Friday, November 02, 2012


Lots of movin and shakin at Casa Carlos on 14th street. It's a good office and they have excellent attorneys.

The Miami Herald (Motto: "If it's important , we'll get to it eventually") applauded Judge Sigler in her decision declaring the new fee structure for court appointed cases unconstitutional. The Op Ed piece is here.  
"So applaud the decision of Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Victoria Sigler to reject a state law that ties the legal bills for defending indigent clients facing the death penalty to state judges’ annual budgets. It’s a violation of the state Constitution, she ruled.
In March, state lawmakers sought to curtail the expenses of a pool of private attorneys appointed to represent death-penalty defendants too poor to pay flifornia or legal assistance."

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/10/3

The costs associated with an adequate death penalty defense: psychological examinations, a complete investigation into a client's psycho-social history, interviewing family members and friends, obtaining medical and school and work and military records can easily exceed $100,000.00. Legal fees for two lawyers working on a case for five years can exceed four or five times that amount and that is with an hourly rate of about $100.00 per hour. How many of our readers have a half a million dollars lying around ready to throw at a death penalty defense should they or a loved one be charged with such a crime? 

California voters will decide on Tuesday if the costs of the death penalty are just too much for the state to afford. Millions and millions of dollars can be saved and diverted into infrastructure, schools, roads, hospitals, and  teachers, if we would just surrender our blood lust for these crimes. Since when did life in prison become such an easy sentence that we need something worse? 

We'll be voting Saturday, somewhere. 

Another beautiful holiday weekend on tap. Enjoy. 

See you in court Monday. 


Aye on shumie said...

4pm Friday. Beautiful day. Need I say more?

Shu shu shu shumie time.

Anonymous said...

If life means life--I agree, let's dump the death penalty. If dumping the death penalty is just another step towards moving us to a European "rehabilitative model" of justice for FIRST DEGREE MURDER convicts...I am less inclined to dump it. In the end, one innocent wrongfully convicted person being executed is too much. But so is the possibility of people like Anders Brevik walking around free after 20 years. I am all in favor of rehabilitation for most offenders who are not HVOs or GORTS, but most importantly, 1st degree murders. We need to reserve a place for the worst of the worst so they stay in custody forever.

Anonymous said...

Life without Parole in Florida means natural life. You leave in a coffin.

Again every defense attorney who is interested in a history of the DP in Florida needs to read Von Drehle's, "Among the Lowest of the Dead."

Anonymous said...

@3:57 what makes shumie time a beautiful day is a beautiful woman in my arms.

Anonymous said...

Carlos is shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic. The office is a shell of its former self, and its attorneys lack the spine of their predecessors.

Phil R said...

5:26. How many accused and convicted murderers have you worked with? People do horrible things at moments in their life that do not always reflect who they are. Murder is an almost unspeakably horrible crime. But some people- some people- have the ability for redemption. There should be some process where some people have a chance at getting out. It takes no brains to lock people up and throw away the key. We as a society are or should be better than that.

Anonymous said...

Like it or not, there are some people who we need to lock up and throw away the key. Child molesters, repeat violent offenders and many--but not all--murderers fall into this category.

Any defense attorney will tell you that while many of their clients are good people who made incredibly serious mistakes, some of their clients are just pure evil people. Pardon my language, but as an ASA I used to say we had to determine who fucked up and who was fucked up. I found it probably the most difficult part of my job.

Florida needs to bring back parole for at least some offenses. However, parole must be earned, not used simply as a tool to ease overcrowding. An inmate must show that he/she has made positive changes and is a low risk to violate parole or reoffend.

Anonymous said...

Phil R: we as a society should demand that those who violate the laws which protect life should pay dearly when they break those laws. If someone has a "bad day" and commits a horrific crime, then they should have to suffer the consequences. Is this really a less moral outlook on society than what you have?

DS said...

About PD11 you said..'its attorneys lack the spine of their predecessors.'

