Kevin Kulik and Mitch Polay spent the last five days trying to pick a jury in the death penalty trial of accused Dunkin’ Donuts killer James Herard, only to be stymied by the Florida Supreme Court. It’s not often one death penalty proceeding interrupts another, but that’s exactly what happened today, after the Supremes issued this Order this morning in the Robert Henry matter.
Henry’s execution was set for March 20th on Valentine’s Day, prompting his attorney Kulik to reprioritize his to do list. Paul Backman was forced to send the Herard jurors packing, but only after a lengthy discussion about whether or not Herard’s wishes to sub his prior attorney John Cotrone as his penalty phase lawyer for Kulik would be allowed. In the end everyone but Herard agreed that was a bad idea indeed, so the whole thing will start over with a fresh juror panel after Henry’s death warrant expires at the end of March. Herard, possibly sensing a strong appellate issue in a case fraught with problems for the defense, was visibly angry, stripping his tie off and throwing it down as soon as Backman’s ruling was final.
And now all thoughts to Kevin, who has the weight of the world in his hands …
Coming Soon – Reversible error?: Uncertified interpreters, the 17th Circuit, and you …
Good from Bad – maybe the Florida Bar isn’t so bad after all. Today Bar President Eugene Pettis hosted a meeting concerning selective enforcement of the drug laws over at his place, with Howard Finkelstein appearing by phone.
It came about after a chance encounter at the West Palm Beach courthouse a few weeks back. Pettis good naturedly took our ribbing over not returning calls during Bar v. Blog concerning the failed Drug War, and then quickly agreed to set today’s meeting. It wasn’t stated, but considering the persecution was over, and the incredible importance of the subject matter, saying yes must have been easy. A quick call to the Public Defender confirmed his participation, and it was off to the races.
The meeting was premised on trying to find a role for the Bar, whose logo proudly boasts “Protecting Rights, Pursuing Justice … “, in equaling the lop-sided scales of criminal justice. Drug use and sales are as prevalent in affluent America as in low-income America, but minorities are wildly over-represented in courthouses, jails and prisons everywhere. It’s a national and statewide problem, and as Finkelstein pointed out, even the Feds are doing something about it. Why, we asked, can’t the Bar?
The answer was a qualified we can. Pettis patiently explained that because the Florida Bar is a unified bar with compulsory membership and dues, neither the president nor anyone else can push the organization anywhere near the line which might cross into ideological territory. Everything must fall under “the Keller umbrella“. Employing an example Pettis definitely didn’t use, a bunch of us may hate what’s going on in the criminal courts, while others like things just the way they are. And if that’s the case, the Bar can’t be directed to get involved. Got that?
But there is a middle ground. Pettis is eager to “initiate and raise the dialogue” by asking the Bar’s Criminal Law Section (“CJ Section”) to discuss the elephant in the room. He’s asked for a request in writing from Finkelstein, who has agreed to provide the data he’s assembled concerning Walking While Black, Biking While Black, and of course Driving While Black. The CJ Section can then be queried whether Florida is answering Attorney General Eric Holder’s call to address important issues of fairness in the state’s criminal courts, and to do all that is possible within the rules and guidelines of the Bar to suggest improvements.
“I was present in San Francisco last August when Attorney General Holder rolled out his guidelines,” Pettis said.
“We all move around as if these and other problems don’t exist, like graduation rates. We go about our lives as if everything is well. But I would like to pull together a dialogue on a community and statewide basis to collectively do a better job.”
So there you have it. A great start, considering this is possibly the first time a state Bar president has agreed to get involved with such hot button issues. Expect things to move quickly, since everyone is aware Pettis’ term ends in June. And in the meantime, we’ll be sure to follow-up with Greg Coleman, the president-elect. This is one ball that definitely needs to keep rolling …
Not a law firm …
Gold, Spechler & Sweetapple – everyone is talking about Friday’s Sun Sentinel article detailing the battle for the beach, pitting the Ticket Clinic’s Mark Gold, former judge Jay Spechler, and Laura Watson’s other go-to-guy Robert Sweetapple against the city of Deerfield Beach.
Apparently it all started many years ago, but the trio isn’t letting city hall get them down. They’re hosting private parties and generally making the most of their unique situation, while city officials are not so quietly trying to figure out what to do.
“It’s nice to be able to fight for your rights and have fun at the same time,” Spechler says, although it was hard to hear exactly what he was saying, given the whooping and hollering in the background, and what sounded like the thwak of a beach ball being launched into orbit. Unfortunately, signal was lost before we could get confirmation regarding the Beach Boys being booked for July 4th festivities, so stay tuned for all further developments …
a teenage symphony to God …
2014 Gulkin Award Winner Hilly Moldof
with daughters/presenters Kelsey and Meeghan
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 19th @ 5:30 PM
BROWARD CENTER FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS
BACDL Feb Newsletter – Moldof Interview