After the trial is over, the work of the criminal defense attorney is done and the convicted felon has served his or her time, the next step is reentering society and the reinstatement of civil rights.
Along those lines, this past March the Clemency Board approved changes to the clemency rules. The most controversial change reinstated a requirement that those seeking restoration must not only submit an application, but also go through a minimum five-year waiting period. If and when a convicted felon is eligible for reinstatement, the applicant must receive approval by the governor and two Cabinet members.
Attorney General Pam Bondi released a special statement to the St. Petersburg Times justifying her decision to adjust the clemency rules. “My goal in approving the new rules was to restore respect for the rights of law-abiding citizens and to reinforce the fact that every felony is a serious breach of the bonds that unite our society.” With the added requirements to request approval and serve a mandatory wait period, all applicants are expected to live crime-free which in theory, would decrease the percentage of felons returning to prison.
Some opponents to the changes argue that if the prisoners have served all of their time and paid their fines, civil rights should be restored – and that extending a convicted felon’s restrictions sends the message that they are not worthy to re-enter society.
Petitions have been signed and debates have risen in whether or not the changes are constitutional. With a clemency meeting approaching (September 22) here is a document defining and explaining the revised clemency rules.
Last month, a stay of execution was granted to Manuel Valle that arranged a review of the lethal injection protocol, prolonging Valle’s time on death row. Valle voiced concerns about the new lethal injection drug, pentobarbital.
Valle’s criminal defense lawyer argued that pentobarbital would subject him to substantial harm, which resulted in the postponing of his death sentence. Earlier this week, The Florida Supreme Court lifted the temporary stay and found the use of pentobarbital constitutional.
A news release from Attorney General Pam Bondi stated that “The Florida Supreme Court reaffirmed the circuit court’s denial of postconviction relief and stated that no motion of rehearing would be entertained.”
The Googling phenomenon is hard to escape; if you’re not sure what a word means, you Google it. If you want to find out who someone is, you Google him/her. When called to serve jury duty, some may find it second nature to look up facts or definitions in relation to the trial they are serving on. In most cases, if anyone on the jury is found to be Googling, a mistrial may be declared and the case could be tossed.
This is not uncommon. In 2009, a mistrial was declared in a large federal drug trial in Florida when nine jurors admitted to doing research on the Internet. The mistrial resulted in eight weeks of hard work by criminal defense attorneys and federal prosecutors being thrown out.
An article from The Star referenced a first-degree murder trial in Maryland where the jury Googled and discovered two articles referencing body temperature after death. After refusing to declare a mistrial, the murder conviction was later tossed out by an appeals court.
As it may come as second nature to tweet, Google, blog, post or text anything these days, leaving this habit on the steps outside of the courtroom is a good idea. Last week, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a law making it a misdemeanor for a juror to willfully disobey “a court admonishment related to the prohibition on any form of communication or research about the case, including all forms of electronic or wireless communication or research.”
Over the years, many trials have resulted in what is being called a “Mistrial by Google”, wasting time and money for all parties involved. With California’s recent action, it may not be long until other states adopt similar laws. So next time you are sitting on a jury, think twice before you let your urge to Google takeover, as it could not only result in a mistrial, but could land you in a jail cell as well.
“I just did the dumbest thing ever [sic]” was 17-year-old Jared Cano’s Facebook status update hours before he was arrested for allegedly plotting to kill school officials and students with home-made bombs.
What Cano is referring to as “the dumbest thing ever” is unclear, but we do know that immediately after a anonymous tip came in about Cano’s plan, the bomb squad was at his Tampa apartment. It is likely that Cano had shared his plan, and that someone called the police. Some are calling this anonymous tipster a “local hero”.
Cano had a manifesto found by police that detailed his every move and motive. According to an ABC article, his goal was to surpass “the number of students who were killed and injured during the 1999 Columbine High School massacre.” With such serious claims found in Cano’s manifesto, it will be interesting to see what route his criminal defense attorney advises him to take.
With an existing criminal record to begin with, Cano has been accused of threatening to throw, project, place or discharge a destructive device, possession of bomb-making materials, cultivation of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of marijuana.
Cano currently sits in juvenile lockup while the state attorney’s office decides whether or not he will be charged as an adult. Given the seriousness of these allegations and the defendant’s age, he will likely face these charges in adult court.
Miami-Dade County Circuit Judge Milton Hirsch heard the consolidated motions to dismiss of approximately 40 defendants charged under Florida’s Drug Statute, 893.13, and issued an order today finding that the statute is unconstitutional. He followed United States District Court Judge Mary Scriven’s well-reasoned order likewise holding Florida’s drug statute to be unconstitutional due to its lack of a mens rea or criminal intent requirement. Judge Hirsch’s order is attached.
To date, in Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties, the Circuit Judges have not followed Judge Scriven’s reasoning and have denied all Motions to Dismiss filed in these counties, so far. Kudos to Judge Hirsch who had the internal fortitude to step out where no other judge dared to go and hold the statute to be unconstitutional. This will surely spur another round of motions locally and Notices of Appeal to the various District Courts of Appeal as this order makes the rounds across the state. Stay tuned for more information as this pivotal decision is dissected.
With the increase in prescription drug-related deaths in Florida, Governor Rick Scott established the Drug Enforcement Strike Force to crackdown on Florida’s pill mill crisis. Yesterday, Attorney General Pam Bondi issued a statement with the results.
She stated that because of the collaborative efforts with the Drug Enforcement Strike Force, an immense amount of prescription drugs are no longer being dispensed illegally.
