Angela Corey should be disbarred for demonizing Marissa Alexander

March 27, 2014

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Good evening:

Angela Corey should be disbarred for demonizing Marissa Alexander.

Demonizing Marissa Alexander with two irrelevant and extremely prejudicial booking photos and using over large emboldened fonts to make her points is not setting the record straight.

Therefore, it’s prohibited by RPC 4-8.4(d) which states,

A lawyer shall not:

engage in conduct in connection with the practice of law that is prejudicial to the administration of justice, including to knowingly, or through callous indifference, disparage,humiliate, or discriminate against litigants . . . on any basis, including, but not limited to, on account of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, national origin, disability, marital status, sexual orientation, age, socioeconomic status, employment, or physical characteristic;

Marissa Alexander is a litigant. She is the defendant in a criminal case.

RPC 3.8 (f), Special Duties of a Prosecutor, provides in pertinent part,

The prosecutor in a criminal case shall:

except for statements that are necessary to inform the public of the nature and extent of the prosecutor’s action and that serve a legitimate law enforcement purpose, refrain from making extrajudicial comments that have a substantial likelihood of heightening public condemnation of the accused and exercise reasonable care to prevent investigators, law enforcement personnel, employees or other persons assisting or associated with the prosecutor in a criminal case from making an extrajudicial statement that the prosecutor would be prohibited from making under Rule 3.6 or this Rule.

Finally RPC 4-3.6 (a) states:

Prejudicial Extrajudicial Statements Prohibited. A lawyer shall not make an extrajudicial statement that a reasonable person would expect to be disseminated by means of public communication if the lawyer knows or reasonably should know that it will have a substantial likelihood of materially prejudicing an adjudicative proceeding due to its creation of an imminent and substantial detrimental effect on that proceeding.

That’s a trifecta of serious violations that establishes that she is unfit to serve as a prosecutor.

Justice Sutherland said long ago in Berger v. United States, 295 U.S. 78, 88 (1935).

The United States Attorney is the representative not of an ordinary party to a controversy, but of a sovereignty whose obligation to govern impartially is as compelling as its obligation to govern at all; and whose interest, therefore, in a criminal prosecution is not that it shall win a case, but that justice shall be done. As such, he is in a peculiar and very definite sense the servant of the law, the twofold aim of which is that guilt shall not escape or innocence suffer. He may prosecute with earnestness and vigor — indeed, he should do so. But, while he may strike hard blows, he is not at liberty to strike foul ones. It is as much his duty to refrain from improper methods calculated to produce a wrongful conviction as it is to use every legitimate means to bring about a just one.

We have a right to expect no less from state prosecutors.

I believe she should be disbarred for this extremely unprofessional stunt and the case against Marissa Alexander should be dismissed with prejudice for deliberate prosecutorial misconduct that has made it impossible for her to get a fair trial.


Did Angela Corey Violate the Rules of Professional Conduct?

March 27, 2014

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Good morning:

I begin today with this question:

Did Florida State Attorney Angela Corey violate the Florida Rules of Professional Conduct when she sent the unsolicited three-page statement below regarding the prosecution’s case against Marissa Alexander to the Duval County members of the Florida legislature?

Ms. Alexander was convicted by a jury of aggravated assault with a firearm and sentenced to 20 years. The First District Court of Appeal reversed the conviction and remanded the case for a new trial. The new trial is scheduled to begin on July 8th.

Ms. Corey’s statement bears the title, STATE OF FLORIDA VS. MARISSA ALEXANDER. Immediately beneath it are two jail booking photographs of Ms. Alexander dressed in jail clothing. One is dated August 2010 and the other is dated December 2010.

The following statement appears below the photographs:

Marissa Alexander to her husband: “I’ve got something for your ass.”

Ms. Corey increased the size of the font and emboldened Ms. Alexander’s alleged statement.

The rest of the three-page statement sets forth the prosecution case against Ms. Alexander in considerable detail. Ms. Corey claims that the purpose of the letter is to set the record straight, and that it is based on “testimony at trial” and various legal rulings.

At various times in the recent past, Ms. Corey has publicly complained about media reports that Ms. Alexander fired a warning shot into the ceiling of her kitchen to prevent her abusive ex-husband from assaulting her. Ms. Corey has since claimed that she produced the statement in response to a request by state Representative Mia Jones regarding the state’s stand-your-ground law, a defense that was rejected in Ms. Alexander’s case.

Representative Jones denies that she requested the statement.

Read the relevant rules of professional conduct that I have set forth below and decide whether you think Angela Corey violated them. Then let us know what you think. With the exception of the American Bar Association’s (ABA) Model Rule 3.6, which I cite below, all of the rules are from the Florida Rules of Professional Conduct (RPC). Bracketed and italicized material are my comments.

1. RULE 4-3.5 IMPARTIALITY AND DECORUM OF THE TRIBUNAL

(a) Influencing Decision Maker. A lawyer shall not seek to influence a judge, juror,
prospective juror, or other decision maker except as permitted by law or the rules of court.

[“other decision maker” includes prospective jurors]

2. RULE 4-3.6 TRIAL PUBLICITY

(a) Prejudicial Extrajudicial Statements Prohibited. A lawyer shall not make an
extrajudicial statement that a reasonable person would expect to be disseminated by means of
public communication if the lawyer knows or reasonably should know that it will have a
substantial likelihood of materially prejudicing an adjudicative proceeding due to its creation of
an imminent and substantial detrimental effect on that proceeding.

[“extrajudicial” means out of court]

Comment

It is difficult to strike a balance between protecting the right to a fair trial and safeguarding
the right of free expression. Preserving the right to a fair trial necessarily entails some
curtailment of the information that may be disseminated about a party prior to trial, particularly
where trial by jury is involved. If there were no such limits, the result would be the practical
nullification of the protective effect of the rules of forensic decorum and the exclusionary rules
of evidence. On the other hand, there are vital social interests served by the free dissemination
of information about events having legal consequences and about legal proceedings themselves.
The public has a right to know about threats to its safety and measures aimed at assuring its
security. It also has a legitimate interest in the conduct of judicial proceedings, particularly in
matters of general public concern. Furthermore, the subject matter of legal proceedings is often
of direct significance in debate and deliberation over questions of public policy.

