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.