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

Friday, August 30, 2013

GONE READING.....

The last summer vacation is upon us and we will be spending this long weekend at our favourite spot, by the ocean, in a hammock, with a cooler beneath us, and a radio beside us and a book in our lap. 

RETIRED:
ASA Kristi Bettendorf reitres Friday after 35 years, many of them ably running the pre-filing unit. 
From a comment yesterday:
Anonymous said...

Kristi Bettendorf will retire, as of tomorrow, after 35 years at the SAO. She is one of the few remaining of the "old guard" from the days of Janet Reno. For over two decades she has supervised the Felony Screening Unit and other divisions of the SAO. Among her duties were PTI referrals and expungements.

Kristi trained her ASA's well and did not let them abuse their positions.

Those who practice criminal defense know her door was always open. She took your calls or met with you, listened to your pitch and made an informed and legal decision. Her answer was not always yes, but she always told you her reasons for saying no, and they were never retributive or delivered in a confrontational manner....
FANTASY FOOTBALL: Just a few spots left. Draft Monday evening. Fbpool12@gmail.com to try and nab one of the last remaining spots. 

Also sprach Zarathustra: Ein Buch für Alle und Keinen: It just feels like a Nietzsche in German weekend. 

Enjoy your long weekend. 
See you in court Tuesday ready to finish up the year!




Thursday, August 29, 2013

SAO NEWSLETTER

FANTASY FOOTBALL UPDATE: Two full divisions- three spots left in one division. We can open up another division if we get more players. Send an email to fbpool12@gmail.com to try and win courthouse bragging rights and other valuable prizes. (no purchase necessary, void where prohibited by law.) 

News from the SAO Office Newsletter (because prosecutors read the blog too and they should get their due recognition):
Assistant State Attorney's (ASAs), Jessie Friedman and Sara Narkes, won a conviction on charges of Felony Battery, False Imprisonment and Resisting Without Violence.
ASAs Breezye Telfair from the Public Corruption Unit and Rachel Walters from the Gangs/Homicide Prosecution Unit convicted a Prison Release Re-Offender (PRRP) of Attempted 1st Degree Murder and Armed Robbery
Chief of the Sexual Battery Unit Laura Adams and ASA Sophiea Bailey from the Economic Crimes Unit got a conviction on 2 counts of Sexual Battery before Judge Rebull.
Division Chief (DC) Scott Warfman and ASA Jennie Conklin successfully prosecuted a 2nd Degree Murder case before Judge Colodny.
DCs Bill Howell and Alicia Priovolos convicted a defendant of 1st Degree Murder before Judge Sayfie.
ASA Cristina Cabrera with an assist from ASA Wei Xiang won a guilty verdict for Burglary/Unoccupied Dwelling and Grand Theft.
ASA Ayana Duncan and co-counsel ASA Ethan Timmins convicted on charges of Tampering With Physical Evidence and Resisting Without Violence before Judge Hirsch.(We double checked the SAO newsletter and this is exactly how the sentence reads. We doubt these two fine prosecutors were convicted and fully believe they successfully OBTAINED a conviction for the above charges. Memo to KFR: language matters. Get a good editor.)

Homestead Mayor Steven Bateman has been arrested for felony crimes derived from using his official capacity as Homestead mayor to provide himself with private employment and private income. 
Circumstances relating to needed sewage system upgrades in downtown Homestead provided Mayor Bateman with an opportunity to gain supplementary private payment for functioning as Homestead's elected mayor in violation  of Florida's criminal statutes.
As Homestead's elected mayor since November 2009, Steven Bateman has been advocating for the development of the city's downtown area. Community Healthcare of South Florida Inc. (CHI) a Florida not-for-profit corporation founded in 1971, received $1.89 million in Miami-Dade County funds to build a Children's Crisis Center in downtown Homestead. However, construction could not commence due to the "absolute moratorium" on new sewer connections in the area until a sewage pump station could be replaced.  Problems with Homestead's plans and design for the proposed pump station replacement and Miami-Dade County's existing consent decree with the Federal Government all worked to stall the Children's Crisis Center project, frustrating both Mayor Bateman and the leadership of CHI.
In February 2013, Mayor Bateman became a paid consultant for CHI and at the end of February, CHI authorized payments to Mayor Bateman of up to $120,000 for one year of services.  The CEO of CHI, Col. Brodes Hartley Jr., recalled Mayor Bateman offering to assist the agency with its construction program.  Col. Hartley clearly recalled that Mayor Bateman solicited employment at this same meeting.
Subsequent to his hiring, Mayor Bateman performed a number of actions relating to the Homestead sewage situation in which he ostensibly was acting as the Mayor of Homestead (i.e. meeting with the Mayor of Miami-Dade County and making contact with Homestead city employees) and for which he billed his employer, CHI, for his work. 
  
"Enriching oneself by utilizing an elected public office not only enrages the community, it is a crime," commented Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle.  "This is a very sad day for the people of the City of Homestead

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A JUDGE SHALL BE PATIENT.....

