After 27 years, authorities arrested Sheila Keen-Warren for the 1990 killing of Marlene Warren by an assailant disguised as a clown. Warren answered the door to someone dressed as a clown who handed her balloons and flowers, then pulled out a gun and shot her in the face. Marlene Warren died at the hospital 2 days later.
Sheila Keen became a suspect when authorities found out she was having an affair with Marlene’s husband, Michael. She eventually married him, but no arrest was made for decades.
In 2014, new DNA evidence was uncovered by modern technology that tied Sheila Keen-Warren to the crime. She was arrested in Virginia in 2017, still married to Michael Keen. The case has been pending since then, but was scheduled to go to trial in the coming weeks.
Mrs. Keen-Warren will be sentenced to 12 years in prison, with some 6 years of credit since her arrest. The charge was under the old guidelines, and before the rule that requires prisoners to serve 85% of their sentences, so she has completed a substantial portion of her sentence. She will likely be out in less than 2 years. Her attorneys insist that she still claims innocence, but accepted the deal to avoid the risk of trial. With as much credit, and imminent release, the plea agreement makes a lot of sense for her. While she may protest her innocence, she has now plead guilty and been convicted of the offense. The family finally has closure.
A former prosecutor has revealed that the Office of the State Attorney of the Second Judicial Circuit had an explicitly racist policy published to assistant prosecutors there. The policy, which was printed in a memo and posted in the Jefferson County prosecutor’s office, explicitly directed prosecutors to seek harsher penalties when the Defendants for No Valid Driver’s License charges were “Hispanic.”
It’s shocking for the office to have such a policy, and even more shocking they actually wrote it up and printed it out. The elected prosecutor likely did not know about it, this was posted in one of the branch offices of a 6-county circuit, but it is still appalling that such a document existed. The optics are particularly bad where the prosecutors in the office are all white.
The article does not contain a direct response from the prosecutors office regarding the allegations, though elected State Attorney Jack Campbell has argued against stereotyping. Sadly, the actions of his office to not match his words on the matter.
Former ASA Mackenzie Hayes, who revealed the policy, shortly left the 2nd Circuit SAO.
Jury selection is set to start today for Wisner Desmaret, who is charged with First Degree Murder in the killing of Fort Myers Police Officer Adam Jobbers-Miller in 2018. Jobbers-Miller was responding to a complaint, when he was allegedly tackled by Desmaret, who took his firearm and fatally shot him. The State is seeking the Death Penalty on the case. Desmaret fired his attorney, and will be representing himself at the trial. Desmaret has a documented mental health history — he’s had prior criminal cases in which he was found incompetent to stand trial, and subsequently received treatment. His competency has been evaluated in this case, but he has been found competent to stand trial.
It should be noted that competency, his ability to appreciate the charges and comport himself in court, is different from the defense of insanity. Insanity is a mental disease defect so extreme that at the time of the offense, the defendant could not understand what he was doing or could not understand that what he’s doing was wrong. It’s a difficult defense, as individuals are presumed innocent, and as an affirmative defense, the burden is on the Defense to prove the insanity by clear and convincing evidence.
While prior counsel filed a notice that they intended to use insanity as a defense, citing schizophrenia and abnormal brain scans, Desmaret may not use that defense now that he’s representing himself for the trial. At a pretrial conference last week, Desmaret in discussing the case raised some issues that he may argue at trial, and they were kind of all over the place. At one point he discussed a lack of certain DNA evidence, suggesting an identification defense, at other times talking about police violence, suggesting a justifiable use of force defense. Then he made some comments suggesting a conspiracy theory about them wanting to harvest his blood. It won’t be clear what he argues as his defense until the trial gets going, and with his addled brain, it may not become clear.
Jury selection is slated to start today. The trial should take several weeks, possibly two or three, but maybe several, depending on how things go.
