Saturday, January 31, 2009

I Am Not Going To Jail Today

Yesterday around the country thousands of criminal defendants went to court. Some were found guilty, a few acquitted, some pled guilty, and one, in Broward County, Florida, died.

Jon Ross, 29, did not receive the death penalty. He drowned, and left three young children without a father.

Because of a new arrest on drug charges while out on bond, Judge Cynthia Imperato revoked his bond and ordered him into custody. Instead of taking a seat, he ran down 7 flights of stairs, out the door, into a canal, and drowned.

When I heard this, I didn't know who the judge was. My first thought was to write some sarcastic piece about what I assumed happened. I of course assumed that upon the judge hearing about he death of the escapee, the reaction would be "next case."

After 15 years of practice I am often too quick to assume that judges are cold hearted robots who only care about clearing their dockets.

As I was getting ready to write about this - this reality of emotions that sometimes accompany the factory of criminal justice - I heard it was Judge Imperato, and saw a video of the scene. There was the canal, the boats, the cops, the witnesses, and in the corner of the screen, Judge Imperato on the dock.

I know Judge Imperato. I've never appeared before her and have no pending cases in her court, but I sit on a couple Bar committees with her, and know her as a human being. When I saw her standing there, I wondered why she was there and what she was thinking as she was standing there.

Was she asked to come to the scene? Did she go voluntarily? What was going through her mind? Will this affect her rulings in the future? I think it has to.

There are those who will say this is her fault. There are those who will defend and criticize her decision. The truth is, pick up a new case while out on bond - bond revoked - tough judge or not.

The comments of course to the story in the online version of the paper are riddled with just pure stupidity. I haven't read them all, but I know those over 100 comments include happiness that the "scumbag" is dead, criticism of the judge, questions of why anyone cares, and a few about how terrible this is. I often wonder who writes these comments and whether many of these people are just looking for reaction or are just unemployed and retarded as I assume.

You may be asking, "what is the point of this post?"

I don't know.

I guess there are too few moments where we in the system, and those outside the system see raw emotion and overwhelming desperation result in the ultimate price.

I don't know if Jon Ross was trying to escape or die, but he died. He didn't want to go to jail, and he won't, ever.

Brian Tannebaum is a criminal defense lawyer in Miami, Florida practicing in state and federal court. Read his free ebook The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer. To learn more about Brian and his firm, Tannebaum Weiss, please visit www.tannebaumweiss.com

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