TRIAL CONDUCT:
What judge in the REGJB gives the best trial? That doesn't mean the judge that rules for either side the most. What we're talking about is the judge who understands the jobs each lawyer on each side of the case has and lets them do their job with minimal interference.  US District Court Judge Jose Gonzalez (now on senior status) was perhaps the best we ever appeared in front of. Judges Middelbrooks and Dimitrouleas are both judges who in our experience  let the lawyers alone during trial. In State court, it's been a while since we had a judge like Ed Cowart grace our courthouse. 
Sadly, many current judges were never trial lawyers. How that sad state of affairs came to be, we'll never know. But trial judges would be wise to peruse Caldwell v. State from the 4th DCA:

In our view, the trial court’s remarks to defense counsel during his cross- examination were undignified and inappropriate. See Fla. Code of Jud. Conduct, Canon 3B(4) (2012) (“A judge shall be patient, dignified, and courteous to litigants, jurors, witnesses, lawyers, and others with whom the judge deals in an official capacity. . . . )
The accused had a right to be represented by an attorney and have the attorney treated with the consideration due such an officer of the court and belittling observations aimed at the attorney are, necessarily, injurious to the one he represents 


JUST A NORMAL ENCOUNTER:
What happens when a law abiding citizen/good samaritan has an encounter with a city of Miami Beach police officer? 

The Herald story is here. 
Brings to mind the old joke: How many Miami Beach police officers does it take to throw a defendant down a flight of stairs? None. He fell on his own. Repeatedly.
FUNNY TWEET - that actually has a poignant side to it: 

Saw a group of lawyers at AuBonPain praying over lunch. Refreshing, I thought. Grace. Then I realized they were all on their smart phones.

FANTASY FOOTBALL: For two years we have been bombarded with emails from dozens of people begging us to set up a fantasy football league. We finally do it, and we still have spots open. Send us an email FBpoo12@gmail.com and we'll send you a link. The draft has been moved back to Monday September 2, 2013-Labor Day evening (There's no crime for drafting your team with a few margaritas on board). Join up while there is space.

We often write our posts the evening before, and sometimes the topic stays with us. "A judge shall be patient, dignified, and courteous..." It's awfully hard not to laugh out loud.

See you in court.

Monday, August 26, 2013

ANOTHER INMATE DIES AT DCJ

David Ovalle at the Miami Herald has all the details in the story here. 

Go in for DWLS, get taken out in a body bag. Not a pretty picture. 

Joseph Wilner died on the notorious 9th floor of the jail, where they "house" inmates with psychiatric problems. House is really not a proper term. Lets just describe exactly what they do: 
they strip the inmates naked and put them in a wire cage or a plastic bubble. 

The rats have better beds at the DCJ than inmates on the 9th floor. 

So here is the question: who's going to get arrested  for manslaughter for the negligence involved in this man's death? 

And where is our esteemed state attorney and the grand jury investigation for a jail, which like the roach motel, has a motto that "you check in, but don't check out?" 

How many more people are the Dade County Department of Corrections going to kill this year?  Three people have died on the ninth floor this year. DWLS is a damned misdemeanor! We are killing our citizens for driving with a suspended license. This is outrageous. 

And it's more than that: it's a crime. 

"You can judge a society by how it treats its prisoners."
Fyodor  Dostoevesky. 

Miami gets an "F".

See you in court, keeping clients out of that death trap. 


SECRET PTI...(shhhsssssh)

SUICIDE POOL: Is now open for registration. Miguel De La O(ver) lucked into the championship last year. Now he's talkin some repeat trash. The only way to silence the judge is to join. Send an email to FBpool12@gmail.com. 

FANTASY FOOTBALL: we have 4 divisions and 19  18 17  16  15 open spots  and the battle for second place (to us) is on.  Send us an email to join. If we get more than 20 people, we can add divisions. 


PRE-TRIAL DIVERSION: DID YOU KNOW?
That a semi-secret pre-trial diversion for first time drug offenders who do not need to go to drug court has been available for several months? According to insiders, each judge runs the program a bit differently. Some run it through standard PTI, while others will just require your client to randomly show up and provide some urine. The program apparently is for the defendant who does not have a drug problem but who was arrested, perhaps in a club, with drugs, for reasons unrelated to having an addiction (use your imagination on this one). Next time you get a case like that, ask the PD in the courtroom what the judge's policy is. And don't forget to use the secret handshake. 

JUDICIAL FUNDRAISERS: QUERY- should we post them on the blog? Our view is, in for a penny, in for a pound. If we post one, we post them all. 

What judge "deserves" an opponent? Ooo...there are some judges who just hate seeing that on the blog. But post some thoughtful comments and we just might conduct a poll.  (comments like "so and so should get an opponent because they got their spot because of their hispanic, jewish, nepalese, etc, surname, is not sufficient.) 

We neglected to post the very fine obituary done by Herald Reporter David Ovalle. Please read it. 
And next time you see Ovalle guzzling black coffee and huddled in one of his wi-fi hot spots in the REGJB, give him a few clucks like a chicken. Ovalle hasn't yet signed up for the suicide pool or our fantasy football league. But then again, what can you expect from a Chargers fan.....? 