3. RULE 4-3.8 SPECIAL RESPONSIBILITIES OF A PROSECUTOR

Comment

A prosecutor has the responsibility of a minister of justice and not simply that of an
advocate. This responsibility carries with it specific obligations such as making a reasonable
effort to assure that the accused has been advised of the right to and the procedure for obtaining
counsel and has been given a reasonable opportunity to obtain counsel so that guilt is decided
upon the basis of sufficient evidence. Precisely how far the prosecutor is required to go in this
direction is a matter of debate. Florida has adopted the American Bar Association Standards of
Criminal Justice Relating to Prosecution Function. This is the product of prolonged and careful
deliberation by lawyers experienced in criminal prosecution and defense and should be consulted
for further guidance. See also rule 4-3.3(d) governing ex parte proceedings, among which grand
jury proceedings are included. Applicable law may require other measures by the prosecutor and
knowing disregard of these obligations or systematic abuse of prosecutorial discretion could
constitute a violation of rule 4-8.4.

4. ABA Model Rule 3.6: Trial Publicity

(a) A lawyer who is participating or has participated in the investigation or litigation of a matter shall not make an extrajudicial statement that the lawyer knows or reasonably should know will be disseminated by means of public communication and will have a substantial likelihood of materially prejudicing an adjudicative proceeding in the matter.

[Should Ms. Corey have reasonably foreseen Representative Mia Jones’s dissemination of the three-page statement to the public?]

(b) Notwithstanding paragraph (a), a lawyer may state:

(1) the claim, offense or defense involved and, except when prohibited by law, the identity of the persons involved;

(2) information contained in a public record;

(3) that an investigation of a matter is in progress;

(4) the scheduling or result of any step in litigation;

(5) a request for assistance in obtaining evidence and information necessary thereto;

(6) a warning of danger concerning the behavior of a person involved, when there is reason to believe that there exists the likelihood of substantial harm to an individual or to the public interest; and

(7) in a criminal case, in addition to subparagraphs (1) through (6):

(i) the identity, residence, occupation and family status of the accused;

(ii) if the accused has not been apprehended, information necessary to aid in apprehension of that person;

(iii) the fact, time and place of arrest; and

(iv) the identity of investigating and arresting officers or agencies and the length of the investigation.

(c) Notwithstanding paragraph (a), a lawyer may make a statement that a reasonable lawyer would believe is required to protect a client from the substantial undue prejudicial effect of recent publicity not initiated by the lawyer or the lawyer’s client. A statement made pursuant to this paragraph shall be limited to such information as is necessary to mitigate the recent adverse publicity.

[Can Ms. Corey claim that her disclosure is authorized by subsection (c)?]

5. ABA Rule 3.6 Trial Publicity – Comment

[1] It is difficult to strike a balance between protecting the right to a fair trial and safeguarding the right of free expression. Preserving the right to a fair trial necessarily entails some curtailment of the information that may be disseminated about a party prior to trial, particularly where trial by jury is involved. If there were no such limits, the result would be the practical nullification of the protective effect of the rules of forensic decorum and the exclusionary rules of evidence. On the other hand, there are vital social interests served by the free dissemination of information about events having legal consequences and about legal proceedings themselves. The public has a right to know about threats to its safety and measures aimed at assuring its security. It also has a legitimate interest in the conduct of judicial proceedings, particularly in matters of general public concern. Furthermore, the subject matter of legal proceedings is often of direct significance in debate and deliberation over questions of public policy.

[2] Special rules of confidentiality may validly govern proceedings in juvenile, domestic relations and mental disability proceedings, and perhaps other types of litigation. Rule 3.4(c) requires compliance with such rules.

[3] The Rule sets forth a basic general prohibition against a lawyer’s making statements that the lawyer knows or should know will have a substantial likelihood of materially prejudicing an adjudicative proceeding. Recognizing that the public value of informed commentary is great and the likelihood of prejudice to a proceeding by the commentary of a lawyer who is not involved in the proceeding is small, the rule applies only to lawyers who are, or who have been involved in the investigation or litigation of a case, and their associates.

[4] Paragraph (b) identifies specific matters about which a lawyer’s statements would not ordinarily be considered to present a substantial likelihood of material prejudice, and should not in any event be considered prohibited by the general prohibition of paragraph (a). Paragraph (b) is not intended to be an exhaustive listing of the subjects upon which a lawyer may make a statement, but statements on other matters may be subject to paragraph (a).

[5] There are, on the other hand, certain subjects that are more likely than not to have a material prejudicial effect on a proceeding, particularly when they refer to a civil matter triable to a jury, a criminal matter, or any other proceeding that could result in incarceration. These subjects relate to:

(1) the character, credibility, reputation or criminal record of a party, suspect in a criminal investigation or witness, or the identity of a witness, or the expected testimony of a party or witness;

(2) in a criminal case or proceeding that could result in incarceration, the possibility of a plea of guilty to the offense or the existence or contents of any confession, admission, or statement given by a defendant or suspect or that person’s refusal or failure to make a statement;

(3) the performance or results of any examination or test or the refusal or failure of a person to submit to an examination or test, or the identity or nature of physical evidence expected to be presented;

(4) any opinion as to the guilt or innocence of a defendant or suspect in a criminal case or proceeding that could result in incarceration;

(5) information that the lawyer knows or reasonably should know is likely to be inadmissible as evidence in a trial and that would, if disclosed, create a substantial risk of prejudicing an impartial trial; or

(6) the fact that a defendant has been charged with a crime, unless there is included therein a statement explaining that the charge is merely an accusation and that the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

[6] Another relevant factor in determining prejudice is the nature of the proceeding involved. Criminal jury trials will be most sensitive to extrajudicial speech. Civil trials may be less sensitive. Non-jury hearings and arbitration proceedings may be even less affected. The Rule will still place limitations on prejudicial comments in these cases, but the likelihood of prejudice may be different depending on the type of proceeding.

6. Rule 3.8: Special Responsibilities of a Prosecutor

The prosecutor in a criminal case shall:

(f) except for statements that are necessary to inform the public of the nature and extent of the prosecutor’s action and that serve a legitimate law enforcement purpose, refrain from making extrajudicial comments that have a substantial likelihood of heightening public condemnation of the accused and exercise reasonable care to prevent investigators, law enforcement personnel, employees or other persons assisting or associated with the prosecutor in a criminal case from making an extrajudicial statement that the prosecutor would be prohibited from making under Rule 3.6 or this Rule.

