• A Fierce Advocate Proven Track Record of Success
  • Honesty and Passion
  • Ambition, Experience and Focus Extraordinary Results

INTRODUCTION

It was an eerie feeling. As I walked into Terminal 2 of the Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood Airport, just days after the horrific shooting, I was consumed with emotion. It hit me that I was in “The room where it happened.” (Yes, even when describing something dark and emotional, “Hamilton” references still flow out of me) There was an overwhelming presence of media and law enforcement both inside and outside of the terminal. I was headed to Minneapolis for an appearance in federal criminal court. My return flight on Delta Airlines into Fort Lauderdale was the exact one the shooter had taken just days earlier. This case still consumes me. I find myself frequently discussing it with friends and colleagues. I’ve chosen to write this article because I’ve found from my discussions that there’s a lot of misinformation concerning this case. Also, there are many wondering what will likely happen to the shooter, Esteban Santiago. To best be of service in this article, I’ve attempted to answer the most common questions that I believe are on the minds of most people at this time.

QUESTIONS

PROBLEM

Each year, approximately 450,000 Americans are held in jail every day because they don’t have enough money to bond out. It’s been called a “wealth-based detention scheme.” Many have had enough of this unfair system which detains poor folks even for non violent misdemeanor offenses. Many judges often set bail that they know people cannot afford as a way to keep them incarcerated. Former attorney general Eric Holder has chosen to support the cause. He believes the pretrial detention system is unconstitutional. He recently argued that judges must set bail that people can actually afford, while continuing to deny bail for those who are a danger to the community and/or a flight risk. While Holder’s focus is primarily on Maryland criminal courts, the problem exists throughout the criminal system in almost every U.S. city.

A 2014 state commission alleged that two-thirds of the inmate population is made up of pretrial detainees. 68 percent of those were stuck in jail solely because they couldn’t afford to pay for their bail. By singling out poor people and engaging in this practice, judges are violating the 14th Amendment’s due process and equal protection clauses.

Remember the show “Happy Days?” The Fonz could never say one particular word. Even when he knew he made a mistake he couldn’t admit that he was “wrong.” He’d attempt to say it: “I was wroooo…” He never could quite enunciate the word clearly. For some reason, Fonzie had some internal blockage with saying the word “wrong.”

Ryan Lochte, apparently, doesn’t have a problem saying that word but, like Fonzie, he does have a problem saying another word.

During his recent interview with Matt Lauer, Lochte admitted that he was wrong and that the incident at the Rio gas station was his fault. However, neither in his press release that he posted on Twitter nor in his Matt Lauer interview did he ever admit that he “lied.” Rather, in his release, he wrote that he needed to be “more careful and candid” in how he described the events. To Matt Lauer, he stated “I over-exaggerated that story.” Well, yeah, that he did too. However, he just couldn’t come out and say he lied, even though that’s what he did. He told several lies. For example, he never had a gun pressed to his forehead and cocked like he initially stated. He never faced armed assailants flashing police badges, like he alleged. Those were LIES!

INTRODUCTION

On March 30, 1981, as former President Ronald Reagan left the Washington Hilton Hotel in Washington D.C., John Hinckley Jr. attempted to assassinate the president. Hinckley drew his revolver and fired six rounds, injuring President Reagan and three other individuals. Roughly a year after the assassination attempt, Hinckley, who faced 13 criminal charges, was found not guilty by reason of insanity and was committed to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, a federally operated psychiatric facility in Washington D.C. Today, 35 years after that fateful day Hinckley decided to pull the trigger, a federal judge ruled that he shall be released from St. Elizabeth’s Hospital to live with his mother in her home as early as August 5th. Many of the questions that members of the “Court of Public Opinion” are asking includes, “How could he possibly be released? Why isn’t he serving a life sentence? How was he ever initially found not guilty by reason of insanity?”

ANALYSIS

INTRODUCTION

The discussion began almost immediately after the abhorrent Orlando shooting took place. Should the shooter’s wife face criminal charges? Even before details were released concerning her alleged involvement, numerous members of the “Court of Public Opinion” were passionately crying out for her arrest, believing that she had to have known of his evil plot and/or must have participated in some way. So why hasn’t she been arrested up to this point?

