A blog by Miami Criminal Defense Lawyer Brian Tannebaum. Commenting on criminal law issues of local and national interest.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Speed Is Justice For All

A great editorial in the St Petersburg Times viewed here criticizes the sure passage of the Streamlined Procedures Act of 2005.

I know, you're saying, "not the Streamlined Procedures Act of 2005 again?!"

This legislation takes away the right of felons convicted in state court from seeking redress in federal court.

The Times says "this assault on due process should be stopped in its tracks." I agree.

According to the Times, "supporters of the Streamlined Procedures Act of 2005 say that changes are needed to move along executions and make the court system more efficient.

What the legislation does is reduce federal habeas corpus review and prohibit federal courts from addressing whether defendants constitutional rights were violated in state court.

So, as the Times says "the act would expedite executions, but it also would make it nearly impossible for people whose convictions resulted from incompetent counsel, fabricated evidence or a racially stacked jury from seeking redress in the federal courts. It would make claims of actual innocence extremely hard to bring, increasing the risk of error and speeding along the execution of those who didn't do it."

Killing innocent people? Don't bring that up again. That's like talking about your crazy uncle again.

The Times reports that according to the Death Penalty Information Center, more than 100 death row inmates have been exonerated as innocent of their crimes since the mid 1970s. I know, you don't care. They're all guilty.

The Times closes by saying that "these measures are highly destructive to this nation's traditional due process guarantees. They would replace accuracy with speed, and justice with notches on a belt. A bad trade all around."

That's a great new slogan for the idiots supporting this garbage:

Instead of "Liberty, and Justice for All" -

"Speed, is Justice For All.

Conservatives Put Away The Tissues

Looks like a treat on Halloween for the right-wing conservative movement today.

No grim reaper - rather the vote that will overturn Roe v. Wade.

Today, President Bush appointed 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Samuel Alito.

A brief biography from scotusblog.com:

Judge Alito currently serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Prior to his nomination to the Third Circuit by President George H.W. Bush, he served as U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey (1987-1990), Deputy Assistant Attorney General (1985-1987), and Assistant to the Solicitor General (1981-1985).

Judge Alito was born in 1950 in Trenton NJ. He attended Princeton University and Yale Law School. He clerked for Judge Leonard I. Garth on the Third Circuit.

He will be overwhelmingly confirmed, even without saying the obvious: "Thank you Mr. President, I will overturn Roe."

Can I just ask the right-wing conservative movement to stop crying and whining like the entitlement-driven liberals they scream about daily? You right-wingers have been whining for months that our, not YOUR President owes you a Supreme Court nomination that will "do what they need to do." You all are such babies. The fact that you think abortion is the biggest problem facing this country is an embarrassment.

He owes YOU nothing. This is not your country, nor your court, regardless of what you listen to on TV or radio.

By the way, Samuel Alito will also be confirmed because he has always been on the side of government, never representing a criminal defendant. What's his position on the death penalty, the Fourth Amendment, and the right to counsel?

None of you really care.

Friday, October 28, 2005

WWWWWWhat Did W Say????????

I know I still do not have power from Hurricane Wilma, but can someone please tell me that I was dreaming when I heard the following comment from President George W. Bush on the indictment of Scooter Libby?

In our system, each individual is presumed innocent and entitled to due process and a fair trial.

NBC singled out this comment in the lead sentence of their on-line report of the President's comments by writing:

President George W. Bush said Friday that individuals are presumed innocent in the American legal system and he hopes people take that view in the case of vice presidential aide Lewis Libby.

I hope he realizes that his base supporters are breaking out in hives right now.

Listen To This Dick

Vice President Dick Cheney said today in response to the federal indictment of his chief of staff "Scooter" Libby, that he was....... entitled to a presumption of innocence in the case.

I trust that comment was meant just for Libby, and not the other guilty criminals charged daily in America.

Wilma Stops The Wheels Of Justice - Upsetting Some

It's not that I've had nothing to say in the last week - it's that Hurricane Wilma knocked me out of my home, and off the internet.

Now I'm back on (not home yet), and have a lot to say.

State and Federal Courts are closed in South Florida. Most saw this as an easy decision - watching the lack of power, lack of gas, food, water, public transportation, and almost everything else that makes life normal and bearable.

I'll tell you what made the decision difficult.

Not the thousands of civil suits, divorce cases, personal injury, medical malpractice, and small claims matters that may be delayed a week or so.

It was the dreaded thought that for a meaningless few days, suspected criminals would not be brought to court. Heavens forbid.

Heavens forbid.

The decision was not as much about letting lawyers clean up their own mess, it was about angry jurors and staff showing up to court (probably walking due to the lack of gas) wondering what was so damn important that they had to step out of line waiting for ice and water.

In the end, the courts did the right thing - not using the "OUR lights are on, so court's in session," but "YOUR lights are off, so take care of your family." Didn't happen immediately though, leaving lawyers, court staff, and EVEN JUDGES to wonder whether they could take their family out of town for some air conditioning and hot food.

I say r-e-l-a-x. One stupid week or even two won't make a difference. Being human does not make the court system less powerful. In fact, I'm willing to sign a document acknowledging the all-mighty power of the courts in exchange for a few more days to get my family settled.

The Florida Supreme Court will suspend or "toll" the Speedy Trial provisions of Florida Law, so countless criminal defendants cannot say they did not receive justice swiftly due to Hurricane Wilma.

And..................Life will go on.

Trust me, I'm a lawyer.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

When A Criminal Defense Lawyer Becomes A Crime Victim

While sitting here waiting to see whether Hurricane Wilma will be visiting us here in Miami, I note two recent stories where criminal defense lawyers have themselves become crime victims.

