the Blessed Virgin Mary in a slice of Cazzoli's Pizza has the public been so interested in seeing something inside our humble little courthouse.



Attorney Louie Jepeway is on a mission. (Cue Mission Impossible Theme).

He wants to get rid of the sign that hangs above every judicial bench in Dade County: "We who labor here seek only the truth."

Jepeway has filed a motion to have the sign removed in a case before Judge Sayfie.

The Miami Herald and ace reporter David Ovalle broke this sign shaking story here.

From the article:

According to Miami-Dade’s courts historian, the sign was introduced in the late 1940s by Circuit Judge George S. Holt, a philosopher of sorts who once wrote his fellow jurists should “carry this saying etched in their hearts” in their “fervent quest for justice for their fellow man.”

Best anyone can tell, Holt came up with the saying, which is often quoted in other courts and has even made it’s way into a couple appeals-court opinions.

“This is the first time I’ve ever heard of anyone attacking the declaration,” said Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Scott Silverman, the historian.


Rumpole says: If anyone has a copy of Judge Holt's email to his "fellow jurists" about the slogan, we would love to see it.

Truth be told, we have rubbed that sign in the face of prosecutors and their witnesses more times then we can remember. It is a fairly effective tactic in closing argument to recall for the jury a witness for the prosecution who obviously was not telling the truth and then point to the sign and ask rhetorically "Do you think they believe what is on that sign that applies to the rest of us who work in this courtroom?" (Rumpole trial tip# 17- always try and use phrases containing words like "us" and "we" when speaking to the jury to align yourself with the jury.")

While we're on the subject of signs can we please start challenging Judges who blatantly violate the 14th amendment by banning citizens (namely children, or some signs say "babies") from their courtroom by hanging a sign on the door prohibiting them from entering the courtroom? We would love to see them defend their right to exclude a whole class of people from their courtroom. We have noted before that in enlightened jurisdictions Judges have their bailiffs approach the person with a child to find out why they are in court. The information is then passed to the Judge who calls that person's case out of turn. We of course applaud the child care option in the REGJB, but that still does not give Judges the right to ban children from their courtroom as a blanket policy, so to speak. .

See You In Court, seeking truth.