Comment

[5] Paragraph (f) supplements Rule 3.6, which prohibits extrajudicial statements that have a substantial likelihood of prejudicing an adjudicatory proceeding. In the context of a criminal prosecution, a prosecutor’s extrajudicial statement can create the additional problem of increasing public condemnation of the accused. Although the announcement of an indictment, for example, will necessarily have severe consequences for the accused, a prosecutor can, and should, avoid comments which have no legitimate law enforcement purpose and have a substantial likelihood of increasing public opprobrium of the accused. Nothing in this Comment is intended to restrict the statements which a prosecutor may make which comply with Rule 3.6(b) or 3.6(c).

[6] Like other lawyers, prosecutors are subject to Rules 5.1 and 5.3, which relate to responsibilities regarding lawyers and nonlawyers who work for or are associated with the lawyer’s office. Paragraph (f) reminds the prosecutor of the importance of these obligations in connection with the unique dangers of improper extrajudicial statements in a criminal case. In addition, paragraph (f) requires a prosecutor to exercise reasonable care to prevent persons assisting or associated with the prosecutor from making improper extrajudicial statements, even when such persons are not under the direct supervision of the prosecutor. Ordinarily, the reasonable care standard will be satisfied if the prosecutor issues the appropriate cautions to law- enforcement personnel and other relevant individuals.

7. RULE 4-8.4 MISCONDUCT
A lawyer shall not:

(d) engage in conduct in connection with the practice of law that is prejudicial to the
administration of justice, including to knowingly, or through callous indifference, disparage,
humiliate, or discriminate against litigants, jurors, witnesses, court personnel, or other lawyers on
any basis, including, but not limited to, on account of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, national
origin, disability, marital status, sexual orientation, age, socioeconomic status, employment, or
physical characteristic;

Subdivision (d) of this rule proscribes conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of
justice. Such proscription includes the prohibition against discriminatory conduct committed by
a lawyer while performing duties in connection with the practice of law. The proscription
extends to any characteristic or status that is not relevant to the proof of any legal or factual issue
in dispute. Such conduct, when directed towards litigants, jurors, witnesses, court personnel, or
other lawyers, whether based on race, ethnicity, gender, religion, national origin, disability,
marital status, sexual orientation, age, socioeconomic status, employment, physical
characteristic, or any other basis, subverts the administration of justice and undermines the
public’s confidence in our system of justice, as well as notions of equality. This subdivision does
not prohibit a lawyer from representing a client as may be permitted by applicable law, such as,
by way of example, representing a client accused of committing discriminatory conduct.


Angela Corey wants you to know that she is helpless and unhappy

March 19, 2014

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Good morning:

Angela Corey is unhappy about public criticism directed at her and her office and she wants you to know it.

BET.com reported yesterday,

But Corey has also been criticized by a host of African-American elected officials and community and civic leaders, who have portrayed her as being overzealous in many cases involving Black defendants. Most stinging have been the criticisms of her in the case of Marissa Alexander, the Florida woman who fired a shot to dissuade her estranged husband from attacking her.

Corey contends that the criticisms of her, specifically in the case of Alexander, are unfounded and that her critics know little about the true facts of the case.

“Marissa was the one pulling the trigger,” Corey said, in an interview with BET.com. Corey added that the gun was fired in a room where her children, ages 10 and 13, were present. “Thank God it didn’t hit them. But she was on the trigger-pulling side of the gun.”

Marissa Alexander is the 31-year-old mother of two who fired a warning shot into the ceiling of her kitchen to prevent her estranged husband from attacking her. The jury convicted her of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and she was sentenced to 20 years in prison, which is the mandatory minimum.

She wants you to know that her decision to prosecute Alexander for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon has nothing to do with the color of Alexander’s skin.

The First District Court of Appeal reversed and remanded the case for a new trial because the trial judge improperly instructed the jury.

The case is scheduled for trial on July 28th.

Corey has announced that she is going to retry the case and request a 60-year sentence if the jury convicts her.

Corey wants you to know that her decision to do that has nothing to do with the color of Alexander’s skin.

Corey wants you to know that she is helpless before the facts of the case; that she was helpless before the grand jury that decided to charge Alexander with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon; that she was helpless to do anything but retry the case when it was reversed and remanded, and that she was helpless and had no discretion to do otherwise when she decided to seek a 60-year sentence if Alexander is convicted again.

Marissa Alexander deserves justice, not a steamroller.

If she is that helpless and blind to her own prejudice, Jacksonville needs a new State Attorney.

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Angela Corey failed to disclose evidence in Michael Dunn case

January 31, 2014

Friday, January 31, 2014

Good morning:

I have disappointing news to pass along from Angela Corey’s office.

The audio recordings of Michael Dunn’s jailhouse phone calls will not be available for 9 to 10 weeks. Since the trial is likely to end before then, I do not believe we will have an opportunity to listen to them.

According to the terms of the order issued two weeks ago today by the 1st District Court of Appeal, the prosecution was required to release the audio recordings to the media no later than one week ago today.

Corey claims that she has a legitimate excuse for the delay.

I disagree.

She says her office has 170 hours of recorded calls that cannot be released to the public in their present condition because the names and addresses of the participants and various other people mentioned in the calls have not been redacted.

True, but that task should have been accomplished months ago.

Why?

Because anything Dunn said during the calls about the shooting will be admissible in the prosecution’s case-in-chief pursuant to the admission-by-a-party-opponent rule. If Dunn testifies and his testimony differs from what he said during those calls, the prosecution can impeach his testimony with his prior inconsistent statement.

The prosecution acquired this evidence approximately one year ago and I cannot think of any reason that would justify its failure to review the calls months ago. I do not believe that any reasonably competent prosecutor would have failed to review that evidence months ago and for that reason I do not accept Corey’s excuse.

If I were Judge Healey, I would find Corey in contempt and order her to pay $500 per day until she produces the records.

Given the inadequate performance of her team of prosecutors in the George Zimmerman trial, I was expecting her to avoid bonehead screw-ups like this.

Her failure to do so raises new questions about her commitment to this case.


George Zimmerman is back in the news

January 23, 2014

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Good morning:

George Zimmerman is back in the news today with yet another paint-by-numbers masterpiece.

