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

Friday, November 25, 2005

999 Executions, And Counting

CNN.com reports here that the 1,000th execution is scheduled for next week.

Hopefully this news will not knock the Jessica Simpson/Nick Lachey split off the front page.

We've executed one person every 10 days since the moratorium was lifted in 1977.

The 1,000th will be 41 year old Robin Lovitt. He was convicted of stabbing a man with scissors during a pool hall robbery in Virginia.

CNN.com opines that "The focus of the debate on capital punishment was once the question of whether it served as a deterrent to crime. Today, the argument is more on whether the government can be trusted not to execute an innocent person."

Pretty gutsy thing to say for a news organization. Gutsy, meaning "liberal" to many.

In comes Thomas Hill, an attorney for a death row inmate in Ohio who recently won a second stay of execution.

Hill says: "We have a criminal system that makes mistakes. If you accept that proposition, that means you have to be prepared for the inevitability that some are sentenced to death for crimes they didn't commit," Hill said. (Author's note: a post on possibly innocent but executed Ruben Cantu appeared previously on the blog. It can be found here)

Mistakes? Thomas!, you're upsetting the establishment. People don't want to be confused with the facts. We may have, and may again, kill an innocent man.
But again, that's a "liberal" thing to say.

In fact, CNN reports that "advocates of the death penalty argue that its opponents are elitist liberals who are ignoring the real victims."

You're right, an innocent person executed cannot be a victim. They probably did something else anyway......

Caring about or even talking about innocent people being executed is not a staple of the conservative bunch.

Michael Paranzino, president of Throw Away the Key says that "Since 1999, we've had 100,000 innocent people murdered in the U.S., but nobody is planning on commemorating all those people killed."

Who's commemorating anyone?

And speaking about throwing away the key, I don't think anyone on death row who may be innocent is looking for a key- a heartbeat maybe, but not a key.

By the way, since 1973, 122 prisoners have been freed from death row.


Brian Tannebaum is a criminal defense attorney in Miami, Florida practicing in state and federal court. To learn more about Brian and his firm, Tannebaum Weiss, please click the link: http://www.tannebaumweiss.com/our_lawyers.php

BREAKING NEWS - Robin Lovitt's sentence was commuted to life in prison today by Virginia Governor Mark Warner. The story is here

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The Fear Of Justice Forces Justice

The Fifth Amendment says in part that "No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger;.... nor shall any person.... be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law...."

This pesky little amendment (of course not as important as Amendment 2 that allows you to own and possess a gun) is what kept Jose Padilla behind bars for 3 years without being charged, and it is what required him to be charged yesterday.

The fear of Padilla being brought to justice, forced the hand of the Department of Justice.

Jose Padilla may be a terrorist. Then again, in today's day and age, everyone who walks through airport security may be the shoe bomber, but probably isn't.

Jose Padilla may be innocent.

But there can be no determination of innocence or guilt without the opportunity for a trial. There can be no trial without charges being filed. You think it's ok to keep someone behind bars indefinitely because he may be a terrorist or because we're at war? My question is, for what reason? What has Jose Padilla done in the eyes of the law? Not in the eyes of angry people who believe anyone accused of being a terrorist is in fact, a terrorist.

The day we keep people behind bars just because the government accuses them of being criminals......., well, wait, that day has come.

Yesterday though, the Justice Department, fearing that the US Supreme Court would force the release of Padilla, indicted him here in Miami.

Now "Justice" can commence, whatever that Justice may be.

For a wonderful read on this story, with links to the indictment and other tidbits about the judge, go to Criminal Defense Attorney David Markus' critically acclaimed Southern District of Florida Blog, the best place for information on the ever interesting federal court system in South Florida.

Brian Tannebaum is a criminal defense attorney in Miami, Florida practicing in state and federal court. To learn more about Brian and his firm, Tannebaum Weiss, please click the link: http://www.tannebaumweiss.com/our_lawyers.php

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Oops! - We Executed An Innocent Guy

CNN.com reports here that we may have executed an innocent man. The original story appeared in the Houston Chronicle on Sunday, November 20, 2005.

Apparently, the sole witness recanted and a co-defendant said he allowed our dead friend to be falsely accused under police pressure, the Houston Chronicle reported Sunday.

The fried former alive and possibly innocent Ruben Cantu was 17 in 1984 when he was charged with capital murder for shooting a man during an attempted robbery in Texas.

According to the Chronicle, the eyewitness Juan Moreno told the Chronicle that it wasn't Cantu who shot him. Moreno said he identified Cantu as the killer during his 1985 trial because he felt pressured and was afraid of authorities.

As comedian Dana Carvey's church lady character from Saturday Night Live used to say: "Well, isn't that special?"

