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

Saturday, March 16, 2013

THE IDES OF MARCH

The jury in the re-trial of Dennis Escobar, accused of killing City of Miami Police Officer Victor Estefan in 1989 resumes a fourth day of deliberations Monday. 


What a lawyer says: THE RACE CARD?
To recap the controversy in yesterday's blog post and comments, readers are on both sides of the Assistant Public Defender's opening statement, and description of two men who shot the defendant after he tried to run them over with his pick-up truck:

“two young hip hop punks.”

The race card? We think not. To us, that describes, as a good trial strives to do,  an attitude, perhaps a sense of lawlessness or dangerous associated with unruly teenagers or young men. To us, race has little to do with that.  Is it a stereotype? Sure. Just like in the 1960's or 1970's one could have described someone as a "drugged out, long haired hippy" (notwithstanding the fact that many of those hippies are now hedge fund managers with mansions in Connecticut).  In the 1950's one could have used the description  "leather jacketed greaser". 

The point is that the PD was trying to convey to the jury that his client had a sense of fear based on what he was seeing and the attitude the complaining witnesses were conveying. 

Should people act on how others look? Of course not. The essence of any "ism" (sexism, racism, etc) is making judgments on appearances.  But the fact is that not only are we humans with eyes, but the self defense jury instruction ALLOWS for the lawful  decisions to use force based on appearances (and not actual danger).  Florida criminal trial lawyers know that in Florida, the danger must not have been real, but must only have appeared to have been real to the individual who claims to have acted in self defense. 

Thus, Florida law allows for a defense based on evidence of how someone felt about another based on how they looked and acted. And in that regard the phrase "young hip hop punks" is lawful and proper in an opening statement.  Race inevitably rears its head when the witnesses and defendant are of different races. But that doesn't mean the lawyer "played the race card". 

Enjoy a beautiful South Florida spring weekend. 


25 comments:

Anonymous said...

I posted this this morning and then Rumpola put up a new post, which reflects the topic:

What you should be talking about is the trial of the century that just concluded. Reid vs. Phil. An open and shut re-trial of a 25 yr old case with a confession. And yet Phil pushed and prodded and suddenly the state finds a tape corroborating decades old allegations against the cop. Reid would do a great direct, and then Phil would do a devastating cross and then Reid would repair most of the damage on re-direct. It was an amazing spectacle. The two best lawyers in the building giving it their all. The closings for both were fantastic and now we see a jury going into the fourth day of deliberations.

The trial should have been taped and broadcast as how things should get done in court. Both sides should be very very proud, especially the State who turned the lost tapes over without even thinking twice. You rarely see that type of honesty and integrity these days.

Canes fan said...



Thank you, Phil, for that great commentary, on your case.

How bout them Canes.

Anonymous said...

Folks are missing the pointI think. Sisselman is tone deaf. It was the wrong play. Its not about the race card. its about sisselman being ineffective. Doing the wrong thing. Choosing the wrong words. conveying the wordsin away thatput offthis jury or rang hollow to it. proof is in the pudding. GUILTY.

No prize for second place in our work.

Rumpole said...

Wait a second. David got a lesser that lowered the sentence from life with a 30 min man to 30 with a 10 min man. Only someone who has never tried a tough case would write that there is no place for a second place finish. Sometimes getting a lesser and saving your client time is the best you can do.

Secret Judge said...

Having your client, after a jury trial. be exposed to a 30 year sentence with a 10 year min. man. is hardly a victory of any sorts. Ask the client languishing in jail awaiting his doom whether he feels like a winner.

Anonymous said...

Of course we should base our actions on how people look! To do anything else would be to be insane and to pretend to do anything else is liberal self-delusion.

You see a crossing guard on your way to work and you drive accordingly. You see a police officer and you do the same. Once in court, you see the men in orange clothes and know who they are. You see someone in a robe and know how to behave (usually!).

If youre a straight guy, you notice who's an attractive woman. If youre lost, you notice who looks official. If youre searching for something in a Target, you look for a red shirt.

It's silly to think that you don't notice that young black men are young black men, and that noticing this doesnt change how you respond to them. Now, if you ran away from every young black guy clutching your wallet tightly, you'd soon realize you were a fool. You'd adjust, you'd learn -- which is what we all do all our lives.

But if youre not aware that for whatever causes (poverty, lack of opportunity, broken families, etc etc), we all know that young black men commit certain types of crimes at a disproportionate level. Anyone who steps foot in court had better be smart enough to realize that. (And they are arrested more and prosecuted more too -- but spare me citing that as contrary to my claim about committing the crimes in the first place).

All of which is to say that when DS uses the phrase "hip hop punks", he prompts his listeners to imagine young black men, and to reflect on their own personal knowledge that young black men are disproportionately criminal in our society -- without getting into any of the reasons or causes.