ANALYSIS

INTRODUCTION


The highest court in the land is currently deciding a case that can have an enormous impact on Driving Under The Influence (DUI) cases in Florida and twelve other states. Each of those thirteen states makes it a misdemeanor criminal offense to refuse to blow into a breath machine while under arrest for DUI. The Court is reviewing whether it is unconstitutional to charge someone with a crime for refusing to blow. In their discussions concerning this case, it appears that the Court is looking at DUI breath cases as a whole and wondering whether police should have to first secure a warrant to begin with before requiring someone to blow into the machine.

ANALYSIS

Cops demonstrate their inherent bias through the charges they choose to level. Let’s talk about Sheila and George. Sheila was the trusted bookkeeper for a very successful company. Unfortunately, she wasn’t as trustworthy as the company thought. Over a period of two years Sheila diverted $350 a week of company receipts to her own bank account. George, on the other hand, was a successful black businessman who traveled abroad a lot. On one trip to China he came back through customs with a box full of DVDs. He had the receipt to show that he had paid for them, but customs declared them counterfeit and arrested George.

Sheila could have been charged with approximately one hundred separate counts of grand theft (the amount of each theft over the two-year period was in excess of $300) and could have faced up to five hundred years in prison. Fortunately for her, she was charged with one count of organized scheme to defraud. That’s a first-degree felony punishable by up to 30 years in prison and, in fact, she got off with just probation. Because she was only initially charged with just one criminal offense, her bond was very reasonable. George, on the other hand, could have been charged with just one count of dealing in stolen property. If convicted, he would have faced a maximum penalty of 15 years. Instead, for reasons I still don’t understand, law enforcement threw the book at George, charging him with a separate felony count for each of the several hundred DVD’s in his possession, subjecting him to a possible life sentence. His bond was actually over a million dollars before it was eventually reduced. He escaped the worst, but still went through hell and paid a huge price, both psychologically and financially, before the charges were dropped.

* * * * *

This isn’t an article about whether the two men featured in the documentary, ‘Making a Murderer’ are guilty or innocent. While I do have strong feelings concerning the handling of the criminal cases of both Steven Avery and his Nephew Brendan Dassey, I would prefer to focus on something different. In this article, I’m choosing to focus on something very positive that came from the documentary.

One thing that the documentary featured was how Steven Avery was convicted of rape, in spite of his innocence. Examples of these miscarriages of justice happen too frequently and often fail to get the media attention that they deserve. How often? Well, in a report just released, a record breaking number of convicted felons were exonerated in 2015. Most were serving significant prison time for crimes that they had nothing to do with.

According to the report, created by the National Registry of Exonerations at the University of Michigan Law School, 149 people were exonerated last year. Each one served an average of 15 years in prison prior to being released. Of the 149 who were falsely accused, 54 were serving time for murders that they didn’t commit. Five of those exonerated were on death row, awaiting their date with the death chamber.

In a ruling handed down yesterday, The Supreme Court provided hope to many prison inmates who were sentenced as teenagers to mandatory life in prison without parole. They will now be given the opportunity to argue why they should be released from incarceration.

The decision, made by the highest court in the land, expanded a 2012 ruling that made it unconstitutional to incarcerate juveniles for life without the possibility of parole. The ruling must now be applied retroactively, providing relief to approximately 1,200 to 1,500 inmates. Justice Kennedy, who wrote the latest opinion, indicated that those inmates should be given the opportunity to argue for parole at their re-sentencing hearings.

The 2012 case was brought by Henry Montgomery, who as a teen was sentenced to life without parole in Louisiana in 1963. He was 17 years old when he shot and killed a law enforcement officer. Now 69, Montgomery believes that he rehabilitated himself in prison and deserves to be considered for parole. The Louisiana Supreme Court ruled against him, however, the Supreme Court ruled in his favor, declaring that the 2012 ruling is retroactive.

This ruling is epic! The United States Supreme Court ruled this week that Florida’s death penalty law is unconstitutional. The highest court in the land found, amongst other things, that Florida courts were violating defendants’ Sixth Amendment rights by ordering death in the manner in which they were.

What the court had a problem with was the fact that judges, not juries, were the ones making the ultimate decisions in capital cases. While jurors deliberated and made a recommendation to the judge, the judge would decide on his/her own whether the person should live or die. The Court found that a jury’s mere recommendation is not enough.

The ruling was good news for Timonthy Lee Hurst, who was convicted of stabbing his co-worker in 1998. His case will now be remanded back to the lower courts to decide what his penalty should be. It will now be exclusively up to the jury to decide his fate.