Long weekend coming up. Who's not working Friday (we're not even working Thursday)? 

See you in court. 


Saturday, August 24, 2013

HELP WANTED

So you want to be a blogger in South Florida? Is it the glitzy lifestyle? The admiration from your colleagues (and scorn from the bench) that attracts you? Is it the recognition you get at all the best restaurants and VIP seating at the hottest clubs? 

Well, here are the qualifications: 
1) You must be able to access the internet with minimal problems;
2) You have to have an original thought in your head;
3) You should never split your infinitives, especially when heading without clear head to court (see, that was a split infinitive);
4) Your bench warrants should be cleared;

Apply within. A demanding fall and winter trial schedule (and a federal judge who clearly could not give a damn) lead us to believe that the next several months will see an unfortunate increase in our workload and corresponding decrease in our blogging availability. 

SUICIDE POOL:
But fear our busy schedule not because the famous REGJB Suicide Pool returns again! 
To Play: Send us an email from an email address you want to use to FBpool12@gmail.com. 

Last year's Champion, the now Honorable Miguel De La O, is already doing a little bit of "Miami Heat repeat" trash talking. 

We have already sent out invitations to last years players. If you played last year and didn't get an invitation: 1) check your spam box; 2) did you change email addresses? Either way, send us an email to FBpool12 and ONLY FBpool12@gmail.com  and you're in. We will send you a reply email confirming your participation and your not-legally binding agreement to pose for a picture wearing one of two hats: The new and infamous "I went out first in the Blog Football Pool" Cap along with the winner wearing the new and famous "Justice Building Football Pool Champ 2013" Cap.

We continue negotiations with various on-line merchants to run our heralded Fantasy Football league. It would help if some altruistic reader would volunteer to be commissioner of this league, which is shaping up to be full of malcontents, ruffians, miscreants, and other respected legal professionals. 

SUMMER READING: 
Labour day is fast approaching and we have the perfect read for that long, lazy weekend in the hammock by the sea: 
"The First Tycoon" by T.J, Stiles. If you thought you knew about the amazing life of Cornelius Vanderbilt, you don't know the half of it. 

And we recommend again "The Yard" by Alex Grecian as a great page turner-Scotland Yard thriller- circa 1885. 

Second to last weekend of the summer. Time to dig out those sweaters and caps for the brisk fall weather. Enjoy. 

See You In Court. 

Friday, August 23, 2013

PARDON ME

“A people confident in its laws and institutions should not be ashamed of mercy.
Justice Anthony Kennedy, 2003. 

Between 1885 and 1930 Presidents granted over 10,000 petitions for clemency. 

During his 4 1/2 years in office, President Obama has granted 39 out of more than 10,000 petitions for pardons or clemency. 

What happened? 
Mercy became a four letter word. 

35 vs 15.
Bradley Manning was sentenced to 35 years this week for stealing and releasing to Wiki-leaks thousands of classified US government documents. Included in those documents was classified video showing military helicopters shooting at and murdering civilians in two vans, including two journalists from Reuters. 

In 2008 Lt. Michael Behenna was sentenced to 25 years for murdering an unarmed Iraqi man. That sentence was later reduced to 15 years. 

Kill an unarmed man and get 15 years. 
Leak the video of the US military killing unarmed civilians and get 35 years. 

What happened? 
Common sense and justice became catch-phrases and by-products of a corrupt military system turned on its ear. 

GET IT IN WRITING
The Miami Dade SAO showed again why their word is NOT their bond and prosecutors are as trustworthy as those used car dealers that line SW 8th street. 
Judge Migna Sanchez-Llorens denied Cocaine Cowboy hit man Jorge Rivera Ayala's motion to enforce a verbal agreement to assist him in obtaining parole for his cooperation against Cocaine godmother Griselda Blanco. 

From David Ovalle's article in the Herald:

But Assistant State Attorney Penny Brill, head of the office’s legal unit, pointed out in a hearing earlier this month that the plea deal only indicated that prosecutors “might” help Ayala if he cooperated.

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/08/22/3578999/miami-judge-rejects-freedom-for.html#storylink=cpy


No one should feel sorry for Ayala. He is a killer and deserves to spend his life in prison. But we didn't make a deal with him, the SAO did. They're the ones who got into bed with the devil. 

What happened here? A killer got screwed. BFD. 

But for now, the lesson is when you deal with the Dade SAO, never take them at their word. Get it in writing. 

See you in court. 


Thursday, August 22, 2013

3RD DCA UPDATE

Perhaps it's time we started reading the 3rd DCA decisions again. 

Sex Offender probation upheld in sentence for simple battery. State v. Villanueva. Defendant charged with LL on a child Convicted of lesser misdemeanor simple battery. Judge Murphy gives him a year sex offender therapy as a condition of probation. 3rd DCA holds that while section 948.03 requires sex offender probation for certain offenses, it does not prohibit them for others. 

Go figure. 

