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I try not to do fear. Yes, taking on fear is a choice. I tell myself that fear is nothing more than an acronym meaning “False Evidence Appearing Real.” Still, this Ebola outbreak has me rather concerned, with good reason. It’s the largest Ebola outbreak on record. Health officials are struggling to identify how many people have had contact with Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian man who is now undergoing treatment for Ebola in Dallas, Texas. The thought of how many, coupled with the ripple effect, could justify the fear that so many are feeling at this moment. It is in large part due to that fear that so many are calling for vigorous prosecution of Duncan, in spite of the fact that he is currently in critical condition. Should he be prosecuted? The answer is, “Definitely…maybe.” It all depends on what reported facts are true.

Liberian officials have already made the aggressive move of announcing that they intend to prosecute Duncan. They passionately believe that during an airport screening in Liberia, he lied about having come in contact with someone who was infected with Ebola. Duncan claims that while he helped a woman to a taxi, he believed that she had a pregnancy-related illness. According to the AP, that woman later died of the Ebola virus. Duncan was able to pass a screening at the airport in Monrovia because he didn’t demonstrate any fever and/or other symptoms associate with the virus. What is not in dispute is that Duncan did get sick just several days after arriving in the U.S.

If Duncan knew that the woman that he came in contact with had Ebola and then lied about it, he should be prosecuted. If, as he alleges, he didn’t know that she had the virus, then they need to back off. Proving that he knew that her symptoms were that of Ebola and not pregnancy related as Duncan alleges, will prove to be a challenging task.

Most of us have said it and/or thought it, at some point. “Why the hell does it take so long to kill death row inmates?” In some instances, it literally takes several decades from sentencing to execution. Many have called this a miscarriage of justice. The majority of Americans want the process to speed up. For one North Carolina death row inmate, had the public gotten their wish, he would have been put to death a long time ago. Had that happened at our insistence, then today there’d be blood on all of our hands.

The longest-serving North Carolina death row inmate and his half-brother, who was serving a life sentence have been declared “innocent” by both the judge and prosecutor now handling the case. They had spent more than 30 years in prison for a rape and murder that they did not commit.

Leon Brown and Henry McCollum were just 15 and 19 at the time they were arrested for the abhorrent crimes in 1983. The victim was just 11-years-old.

Here’s another one.  Another story from the criminal arena that will have you shaking your head.  A 19-year-old man from Austin, Texas chose to make and sell brownies and now is facing up to life in prison.  OK, so I’m leaving out a few details.  He laced the baked goods with additional “ingredients” that were intended to get consumers “baked.”  Because he added marijuana and hash oil to the mix, he faces a felony charge with outrageous possible sanctions.  Welcome to Texas.

Texas law enforcement found at the offender’s apartment 1.5 pounds of brownies, digital scales, a pound of marijuana, approximately $1600 in cash and dozens of baggies with hash oil and marijuana.  Police came to his apartment because they received complaints about “marijuana use.”

In Texas, possessing 4 grams of hash oil is enough for a first degree felony charge.  Apparently, this defendant, who had never been arrested prior to this bust, had 145 grams of hash oil.  Hash oil possession results in much more severe sanctions than marijuana.  The THC level in hash is much higher than in marijuana.  It’s actually in the same penalty group as amphetamines and ecstasy.  Additionally, because the defendant used hash oil, prosecutors are permitted to add up the total weight of brownies and tag him with manufacturing and distributing 1.5 pounds of that substance.

What do you believe is the appropriate sentence for a man who murders another man in front of his children, then kidnaps and rapes his ex-girlfriend, and then shoots at a cop?  Probation?  Kidding.  Many believe that the ultimate sanction should be imposed for those series of abhorrent offenses.  Well, that’s exactly what the judge did.  Russell Bucklew is currently on Missouri’s death row and was scheduled to die last night.  What saved him?

Justice Samuel Alito of the U.S. Supreme Court temporary delated the execution of Bucklew literally two hours before a lethal cocktail was to be injected into his veins.  The Court is reviewing his case today.  He can still be put to death by 12:01 Thursday as his death warrant is still in effect.  If he exhausts all his appeals by then, he will be killed by the State of Missouri.

So what did his lawyers argue to successfully get the brief stay?  They alleged that a rare illness that Bucklew possesses would make a lethal injection excruciating, and thus, a violation of the Constitution.  Because the State couldn’t show that Bucklew’s allegation was incorrect, they put the execution on hold.  The justices wrote, “Bucklew’s unrebutted medical evidence demonstrates the requisite sufficient likelihood of unnecessary pain and suffering beyond the constitutionally permissible amount inherent in all executions.”  They further wrote, “The irreparable harm to Bucklew is great in comparison to the harm to the state from staying the execution.”

Yesterday, I wrote about Superior Court Judge Jan Jurden, who made a decision that has resulted in her receiving a number of death threats.  See:  Many are demanding her removal from the bench.  As I shared with you in the article, the judge sentenced a man who raped his three year old daughter to probation instead of prison.  The offender was a du Pont family heir.

The outrage stemmed primarily from what the judge wrote in her sentencing order:  “He would not fare well in prison.”  She used that as a mitigator in doling out the very light sentence.  Nowhere in her order did she attempt to justify her sentence by alleging that the prosecution’s evidence was weak in any way.  That fact, in my opinion, would have served as the only possible reason to justify probation in this horrific case.   So, naturally, in yesterday’s blog post, I was very critical of this judge’s judgment.  Additionally, based upon the facts that were available to me when I wrote the article, I put the blame solely on the judge.

Many attorneys, both prosecutors and defense lawyers, are coming to the judge’s defense.  Based upon the facts that just came to my attention, I am now jumping on that band wagon, to some extent.

