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We had the case in the bag. As a young prosecutor, I was helping another colleague in the trial of a career criminal/violent offender accused of armed robbery. The evidence we had presented was considerable and compelling and we had just called our last witness, a cop. I didn’t think we should have called him to testify. After all, his entire role was to show up at the scene after the fact and then haul the guy off to jail. He didn’t have any role in the investigation. But who was I to make a decision like that? This was my partner’s case and I was just helping out, happy to get the trial experience.

The officer took the stand and my colleague asked him a few questions about his role transporting the accused to jail. As I expected, the cop’s answers added nothing exceptional to our case. When my partner finished his line of questioning he asked the judge if he could have a moment to confer with me. “Absolutely,” the judge said.

When he came over to the prosecution table I whispered vehemently “That’s all. You covered it. Let the defense have him and then let’s rest.”

Hypothetical

Imagine this. A guy in Florida shapes his finger like a gun and points his finger at a cop. As he’s doing that, he tells the officer, “I got you now!” You may be thinking, “Well, that’s not a bright thing to do.” Well, I don’t disagree with you. The question that I’d like you to ponder is, “Is what he did a criminal offense?”

Facts

THE ISSUE

A man from Raleigh, North Carolina was recently arrested for leaving his five children at home alone. His oldest child is 8 years old. Victor King, who was bailed out by a total stranger, claims that he had to go to work to support both his children and his wife, who is suffering from stage 4 cancer. Authorities were alerted to the house by a neighbor who called 911, alleging that this was the second day in a row the kids were left alone without adult supervision. Apparently, this isn’t the first time this father has done this. He was convicted of child neglect in California after engaging in a similar act. So, one of the questions raised by this case is, “What should happen to the father?” Also, the bigger legal and moral question is, “How old should kids be before being left home alone?”

ANALYSIS

My client was facing a life sentence for burglary with an assault and armed robbery. She had been a prostitute most of her life, and had been labeled a “Habitual Violent Offender” by the prosecutors, based on her extensive criminal record. The charges stemmed from an incident in which she and a friend allegedly entered the house of one of her clients and held a machete to his throat while the friend took his wallet. She could get life.

I was both excited and a little nervous about taking this one to trial because we would be before the infamous Judge Ellen “Maximum” Morphonios, known for her penchant for dishing out thousand-year sentences. She had been profiled by both “60 Minutes” and People magazine and had sometimes exhibited bizarre behavior. After sentencing a rapist to a life sentence, she reportedly stood up and lifted up her robe, revealing her rather shapely legs, and remarked, “That’s the last time in your life that you’re going to see a pair of legs like this.” Another story involved a defendant’s mother, who cried so hard that she passed out on the floor. Morphonios continued the court’s business, announcing “Next defendant. Step forward. Step over the body.”

It was evident at the outset of our trial that the judge had taken a liking to the victim, who was in his late 90s. Testifying through a Spanish interpreter, the victim revealed that he had been paying for the sexual services of my client three times a week for several years. They had engaged, he said, in both oral and regular sex.

INTRODUCTION

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you now know that Tiger Woods was arrested for DUI (Driving Under The Influence) in South Florida this Memorial Day weekend. Many in the “court of public opinion” have been speculating about the case. The on-air “talking heads” have been at it and many are getting it wrong. Since I’ve practiced criminal work in Florida for 25 years both as a defense attorney and a prosecutor, having handled thousands of DUI cases, I feel compelled to set the record straight. Also, as a fellow “talking head” with extensive experience defending and prosecuting these types of cases in South Florida, I’d like to give you my assessment as to how I think Tiger’s matter will be resolved.

ALLEGED FACTS

DISTURBING FACTS

This one is extremely disturbing. An eight-year-old Florida girl was arrested and charged with felonies. She was seen on surveillance footage breaking into cars in Palm Bay. The girl admitted her involvement, telling police that she and two older kids were walking in a park and decided to break into some cars. She was charged with felony burglary to a conveyance and attempted theft.

An arrest of someone so young, seems like an isolated shocking incident. Unfortunately, it’s not. In fiscal year 2014-2015, 80 Florida children under the age of nine were arrested. Two of them were from Miami and four were from Broward County.

INTRODUCTION

Recently, I read several headlines that stated, “Aaron Hernandez Is Innocent.” I immediately thought of the impact of those words. First, I thought how it might affect the readers. Then, my thoughts shifted to how it may impact the families of the victims. After a day of contemplation, I decided that I needed to write this article.

THE FACTS

HYPOTHETICAL

Let’s say that law enforcement seizes your cell phone, believing that it contains evidence of a crime. Let’s further say that they demand that you give them the passcode so that they can get into your phone and retrieve its contents. You tell the officers, “No thank you. I respectfully decline your invitation. My top-notched attorney, Mark Eiglarsh, has warned me not to consent to this type of governmental action.” They then inform the prosecutor of your refusal. The prosecutor then petitions the court to force you to turn over your passcode, arguing that they believe it contains incriminating information. How should the judge rule?

ANALYSIS

THE ALLEGED FACTS

The victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Florida are suing both the wife of the shooter and the shooter’s former employer. They accuse them of failing to prevent the abhorrent massacre. The lawsuit was filed in federal court in South Florida.

The 57 victims, consisting of survivors and representatives of the deceased, allege that the security company that the shooter worked for knew of the comments Omar Mateen had made prior to the shootings that resulted in the tragic death of 49 club patrons and the injury of dozens more. Mateen allegedly bragged to a co-worker that he had ties to terrorists and a mass shooter. The law suit alleges that his employer, G4S Secure Solutions, should have immediately taken away his weapons and recommended that his firearms license be revoked. When investigated by both his employer and the FBI in 2013, he claimed that he only said those outrageous things so that his co-worker would stop teasing him about being Muslim. The FBI determined that he did not pose a threat.

WHAT HAPPENED

Florida Governor Rick Scott recently removed newly elected Orlando prosecutor Aramis Ayala from the Markeith Loyd case. Loyd is charged with two counts of First Degree Murder for shooting and killing police officer Lt. Debra Clayton and Loyd’s pregnant ex-girlfriend Sade Dixon. The case was re-assigned to state attorney Brad King, who prosecutes in neighboring Florida counties. Scott claims that the reason he removed Ayala is because she “won’t fight for justice.” He points to her comments concerning the death penalty as support for his extraordinary move. She allegedly stated that the death penalty causes too much pain for victims’ families and that it was not an effective deterrent. Additionally, she allegedly made it clear that not only wouldn’t she be seeking death for Loyd, but she wouldn’t be seeking the death penalty in any future case during her entire four years in office. Regarding seeking the death penalty in future cases, she stated, “I have determined that doing so is not in the best interest of the community or the best interest of justice.”

Scott initially attempted to get Ayala to recuse herself from the Loyd case. When she refused, he took the case away from her.