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, January 07, 2013

CRIME AND PUNISHMENT

UPDATE: If you read nothing else today, go to SFL blog and read the story on Dan Gelber as a big brother and the success of the young man he mentored. 

Before we get down to business, the College Championship football game is tonight in Miami and we have two very interested spectators in our legal midsts: CJ Fred Moreno (Notre Dame) and Judge James Cohn (Alabama). The Herald portrays the rivalry here. Who knew Judge Zloch threw the rock for the Fighting Irish in the 60's? Our prediction below. 

The Sunday NY Times had the story of the case of Conor McBride, who at age 19, shot and killed his girlfriend Ann Grosmaire. McBride was indicted for first degree murder in Tallahassee. But Grosmaire's parents decided to engage in a "restorative justice" process, dragging a reluctant assistant state attorney along with them, because they did not want to see McBride sentenced to life in prison. 

The tragedy of minimum mandatory sentences is that there are hundreds of people serving lengthy mandatory sentences when there are otherwise alternative resolutions.  Human nature and human interrelations, and thus human actions-  have an infinite number of permutations. Who first thought that any one of those permutations could justly lend itself to a "one size fits all" mandatory sentence? Mandatory sentences,  created by legislators- may of whom have never stepped inside a courtroom- and enforced solely by prosecutors-most of whom have not reached their third decade of life, have no place in a system that misleadingly calls itself a "justice system". 

In Florida, only a prosecutor can waive a legislatively created minimum mandatory sentence. Thus we routinely have the scenario of a twenty- six or twenty-seven or twenty-eight  year old prosecutor making decisions about the entire future of a defendant, while fifty or sixty or seventy year old judges- many appointed by the governor- sit powerless to act. When did we decide that unelected young people with almost no life experience are more trustworthy in making decisions about a person's future than a judge? 

This is not about a defense attorney seeking a backdoor way to get leniency for a client  This is about returning the justice system to the people who work in it and restoring the players to their traditional roles. When the legislature took sentencing away from judges, they altered a carefully crafted system that had proper checks and balances. Minimum mandatory sentences altered that balance and the result is thousands if not tens of thousands of lives lost to the maw of the american prison gulag. 

Legislators make the laws. Prosecutors enforce them, defense attorneys defend their clients, and judges adjudicate the disputes, and where required, issue sentences. Unlike assistant state attorneys, Judges in the State of Florida are answerable to the electorate every six years. The public has little recourse against an overzealous prosecutor seeking lengthy sentences to advance a career. 

Conor McBride's story is an unusual one, punctuated by parents of a dead child who sought to understand and forgive their daughter's killer.  And yet the twenty year prison sentence McBride received amounts to likely a quarter of this young man's life. People who sneer at any sentence less than life in prison have never spent a day locked up, much less a decade or more. 

An enlightened society recognizes that even people who commit horrible criminal acts may someday be worthy of redemption. Of course, who said the United States circa 2013 was enlightened? 

Crime and Punishment. What a great topic for a novel. Somebody should write it. 

Be back soon  and then we'll see you in court any day now. 

NCAA: We're rooting for Notre Dame, but it looks like Roll Tide.
And despite the Chief's protestations to the contrary to the Herald, something tells us that one of these two respected jurists will be reaching for the check at Joes when the two sit down for lunch to discuss the game in the not to distant future. 

33 comments:

Redskins fan said...


Impressive Rumpole. You Spend the winter break in Truckee with all that snow and then straight from Truckee to DCA via NetJet?

I was rootin for the Skins.

Rumpole said...

No. I went to New Mexico first. Follow me on twitter if you can.

Anonymous said...

Roll Damn Tide

Brian Kelly will have that smug look wiped off his face.

Anonymous said...

Seems to me that the public has the same recourse against an overly aggressive SAO as it does against a judge SA's are elected as well. And, all ASA's answer to the SA.

I don't buy your argument.

Further, you're talking about a murder. The overriding issue in a violent case like this isn't whether the family is happy, but whether the community is protected. McBride apparently had quite the temper and beat his girlfriend in the past. He shot her three times while she begged him not to. Seems to me that the prosecutor struck a reasonable balance.

I'd like to see the elimination or reduction of many of the current cutoffs ($300 for felony theft..........really?) and min mans. But you really chose a poor example.

BTDT

PS---Let's not forget that we have min mans because so many judges gave breaks to people they shouldn't have. Unfortunately, they ruined it for us all.

Rumpole said...

I completely disagree with that BTDT. I was there before Min mans and there was not a fire sale. It was a media creation. The Herald and (at the time) Miami Times didn't write about every case where someone got a lengthy sentence, but those few where a judge gave what they thought was a lenient sentence. Add that to the breaking crime waves because of Mariel and Crack and some movies portraying lenient judges and all of the sudden you have a groundswell for legislators to take away discretion from "lenient judges". Now we're paying the price and for some people, it's a waste of their lives. Pretty steep price for having policy set by headlines and movies.

Anonymous said...

BTDT: why bother trying to reason with Rumpole or anyone else on this blog? It's a waste of time. The blog is just a bottom-feeing frenzy best observed from a distance.

Anonymous said...

@12:45, you need to call the shumie.

Anonymous said...

Many years ago I defended a young man whose only crime was being at the wrong place at the wrong time and making the mistake of saying 5 words as he watched his cousin complete the deal he knew nothing about: "Hey the cops are coming."

At sentencing, knowing he was facing a 15 year min/man, the judge gave me free reign to espouse the unfairness of the sentence he had to pronounce, since the government refused to waive.

Judge James Lawrence King said: "When congress mandates a sentence and has no faith in my discretion and experience after over 20 years on the bench, it is time for me to retire." Two weeks later he took senior status.