CNN describes his latest work:

The painting, a swirl of bright red and yellow, shows Corey with her fingers pinched.
The caption, in all caps, says, “I have this much respect for the American judicial system – Angie C.”
It’s an artistic depiction of a much-reprinted photograph of Corey from the news conference when she announced the charge against Zimmerman.

Brother Robert Zimmerman, Jr., announced the new painting on twitter. Details about when and where he will offer it for sale will be announced today.


Court denies Dunn’s request to delay trial in Jordan Davis murder case

January 22, 2014

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Good morning:

Judge Russell Healey yesterday denied the defense motion to continue the trial date in the Michael Dunn case. The trial will commence on Monday, February 3rd.

Judge Healey next considered the media’s motions to release discovery to the public. By media, I refer to The Florida Times-Union, First Coast News and WJXT TV-4 (AKA: the intervenors). They previously petitioned to intervene on behalf of the public seeking the release of discovery that Judge Healey improperly withheld in violation of the Sunshine Law. They obtained an order from the 1st District Court of Appeal last Friday directing Judge Healey to release the evidence no later than this Friday, unless he determines at an evidentiary hearing to be held held no later than today that some of the withheld discovery, such as names, addresses and telephone numbers of witnesses should be blacked out.

Judge Healey waded into those waters at yesterday’s hearing with both prosecution and defense lamenting the appellate court’s order. Their major complaint was that the release of the discovery this close to trial may prejudice the defense and make it impossible to select a fair and impartial jury.

Of course, if the discovery had been released to the public when it was released to the defense, as required by the Sunshine Law, the late-publication problem would have been avoided.

The primary concern of the prosecution and defense is Dunn’s 740 phone calls from the jail. The Florida Times-Union at Jacksonville.com has the story:

But Corey said the media would still have to pay for the staff time it would take to produce the phone calls. Lawyers for the State Attorney’s Office have said it would take 180 hours of staff time to review the phone calls before they could be released to the public, and the media would have to pay over $6,000 for the staff time it would take to do that.
George Gabel, an attorney representing the Times-Union and First Coast News, said the media shouldn’t have to pay for the calls because the State Attorney’s Office has already reviewed them.

Corey acknowledged that they’d been reviewed, but said her staff had been looking at using them during the criminal trial, and had not reviewed them for release to the public.

Assistant State Attorney Lisa DiFranza said the office would have to review the phone calls again to redact anything that could be seen as a confession on Dunn’s part, and would also have to take any social security numbers or bank numbers that might come up during those calls because public records law prohibit those things from being released to the public.
Prosecutors estimated there were about 740 phone calls made by Dunn since he was in prison. Corey said about 10 of those calls are being looked at by her office to use against Dunn during his criminal trial.

Corey did not volunteer what was said in those phone calls.

Judge Healey said he would issue an order later.

Given the appellate court’s order, I believe Judge Healey has no choice. He has to order the release of the recordings by Friday at the close of business, so Angela Corey better git ‘er done.

I don’t know about you, but I am looking forward to reading transcripts of those calls.


Florida Court of Appeal again orders trial judge to release evidence to public in Michael Dunn case

January 18, 2014

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Good morning:

Storm clouds brewing in the Michael Dunn case.

Yesterday, the 1st District Court of Appeal in Florida ordered Judge Russell Healey to comply with its earlier order to release discovery to the public and to hold a hearing no later than Wednesday of next week to do it.

On December 19th, I wrote about the earlier order.

Florida’s 1st District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee reversed Judge Russell Healey’s order that prohibited the release of evidence to the public for a period of 30 days after the prosecution discloses it to the defense. The Court held that Judge Healey’s order violated Florida’s Sunshine Law that requires the prosecution to immediately release the evidence to the public after it releases it to the defense.

Judge Healey issued the order after he experienced a Yikes! moment while watching a local television news report about racist letters that Dunn had written in jail.

I wrote about the letters on October 27th in Let’s play the who-said-this game.

Judge Healey was concerned about the possible impact the letters might have on jury selection and Dunn’s right to a fair and impartial jury. He decided to impose the 30-day delay to give him an opportunity to preview the discovery and decide whether to release it.

/snip/

Judge Healey’s dilemma was how can we seat a fair and impartial jury now that everyone knows that Michael Dunn, a middle aged white guy, is an unrepentant racist who dares “to not be a victim” of four unarmed black teenagers sitting in a parked SUV with the music turned up. That he’s predisposed to “kill these (expletive) idiots” would appear to lessen the prosecution’s burden to prove premeditation to convict Dunn of murder one or to prove Dunn acted with a depraved mind indifferent to human life to convict him of murder two.

Hence, the Yikes moment.

However, as I also mentioned,

The problem is the jury will get to see them since the letters are relevant and admissible pursuant to Evidence Rule 404(b) to prove Dunn’s intent when he pulled the trigger and that he did not shoot due to a mistake he made about the situation or accidentally shoot at the teenagers. The letters also are admissible under Evidence Rule 801(d)(2) as admissions by a party opponent.

Therefore, there was no good reason for Judge Healey to have created an exception to the Sunshine Law, which requires the simultaneous release of the discovery to the public when it is released to the defense. Expressed another way, the proper publication of the letters pursuant to the law could not serve as a justification to create a new 30-day-review rule.

The news media appealed Judge Healey’s order creating the new exception to the law and the appellate court said, Nyet! Thou shalt follow the law.

Nothing happened, however, so the news media returned to the appellate court and asked it to spank the naughty judge, which it did.

The Florida attorney general’s office, which represents Angela Corey’s office on appeals, has asked to continue the hearing to Friday.

Meanwhile, Dunn’s attorney, Cory Strolla, wants a continuance. He claims he needs more time to get ready for trial. Angela Corey objects to the continuance.

I doubt Judge Healey will grant the continuance because the defense has had more than one year to get ready and it has waited too long to ask for more time. The trial, which is scheduled to start two weeks from Monday, will be a big event. The Florida Times-Union @ Jacksonville.com explains:

The delays mean further burdens on others awaiting some resolution.

Lucia McBath, who lives near Atlanta and is the mother of Jordan Davis, has rented a house in Jacksonville for all of February in anticipation of the trial. Attorney John Phillips, who represents McBath and Jordan’s father, Ron Davis, said they would have no comment on Friday’s events.

