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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

AND THEN A HERO COMES ALONG...

This was the email sent last week by PD Kevin Hellman:

Huge congratulations to APD Sara Yousuf and former APD Amy Weber for getting Judge Miguel DeLaO to grant their postconviction Motion to Vacate Judgment and Sentence yesterday winning a new trial for their client who had been convicted in 2013 of 2nd Degree Murder, Attempted 1st Degree Murder and Possession of a Firearm During Commission of a Felony.

This was an incredible victory that is a testament to the perseverance, commitment, legal skill and creativity of Amy Weber and Sara Yousuf.  They put in months of work preparing this motion, tracking down witnesses, conducting the hearing and making outstanding argument to get a wrongfully convicted man freed.  They interviewed witnesses and pulled jail calls and phone records, among myriad other work, to essentially prove that someone else committed the crimes charged. 

To his credit, Judge DeLaO heard all testimony and recordings with great patience and attention and wrote the most thoughtful and detailed order I’ve seen (35 pages worth) to fairly grant a postconviction motion based on newly discovered evidence of actual innocence and Brady violations by the prosecution. 

Truly amazing!

Public Defender Pride!!

Here is the order:



 The Heroes?
There are a few here. First, for perseverance and for never quitting on their client, Sara Yousuf and Amy Weber. Yousuf and Weber  have set the bar for  what criminal defense attorneys should strive to be. Never quit, never surrender, never never never. Well done, well done indeed. They are the truly the best of the best for doing what they did. They saved a man's life. Take a well deserved bow. 

Judge De la O, who heard the trial is also a hero here. As he pointed out in his extremely thoughtful motion, the judge denied the motion for judgment of acquittal and sentenced the defendant after the trial to fifty years in prison. But as the judge points out, "facts matter." And it takes a very big person to change their mind when the facts change. It takes a person of wisdom and experience and who is dedicated to nothing more than the simple concept of justice.  In summary, it takes a judge, a real judge, to do what Judge De la O did. 
There is a well thought out discussion of the problems with eyewitness testimony that every judge and prosecutor should read. The prosecutors probably won't, but judges should. At least, real judges should. 

And then a hero comes along….


19 comments:

REAL FORMER JUDGE said...

Isn't it a shame that we have to write a column in the blog designated as "Hero" when the Justice system simply works the way it should --- with a process that allows an innocent man the right to present a well prepared and well reasoned hearing dealing with an error made in a trial?

Should that not be the "norm" .... with no need for recognition?

Shouldn't that just be a regular occurrence?

How said that we need to give "Gold Stars" to the participants to hang on their parent's refrigerators just because they did their job and a system works for real justice.

Is our system so perverted and toxic that "Injustice" is inherent in the courthouse?

If so, that is very sad --- and we need to really bring awareness to this sad part of our civic world --- and obtain real reform!!!

God help the truly innocent charged and caught up in our broken system. God bless those committed to the ideals of true justice for all --- regardless of wealth or status.

Steven Bustamante said...

Wow.

Real legal work being done right here!

Captain Obvious said...

The shame, in response to Real Former Judge, is that these elected, state oriented judges, many who were former prosecutors, would never have the guts to grant such a motion, even in the face of uncontroverted exculpatory evidence. The further shame is that most lazy defense attorneys would have put in the dedicated and unflinching work of Mss. Weber and Yousouf, unless the client paid an enormous fee, or are true believer, dedicated public defenders like Ms. Yousuf, and former Public Defender Ms. Weber. There work should be an inspiration to all of us who toil in the system.

Anonymous said...

I think what is being lost in the Public Defender celebration is the importance of pro bono work. This was a pro bono case handled by a private attorney (who left the PD office several years ago) due to sheer will and tenacity in the pursuit of a just result. The lawyer secured her own funding for the case, and spent countless hours researching and investigating, while seeking no publicity, remuneration or fanfare. How many of us would have persevered in the same fashion on behalf of a convicted murderer?

