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

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

ALL RISE, COURT IS NOW IN SESSION


THE CAPTAIN REPORTS:

ALL RISE, COURT IS NOW IN SESSION .......

The Honorable Fleur Lobree presiding.

SETTING:   REGJB

JUDGE LOBREE: Good morning, ladies and gentleman, to the Gerstein Justice Building.  I am Judge Fleur Lobree.  Court is now in session.  This is the Arraignment Calendar.  Clerk, call the first case.

CLERK:  State v. Malcolm David Brown, F13-11499.

LOBREE:  Mr. Brown, you are charged with Burglary of a Dwelling and Possession of Cannabis. How do you plead?

ATTORNEY: Your Honor, we enter a plea of not guilty, request trial by jury, and demand discovery.

JUDGE LOBREE: Enter a plea of NG and set the case for Report on 9/11/14.  Clerk, next case.

CLERK: State v. Nelson Santoni, F14-4513-A.

JUDGE LOBREE:  Mr. Santoni, you are charged with Murder in the Second Degree, Armed Burglary with an Assault, Attempted Armed Robbery/Carjacking, and Grand Theft in the Third Degree.  How do you plead?

ATTORNEY EDITH GEORGI:  Your honor, Mr. Santoni pleads Guilty.

LOBREE:  Enter a plea of NG and set the case for Report for 9/11/14.  Clerk, next case.

MS. GEORGI:  Excuse me, your honor, but Mr. Santoni has pled Guilty.  We are ready for sentencing.

This series of events in Judge Lobree's courtroom actually took place in March of this year.  The State informed the Judge that they were seeking to Indict the defendant before the Grand Jury.  Knowing this, and knowing that an Indictment charging First Degree Murder could follow, and the result could eventually be a sentence of Death, Senior APD Georgi, after consulting with her client, chose to enter a plea of Guilty.

Now what?  The ASA argued that the Judge could/should not sentence the defendant.  APD Georgi asked why not; you asked us how we plead and we said guilty.  My client is very remorseful and he is willing to give up his legal battle and put the victim's family at ease.

The ASA objected to the plea and argued that the constitutional right of the homicide victim's next of kin to be present at crucial stages of criminal proceedings meant that the Judge could not accept the guilty plea and move to sentencing.

Judge Lobree, after argument from both sides, agreed with the State and refused to accept the guilty plea.  Judge Lobree: "I'm required to balance not only the rights of your client but also the rights of the victim". 

The defendant filed a Writ of Mandamus directing the trial court to accept his guilty plea.

So, what did the 3rd DCA say?   You can read the entire opinion here:

In a word, DENIED.  The writ was denied and in their opinion the 3rd DCA stated that "a trial court has the discretion to decide when to hold a plea hearing.  Because the timing decision lies within the sound discretion of the trial court, mandamus is not available to control the scheduling of the hearing."

Crack reporter David O'Valle covers the entire story here:

POSTSCRIPT: On August 1, 2014, the State filed their Indictment charging First Degree Murder and the defendant has now entered a plea of not guilty to that charge.

So, my Justice Building Blog readers, Trialmaster, BTDT, and others, any of you ever have anything like that happen in your cases?

In the words of Horace Rumpole, "see you in court" where we plead all of our clients Not Guilty, because they are.

CAPTAIN OUT .......
Captain4Justice@gmail.com



 



12 comments:

Anonymous said...

First, give credit where credit is do. Smart move by Edith. Kudos to her.

Second, yes, I've seen other judges reject pleas in similar scenarios, most frequently when people attempt to take advantage of young prosecutors and have their clients accept pleas to misdemeanor DUI counts while the State is contemplating manslaughter charges (this happened with such frequency twenty plus years ago that the State instructed officers to stop writing DUI tickets before the blood work came back). Before that, savvy attorneys had their clients plead guilty to traffic infractions to avoid DUI charges (they argued that the DUI prosecutions amounted to double jeopardy). The US Supreme Court eliminated that practice when it determined that there was no double jeopardy issue.

BTDT

Anonymous said...

Edith should have asked for the case to be reset with notice to the victim's family and an opportunity for them to be present. Would have made the appeal a closer call. Instead gave them an easy way out. Also another example of a Judge not being a true neutral arbiter. Should have given the State a couple days to get the victim's family into court and then accept the plea. It would be more efficient, save money, give the family closure and could still result in a LIFE sentence. Instead the case will drag on now for five years, will cost the taxpayers one million dollars or likely much more and eventually the victims family will be upset with not being to have closure.

ScottAfrica

Anonymous said...

As any bright law student who has taken a solid criminal procedure course should know the ploy although perhaps 'smart' has no basis in law. Defense counsel cannot force a guilty plea on an unwilling Court. The Court has the responsibility to ensure that the accused has received competent assistence of counsel which is highly unlikely under these circumstances (a guilty plea to life at arraignment). The Judge need only to set a hearing to determine exactly what, if anything, counsel has done to represent the accused. In the meantime the SAO can file whatever charges it wishes bring.

Anonymous said...

Can the adoptive admission of "guilty" now be used against him in the first degree murder case?

Anonymous said...

That's why i'm voting for Mavel Ruiz and recommending my froends to vote for her too. Fleur Lobree just wanted to give the State the time they needed to get the indictment.

Anonymous said...

Like when Art Koch prepared the Chavez case for 7 years before it was finally tried. When you only have one case, like the death lawyers at the pdo- the 1 million figure is about right.

Anonymous said...

It was an admirable try by Edith, who among us hasn't tried to out maneuver the State, but Lobree was right. Victims and/or their families have a right to be heard and their rights should not be subjugated for any reason. The case was reset within 6 days, how is that not reasonable?!

Anonymous said...

Yes this happened in Judge Sanchez-Llorens court room a few years ago.

The "C" ASA filed the information charging second degree murder on the 21st day. The PD's Office entered a plea of guilty.

This was a horrific homicide of a woman who was killed by someone she employed. She was attending an event with her family I believe and returned home for some reason alone. Her employee, thinking no one would be home, had broken in. She came home, and he killed her.

The Division Chief, having the next of kin present, spoke to them about what just happened, as the Judge passed the case.

The family agreed at that moment they wanted the closure, and were satisfied with the life sentence; the court accepted the plea.

No Rule 3s have been filed since as far as I know.

Anonymous said...

1:25 - why shouldn't the state be afforded the opportunity to charge the proper crime? if you think that an immediate plea of guilty to life in prison won't result in years of post conviction pleadings, you are very much mistaken. Playing games with a client's life to "beat the state" before getting to the grand jury for murder 1 is just stupid.

Anonymous said...

12:28 Life is better than death. Sounds like competent advice to me.

DS said...

Tuesday 8/5 @ 12:54
No, Plea , Offers to plea and proffers/statements made as part of a plea poffer or plea attempt can not be used against a Defendant.
Fl. R. CRM. Pro. R 3.172 (i)

Anonymous said...

Regardless of the judge's reasoning, that simply did not meet the exceedingly high standard to obtain mandamus relief.