PAROLE 
PFC Bradley Manning was sentenced to 35 years Wednesday for the Wikileaks case.  We were some what startled to learn that the US Military has a parole system for inmates who serve a third of their sentence. 
Wow. Imagine a justice and corrections system that evaluates inmates to see if they are rehabilitated during the course of their incarceration and allows them to be released upon due consideration of proof of rehabilitation. What a fascinating concept. 

3RD DCA APPLICANTS
Yesterday we reported on the applicants to two open federal seats in the Southern District of Florida (Motto: "You can be nominated to serve, but that's a whole different kettle of fish than being confirmed.")

Today we list the applicants to the open seat on the 3rd DCA ("Proudly PCA'ing criminal appeals since Florida became a state.")


Judge Jorge E. Cueto 
Judge  Norma S. Lindsey
Judge Fleur J. Lobree
Judge  Bronwyn C. Miller
Judge Jose M. Rodriguez 

Jonathan D. Colan 
Candace Renee Duff 
Sergio Garcia-Pages 
John A. Greco 
Edward G. Guedes
Eduardo I. Sanchez
Edwin A. Scales, III



"Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio? A nation turns its lonely eyes to you."

 See You In Court. 



Tuesday, August 20, 2013

I WANNA BE A FEDERAL JUDGE (in 50 words or less)

Your next Federal Judge:  
Here is what the honor of being nominated to the federal bench entails: 
1) You fill out more forms than the entire contents of the national library of Burma;
2) The FBI crawls through your life with a microscope. Candidates have had their housekeepers accosted coming out of Publix and taken to a van to be interviewed on whether you paid withholding taxes on their salary; 
3) You appear before the Judiciary Committee where you promise to be a good and fair judge and swear on all that is holy to you that you will personally chop with an axe any activist judge who happens to darken your path;
4) You get a recommendation from the judiciary committee; 
5) Six months pass and the white house counsel's office stops returning your phone calls. Some Senaor from pig-snout Arkansas has put a hold on your nomination because you once "rowed" across a river and then returned to "wade" across the same river and he suspects you are actually a Muslim Terrorist planted by the Chinese Government and are part of a vast global conspiracy, hatched in Hawaii at the time of Obama's birth, to infiltrate the federal bench with judges who will only apply Sharia law during the off hours that they are not carving pentagrams into their bench and holding evening Wicken study group sessions. 

Personally, we don't get the appeal of applying. 

But DOM has the full list here, and for our purposes, here are the State judges , in no particular order,  who are in the mix:

John Thornton, Migna Sanchez-Llorens, Thomas Rebull, Peter Lopez, Darrin Gayles, Beth Bloom, Dennis Murphy, Daryl Trawick, Betty Butchko... (we might have missed some.) 


Saturday, August 17, 2013

"DEFENDING DOESN'T MEAN EXCUSING.."

Jacques Verges, the famed, flamboyant, French defense attorney died at age 88 in Paris on August 15th. In a career that spanned over fifty years, Verges defended the most radical and despised of European defendants, including Carlos the Jackal- the marxist terrorist, and Klaus Barbie, the  "butcher of Lyon" who sent thousands of French Jews to their death at concentration camps in WWII. 

Here are the quotes we wish you to consider and discuss: 

“I would have defended Hitler,” he told the German news magazine Der Spiegel in 2008. “Defending doesn’t mean excusing. A lawyer doesn’t judge, doesn’t condemn, doesn’t acquit. He tries to understand.”

“There is an aspect of professional challenge,” he once told The Post of his client roster. “If I were a doctor I would rather have done the first open heart surgery than have treated 1,000 colds.”

“A man is never all black or all white,” he once told an interviewer. “In the heart of the worst criminal there is always a secret garden. And in the heart of the most honest man, a nest of the most terrible reptiles.”

The Washington Post article is here. 

There is value in examining extremes.  How many of us are just treating colds? 

Enjoy your weekend. 

Friday, August 16, 2013

TERRY SULLIVAN, JA, HAS PASSED AWAY

The comments section yesterday had several comments that Terry Sullivan, a Judicial Assistant to various judges over the years (Sepe, Blake, Colby) has passed away. 

Is there a more underpaid and often under appreciated  group of individuals in the State Court system than Judicial Assistants? 

FRIEND JUDGE COLODNY

Derek Medina, F13-18474, the so called "Facebook Killer" has an appearance Friday before Judge Colodny. No defense attorney appears of record as yet. 

HUMAN TRAFFICKING SEMINAR: Seems to be a very worthwhile project for some pro bono hours. 




72 DOLPHINS GO TO WHITE HOUSE:

40 years after going undefeated, the 1972 Dolphins are going to the White House next Tuesday. Czonka, Griese, Merc, all your favourites will be there. 
At the time, it was not de rigueur  for all championship teams to visit the White House. Plus, as everybody knows, Richard Milhous Nixon was a Redskins fan. 

See You In Court. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

WHEN PIGS FLY

The NY Times here described Attorney General Eric Holder, Jr's., speech to the ABA this week where he announced that the DOJ will no longer include drug amounts in indictments for low level drug dealers so as  to circumvent the triggering of minimum mandatory sentences, as a "transformational moment.". 

They doth gush too much-eth. 

