Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Criminal Defense Lawyer's Thanksgiving - Tyler Weinman Edition

Unless you live in my neighborhood, you probably don't know the name Tyler Weinman. Yesterday the Miami-Dade State Attorney dropped all 19 charges against him. This happens - prosecutors dropping charges, dismissing cases, setting formerly accused defendants free.

But since last year, when Tyler was 18, he wasn't known as "Tyler," he was referred to as he was in today's headline:

Accused serial cat killer cleared of charges

Police and prosecutors -- who initially relied on the opinions of Miami-Dade's Animal Services department -- built a circumstantial and highly publicized case in the mutilations that terrorized pet owners across the upscale cities of Cutler Bay and Palmetto Bay.

Weinman was initially accused of slaying 19 cats in South Miami-Dade, was faced a slew of burglary and cruelty to animal felonies.

Why were charges dismissed? Lost witnesses? Contaminated evidence? Lazy prosecutor?


Two scientific experts determined that an animal, not the teen, was to blame for a string of grisly feline mutilations in South Miami-Dade last year.

Actually, there were 3. Two of them worked for the state.

The important inaccuracy in the the article is the statement - That means Tyler Weinman, 19, is now a free man.

Free, as in no longer under conditions of bond, no longer facing prosecution or jail, but not free like me, or you.

Tyler is the accused serial cat killer. To the many commenters (unemployed illiterate morons who do nothing but type comments all day on newspaper websites) Tyler is guilty.

The lesson is that we live in a society where the government's accusation is paramount. Damn the truth.

If I could have anything today, it would be to be at Tyler Weinman's house tonight.

Other things I'm thankful for:

The prosecutor who this week dropped a charge that would have made my 18 year old client a sex offender for life. My only regret was not asking him to step outside the courtroom to see the half a dozen family members crying uncontrollably. The prosecutor didn't drop the charge because he couldn't prove my client had sex with his underaged neighbor, he dropped it because he thought it was the right thing to do.

To criminal defense lawyers everywhere, that phrase, the right thing to do, has special meaning. We rarely see it.

I'm also thankful:

That Kathleen Williams, the Federal Public Defender of the Southern District of Florida was nominiated to the District Court. I hope she is confirmed soon.

That I don't have to use the word aggressive, or the phrase fight for your rights on my website or anywhere else, because those who call for my services already assume that.

For the young (and older) lawyers who solely based on something I wrote, have decided not to spend a dime with some failed or former lawyer on social media marketing.

For public defenders who go to court everyday and deal with unappreciative clients, impatient judges, impossible case loads, and a salary that is little more than I made doing the same job 13 years ago.

That I do this work because I still love it, not because I find it "easy," or I couldn't make money in some other practice area.

For anyone who reads this blog. Some set up blogs for profit, for the promise of clients. I do it for myself, and that one person every so often who e-mails me and tells me they took something from it.

For the few people left in this country who say they appreciate and understand the importance of the criminal defense lawyer, and actually mean it.

For Families Against Mandatory Minimums.

For Frederick Banting.

For any judge who understands, really understands, that due process is notice and the opportunity to be heard.

That I can call as friends,





every day





affects a persons freedom.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Brian Tannebaum is a criminal defense lawyer in Miami, Florida practicing in state and federal court, and the author of The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer.Share/Save/ rules Post to Twitter