Police and media also are well into preparations for a trial that is expected to attract nationwide attention. An area near the courthouse will be set up as a media city, and police will be issuing daily credentials to attend. Courthouse personnel have said they will restrict where the media can conduct interviews.

Dunn will be the first high-profile trial at the new Duval County Courthouse. Unless plea deals are made, he will quickly be followed by Marissa Alexander and Donald James Smith, both also expected to generate national attention.

We certainly will be paying attention.

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This is our 857th post in 26 months. We had 422 visitors yesterday and zero donations.

Fred


The prosecution concealed police corruption in Zimmerman trial

July 21, 2013

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Good evening my friends:

The jury delivered its verdict in the George Zimmerman trial a week ago tonight. I was shocked and dismayed by the verdict. Like most of you I initially focused my wrath on stealth juror B-37 because she basically admitted on national television approximately 12 hours after the verdict was announced to having decided that “George” (referring to him as though he were a personal friend) was not guilty before she heard any evidence in the case. Indeed, her summary of the evidence matched the false narrative that Mark O’Mara had been preaching and the national media had been duly reporting for a year.

She bought O’Mara’s Trayvon-is-a-thug story despite no evidence to support it. Her race-based criticism of Rachel Jenteal’s manner of speaking and her consequent decision to ignore her testimony was a breathtaking admission of racist thinking that she quite obviously regarded as acceptable normative behavior that no one would question.

When I thought she could not possibly do more damage to herself, she added insult to injury with her giddy announcement that she had reached an agreement with a literary agent to sell her story to a publishing house before the story was even written. Never mind that she or her attorney husband must have contacted the literary agent in violation of the sequestration order, unless they contacted her in the middle of the night after the verdict was announced.

I seriously doubt that literary agents accept cold calls on late Saturday nights and early Sunday mornings from unpublished authors pitching ideas for unwritten books. Thankfully, the agent had the good sense to nix the deal once she realized she was dealing with an out of control racist wacko.

I was so disgusted and angered by B-37’s false statements under oath during voir dire, her willful violations of the sequestration order and her oath to follow the jury instructions that I urged the prosecution to prosecute her for perjury. Well, I have not seen any sign that Angela Corey intends to make an example out of her to warn future jurors not to engage in those behaviors. Seems to me that such a prosecution probably is necessary in Florida to convince jurors that an oath truly is a promise to tell the truth under penalty of perjury. In addition, B-37 truly is an unrepentant racist and egregious human being who deserves to spend time in prison for who she is as well as what she did.

While I have no doubt that B-37 contributed significantly to the miscarriage of justice, she was not alone. I also hold Angela Corey and Bernie de la Rionda responsible two disastrous tactical decisions; namely, the decision to remove race from the case and the decision to refrain from aggressively attacking Investigator Chris Serino and Officer Doris Singleton for their testimony supporting Zimmerman and vouching for his credibility. Serino, in particular, deserved to be raked over the coals for tampering with witnesses at the crime scene in an attempt to convince them that the defendant uttered the terrified death shriek.

Witness tampering in a murder case is a felony punishable by up to life in prison.

I first read about Trayvon Martin’s murder while the Sanford Police Department was still investigating the case and it seemed that Zimmerman was not going to be charged.

Their reluctance to charge appeared to me to have been imposed from the top down by State Attorney Norm Wolfinger and Chief Bill Lee due to as yet unknown reasons political reasons rather than the merits of the case.

That is corruption and that is not how our legal system is supposed to work.

As soon as I reviewed the defendant’s statements, including what he said during the NEN call, I realized that this case was all about race and could not be understood without mentioning race. If Trayvon Martin had been white, for example, the defendant would not have called the police.

I wrote an article in which I stated that anyone who believed George Zimmerman’s story was necessarily a racist. That is, one had to assume that Trayvon was a violent and crazy thug who all of a sudden for no apparent reason decided to attack and attempt to kill with his bare hands a menacing stranger who had followed him in a vehicle and then on foot after Trayvon had successfully eluded him by running away and hiding in a dark area behind a building containing townhomes. No person in their right mind would do that.

The defendant described Trayvon as a stereotypical black gangsta popularized in comics and blaxploitation films. In order to believe Zimmerman, people had to believe that the stereotypical black gangsta in films actually exists in real life.

I have represented black gang-bangers from Los Angeles who were members of the notorious Crips and Bloods. They were real flesh and blood people with more than a passing interest in survival. Yes, they had participated in gang violence and killed people but they planned what they did and they acted together. They did not utter dated movie lines or issue warnings to their intended victims before shooting them. They did not wander off unarmed and alone somewhere and suddenly decide to attack and kill a stranger with their bare hands. None of them would have believed Zimmerman’s ridiculous story. Only a white racist fixated on young black males who gets a thrill out of watching movies about mean and vicious black gangstas believing that they represent real people would even be capable of making up such a ridiculous story.

I was and continue to be astonished that anyone believed his story.

I believe that the extent to which it is believed offers a pretty accurate measuring stick indicating the prevalence of racism against blacks in our current society.

George Zimmerman did not profile Trayvon Martin as a thug casing the neighborhood for a house to burglarize in the RTL around 7 pm on a rainy Sunday night in late February because Trayvon was wearing a hoodie and walking around in the rain. He profiled him because he was a young black male and he invented a self-defense claim to justify killing him by describing Trayvon Martin as character in a movie.

Race was the proverbial elephant in the living room and the prosecution should never have agreed not to mention it. Zimmerman selected Trayvon because he was black and he hunted him down and attempted to detain him because he assumed certain things about him because he was black. He was the aggressor because he was determined to prevent him from escaping out the back entrance before the police arrived just like all of the other fucking coons and assholes who got away.

A review of all of the defendants NEN calls establishes that he obsessed about blacks. Black residents of the RTL had negative experiences with him where he accused them of wrongdoing. A visible pattern emerges of Zimmerman repeatedly assuming that blacks engaging in normal activities actually were up to no good and he called the police NEN to report them.

All of this evidence was relevant to why he selected Trayvon and why he killed him

As John Guy said, “George Zimmerman did not shoot Trayvon Martin because he had to. He shot him because he wanted to.”And he did it because Trayvon was black.

In other words, he committed a federal hate crime and I hope the Justice Department prosecutes him.