On closer examination we see the following:

1) Nothing in the speech about making the policy retroactive or giving any inmates serving "bone crushing" sentences a chance to benefit from this United States's new found enlightenment when it comes to incarceration on minor drug offenses. 

2) The Attorney General's desire is just that: a desire. Individual charging decisions will still be left to local prosecutors who have discretion to include drug amounts in indictments, thus triggering the minimum mandatory sentences. 

So here is what will happen:

AUSA: "Hey counsel, I didn't include the drug amounts in the indictment. Your guy can plead to the charges and get those easy 84 months."

Defense Attorney: "No, my client says he's innocent. He wants a trial."

AUSA: "Pardon me a moment while I call my secretary to schedule time before the grand jury. I will be re-indicting your client and including so many minimum mandatory sentences that he will still be in when the sun goes super nova in a few billion years. 

From Holder's speech: too many Americans go to too many prisons for far too long, and for no truly good law enforcement reason."

Rumpole's riposte:  You've been attorney general for six fricking years and you just figured that out? You might want to look into getting rid of your beeper and buying a cell phone Mr. AG. 


NOTICEABLY SILENT: The legislators from the State of Florida who never saw a minimum mandatory they  didn't like, or a Miami Dade Judge they didn't trust.  There is nothing stopping the DEA from trudging down to the SAO's pre-file unit and dumping a bunch of fifteen year min-man cases in state court . 


MARSHALL LEE GORE: Execution date set for September 10, 2013. 

Here's what you get from reading the latest opinion denying Gore relief: the one attorney who has not quit fighting for his client is Todd Scher. As the opinion shows, he has fought the good fight in state court, federal court, in the governors office and generally done what you expect from a superior and dedicated death penalty defense attorney. Well done Mr. Scher- you have our admiration. 


See You In Court. 


Monday, August 12, 2013

THE JAIL IS JUMPIN....BULGER GUILTY

A Bahstan federal jury Monday  convicted James "Whitey" Bulger of most of the counts he was charged with, but did acquit him on several murder counts where flip witnesses testified that Bulger did not pull the trigger.  Here is the Boston Globe's report. 

Ace Herald reporter David Ovalle has done it again!
Click here for his report, complete with surveillance footage from TGK (motto "We have an open door policy")  (that was just too easy) which shows an incident in the maximum security section of the jail where all the door mysteriously open at once. Even more mysterious, the footage shows that at least two inmates were  ready for the doors to open, because once the doors opened they jumped out and quickly armed themselves and went to attack a third inmate who is the alleged  leader of an inner city gang. 

We don't believe in coincidences. 
Something is rotten in TGK. Somebody intentionally pushed a button and opened all the jail cell doors. 

See you in court. 

FREE EDWARD YOUNG

This post is taken directly from Nicholas Kristof's Op-Ed piece in the NY Times Sunday. 

And scroll to the bottom to see a report on the announcement of a major shift in federal drug prosecution policy.

This story is shocking and shameful and it is why our government cannot be trusted and why prosecutors cannot be trusted to do the right thing. Everything about this case bespeaks a bureaucratic system that sends its citizens to gulags. 

Help a Neighbor. Go To Prison:
IF you want to understand all that is wrong with America’s criminal justice system, take a look at the nightmare experienced by Edward Young.


Young, now 43, was convicted of several burglaries as a young man but then resolved that he would turn his life around. Released from prison in 1996, he married, worked six days a week, and raised four children in Hixson, Tenn.
Then a neighbor died, and his widow, Neva Mumpower, asked Young to help sell her husband’s belongings. He later found, mixed in among them, seven shotgun shells, and he put them aside so that his children wouldn’t find them.
“He was trying to help me out,” Mumpower told me. “My husband was a pack rat, and I was trying to clear things out.”
Then Young became a suspect in burglaries at storage facilities and vehicles in the area, and the police searched his home and found the forgotten shotgun shells as well as some stolen goods. The United States attorney in Chattanooga prosecuted Young under a federal law that bars ex-felons from possessing guns or ammunition. In this case, under the Armed Career Criminal Act, that meant a 15-year minimum sentence.
The United States attorney, William Killian, went after Young — even though none of Young’s past crimes involved a gun, even though Young had no shotgun or other weapon to go with the seven shells, and even though, by all accounts, he had no idea that he was violating the law when he helped Mrs. Mumpower sell her husband’s belongings.
In May, a federal judge, acknowledging that the case was Dickensian but saying that he had no leeway under the law, sentenced Young to serve a minimum of 15 years in federal prison. It didn’t matter that the local authorities eventually dismissed the burglary charges. 
Rumpole asks: What kind of government does this to its citizens? Is the country  safer? Are the citizens of Chattanooga safer now? What kind of prosecutor does this to a fellow human being and then sleeps at night and can look at himself in the mirror in the morning? 
This is disgusting and it makes us sick and deeply ashamed of what we all too frequently boast as the best justice system on earth. The best? Its results are Soviet in nature and there is nothing just about it.

FACT: The U.S. has 5% of the world's population and 25% of the world's prison population.  Since 1980 the U.S. population has grown by a third but the prison population has grown by 800%. 