So, is it the "race card"? Of course it is. DS wants the jury to see the "victims" as "criminals" and he knows on some level that emphasizing their status as young black kids will reinforce that.

Anonymous said...

Folks, I agree with the evaluation of the excellent advocacy in the Escobar case. With regard to the "hate" crime case, (and it is indisputably fair to characterize it as such) both the State and DS did a fine job. Frankly, I watched closings and while I will never understand why a defense attorney such as DS feels the need to yell to make his point (I so think it turns the judge and jury off), DS did in fact do a great job in defending his client,- in my opinion DS DID NOT use anything close to what could be characterized as a race card - neither side did, they arged based on the evidence presented to the jury. This was a fair and just presentation by both sides and a very fair conviction. I do not know what the defendants 14 prior convictions are based upon, but what I do know is that we must all continue to be vigilant in the fight against "hate" b/c it has no place in our community.

Anonymous said...

If those two clowns are " the best in the building" the bar has been lowered to an all time low.

Anonymous said...

Rump - Just some thoughts in response to the posts bashing some of the ASAs and PDs in the courthouse this week. Though the Escobar trial is in its end stages (well who really knows at this point I guess), I can only hope that attorneys, both young and old, have taken the opportunity to watch even a portion of that trial. I have been fortunate to have observed vast portions of the liigation between the lead attorneys for the State and Defense (Mr. Rubin and Mr. Reizenstein, respectfully as well as the legal skill of Ms. Brill whom I have the utmost respect for). Notwithstanding the emotionally volatile nature of this horrible case, the murder of a man that no one can or should ever call anything but a hero that will never be forgotten - Officer Victor Estefan, I have seen nothing but incredible talent, professionalism, ethics, fairness, and level-headedness in that courtroom by both sides, even during closing arguments where everything is on the proverbial line. We must not lose sight of professionalism and civility in the pracice of law and my fear is that we are doing just that. The legal profession is not a game of win at all costs for either side and I do believe that Mr. Rubin and Mr. Reizenstein reflect that sentiment. It is likewise not a game of who can disparage or intimidate their opposing side. There are lives at stake on both sides. There is a family that sits in that courtroom every single second of every single day that knows only that their husband, father, grandfather, fellow officer and friend was senselessly and brutally murdered 25 years ago.

Anonymous said...

Rump,

You're still missing the point . Plenty o times I lost the trial and beat the plea. That is not the issue we are discussing.


Sisselman is not a trial dog. He only goes because the client won't plea and he can't find a conflict. He had good facts, by his own account. Dumb choice if words delivered Ineffectively

Anonymous said...

Really 4:11? Those two are clowns? I dare say each of them has won more big trials then the number of cases you roll over and plea on. You're so good? Who are you and what cases have you won?

DS said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I will come to Sisselmans defense here. He and I tried 2 cases as co counsel back in 91 a murder/ AT&T murder, and a robbery. He was a good trial lawyer then , and must be even better now. Lay off he has tried way more cases than necessary to earn his wings. Jason grey

Anonymous said...

Lots of lawyers with opinions. Easy when you're not in a courtroom, but behind a computer.

Rumpole said...

David defended someone who tried to kill AT&T? What was the defense? Bad phone service drove defendant insane?

Anonymous said...

1991 kinda proves the point. He was mr ERU for 15 years

Anonymous said...

My bad , big fingers jg

Anonymous said...

Heard a judge the other day tell a "hip hop punk" this and I nearly fell out of my chair "chillax home slice"
and the judge is the whitest of white boys.

I thought it was a very racist thing to say to a young man who had been acting up in court. But to my surprise the young man settled down and said "sorry your honor I tripin" to which the judge replied "well stop it",

Some times it pays to let people know you understand them.

Anonymous said...

Rump this 51 yr old colombiana is rockin my world.

Yoga girl said...

Just walked into my local bikrim studio for a 930 class. Love it when I hear the owner talking to a newbie " ok its gonna be hot. All you have to do is breathe. And afterwards you will feel great." Ha ha if this newbie only knew what torture she is in for in the next 90 min!!
Namaste.

Anonymous said...

angry girl, yoga girl, fake judge, fake whomever....

This blog out the crazy in people.

Anonymous said...

The lawyers alugging it out in trial have their own fan clubs of law students and interns and young lawyers hanging on their every word. Cool for them.

Anonymous said...

I don't know what it is that brings people out of the woodwork but it seeks like it just kills some people to see what his friends and clients have always known: Phil is one hell of a trial lawyer.

Anonymous said...

Jealousy is an ugly thing.

Kissimmee Kid said...

I like the death penalty 'cause it prove that ASAs have a piece of shit client too.