Prominent California Criminal Defense Lawyer Daniel Horowitz' wife was murdered last week. A 16 year old described as "gothic," and "troubled" is now in custody.

Also, the lawyer for one of Saddam Hussein's co-defendants was kidnapped today. The story appears here. UPDATE: The kidnapped lawyer for one of Saddam Hussein's co-defendants has been found murdered. The story appears here

So what does a criminal defense lawyer, who toils daily defending those accused of crime, do when they find themselves victims of crime?


How do they feel?


Why. Because we're human.

(I use the word "human" as a tribute to the moron who called Larry King the other night and said that she "agreed with everything Nancy Grace says, and disagrees with almost everything that Daniel Horowitz (a frequent commentator on her show) says, and therefore found it difficult to digest her new found thoughts on the murder of his wife that he is a "human," just like everyone else. If the caller is reading this, congratulations, you have now said the absolute stupidest thing I've ever heard.

So steal my car or vandalize my mailbox, and I'll probably agree to give you a break as long as you apologize.

Hurt me or my family, and you can join some of my other clients who weren't so lucky at trial.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Another Innocent Guy Gets Released And Disturbs Our "Everyone's Guilty" Theory

CNN.com reports here that a man who spent 19 years in prison was released after it was discovered that he was framed.

The detective who put Barry Gibbs behind bars was arrested himself on charges that in his spare time, he was a mob hit man.

A judge threw out the 1988 murder conviction and released Barry Gibbs based on new evidence that the same detective coerced a witness into identifying him as the killer.

The now arrested detective located a witness who testified he had seen Gibbs dump the body of the strangled victim near a bridge.

He hadn't. It was a lie. But Gibbs was convicted.

Under questioning by the FBI, the witness recanted, claiming the detective bribed and intimidated him into identifying Gibbs.

The Brooklyn district attorney's office sought Gibbs' release after it determined the witness' trial testimony was "suspect," which is a nice legal word to use when you're about to be sued that is interpreted to mean "lied."

A jury convicted this man.

He was innocent.

But who cares? Everybody's guilty, everybody.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Anthony's Dreaming...

Anthony Lorenzo is out of prison, and you all are not making him feel very welcome. He was angry enough to pen a well written editorial to the Miami Herald that can be read here (at least for a while until the link expires)

Anthony was released from prison after serving about 2 and 1/2 years for trafficking in cocaine.

He says he can't get a license to work in many fields, from massage therapy to being a lawyer to cutting hair.

He says that the Department of Corrections mission should change from punishment to rehabilitation, "making it a priority." He says "job training, education and economic opportunity are the biggest reducers of recidivism statistically. Yet Florida makes none of these parameters a priority in our prisons."

Anthony, please stop confusing people with the facts. No one wants to hear that if people in jail were better treated and educated, they would not commit future crimes, saving the taxpayers millions of dollars. Just stop saying things like that.

He "realizes that people think those who commit crimes, even nonviolent victimless crimes, deserve to be punished for our indiscretions. But they should think about this, Anthony says: 'I was treated like an animal for 2 ½ years; I worked at gunpoint on a chain gang because authorities refused to send me to work release. I was sent home with only $100 cash. I'm not allowed to work, am denied financial aid to go to college and may not even be able to get licensed in the field that I have gone to school to learn -- acupuncture.'"

"Is it any wonder that ex-convicts end up back in prison," he asks?
Funny, I ask the same question also.

"Working at a dead-end, minimum wage job is not a life he says. "Even Pizza Hut said that it couldn't promote me, no matter how great an employee I was."

I'm sorry about this Anthony, but our society has no compassion for you, even though you've done your time and are looking to better yourself. We want you to think about this indiscretion, this crime you've committed, for the rest of your life. None of us out here have ever made any mistakes, we are perfect.

We want you to suffer everyday and continue to pay this un-owed debt to society. Most people could care less about what you do and you're lack of success in trying to better yourself. They are saying "you should have thought of that before you dealt cocaine." They are wondering why you are out of prison.

They are angry when I continue to ask "you know, most people who go to jail, get out, so what are we to do with them while they're in to make them better citizens?

They hate that, and they hate you, Anthony.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Don't Mess With "Texas Cronyism"

Ah - the sound of raging conservatives and cheering liberals. What could it be?

The anxiously awaited nomination of President Bush's nominee to the United States Supreme Court to replace the retiring Sandra Day O' Connor.

Today President Bush nominated White House counsel (i.e. "his" lawyer and the person he consults with on nominations like these) Harriet Miers. "She will strictly interpret our Constitution and laws. She will not legislate from the bench," Bush said. Authors note: A post on "legislating from the bench" appeared on this blog back in July, and can can be viewed here

Miers has never been a judge, and said she was grateful and humbled by the nomination.

I'll bet. I've never been a judge. I'd be "grateful," and "humbled" to be nominated to the highest court in the land based on my job as counsel to the nominator.

Is she qualified? Who knows. What does it mean to be qualified? To conservatives, she's qualified if she stands on the top of the capitol today and says "Down with Roe v. Wade!" To them, she is now not qualified, solely because they do not know the answer to that question.

To liberals, she's a bit more qualified solely because she has not had any decisions that would indicate her position, therefore, hell, maybe she's not so conservative.


Both sides today are showing their shallowness. The Supreme Court is only about abortion to those making the most public statements on both sides.

Mind you, the Supreme Court recently held that private property could be taken for commercial purposes, sending everyone into a tailspin. "Hey, I thought the Supreme Court only handled abortion cases," you could hear them saying.

These are the people who represent the old phrase: "While you're watching the mice, the elephant walks out of the room."

This one will be fun.