AG Holder to announce new  policy to reduce federal drug incarcerations:
The NY Times reports here that today Attorney General Eric Holder will announce at the ABA annual meeting in San Francisco (something, strangely, we've never been invited to) a major shift in DOJ policy on drug prosecutions: Prosecutors will no longer list the amount of drugs in an indictment, giving them and the court the ability to sidestep minimum mandatory sentences. 

It's a start, but before we go popping champagne corks, lets see how this plays out. 





Sunday, August 11, 2013

WALKS AND DISSENTS

Is is possible that James "Whitey" Bulger walks? 

The Jury in Boston  has been out a few days. At trial, Bulger's defense did not deny most of the accusations, instead stating (correctly) that Bulger was given tacit permission for his crimes by two corrupt FBI agents that were his handlers. 

Kevin Cullen has this article about the case in the Independent. 

What is undeniable about the case is this: The FBI let Bulger and his crew run rampant through South Boston for almost three decades and then when his corrupt  FBI handler John Connolly tipped off Bulger that there was indictment about to be unsealed, Bulger ran for over sixteen years and for much of that time the FBI did little to find him.  An acquittal would be a stinging rebuke to the government. 

And if you took our advice about reading the Whitey Bulger book by Boston Globe reporters Kevin Cullen and Shelly Murphy, then you could not help but be sickened by the way the justice department's civil division treated the families of the victims of Bulger's murderous rampages. In a nutshell, the DOJ threw up every possible roadblock to the families civil lawsuits in civil court, while in criminal court they sought the prosecution of FBI agent John Connolly. Essentially the DOJ in civil court denied what the DOJ in criminal court alleged. And the victims of this duplicity were the wives and children not of crooks, but of good men who were innocent bystanders and caught literally in the cross fire of Bulger's assassination attempts on his associates. 


HOLMES DISSENT
In Abrams v. US ,  The US Supreme Court affirmed the convictions of five Russians for violating the Espionage act of 1917 for their distribution of pro-Russian pamphlets criticizing the government's war effort during (what was called at the time) The Great War. 

In 1919, just 363 days after the end of the great war,  Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes issued a dissent that more than stands the test of time:


Persecution for the expression of opinions seems to me perfectly logical. If you have no doubt of your premises or your power, and want a certain result with all your heart, you naturally express your wishes in law, and sweep away all opposition. To allow opposition by speech seems to indicate that you think the speech impotent, as when a man says that he has squared the circle, or that you do not care wholeheartedly for the result, or that you doubt either your power or your premises.
But when men have realized that time has upset many fighting faiths, they may come to believe even more than they believe the very foundations of their own conduct that the ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas -- that the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market, and that truth is the only ground upon which their wishes safely can be carried out. 
That, at any rate, is the theory of our Constitution. It is an experiment, as all life is an experiment. Every year, if not every day, we have to wager our salvation upon some prophecy based upon imperfect knowledge. While that experiment is part of our system, I think that we should be eternally vigilant against attempts to check the expression of opinions that we loathe and believe to be fraught with death, unless they so imminently threaten immediate interference with the lawful and pressing purposes of the law that an immediate check is required to save the country.


The most remarkable aspect of Holmes's dissent is that  just a few months before, Holmes had strongly written to uphold the criminal convictions in a series of free speech cases. 

Then, in a maneuver that would have most current day conservatives calling for his impeachment if not his hide, Holmes....changed his mind!

Every DOJ prosecution against a Muslim in this country should be accompanied by a declaration by the prosecutor that he/she has read Holmes's dissent in Abrams and the prosecution in this case does not contradict those ideals. 

And someday pigs will fly and we'll get a new criminal courthouse in Dade. But until then....

See You In Court. 


Friday, August 09, 2013

39 YEARS AGO YESTERDAY


UPDATE: "FRIEND" Judge Tess Pooler, as she was assigned the "Facebook" killer case.  Courtesy of the preternaturally busy Herald  crime reporter David Ovalle, who provided minute by minute coverage of the breathtaking first appearance (where nothing happened beyond the defendant being held without bond). 

The Random Pixels blog says that the case made famous by then Herald reporter Edna Buchannan in her book "The Corpse Had a Familiar Face" was more bizarre than this case. That case started when a young Miami police officer had the head of a woman thrown at him by a naked man standing next to the metro rail. That's why in Miami you should always have your shot from a colada before heading out on patrol. You need to be wide awake. 





Below is the coverage from the Washington Post, 39 years ago....