A recent article took a look at Florida’s Prison Releasee Reoffender statute, which mandates a maximum penalty for designated offenders. The problem with sentencing strictures that take discretion away, is that imbalanced sentences can follow. The man discussed in this article, Steve Brana, was sentenced to life for robbery, except the robber with the gun got less time. Brana’s only prior offenses were juvenile burglaries. It’s appropriate to take a violent offender off the streets for a time to ensure the safety of the community, but life in prison for an accomplice (or principle) who has no violent history may not be necessary.
The First Amendment prohibits any law that would abridge the freedom of speech, or of the press. This law is so offensive to the freedoms granted, I can’t believe the idea made it far enough for the bill to be filed. The registration requirements, and potential penalties, create what’s called a “chilling effect” that would run afoul of our right to free expression.
This country was founded on the principle of being permitted to critique the government. I do have a personal interest as a blogger, albeit occasionally, who sometimes writes about the government. But this bill is offensive to the First Amendment regardless of which side you are on. If we had a “woke” government that he disagreed with, would we not be allowed to criticize it? Of course we would, and it’s preposterous to try to restrict comment on the government.
The Florida Constitution also provides that no law shall be passed that restrains or abridges the liberty of speech or of the press. So this law would violate the U.S. Constitution and the Florida Constitution. It’s a double-unconstitutional law — Jason Brodeur would restrict our rights under both Constitutions. I hope the citizens of Lake Mary found out what he is trying to do and find someone to primary him.
This is supposed to be the Free State of Florida. If this pinhead Jason Brodeur doesn’t respect the Constitutional rights of Floridians, he does not deserve to to represent us in the legislature. It will obviously get laughed out of court when it gets challenged, but it should never get passed into law. Brodeur should talk to a lawyer, a law student, even, and withdraw this clearly unconstitutional bill. It’s appalling that a lawmaker would try to impede our Constitutional rights.
New Mexico prosecutors announced today that they are filing charges against actor Alec Baldwin, as well as weapons handler Hannah Gutierrez Reed, for the tragic October, 2021 accident on the set of the movie ‘Rust’. The production failed to ensure several safety precautions that should never had allowed live ammunition on the set, much less in a gun handed to an actor.
Baldwin denies that he pulled the trigger. While it’s possible the gun malfunctioned, the FBI said their tests showed the gun functioned properly, meaning that the trigger would need to be pulled for it to discharge. His statements to the contrary will call his testimony into question.
That said, it will be extremely difficult for prosecutors to prove him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. First, when he was handed the gun, he was told that it was a “cold” gun… that means he expected it to be safe. That makes it hard to prove the his lawful act “might produce death in an unlawful manner or without due caution and circumspection.” He did not have reason to pause because there were protocols in place, ammunition should not have been live on the set, and he was told the gun was cold.
That doesn’t end the analysis for several reasons. One additional factor is that he was a producer on the film. That means he may bare some more responsibility for the lack of safety on the set and the failure to ensure protocols are followed. I don’t think that rises to the level of criminal responsibility, that sounds more like civil liability. Apparently the civil wrongful death matter has already been settled by Baldwin and the production.
I think the prosecutor wants to show that they do not hold anybody above the law, but I think they will have a hard time proving criminal charges against Baldwin. Frankly, the fact that they also charged the armorer suggests her negligence may weigh against Baldwin’s responsibility. I think there is a high likelihood it will go to trial, as Baldwin will want to try to win acquittal in court, but it will be fascinating to watch from a legal standpoint.
An Ohio man was stopped for suspicion of DUI the other day, and he tried a unique way to show the officers that he was not impaired. 27-year-old Tanner Watson was pulled over in Broadview Heights for speeding, but officers suspected a possible OVI (Ohio’s version of DUI). He admitted a having a few beers, but to show that he wasn’t drunk, he did a backflip for the officers on the side of the road. Not only that, he landed it.
Based on his performance on the other exercises, officers still felt that he was impaired and arrested him. But, he’s got an argument to the jury that his acrobatics would show that he’s not impaired. There is some power to the argument that if he can pull off such a physical feat, that he was not impaired, as most of the jurors would not be able to do a flip!