Oh, and the Chronicle also reports that Cantu's co-defendant, David Garza, recently signed a sworn affidavit saying he allowed his friend to be accused, even though Cantu wasn't with him the night of the killing.

Nice friend.

Cantu was executed at age 26, all the while proclaiming his innocence.

Sorry Ruben. Really, we're sorry.

In comes the prosecutor, Sam D. Millsap Jr. He told the Chronicle he never should have sought the death penalty in a case based on testimony from an eyewitness who identified a suspect only after police showed him Cantu's photo three separate times.

Oh well, things happen.

Let's not beat a dead horse, I mean human being.....

Brian Tannebaum is a criminal defense attorney in Miami, Florida practicing in state and federal court. To learn more about Brian and his firm, Tannebaum Weiss, please click the link: http://www.tannebaumweiss.com/our_lawyers.php

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Justice"DeLay - ed"

Tom DeLay is in trouble.

I'm not talking about the indictment last month, I'm talking about what will happen Monday, November 21.

The New York Times reports here that Michael Scanlon, former top aide to Congressman DeLay, is cooperating with federal prosecutors and will plead guilty to conspiring to defraud Indian tribes of millions of dollars as part of a lobbying and corruption scheme.

The allegations are that Scanlon and indicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff sought to "corruptly offer and provide things of value, including money, meals, trips and entertainment to federal public officials in return for agreements to perform official acts."

I know, you're shocked, shocked to hear that this goes on.

According to the Times: "The deal reveals a broadening corruption investigation involving top members of Congress." (By the way, every member of Congress is up for election next year. Better start practicing that baby kissing.)

I wonder how many lunch cancellations DeLay has had in the last month. "Uh, can't make it, gotta, uh, got something else Tom, sorry."

Scanlon is a former spokesman for DeLay. I bet he's speaking about DeLay more than he ever has when he was working for him.

According to the Times: "News of his cooperation with law enforcement officials sent a jolt through the Republican majority in Congress."

That's one way to put it.

It will be interesting to see how far this goes.

The conservative right may have to stomach new found relationships with the criminal defense bar, who will attempt to save their careers so they can continue to pummel our clients with bad legislation.

Brian Tannebaum is a criminal defense attorney in Miami, Florida practicing in state and federal court. To learn more about Brian and his firm, Tannebaum Weiss, please click the link: http://www.tannebaumweiss.com/our_lawyers.php

Monday, November 14, 2005

Unindicted Karl Rove Says We Should Execute Kids

Remember Karl Rove? He's President Bush's pit bull - commonly referred to as the "architect" of, well, everything the President has ever done.

Rove recently escaped indictment in the Valerie Plame CIA leak investigation. He's now focused on other important things - executing kids. Rove is determined to help get more conservative judges appointed that are more in the mainstream of America.

In his first public appearance last week post non-indictment, he cited last year's US Supreme Court decision in the case of Roper v. Simmons, which banned the execution of children, as one that is "fundamentally out of touch with our Constitution."

No, I'm not kidding. You can read it here

Must be an interesting way to think: "Wow, I just skated from a career-wrecking criminal indictment, now I can focus on why we don't execute children"

The Founding Fathers must be so proud.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Sentencing In Black And White

A white teacher able to hire one of the best criminal defense attorneys in Florida gets house arrest for leaving the scene of an accident that killed two black kids.


A young 29 year old girl who panicked after a hit and run accident that killed 2 kids and then came forward and confessed to leaving the scene, receives house arrest.

Pick a headline. Read the story in the Tampa Tribune, or cnn.com

Former dance teacher Jennifer Porter, 29, of Tampa, was sentenced yesterday to 2 years of house arrest, 3 years of probation and 500 hours of community service, for leaving the scene of the accident that left 2 kids dead. She's white, the 2 kids were black.



Jennifer Porter was not charged with killing these children. She had no prior criminal record, for that matter, either did those kids.

So what am I saying?

First let me say that I think leaving the scene of an accident is a terrible crime. I understand why people panic and leave, but know that Porter also did not come forward immediately, and initially lied about the accident.


Jennifer Porter was offered 3 years in prison by the prosecutor. She took her chances and pled guilty without an agreement, leaving it up to the judge.

He took 12 hours of testimony, until 1:30 in the morning, and felt that jail was not appropriate for whom he saw as a remorseful defendant. Trust me that this will be another instance for politicians to attack the judiciary for, well, making a decision that they don't agree with. Some idiot will argue that this judge has "run amock."

Most wanted Porter to go to jail, because most cannot fathom that any other kind of criminal sentence exists. You think Porter will do this again, you think she doesn't think about those kids every day?

What's sitting in a jail cell going to do, besides make you feel better?