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Thursday, February 27, 2014

30 YEARS AGO : STATE V. OFFICER LUIS ALVAREZ

Can it really have been that long ago??



Perhaps Mr. Black  will write in with some remembrances. Mr. Laeser has done so and they are below.

They've done it before. See, The Case That Made Miami Burn. 

Hat tip to the second best blog in Miami: Random Pixels for the newspaper article. 

In our prior post, Mr. Black had this to say, inter alia:

Roy Black said..
The Alvarez trial was also a turning point in my legal life. It goes without saying that it was a hard fought battle with supporters on each side crying for blood and some even drawing it. The specter of another riot hung over the trial like an ugly dark cloud.


In answer to our request, Mr. Laeser emailed us this (unedited by us)


First, the case was poorly handled for over a year by prosecutors who had public cache, but limited courtroom skills.  I have no idea how the lead prosecutor was someone whose claim to fame was that as Gerald Ford's Chief Counsel, he was the creator of the Nixon Pardon.  How that became the basis of prosecuting a cop/killer will always be beyond me.  Then he actually quit - thankfully. 
 
Janet called me in to ask if I would take it -- with about six months left before trial.  I soon discovered that it could not reasonably be won.  More than enough probable cause, but 'probable cause' never met my witnesses.  They had spoken on TV, to the press, been badly prepared for deposition -- and those words which they had said would never be undone.    It made me wish, at times, that I had the other team's job.  Cross examination of young kids who had said far too much, in too many formats, was hardly worthy of Roy's skills.
 
Next, the community pressure was ridiculous.  I could not get police officers to meet with me.  The three officers involved in the case for MPD were the two who were trapped in the first moments of the initial rioting, and the I.A. investigator.  These three fine officers were living in fear - and not from the Overtown community.  Some of the cops who testified for the defense created fictional testimony.  One of them is now a Captain for Sweetwater ['nuf said?].  He testified that one could not see into the arcade.  Showing him multiple photos of the arcade from the outside, showing the minute details of the inside, only got him to say that the camera showed more that one could see at the time using one's eyes.  My post-trial idea of a perjury prosecution of this blatant liar was rejected by Janet.  The 'neighborhood' community was just as ridiculous.  They wanted assurances about the verdict.  Some were pissed that a white guy was still in charge.  In truth, the verdict made me proud for only one reason:  Given the history of the McDuffie rioting in May 1980 [worst four days of my professional life], and the rioting when Alvarez shot Neville Johnson, the "minor" response to this verdict gave me hope for Miami.  After the trial some of the rabble-rousers from P.U.L.S.E. actually thanked me for the effort, and told me that my work had kept the town from becoming an inferno.
 
Finally,  I have been second guessing my cross examination of the defendant for a long time.  I hate a lengthy cross.  He was a cop with limited impeachment available.  But I knew that he had panicked and shot Johnson.  He had modified his handgun to made it easier to fire.  But I decided that I needed to get under his skin - if I could.  If he stayed cool, as I am sure that Roy had practiced with him, then I had no reason to believe that a jury would overlook my awful witnesses and decide that the 'bad cop' finally showed his true demeanor.  Bottom line: the lengthy and aggressive cross was not fully effective.  Given the evidence presented, the jury was completely right in saying that the State did not prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.  It was my last loss ever in trial.  // ABE

Rumpole says: WOW! For you young lawyers raised on Starbucks and IPads, this is history speaking. This is a lawyer who went into battle, odds against him, the pressure on, and fought like hell for the truth and rule of law. 
The only thing better than this would be for some enterprising organization to bring Mr. Laeser and Mr. Black together on a stage for about an hour, each with a microphone, and let them just talk about the case. 

WOW again. We love this stuff. 

See you in court. 

15 comments:

william said...

I have always been proud of abe laser in this case ...he tried to do justice...as a young african american prosecutor...I came to the office as robett Beatty was leaving....methinks he quit over handling of case pre trial....30 years later same shit...black boys few guns ...cops fear for their lives...certainly some of these deaths resulted in OBAMA

Anonymous said...

Amazing stuff. As a young lawyer its stories like these that I thirst to hear, and insight I hope to gain.

George Frobisher said...

Roy might be interested to know Philip "Desperate for Love" Meyer just published a new book on storytelling for lawyers.

Anonymous said...

DJ Esquire Available For Comment To Explain How He Would Have WOn The Trial As A Prosecutor And Defense Attorney Of The Stars. Willing To Argue Either Side On TV. As A Bonus, Insider Bieber Trial Thoughts......

jenniferator said...

So Woodward and Burnstein!!

Anonymous said...

Well said. Amazing stuff. Now I need the help of the Blog readers. Please express your opinion that I do respect. If a Defendent on a very serious case hires a particular Atty. to handle his case, is it ethical or ok for the Atty. to send another atty. to do important depos? The atty that was sent for the Depos. is very young with no experience. Please let me know what you think. Also the Defendant has never talk to the Atty. that took the Depos.

Anonymous said...

10:16 Im a young lawyer thinking of starting a niche practice where all I do is take other lawyer's depositions. It will mostly involve sitting around the lobby at the PDs or SAO, waiting for cops to stand me up, but should actual depos occur I will make sure to ask the officer to state his badge number for the record and how he first came to be involved in this arrest. I will never forget to ask him whether he wants to read or waive.

If the ASA wants to sit in on the depo, I will charge you a little extra, unless its that strawberry blonde from Glick's division.

All told, I expect it will be a thriving practice, because after all the hard work you baby boomers have put into your careers, you really shouldnt be expected to deal with obstinate deponents too, should you?

Anonymous said...

10:16: you bring up a valid point. There are attorneys who charge big fees, only to have their junior associates do the actual work. However, usually the depositions are not where a case is won or lost, so the senior attorneys can get away with the practice. Why do you ask the question?

Rumpole said...

I've really been pondering Mr Laeser's thoughts on his cross of the defendant.

As to the idiot who somehow thought I would publish his ridiculous comments just calling someone names anonymously, get a life jerk.

Anonymous said...

Should be trial prepping today. But it's damn beautiful out I just called a Shumie and took the day off.

Anonymous said...

It was the Abe's one last trial loss in that he was given slam dunk cases to go to trial where the evidence was overwhelming. I wonder if he considers a verdict on lessers a win .

Fake Country Dave said...

What's the deal with the Church of the Later Day Saints? Are there any former day saints? WTF?

Anonymous said...

10:13, I asked the question because is a situation confronted by a friend of mine. I personally think that If you hire an atty. and put your money and life in his hands you would expect to have his total attention to your case. I am not a lawyer but common sense tells me that a Depo of a State witness is a very important part of the case and should be done with care and by the Attorney that has the best experiende and total knowlege of the case. I hope that lawyers outthere on the Blog will bring some light into the matter. I also think that is a matter of trust, and a Defendant wants to trust his lawyer to do the best work he can posible do, and when important Depos are conducted a lot of information could be lost if the person that conduct the Depo do not have the experience or the details that might be needed on trial. Please advice.

Anonymous said...

205.............that's not really a fair comment. I'm no great Abe fan, but the man is a hell of a lawyer and was an excellent prosecutor. Give him credit where it's due. I've never appreciated how he's treated others, but always respected his commitment to public service.

BTDT

Anonymous said...

10:37 If the attorney trusts his associate, the client should too.

Often a representation agreement isn't even for a particular attorney, but that attorney's firm.