According to The Attorney General’s news release, the efforts include:
- Partnering with government officials to combat pill mills and prescription drug abuse (stricter administrative and criminal penalties)
- Prosecute prescription drug-related cases through the Office of Statewide Prosecution when illegal activity spans multiple jurisdictions.
“The fact that prescription drug-related deaths have increased since 2009 is crushing, and with our continued efforts I am confident that these reports will reflect positive changes in the future…” Attorney General Pam Bondi says.
The fight against prescription drug abuse has already resulted in hundreds of arrests, the seizure of thousands of pharmaceutical pills and an increased caseload for many Florida criminal law attorneys.
Announced today, the Governor and Cabinet will recognize August 27 as “Prescription Drug Take-Back Day” giving citizens the opportunity to safely get rid of prescription drugs.
On Friday, the criminal defense attorneys representing Julie Scheckner indicated their intent to use the insanity defense. Scheckner is accused of shooting and killing both of her children this past January, but her defense claims that she suffers from “bipolar disorder with psychotic features.”
An ABC Action News article claims that Scheckner told authorities she killed her children because they were being disrespectful and “mouthy”. Scheckner allegedly did not only struggle with a mental illness, but substance abuse as well.
In order for Scheckner to be found not guilty by reason of insanity, the jury must be convinced that she did not know right from wrong. Although it may be true that she suffers from bipolar disease, it has to be proven in court that because of her disease, she did not think she did anything wrong. With statements from Scheckner that she shot her children because of their behavior, her defense is facing quite a challenge to prove that she is not guilty by reason of insanity.
On August 2nd, a massive FBI manhunt began for three siblings accused of shooting at a Pasco County police officer and robbing a Georgia bank at gunpoint. Dylan, Ryan, and Lee Grace Dougherty have been described as armed and dangerous and a week later, are still on the run.
While there is not a clear motive for the siblings’ actions, there is speculation that youngest brother Ryan is the “ring leader.” Last Monday, Ryan was charged with lewd and lascivious conduct and ordered to probation for 10 years to avoid jail time. That Tuesday (just one day after his court appearance), Ryan’s criminal defense attorney was informed that Ryan cut off his ankle bracelet and allegedly shot at a police officer.
Ryan’s mother believes a trigger may have been that he was “’unbearably discouraged by the terms of his probation’ and said he feared the conviction would prohibit him from seeing his newborn son” according to an ABC article on the Dougherty siblings.
This is not the first run-in with the law for any of the Doughertys. To add to their existing record, they may face criminal charges of robbery, carjacking, burglary, firearms and weapons, probation violations and grand theft.
The three have since been plastered all over news outlets and billboards from Tennessee to New York in hopes to end this search. The FBI warns that the Dougherty siblings pose a threat to both law enforcement and the public.
Update 8/10/11: Dougherty siblings captured and arrested after a car crash in Colorado.
While there is no federal statute that references “mortgage fraud” directly, recent news articles abound on the subject. In four separate cases in South Florida, the U.S. Attorney accuses 27 of mortgage fraud, according to an August 4th article posted on LoanSafe.org. On the same day, an Arizona builder pleads guilty to mortgage fraud, according to KTAR.com and fox news cited that 14 have been charged in a $60 Million mortgage fraud scheme. The list goes on…
Cases involving “mortgage fraud” are typically prosecuted under existing federal statutes involving conspiracy, wire fraud, bank fraud, false statements to an FDIC-Insured Bank and others. Ancillary offenses, including tax fraud and bankruptcy fraud can also be charged following a “mortgage fraud” investigation. Depending on the number of properties involved and the dollar amount of the loss, penalties vary widely and can involve real estate agents, mortgage brokers, real estate attorneys, title closers, appraisers, and straw buyers. Some of the schemes in the news are fairly elaborate, involving fraudulent mortgage applications, fake W-2s and tax stubs, fraudulent short sells and even arson and insurance fraud.
Sometimes innocent consumers unknowingly fall victim to unscrupulous real estate agents, bankers and brokers and may find that they are under investigation by the government for “mortgage fraud”. When this happens, it is critical to contact an experienced federal criminal defense attorney before speaking to the government.
We’ve spent months following the Casey Anthony case, and until this past Monday, we didn’t think there would be anything left to write about. Then news broke that Casey Anthony had 72 hours to report back to Orlando to meet her probation officer.
We still don’t know Casey Anthony’s current whereabouts, but if she is ordered to serve probation, she will be required to provide an Orlando address to her probation officer. In most cases, the parolee’s address is public record, but exceptions can be made and given the public’s opinion in this case, that exception may be considered.
Anthony is facing the possibility of probation for check fraud charges that she plead guilty to last year. The confusion lies in whether or not Anthony’s jail time counted towards that probation. Anthony’s criminal lawyer argues yes, but Judge Stan Strickland says no. According to an MSNBC article, “Strickland said at the time he had meant that Anthony — found not guilty of killing her daughter and released in July — should serve the probation order if and when she was freed.”
On Tuesday, Cheney Mason filed a motion to disqualify Judge Strickland. Today, the judge has recused himself and the matter has been reassigned to Chief Judge Belvin Perry, the judge who presided over Anthony’s first-degree murder trial.
We will see whether Casey Anthony will be required by Judge Perry to return to Orlando to serve probation and whether she will abide by the court’s order. If a bench warrant issues for her arrest for failing to return to Orlando, the fever to locate her will be heightened. Media and law enforcement from across the country will seek to capture her arrest and return her to Florida. The public spectacle surrounding Casey Anthony will surely continue.