That is wrong. Those of us on the front lines, in Court, or as we used to say in the pits, Still Have The Right Stuff.
You can not go into court day after day, representing the underdog , taking a beating from Judges, ASAs and the Public with out guts , determination and dedication.
Yes, We have lost lawyers with experience, but those who remain have not lost the PD Heart. That is in each Man and Women who goes into court daily to answer Gideon's Trumpet.


Secret Judge said...

I respectfully take great exception to Mr. DS' comment about the PDs "taking a beating from Judges, ASAs and the public". Back in the day, the public defenders I knew, were the ones who ADMINISTERED the beating to Judges and especially the ASAs and anyone else who got in their way. A partial list of those PDs would include Bill Clay, Howard Sohn, Stu Gitlitz, Dave Finger, Jerry Breslin, Jay Levine, Neal Sandberg, Rick Margolius, Dave Peckins, Vinnie Flynn, Bill Aaron, Rick Messerman, Jack Denaro, Leon Weiss, Lenny Rosenberg, Clint Pitts, Pete Ferrero, Gemma Cosentino, and so many more.

Anonymous said...

Well said DS

Phil R said...

6:09 PM. I am not saying people who commit murder should not "pay dearly." Without engaging in a long debate, what I am trying to say is that after half a lifetime of prosecuting and defending murder cases, the people who commit murder do it for all sorts of reasons. And a "one sentence fits all policy"- a "lock em up and throw away the key" philosophy is wrong. We can do better. We have hard working lawyers and judges who have the ability, if given the chance by lawmakers, to examine cases and decide if alternatives like parole would be correct. It was the way things worked for probably several decades in most states. I have met some people who committed murder who I have a strong belief would never harm anyone or anything again. And I have met others who should never get out. Why punish the former for the dangerousness of the latter?

Phil R said...

Addressing a different topic about who took beatings in the day- I guess it depends upon your perspective. As a young ASA I regularly took beatings from Fred Nesbitt, Al Sepe, Art Snyder, Ellen Morphonious, Harvey Baxter. Many of these judges have passed on. And many of them were in their own right good or great judges. But I recall being screamed at for among other things : 1) filing an information, 2) asking to go to trial, 3) offering jail as a plea. You get the idea. The things that went on then would never ever pass muster today. Snyder once JOA'd my friend on a drug trafficking trial after opening statement. A lot of that had to do with the defense attorney in my opinion. You never knew what Sepe was going to do to you. He would dismiss informations for no apparent reason, and - I saw him do this to my friend who is now a judge- not allow drugs into evidence during a jury trial even though the chain of custody was not in doubt and all the defense attorney did was say "object" without giving a reason. Snyder took me into custody for asking for a continuance after voire dire, but before the jury was sworn, when my lead detective crashed his light plane the night before and was in the hospital.

From where I sat at the time, I rarely saw PDs and never saw defense attorneys treated like that. And the Herald had no interest in reporting these things. I viewed it at the time as a right of passage. Hazing as it were. I didn't like it, but it was what it was.

Anonymous said...

Phil, I think you are 100% right in your "one size doesn't fit all" view of sentencing. But, I've come to the conclusion that as along as the media is more interested in sensationalizing and twisting things to selling ad space than accurately reporting what happens in courtrooms, the public's blood lust will continue. Because while it is way too easy to impose life on every murderer, it is not as easy as writing the headline "Judge slaps convicted murdere on wrist" in the Miami Herald, which is what we all know happens when our elected judges have the courage and integrity to do the right thing.

Anonymous said...

Secret Judge must be quite the aged one!

Phil R said...

Right now the penalty for 1st and 2nd degree murder with a firearm is the same. Also the facts underlying felony murder are often much less serious than premeditated murder, especially for the non-shooter, and yet the penalty is the same. If we fixed those problems and didnt have mandatory life for second degree and felony first degree we would be a long way to fixing the problems that now exist.

DS said...