If you heard many of the initial reports about the recent Miami Beach arrest of Justin Bieber, you would have thought that the case against him was a slam dunk for the prosecution. Well, it’s not. However, it’s also not is a slam dunk for the defense, as many are starting to report. My assessment, based upon the available reports of the facts and circumstances of the night in question is that Bieber may still be convicted of DUI.

First, it’s important to clear up a number of the erroneously reported facts. Many media outlets initially reported that he was charged with drag racing. While Officer Media did write in the arrest form that Officer Cosner observed two Lamborginis drag racing, with one being driven by Bieber, he wasn’t actually charged with that criminal act. Additionally, many stations reported that Bieber’s blood alcohol content at the time of driving was a .04. If accurate, that would mean that Bieber was double the legal limit for someone under twenty-one years of age, which in Florida is a mere .02. (For those over twenty-one, the legal limit is .08) In reality, we learned at some point after the drama of his arrest, that he only blew a .014 into the Intoxilyzer 8000 breath machine. That would be consistent with one drink, certainly not sufficient to prove that he was impaired due to alcohol consumption.

So with a mere .014 reading, many are asking, “Then how the heck can he be convicted of DUI?” Here’s the analysis. First, it’s important to understand what happened immediately after he provided the low breath sample. The cops involved determined that the level of impairment they observed with Bieber was inconsistent with his low reading. In other words, they believed that Bieber must have been impaired due to something else other than alcohol. Naturally, they suspected drugs. What bolstered their suspicion was that Bieber allegedly admitted at the arrest scene that he had been recently smoking marijuana and also, was taking medication, albeit prescribed. Furthermore, his demeanor and actions both at the scene and the station house served to support their theory. As a result, they did what they always do in a DUI investigation after either a .000 breath reading and/or a low reading, they asked for a urine sample. Allegedly, Bieber provided one. This case hinges, in large part, based upon what toxicologists find in his urine. If marijuana and/or any other controlled substance is found, prosecutors may be able to successfully prosecute him on the theory that he was impaired due to a controlled substance.

Remember back a month ago when Polk County, Florida sheriff, Grady Judd was everywhere. It seemed that there was no media appearance too small for him to do. He was oozing with passion and excitement in front of the cameras while showcasing to the world that two juveniles, a 12 and 14 year-old, were arrested for a horrible crime. While literally holding their photographs, he announced their names to the world and alleged that the girls’ cyberbullying caused another teenager to commit suicide. Fueling his fire more was an alleged remorseless Facebook post by the older arrested teen wherein she allegedly shrugged off the suicide. Without question, the girls, charged with felony aggravated stalking, were vilified.

In a move that shocked many, including this veteran of the criminal justice arena, this week, prosecutors dropped charges against both teens. Apparently, AFTER the teens’ arrest, prosecutors carefully combed through and analyzed thousands of Facebook chats. One of the lawyers for the teens claimed that the 27,000 Facebook pages showed absolutely no evidence that either teen committed a crime. Rather, he alleged that there was evidence that the 12 year-old defendant was bullied by the alleged victim. Prosecutors aren’t commenting, claiming they can’t speak about the case because the law precludes them from speaking about cases involving juvenile defendants.

Sheriff Judd doesn’t feel the need to apologize. On the contrary, he claims that he has no regrets and that Florida law permits him to release the names of any and all juveniles charged with felonies. Further, he said that he believed he had probable cause to make an arrest and that prosecutors have the right to decide whether to move forward on a case. He told reporters that he is proud of the fact that he “raised awareness and helped kids.”

Many have commented about the fairness of George Zimmerman’s bond hearing conducted yesterday in Seminole County, Florida. Some think he got off light since the prosecutors were seeking a bond of $50,000. Others wonder why the bond was increased to $9000 when the standard bond for the same three criminal offenses was only $4,900. So, was Zimmerman treated fairly?

At the hearing, Judge Fred Schott was told by prosecutor Lymary Munoz that Zimmerman’s girlfriend revealed to law enforcement that he not only pointed a shotgun at her and broke her table on Monday, but also disclosed that he tried to strangle her just ten days earlier. The prosecutor passionately told the judge that the alleged victim is afraid of Zimmerman.

While the alleged choking is not charged by prosecutors at this time, the judge did refer to it as the reason for increasing the bond from the standard amount. Additionally, the judge ordered Zimmerman to stay away from the alleged victim’s residence. Zimmerman has been living there for the past three months. He was also ordered not to have any contact with her, surrender all of his guns, and must also wear a satellite monitor.

Here’s what is not in dispute. 40 year old Lazaro Ramos thought he had taken his 6-month-old to day care. Tragically, instead, he left her strapped in the child seat of his car, in sweltering Miami heat. After spending a long day at his office, he returned to his vehicle to see the gruesome discovery. His baby daughter died of heat stroke.

He was arrested and charged with Manslaughter. Miami-Dade prosecutors were very comfortable with their case. They believed that Ramos’ conduct was reckless. They maintained that he was distracted by work calls on the way to his office.

The defense argued that this was a tragic accident. They further told Circuit Judge Cristina Miranda that Mr. Ramos’ actions were merely negligent, at worst, failing to hit the legal requirement of “reckless.”

You hear those dreaded words, “Come with us.” Police give you the opportunity to speak with them. They tell you things like, “We’re giving you a chance to help yourself.” You think, “I’ve got to try to talk my way out of this. Maybe they’ll let me go.” Do you speak with them?

Well, the answer is waiting for you here:
As always, I’d love to hear your feedback. Feel free to contact me to discuss your case and/or any legal questions you may have.