I do not know why the prosecution decided not to stress the importance of race. I imagine Angela Corey made the decision with Bernie de la Rionda’s consent. I do not believe John Guy or Richard Mantei participated in that decision. I think Corey and de la Rionda owe us an explanation.

They also inexplicably allowed Chris Serino and Doris Singleton to support George Zimmerman’s claim of self-defense. I can understand not wanting to attack a law enforcement agency in order to avoid incurring the probable wrath of other law enforcement agencies. However, once Serino and Singleton turned against the prosecution, Bernie de la Rionda should have torn Serino to shreds by bringing out that he tampered with witnesses to get them to identify George Zimmerman as the person who uttered the terrified death shriek and he set up Tracy Martin at his most vulnerable moment to deny in front of other officers, including Singleton, that he could positively identify Trayvon as the person screaming.

Serino was obviously following orders issued before he arrived at the crime scene. The fix was in and the orders were issued from the top down. He ran that investigation to produce the appearance of an investigation and he only varied from that course of action at the last minute when he realized that the department was not going to get away with not charging Zimmerman. I think he made that decision on his own hoping to save his job and hoping people would not look closely at what he did.

I think he was a trusted player in the corruption game or the Chief would not have put him in charge of the investigation.

Bernie de la Rionda also should have confronted Singleton for wearing awards on her uniform that she had not earned.

The verdict in this case might well have been different if Angela Corey and Bernie de la Rionda had not made these decisions.

The bottom line is Chris Serino and Doris Singleton are corrupt cops in a corrupt police department. They still have their jobs and that suggests that the effort to clean-up the department is only for the sake of appearances.

The prosecution’s decision to allow them to lie and gut their case to justify and conceal how they mishandled the investigation bespeaks a form of intolerable corruption in which Angela Corey and Bernie de la Rionda aided and abetted corrupt police work.

And the end result is that a racist lying psychopath is now free to kill again.

That is why I cannot and will not accept this verdict as legitimate, ever.

This is why I join with LLMPapa in urging Attorney General Eric Holder to prosecute George Zimmerman for a hate crime.

I regret to say that I do not believe Zimmerman will be charged with a hate crime. I fear the decision will be made for political reasons rather than on the merits of the case itself.

Assuming I am right that will add even more corruption to a corrupt and shameful case.

At the very least, by speaking truth to power, we draw a line in the sand and declare for all who have eyes to see that we are not fooled by the appearance of justice. We saw through to the corrupt core of this case and in this way we honor Trayvon Martin and his memory.


Probable cause in arrests, initial appearances, informations, and grand jury indictments

April 27, 2013

Saturday, April 27, 2013

I write today to clear up some confusion that I may have caused regarding the purpose of an initial appearance in a federal criminal case. I think I caused the problem by failing to mention that all federal court felony prosecutions must be by grand jury indictment. I cover a lot of basic material that most people do not know about our criminal justice system. This information will help you understand why Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s initial appearance happened on Monday. I also provide basic information about grand juries, including when and why they were created. Finally, you will have a more thorough understanding of probable cause and its role in our criminal justice system.

In tomorrow’s post I will look ahead to Tuesday’s hearing in the Zimmerman case and express some choice words to describe the new low in sleaziness achieved by Mark O’Mara.

Do not confuse an initial appearance with an arraignment. An initial appearance is a judicial review of a complaint and affidavit for probable cause to determine whether the affidavit actually establishes probable cause or reasonable grounds to believe the defendant committed the crime(s) charged in the complaint. The defendant does not enter a plea at the initial appearance for the simple reason that he cannot be arraigned unless he has been indicted by a grand jury.

The Fifth Amendment provides in pertinent part:

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;

Many states, including Florida, permit prosecution by information. The Zimmerman case is a good example. Florida permits felony prosecution by information except in capital cases, which must be prosecuted by grand jury indictment. Therefore, State Attorney Angela Corey could have prosecuted the defendant for second degree murder by grand jury indictment or by information. She opted to charge Zimmerman by information thereby avoiding the cumbersome and time consuming effort required to persuade a grand jury to indict him.

Prosecution by grand jury indictment originated in England in order to prevent the king from initiating bogus criminal prosecutions against political enemies for political reasons. Transferring the power to charge people with crimes from the king to a group of citizens was a remarkable accomplishment at the time and a very important step in the long evolutionary process from governance by an unchecked monarchy to governance by elected officials.

We live in a different world where grand juries have become little more than rubber stamps signing off on indictments proposed by prosecutors. This is not surprising since grand juries meet in secret without a judge to supervise the proceedings. Hearsay is permitted because the rules of evidence do not apply and the targets of their investigations are not present. The absence of judicial oversight and the exclusion of suspects and their lawyers from participation in the process permits prosecutors to rig the outcome.

A suspect cannot be arrested or charged with a crime unless there is probable cause (i.e., reasonable grounds) to believe he committed the crime.

In the case of an arrest, the police decide whether they have probable cause. However, police are not lawyers. They can and do make mistakes even when they are acting in good faith. Although prosecution by information transfers the power to charge a suspect with a crime from the police who arrested the suspect to a prosecutor, the test remains the same. The prosecutor must have probable cause to believe the suspect committed the crime. The same is true when the prosecution is by grand jury indictment only now the grand jury is making the decision instead of the prosecutor. Finally, in our legal system we have judicial review of police decisions to arrest and prosecutor’s decisions to charge suspects with crimes. The test is still probable cause but now a judge is making the decision.

Judges also review the issue of detention after police have arrested a suspect and booked him into a jail pending a decision to charge or release a suspect by a prosecutor or the grand jury. Judicial review of probable cause and detention in federal court takes place at the initial appearance.

An arraignment is a judicial hearing that occurs after a person has been charged, whether by information or grand jury indictment. The purpose of the arraignment is to formally notify the defendant that he has been charged with a crime(s) and to record his plea. In both federal and state courts, defendants are required to plead “not guilty.”

There is a good reason for this requirement. Arraignment calendars in state and federal courts are busy affairs. Judges cannot accept a guilty plea unless they are satisfied that the defendant knows what rights he is forfeiting by pleading guilty. The defendant also must provide a statement under oath regarding what he did that is legally sufficient to support the plea. Guilty pleas can take up to 15 or even 30 minutes to complete. Therefore, they are scheduled for a different time.