Secret Judge
Are you saying we, The PDs lost our will or determination to fight THIRTY YEARS ago ?
Those are great attorneys you listed but almost all, except Pete, are gone from the office 30 years ago.
In the Office I talk to many APDs , and I assure you that on a Daily basis they confirm their desire & dedication to an aggressive defense for our clients. We try to represent them like they are Jean Val Jean or Dreyfus.

They , WE still care to answer the trumpet and Fight for Justice for the Poor and acussed defendent.

Sorry, typing this and watching the Fins

Anonymous said...

Us PDs still have the zeal to fight and try cases as much as those of years past. But we have GORT, Min/Mans and Guidelines to consider. It is easy to say let's try a case when you are not the one facing a 30 year min/man on a glorified misdemeanor.

Secret Judge said...

To my colleague Mr. DS: It is not the dedication and spirit I question of today's PDs. It is the talent level. The attorneys I listed knew how to utilize the inherent advantage that a PD has in a courtroom on a daily basis. Mr. Dennis Urbano, when Judge Wilkie Ferguson hammered his client after jury trial, proudly exclaimed "the embassy is closed" and forced Judge Ferguson to try the same defendant 2 more times (the defendant had 6 or 7 cases) before Ferguson saw the writing on the wall and relented giving Urbano exactly what he asked for prior to the first trial. It takes guts, courage and moxie to do what Urbano did, but from that day forward he controlled that courtroom. How many of your colleagues today CONTROL the courtrooms they toil in?

PDs ShmeeDees said...

I'm sure that Urbano story is exactly what happened. Fish gets bigger every time you tell the story.

Anonymous said...


The problem as I see it is a lack of experience at the PD's office. Yes there are those of you who have been there over 20 years and have a lot of experience, but that is a very small percentage of the office. The majority of PD clients right now in felonies are being represented by lawyers with 2 to 3 years of experience.

There lawyers at the PD's are either over 50 years old or under 30. There is a serious dearth of lawyers who have between 5 and 15 years of experience. And the reason that is a problem is because the over 50 crowd is burnt out and tired while the under 30 crowd may have the exuberance but they lack the trial experience.

Having been a PD I can tell you that you really don't know what you are doing until you've tried around 30 jury trials. Most PD's right now leave after 20 jury trials. So although the youngsters may have heart and desire, they don't have the skills yet to control the courtroom. And then you old timers may have the skills required but lack the fighting spirit.

Signed - ex-Public Defender

DS said...

I agree many of our attornies leave after 4 to 5 years.
Mostly cause they are making under $50K, and would like to earn a decent living as the skilled lawyers they have become, especially when you consider their student loans.
We do need to try and keep those APDs who the office has invested so much in training and guiding to become true advocates.

But that is a Legislative, Budget and Managerial matter beyond me.

I disagree that those of us knowledgeable old timers lack the WILL OR DESIRE to be agressive, fight or go to trial.
In the Last few weeks a number of the old gaurd were in trial with good results,. Some with multiable trials.

Those of US over fifty with the skills handle caseloads where our clients face Life or even Death.
Its not that we lack the` fighting spirt. It is that the cost of a trial , especially where the State has strong evidence against a client, may not be worth a trial.

I am in ROC Court, all my clients face life, half have Life min/mans. The rest have 30 year min/mans. I am up against seasoned ASAs. I am willing to fight, but it aint the rest of MY LIFE on the line.

A Bad Plea may indeed be better then a Good Trial.


Anonymous said...

Is this problem with the PDs office any different than that of the State? If the most either office plans on paying it's lawyers is $50K, then of course they will all be gone by the time 3-4 years come a long. It is simply dollars and cents. People try some cases, get some experience and move on to higher paying jobs. This notion that you have experience lawyers working in both offices is throw back to years ago. This is what all public interest law offices will be unless the Legislature decides that they are willing to provide more funds.

Anonymous said...

"The embassy is closed"????

"The eagle has landed"?

"Elvis has left the building"?

"The dew is on the rose"?

Anonymous said...

12:02 is correct.