The fact the FACDL was provided a blurb thanking the Court for its ruling and applauding the Public Defender’s Office for “getting” the Court to vacate judgment is unfortunate. Perhaps the information should have been provided in the form of encouragement for the talented private attorneys (many of whom are former APDs) who are members of the FACDL, to make an effort to carve some time out of their schedule for critically important pro bono work. We are all now witness to what can come of hard work, artful lawyering, and renewing the conviction we all had when we first began working in this field. Read the order. The work done was nothing short of amazing.

Understandably, it is difficult for many, after leaving the office, to not simply focus on turning over cases and moving on to the next retainer. But let this be an example of the magic that can happen after we leave the office. If you were ever once a “true believer”, don’t let that ever leave you. This lawyer certainly did not.

Anonymous said...

So if I read the order correctly, we have newly discovered evidence of innocence (much of which was provided by an inmate the State was/is using as a witness to prove other homicides)...how could they possibly challenge his credibility? We also have confirmed Brady violations. Where was the State in all of this? Surely they became aware of this evidence at some point prior to the final hearing. Did they fight this to the end or was there some concession made? Justice was eventually served, but why did it take so much time and effort? Is the State really serving the community's interest by contesting this Defendant's Motion in light of the evidence presented? Someone should answer for this.

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad to see a story like this rather than the usual. I hope the posts are nothing but accolades for the impressive and professional work.

Anonymous said...

Why is it that when there is prosecutorial misconduct in the REG it is not highlighted or pointed out in the blog and the posts. The prosecution failed in its job if it is at all responsible due to misconduct on their part that led to the wrongful conviction of an innocent person. It never fails to surprise me that prosecutors forget their job is to find justice, not prejudge, assume or commit breaches of ethics or crimes of their own.

Seth Sklarey said...

Judge de la O is one of the better Judges we have been blessed with.

I joined 800 friends to bid farewell to Stanley Newmark at his funeral this morning. One of the nicest people I have ever known, always with a smile on his face with a kind word about everyone and who never seemed to age.

FACDL Miami Board Member said...


to 9:40 AM

Well said. However, it should be pointed out that beginning in 2009, FACDL-Miami Chapter began a Pro Bono Project with the Miami-Dade PD's office where members signed up to accept third degree felony cases. This was a spin-off from the PD's challenge to the casework overload issue. FCADL members stepped up repeatedly and took on these felony cases pro bono.

In the past two years that program was expanded by the PDs office to include the Domestic Violence Division. The PDs came calling and FACDL members have again repeatedly answered the calls by accepting hundred of cases, pro bono.

FACDL has a long and proud history of always standing up for those that need our help, especially when they cannot afford it. We have a local Amicus Committee and a Statewide Amicus Committee that is regularly taking on, pro bono, the important issues at the DCA, Florida Supreme Court, and SCOTUS level.

We are and always will be Liberty's Last Champions!!!!!

South Florida Lawyers said...

Well done all around!

Anonymous said...

Attorney Stan Newmark was a champ. Class act. Kind. Always smiling. Smart. Great lawyer.

Stan died way too young. God bless him.

Anonymous said...

Can someone give us an update on Judge Stan Blake? Please!

Anonymous said...

Blake is in the family division being well received by the family bar. Lawyers and litigants come out of his courtroom feeling as if they got a fair hearing from a judge who always wants to do the right thing.

Anonymous said...

Judge Blake is doing well. He is talking now and progressing well. And still as funny as ever.

Ex BlcakJack Dealer said...

I agree on Stan Newmark, I went against him twice in family law cases. A good lawyer and and a real good guy. RIP Stan!

Anonymous said...

Amazing accomplishment Sara & Amy!!!Kudos also to a Judge with an eye and ear for justice.

But congratulations also to all those unsung heros-hard working lawyers who slug it out
day after day fighting for justice against all odds. Sometimes they win but unfortunately many times they lose.

Anonymous said...

I won't say a hero cause whats a hero. Lets say he is a man for his time and place. He fits right in there.

REAL FORMER JUDGE said...

I am thrilled that Judge Blake is doing better. He is the best. You are loved Judge Blake .... and I say that with all due heterosexuality! (* George Costanza circa 1993)

Anonymous said...

I am personally and professionally horrified by the Brady violations and by the time and effort it took to rectify this. But I will promise you, that this ASA will read each and every word of Judge de la O's order.