From experience I can tell you that I, and most other judges, don't like min/mans. Those that do are cowards who don't want the discretion and just want to be bureaucrats able to blame on others, what should be their decision.

Rumpole said...

Precisely my point. Thank you for your comment.

Secret Judge said...

Rumphole is correct in his opinion that so-called lenient judges was a media creation. I should know - I was there. The one case that fed the frenzy was Joe Durant's handling of Reese & Crowder, the 2 Miami Dolphin football players who were given 364 DCJ for sale of cocaine. There were no other noteworthy fiascos in the building. There were a bunch of well-connected ASAs however, who used their pull to create a problem that never really existed. Durant's case cost him his job and health. He was defeated in the next election by Sid Shapiro. It should be noted that Joe Durant was an ex-ASA.

Rumpole said...

"There were no other noteworthy fiascos in the building." REALLY? Ask Judge Steven Robinson about that and his refusal to give the death penalty in some horrible tape duct murders. Lots of other high profile cases where the media went nuts when the Judge didn't give the max. Your case is FAR from the only one.

Anonymous said...

Siruis radio down over the internet all day. Ruining my fricking day.

Anonymous said...

totally bored. Can anyone recommend a good website to peruse for a few hours?

Anonymous said...

I think I have Tularemia.

Rumpole said...

You think you have the plague???? I would suggest going to JMH asap.

Anonymous said...

Where is AM? Man I love that dude and his comments. Makes this blog so worthy.

Anonymous said...

Alabama 24
ND 10

Notre Dame hasn't played a team this good this year and will probably be no match for the Tide tonight.

Colleges find out that it is a different story when you go against SEC teams in a championship game. The SEC has won 6 straight and 9 out of 16 since the BCS has been around.

Anonymous said...

5 TILL 5. Shum it guys? come on man....

Anonymous said...

Shum gaming the system blessed be Buju da tamma yamba man

Anonymous said...

Roll Tide. If you haven't continued your hearing in front of the Chief Judge that were set for tomorrow, you're a fool.

Anonymous said...

Rump,

Funny that you "completely disagree with me" when I specifically say that I support the reduction of cutoffs (ie. grand theft) and min mans (I don't agree that they all need to be eliminated).

You argue as if the issue is black and white. It's not. Like every other problem involving human beings, there's a lot of gray. I don't want judges hammering everyone, but I don't want judges cutting everyone loose either. There's nothing wrong with creating at least some standards (I'm pretty sure I recall you arguing about how unfair the law is because of how people exercise their discretion.......ie. that blacks are treated more harshly than whites.....particularly with regard to the death penalty. You can't have it both ways). There's certainly a place for discretion and judgment, but I don't believe it should be unfettered. Do you?

Judges aren't kings. I believe that guidelines and min mans are fine so long as they are reasonable. Especially when someone can waive them (even if is the prosecutor).

BTDT

Anonymous said...

As attorneys and bloggers aren't we to at least be somewhat realistic?

How can we argue that 27 year olds with little legal and real life experience are keeping clients from more realistic sentences for crimes that may not be deserving of the min/man's they are exposed to, when we yell and scream at the same time that the same 27 year olds are useless cogs in a bureaucracy that requires them to have pleas approved by those with years of experience?

At least the prosecutors I deal with are willing to go to their chiefs and try to do the right thing. I don't think they are trying to advance a career by getting an undue pound of flesh from a client. They know it won't help them get a job that pays a decent salary. Insurance defense and civil litigation firms could care less how many min/man's their candidate was able to impose.

Why beat down the Miami SAO? At least this office waives min/man's. Broward is another story.

DS said...

In theory Min - Mans are to scare individuals from committing crimes because ,when weighing the prize of doing the crime versus the sure and swift punishment of the MIN/MAN THE RATIONAL INDIVIDUAL WILL NOT COMMIT THE CRIME.
BUT, 2 decades plus at MJB/REG-MJB showes that potential law violators NEVER take ANYTHING into consideration in deciding to commit crimes.
Its More knee-jerk reaction that rational decisiion making.

Rumpole said...

BTDT when I said I completely disagree it was with your closing point:

BTDT

PS---Let's not forget that we have min mans because so many judges gave breaks to people they shouldn't have. Unfortunately, they ruined it for us all.

Anonymous said...

My guess is Notre Dame is about to get the shumie kicked out of them, Big time. No roll tide fan, but the tide appears posed to roll.

Rumpole said...

I think the refs blew that call. That was a fumble and the ND player did not interfere with the catch. Plus the receiver signaled late.

Not a Bama fan said...


This is a joke. Notre Dame doesn't belong on the same field as Bama. Not a Bama fan, but I'm about to switch stations to NBC and watch the Biggest Loser. Oh yeah, I already have been with the Irish.

Anonymous said...

918.....naw this is awesome. Watching ND get pounded into the ground is priceless.

Of course, I wish it was UM administering the punishment instead of Alabama......

BTDT

Anonymous said...

Wow Alabama was good. The Dolphins could use a coach like that. Oh wait- never mind.

Anonymous said...

James Lawrence King, and Steven D. Robinson, two Judges who did the right thing. Period. I am honored to have tried cases before both.

Anonymous said...

6:31:00 PM is correct, Dade is realistic, try taking that drug case to a Broward ASA and Judge.

Anonymous said...

"People who sneer at any sentence less than life in prison have never spent a day locked up, much less a decade or more."

Nor have they committed the murders of innocent people...

Anonymous said...

The reason Florida adopted minimum mandatory sentences is because there were judges (mostly in the people's republic of Dade) who consistently were linient against violent felons. Why do you think Miami was such a hell hole in the 1980s?