By Carroll Kilpatrick
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 9, 1974; Page A01
Richard Milhous Nixon announced last night that he will resign as the 37th President of the United States at noon today.
Vice President Gerald R. Ford of Michigan will take the oath as the new President at noon to complete the remaining 2 1/2 years of Mr. Nixon's term.
After two years of bitter public debate over the Watergate scandals, President Nixon bowed to pressures from the public and leaders of his party to become the first President in American history to resign.
"By taking this action," he said in a subdued yet dramatic television address from the Oval Office, "I hope that I will have hastened the start of the process of healing which is so desperately needed in America."
Vice President Ford, who spoke a short time later in front of his Alexandria home, announced that Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger will remain in his Cabinet.
The President-to-be praised Mr. Nixon's sacrifice for the country and called it "one of the vary saddest incidents that I've every witnessed."
Mr. Nixon said he decided he must resign when he concluded that he no longer had "a strong enough political base in the Congress" to make it possible for him to complete his term of office.
Declaring that he has never been a quitter, Mr. Nixon said that to leave office before the end of his term " is abhorrent to every instinct in my body."
But "as President, I must put the interests of America first," he said.
While the President acknowledged that some of his judgments "were wrong," he made no confession of the "high crimes and misdemeanors" with which the House Judiciary Committee charged him in its bill of impeachment.
Specifically, he did not refer to Judiciary Committee charges that in the cover-up of Watergate crimes he misused government agencies such as the FBI, the Central Intelligence Agency and the Internal Revenue Service.
After the President's address, Special Prosecutor Leon Jaworski issued a statement declaring that "there has been no agreement or understanding of any sort between the President or his representatives and the special prosecutor relating in any way to the President's resignation."
Jaworski said that his office "was not asked for any such agreement or understanding and offered none."
His office was informed yesterday afternoon of the President's decision, Jaworski said, but "my office did not participate in any way in the President's decision to resign."
Mr. Nixon's brief speech was delivered in firm tones and he appeared to be complete control of his emotions. The absence of rancor contrasted sharply with the "farewell" he delivered in 1962 after being defeated for the governorship of California.
An hour before the speech, however, the President broke down during a meeting with old congressional friends and had to leave the room.
He had invited 20 senators and 26 representatives for a farewell meeting in the Cabinet room. Later, Sen. Barry M. Goldwater (R-Ariz.), one of those present, said Mr. Nixon said to them very much what he said in his speech.
"He just told us that the country couldn't operate with a half-time President," Goldwater reported. "Then he broke down and cried and he had to leave the room. Then the rest of us broke down and cried."
In his televised resignation, after thanking his friends for their support, the President concluded by saying he was leaving office "with this prayer: may God's grace be with you in all the days ahead."
As for his sharpest critics, the President said, "I leave with no bitterness toward those who have opposed me." He called on all Americans to "join together . . . in helping our new President succeed."
The President said he had thought it was his duty to persevere in office in face of the Watergate charges and to complete his term.
"In the past days, however, it has become evident to me that I no longer have a strong enough political base in the Congress to justify continuing that effort," Mr. Nixon said.
His family "unanimously urged" him to stay in office and fight the charges against him, he said. But he came to realize that he would not have the support needed to carry out the duties of his office in difficult times.
"America needs a full-time President and a full-time Congress," Mr. Nixon said. The resignation came with "a great sadness that I will not be here in this office" to complete work on the programs started, he said.
But praising Vice President Ford, Mr. Nixon said that "the leadership of America will be in good hands."
In his admission of error, the outgoing President said: "I deeply regret any injuries that may have been done in the course of the events that led to this decision."
He emphasized that world peace had been the overriding concern of his years in the White House.
When he first took the oath, he said, he made a "sacred commitment" to "consecrate my office and wisdom to the cause of peace among nations."
"I have done my very best in all the days since to be true to that pledge," he said, adding that he is now confident that the world is a safer place for all peoples.
"This more than anything is what I hoped to achieve when I sought the presidency," Mr. Nixon said. "This more than anything is what I hope will be my legacy to you, to our country, as I leave the presidency."
Noting that he had lived through a turbulent period, he recalled a statement of Theodore Roosevelt about the man "in the arena whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood" and who, if he fails "at least fails while daring greatly."
Mr. Nixon placed great emphasis on his successes in foreign affairs. He said his administration had "unlocked the doors that for a quarter of a century stood between the United States and the People's Republic of China."
In the mideast, he said, the United States must begin to build on the peace in that area. And with the Soviet Union, he said, the administration had begun the process of ending the nuclear arms race. The goal now, he said, is to reduce and finally destroy those arms "so that the threat of nuclear war will no longer hang over the world." The two countries, he added, "must live together in cooperation rather than in confrontation."
Mr. Nixon has served 2,026 days as the 37th President of the United States. He leaves office with 2 1/2 years of his second term remaining to be carried out by the man he nominated to be Vice President last year.
Yesterday morning, the President conferred with his successor. He spent much of the day in his Executive Office Building hideaway working on his speech and attending to last-minute business.
At 7:30 p.m., Mr. Nixon again left the White House for the short walk to the Executive Office Building. The crowd outside the gates waved U.S. flags and sang "America" as he walked slowly up the steps, his head bowed, alone.
At the EOB, Mr. Nixon met for a little over 20 minutes with the leaders of Congress -- James O. Eastland (D-Miss.), president pro tem to the Senate; Mike Mansfield (D-Mont.), Senate majority leader; Hugh Scott (R-Pa.), Senate minority leader; Carl Albert (D-Okla.), speaker of the House; and John Rhodes (R-Ariz.), House minority leader.
It was exactly six years ago yesterday that the 55-year-old Californian accepted the Republican nomination for President for the second time and went on to a narrow victory in November over Democrat Hubert H. Humphrey.
...
Mr. Nixon and his family are expected to fly to their home in San Clemente, Calif. early today. Press secretary Ronald L. Ziegler and Rose Mary Woods, Mr. Nixon's devoted personal secretary for more than two decades, will accompany the Nixons.
Alexander M. Haig Jr., the former Army vice chief of staff who was brought into the White House as staff chief following the resignation of H.R. (Bob) Haldeman on April 30, 1973, has been asked by Mr. Ford to remain in his present position.
It is expected that Haig will continue in the position as staff chief to assure an orderly transfer of responsibilities but not stay indefinitely.
...
At 2:20 p.m., press secretary Ziegler walked into the press room and, struggling to control his emotions, read the following statement:
"I am aware of the intense interest of the American people and of you in this room concerning developments today and over the last few days. This has, of course, been a difficult time.
"The President of the United States will meet various members of the bipartisan leadership of Congress here at the White House early this evening.
"Tonight, at 9 o'clock, Eastern Daylight Time, the President of the United States will address the nation on radio and television from his Oval Office."
The room was packed with reporters, and Ziegler read the statement with difficulty. Although his voice shook, it did not break. As soon as he had finished, he turned on his heel and left the room, without so much as a glance at the men and women in the room who wanted to question him.
There were tears in the eyes of some of the secretaries in the press office. Others, who have been through many crises in recent years and have become used to overwork, plowed ahead with their duties, with telephones ringing incessantly.
...
It seemed inevitable then that this would be his last week in office, yet he continued to fight back and to insist that he would not resign. On Tuesday, the President held a Cabinet meeting and told his official family that he would not resign.
On Wednesday, however, the end appeared near, for his support on Capitol Hill was disappearing at dizzying speed. There were demands from some of his staunchest supporters that he should resign at once.