Magistrate judges in each federal district conduct the initial appearances and arraignments in federal court. Initial appearances are typically scheduled in the afternoon to allow sufficient lead time for federal law enforcement agents and prosecutors to prepare the formal charging document, which we call the complaint, and the supporting affidavit (i.e., sworn statement) for probable cause. The complaint and affidavit are filed in the clerk’s office at the United States Courthouse. In turn the clerk’s office notifies the federal public defender regarding the new arrest and that office assigns the case to a lawyer in the office.

The Pretrial Supervision section of the United States Probation Office also is notified about the new case and they assign it to one of their officers. Their job is to prepare a report for the magistrate judge regarding the defendant and to recommend whether he should be released pending the outcome of the case. They also recommend the conditions of the release.

The United States Marshal’s Office is responsible for transporting the person to court for the hearing.

If this process works smoothly, the defense attorney receives his copy of the complaint and affidavit for probable cause with sufficient time to review and discuss it with the defendant in the lockup at the courthouse before the hearing.

At the beginning of the hearing, counsel for the government and the defendant identify themselves for the record and the magistrate judge informs the defendant of the charge(s) against him in the complaint and the maximum sentence that could be imposed, if convicted. He also advises the defendant of the following rights:

1. Right to remain silent

2. Anything he says can be used against him

3. Right to be represented by the lawyer he chooses, if he can afford the fee and the lawyer files a notice of appearance confirming representation

4. Right to have the court appoint counsel to be paid at public expense, if he cannot afford counsel.

5. Right to be presumed innocent.

6. Right to a jury trial

Most defendants cannot afford counsel and for that reason the clerk’s office routinely assigns the case to the Federal Defender, unless retained counsel contacts the clerk’s office and confirms that he will represent the defendant.

In a multiple defendant case, each defendant is entitled to his own lawyer because acting in the best interests of one client often is not in the best interest of the other client. Assume, for example, that you are representing both defendants. Also assume that the prosecutor contacts you and offers a benefit to one client in exchange for a guilty plea and his agreement to testify against the other client. Congratulations! You now have a conflict of interest and have to withdraw from the case, if it would be in the best interests of the first client to advise him to accept the offer because you cannot advise him to do that without violating your duty to act in the best interests of your other client.

Since your conflict of interest would extend to your law partners, the law firm that employs you, or every other lawyer employed by the Federal Public Defender if you work for them, the district courts maintain a list of experienced and qualified lawyers in private practice who have agreed to accept appointments with financial compensation at the rates set by the court. This list is called the Criminal Justice Administration Panel or CJA Panel.

In multiple defendant cases, the clerk’s office appoints the Federal Public Defender to represent the first defendant. Additional defendants in the same case are each assigned to a CJA Panel attorney. I was a CJA Panel attorney in Seattle for 20 years, so I am familiar with the process.

The process I have described is the same in every federal district in the United States.

This process would have been followed in the Boston Marathon bombing case. Since the Federal Public Defender Office would have known that it would be formally appointed to represent Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on Monday, I am reasonably certain that they assembled a team over the weekend to work on the case. The team would have included at least one or two lawyers, an investigator, and possibly a mitigation specialist.

Subsequent news reports have confirmed that a defense team was assembled over the weekend.

I imagine the lawyer or lawyers attempted to meet with Dzhokhar Tsarnaev at the hospital over the weekend, but were denied access. Law enforcement officials can do that absent a request from the suspect in custody to meet with counsel. I doubt he made that request, if he were intubated, unconscious and unable to speak.

The Magistrate Judge also would have known that she would have to conduct an initial appearance for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on Monday, assuming he survived until then.

I am relatively certain that arrangements were made on Monday morning to conduct the hearing in the hospital at the patient’s bedside with notification to all parties concerned.

I doubt defense counsel were permitted to meet with their client before the FBI’s interrogation team completed its work.

The Fifth Amendment issue is whether the defendant’s statements will be admissible against him, since he provided them during a custodial interrogation without advice and waiver of his rights per Miranda. The government will argue that the public emergency exception exempted it from having to Mirandize the defendant. The defense will argue that the exception has not been judicially approved and did not apply.

A closely related issue is whether the defendant’s statements were voluntary or coerced, given his medical and mental condition. Was he competent to answer questions?

The Sixth Amendment issue is whether he requested a lawyer at any time before or during the interrogation. We know he could not speak and the interrogation team would have known that. Was he denied pencil and paper at the team’s request before the interrogation? Did he scribble out a request that was ignored?

The remedy for a failure to Mirandize the defendant prior to a custodial interrogation is to exclude his statements from being admitted into evidence.

________________________________________

Writing articles every day and maintaining the integrity and safety of this site from people who would like nothing better than to silence us forever is a tough job requiring many hours of work.

If you like this site, please consider making a secure donation via Paypal by clicking the yellow donation button in the upper right corner just below the search box.

Thank you,

Fred


Featuring: Willis Newton regarding Zimmerman and the good-cop good-cop interview technique

March 25, 2013

Monday, March 25, 2013

Willis Newton posted an excellent comment at 11:37 pm last night on the open thread regarding the defendant and the good-cop good-cop interview technique.

The only correction that I feel a need to point out is that a criminal defense lawyer would have advised the defendant to shut his mouth. There are no exceptions to that rule.

This full-of-himself intellectually challenged defendant caused irreparable damage to his case when he decided that he could talk his way out of being charged with killing Trayvon Martin. Once he got going, he could not stop and the pièce de résistance was the Shawn Hannity interview.

State’s Attorney Angela Corey and Assistant State’s Attorney Bernie de la Rionda did the right thing when they declined to talk to the defendant as they are ethically prohibited from talking to a defendant represented by counsel, even if the defendant initiates the contact.

George was handled by Serino and Singleton of the SPD in a manner I’d call “good cop/ good cop.” Both tried to be amicable and played to his vanity and let him think they were his “buddies.” This was not because they believed him, it was because this attitude kept George “cooperating” by continuing to make multiple statements without a lawyer present, after being advised of his right to refuse to answer any questions without a lawyer present.

Let me just say this now – anyone, ESPECIALLY innocent people, but anyone, anyone is a fool if you let the cops question you without a lawyer present. They are NOT your friends, no matter how many times they let you go to the bathroom or buy you a cola from a vending machine. They are doing their job, which is to get you to talk yourself into a criminal conviction.