A friend of mine at the prosecutor’s office was working a DUI case many years ago, and wanted to show me the video. He thought he had a great case because the Defendant started dancing during the field sobriety exercises. Not just any dancing, she was a ballet dance, and started going through positions and performed some impressive moves. I told him that the case may not be as strong as he thought, and the jury ended up acquitting her. It can be hard to show that someone’s normal faculties are impaired, as required by the law, when they can perform impressive athletic skills.
I said it was a unique way to avoid a DUI, but a little searching shows that he is not the only person to do a backflip to try to prove his sobriety, here’s another:
A Port Charlotte man went into a Charlotte County massage parlor, sorry, “spa,” and requested a massage from the ‘masseuse’ there, Ms. Dong. That’s really her name, though I won’t list her first name. He took off all his clothes and laid down on the table, where the worker started rubbing his shoulders. She asked him to flip over, and he did so, fully naked and without a covering towel. He says he was surprised when the massage worker grabbed his genitals. Shocked, I’m sure!
The alleged victim told deputies he paid $100, when massages were only listed for $70. He told the cops he called after she refused to give him his money back. That’s probably about the end of the truth in his story.
She told deputies that she was giving him a massage when he started asking for sexual favors. She says she refused, and he became angry, and gave him $50 back hoping he would leave so she went to the back room.
So, either the guy had NO IDEA that this strip mall ‘massage parlor’ was a haven for sexual favors -OR- he knew it was and asked her to do things she didn’t want to do. Which situation is more likely? Generally, when stories differ, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. The more plausible story is probably nearer the truth. However, the cop arrested her for Battery and for Unnatural and Lascivious Act, because the dude was the one who called the cops. Good luck proving that one.
Greetings and salutations for a great new year from Crimcourts. This year is exciting for me, as I take over as President of the Lee County Bar Association. Hence the cover of our magazine, Res Gestae. To save you the need to ask or look it up, res gestae is latin for “things done.” Pretty clever!
We’ve been pretty busy around the Law Office of Spencer Cordell, which has cut back on my blogging lately, but I’m going to try to keep it up whenever I can get things posted. Be sure to follow on Twitter@crimcourts and Facebook, sometimes I share articles quicklyon there when I don’t have a chance to write something up myself. Good fortune to everyone this year, and good luck on your New Year’s resolutions!
Adnan Syed, who was convicted in 2000 for the murder of his girlfriend Hae Min Lee, may have a chance for a new trial. His case came to national attention through the hit podcast ‘Serial’, and was later revisited by an HBO documentary. There was a substantial question whether the conviction against Mr. Syed was correct, though the appeal had been upheld. However, a new appeal led to a ruling in 2018 that he should be entitled to a new trial, but that decision was reversed by the highest Court in Maryland.
Earlier this year, Mr. Syed’s attorneys approached the Sentencing Review Unit at the Baltimore prosecutor’s office, and asked them to conduct a new review of the case. Subsequent to that investigation, prosecutors indicate there is new evidence that should entitle Mr. Syed to having the prior conviction set aside, and be given a new trial.
During the investigation, prosecutors (basically a conviction integrity unit), uncovered additional evidence that had not been disclosed to the defense. Most notably, different suspect were known to the prosecutors, they were not properly ruled out, and related information was not given to the defense. There was another witness who said the suspects had motive to kill the victim, and threatened her, saying he would make her disappear, that he would kill her. Obviously that is relevant evidence to Mr. Syed’s defense, and should have been turned over to his attorneys prior to the trial. This type of evidence is known as ‘Brady’ evidence, and prosecutors have a duty to disclose.
Mr. Syed has always maintained his innocence, and there were always questions surrounding his conviction. It looks likely that he will get a chance to have another day in court, and increases the likelihood of finding out what actually happened to Ms. Lee.