Thursday, August 08, 2013

FACEBOOK CONFESSION

We'll, now we've seen it all. 
A Miami man shot and killed his wife and posted the photos on Facebook, along with a confession. 
Here's how it broke during Thursday:


Humanity is doomed. South Miami man kills wife, posts confession, photo of of her bloody body on Facebook


And this was part of the Facebook page:



And here is the Herald's coverage: Facebook confession. 

Can whomever gets this case shoot us an email and let us know what is going on? In confidence of course. 

What a complete and utter tragedy. 


TRAGEDY AND AGONY

If you want to read about a real tragic case with no winners and just pain and loss and tragedy then read David Ovalle's coverage  here yesterday of the plea, sentence and surrender of Karlie Tomica in the DUI Manslaughter of Chef Stefano Riccioletti. 
Just tragic. 

FREE SPEECH:
The Broward Blog has this quote posted (for obvious reasons):

The substantive evil here sought to be averted has been variously described below. It appears to be double: disrespect for the judiciary, and disorderly and unfair administration of justice. The assumption that respect for the judiciary can be won by shielding judges from published criticism wrongly appraises the character of American public opinion. For it is a prized American privilege to speak one's mind, although not always with perfect good taste, on all public institutions. And an enforced silence, however limited, solely in the name of preserving the dignity of the bench would probably engender resentment, suspicion, and contempt much more than it would enhance respect ... (Emphasis Added)
Hugo Black.
Bridges v. California, 314 U.S 252 (1941). 

Query: How should we handle this? Lets say a judge was habitually late to court and rude to attorneys. Should we do a post on it? Should we contact the judge first and give them a chance to respond? There is a responsibility with writing a blog that the legal community reads. Reputations are at stake with every post and every comment. 

Just try walking a mile in our moccasins. 

See you in court. 

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

FREE LYNNE STEWART

Lynne Stewart is the firebrand criminal defense attorney from New York City who represented notorious clients in her career including Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, the blind cleric who was convicted of conspiring to blow up NYC landmarks pre-9/11. Stewart crossed the line in her representation of Rahman when she smuggled messages from him in his isolation cell to his violent followers in Egypt. Stewart was convicted in 2010 and sentenced to ten years. Now three years in her sentence, she is 73 years old and dying of breast cancer in a prison hospital in Texas. The warden approved her release on humanistic grounds, but the Bureau Of Prisons overrode the warden's recommendation. Stewart's attorney has now taken her case to the judge who sentenced her- John G. Koeltl who is holding hearings this week. The NY Times coverage is here. 

Enough is enough. Stewart has been disbarred. She cannot visit clients anymore. She is 73 and dying. Release her and let her die in peace. 

The State of California has been forced by a District Court to release 10,000 inmates. The State sought a stay. The Supreme Court denied the stay and Scalia went a little nutty (the heat would be getting to him if he believed in global warming.). If you read the opinion you will recall this case has been before the Supreme Court before, with Scalia dissenting then as well. 
The new histrionic dissent is here, with barbed references to Judges playing poker and bluffing each other, threats to the civil well being of California burgs who are about to have havoc released among their peaceful citizens, and bitter complaints about judges legislating from the bench (which he labels an expansion of "the power of the back robe".) It's worth a read. 

See you in court.