George bought the routine hook line and sinker. He was a fool for giving so many statements, as it became very cleat quickly that he was pushing a false narrative and telling a story that was fraught with inconsistencies, critical omissions and clear contradictions.

One thing he was tricked with was the “voice stress test,” which is a useless and pointless exercise that proves NOTHING and is never admissible in a court of law. George agreed to the test because he thought the cops were believing his lies, and his ego told him that he could and should “talk his way out of this one” since the cops were seemingly sympathetic to his plight. The real and true purpose of the voice stress test was to get George to run through his whole (false) narrative one more time with as little interruption as possible. The “test taker” was simply a new interrogator, but one whose job it was to feign disinterest as he asked George “on background” to relate his tale so the test taker could “set up the voice stress machine.”

Notice that “as they waited for the tester” the cops also let GZ sit around for a long quiet period with detective Singleton. This too is a deliberate session of evidence-gathering that detectives use on a regular basis – put the guy at ease but do anything to keep him from calling a lawyer -just keep him making statements.

She’s being mostly quiet so that he will KEEP talking to fill the uncomfortable silence. It’s here that he made the telling remarks about how “suspects” need to respond to “authority” but that he thinks Singleton “doesn’t have to worry” about that since she has such a commanding presence, or whatever it is that he says exactly. I’m paraphrasing a bit here, but it was a telling moment and I predict will be shown to the jury as part of the overall portrait the prosecution is going to paint to color him as a wanna-be authority figure who had no legal right to profile and pursue a teen to the point where the child fled in terror, and then for GZ to leave his vehicle with a loaded weapon and continue on foot after him into the proverbial “dark alley.”

Whatever the reason the police let him go home that first night, Serino made certain that GZ was going to “keep cooperating.” Letting him go home was a gamble, but one that paid off well since the next day GZ cooperated AGAIN without having a lawyer present and did a “re-eneactment” for the detectives that was less than credible, and again made for several very telling moments that could be presented to a jury to show his lack of credibility at the least. George told provable lies about where he pulled over his car and how his car ended up near the cut thru when he got out of it and started following the teen. Then he massively contradicted his many earlier accounts when he suddenly added the “I must have stumbled” portion of the account of the “first punch” that may or may not have even happened. Each time he’d previously spoke of this alleged blow to his face, he described things like falling backwards, and how he was knocked IMMEDIATELY to the ground before “Trayvon mounted him” as George alleges the teen did. Suddenly George has to insert a 40 foot “stumble” right in the middle of where he wished he could again claim he was knocked to the ground where he stood.

Keep in mind if George had waited for his lawyer to be present, the lawyer would likely advise him to make ONE statement that was carefully crafted and then to refuse to cooperate any further. I’m not certain about this but imagine if GZ had called a lawyer and kept his mouth mostly shut. He may have spent a few nights in jail, but it would be more difficult to impeach his credibility, a key component of his upcoming murder trial. He may have even avoided a trial altogether. His own words are what is going to sink his ship.

After the “re-enactment” the detectives confronted him about his inconsistencies in the harshest session of questioning, but as you listen to the recording keep in mind they are careful to frame their disbelief and harsh questions by mentioning the need for George to “keep his story straight for later” essentially as if what was happening contemporaneously was his “cop buddies” leading him down the path to freedom and insider treatment. They don’t QUITE pull off the whole ruse of buddy-buddy, partially because his lies are too difficult to swallow but also because George is so suspicious and guarded in his words. But the detectives still act as though “this is all just so we can set the record straight” and that George is “gonna be fine probably” etc.

Never do the SPD detectives posture that they are “holding him for questioning.” It’s always that they are “allowing him to make a statement,” or some such polite way of putting things, as though his cooperation is helping them seal the fate of the dead “suspect” who “attacked” him. This is how “good cop/ good cop” works.

Someone in the SPD made the call that George “should be handled with kid gloves” and also let go to sleep in his own bed. It was a pragmatic decision since at the beginning the detectives saw they lacked a good witness to the events from start to finish and that GZ killed the only other person who they thought heard the start of the fight. Keep in mind they had yet to learn that TM was on the phone at the time the fight started.

The fact that George kept in touch with Serino while he was out and not facing a grand jury or criminal charges is a sign that Serino had gained some measure of his trust. Before GZ called Angela Corey he also had been speaking with Serino. I am guessing its likely GZ asked Serino something obsequious like “do you think it might be a good idea if I were to call the state’s attorney and let them know (what a good boy I am) etc?” Serino knew he was pretty much off the case by then but tried to keep the “good cop” ruse going.

Recall the two clown lawyers who weren’t really his lawyers? I also am guessing one of both of them, idiots that they were, knew enough to try to advise George of the folly of trying to consider Angela Corey his new buddy. Whatever the timing and whomever was advising George, he didn’t get his chance to cozy up to the special prosecutor because the state wisely refused to see him at all until he retained a lawyer. He called Corey but she wouldn’t take that call IIRC.

So in answer to the question, “what was he thinking when he tried to see Corey?” I’d say the guess is probably right that he still felt like he could talk his way out the jam he was in. (SO far, so good, he felt.) He’d killed the only real witness to his car-to-pedestrian chase and was fairly sure no one saw how the physical altercation began. Somehow he’d gotten the lucky break of having someone, Shellie probably, move his car away before it could be searched or its location noted. (which way was it facing? He could be lying about that but we don’t know, and we may never know.)

His arrogance is staggering, but his gullibility is as well. IMO Serino did a good job of “handling” George. He may have made other mistakes but in this regard his strategy was a wise one. And the special prosecutor made the wise call that despite George possibly being willing to come make more “statements” that he’s been given enough rope to hang himself with already. They knew the statements he’d given the SPD and they felt they had enough already to paint him as the two-bit liar that he is.

If Serino ever gets a book deal, I’ll buy his book. He’d got things to answer for, but keep in mind he looked into GZ’s eyes and read his body language, heard his story, walked the grounds with him and then looked again into his eyes as George was confronted with the NEN call recording and several of his contradictory statements. If anyone in the world knows whether or not to believe GZ it’s detective Chris Serino, who wanted to charge him with murder and was willing to settle for manslaughter but NEVER felt GZ was in the clear.


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