Monthly Archives: August 2012

Catch him if you can conviction

Matthew Scheidt

A Florida teen was just found guilty of impersonating a physician’s assistant for two weeks.  Always in Florida.  Matthew Scheidt gave a full confession (never talk to the cops) and was found guilty of 4 out of 5 charges.  I’m guessing that the case went to trial to preserve the issue for appeal of whether or not the confessional was admissible; his attorneys had attempted to exclude his statements from the trial.  The only way to preserve that issue of appeal would be to go to trial (and lose).  If the appellate court finds the statements were improperly taken, it could be remanded for another trial.  The young man is facing up to 20 years in prison when he gets sentenced.

He was only 17 at the time.  I wonder if this case was initially charged in juvenile court.  The state would likely have moved the case to adult court when he got arrested for additional charges, anyway.  The judge can take his age into consideration when he hands down sentence.  I can’t help but think of DiCaprio’s character in Catch Me if You Can, though this kid clearly doesn’t have the knack for pulling things off.

Fort Myers Police plan DUI Checkpoint this weekend

FMPD plans a “sobriety checkpoint,” a DUI checkpoint, this weekend.  Location not announced- but somewhere in the city- usually near downtown.  Be safe out there, don’t drink and drive and ruin your Labor Day Weekend with a night in jail!

LCSO did a checkpoint a few weeks ago.  They stopped over 1,000 cars, and got 6 DUIs.  It’s easy to point out the irony (or the lack of need) of running a DUI checkpoint when the rate of impaired drivers is >1%.  Instead I’ll point out that if a dozen or more officers had been patrolling instead of harassing 900+ innocent drivers, they likely would’ve caught more DUI offenders! It’s good for business for us criminal defense attorneys…

Judge ordered off George Zimmerman’s case

The appellate court has granted the Petition for Writ of Prohibition filed by George Zimmerman’s defense team.  Florida has a very low standard for recusal of a judge: if a judge does or says something that would make an average person think they wouldn’t get a fair hearing, the judge must recuse himself.  The judge doesn’t get the option of weighing the allegations, even if they are made up.  In this case, the statements leading to the motion are all on the record.  The judge pretty much hammered Zimmerman at the bond reconsideration hearings, as I’ve discussed before on this blog.  See more from the ABA Journal, with links.

The impartiality of the judge is particularly important in this case.  Since the judge has previously commented on the credibility of Mr. Zimmerman, the Defense team decided they had to make this move.  At trial, the witnesses credibility will be determined by a jury, who generally will not be made aware of statements (or Mr. Zimmerman’s silence) at the bond proceedings.  However, the Defense has indicated they plan a stand your ground motion, which will be decided by the judge.  The primary factor in the judge’s deliberation will be the credibility of George Zimmerman, as he’s the only surviving direct witness to the shooting itself, and whether he had been attacked beforehand, or if he attacked Trayvon Martin.  The question to be decided at that hearing will be “who provoked the physical altercation,” for which Zimmerman’s defense relies on the judge believing him.

There is always a consideration to be made at Stand Your Ground immunity hearings as to whether the defense attorney is willing to put the client on the stand, and expose him to cross-examination and to tip the prosecutor as to what he will say at trial.  As Zimmerman previously gave an extensive statement to police, the Defense would like to use that, but the court said in the McDaniel case that hearsay is not admissible.  Ironically, in McDaniel, the state was trying to rely on hearsay to proceed against Mr. McDaniel, but the ruling bars defendants from admitting their own statements.  And to further the irony, the state is allowed to use a defendant’s statements against him/her, but the defendant is not allowed to introduce his own prior statements in his defense!  It will be interesting to see how Zimmerman’s attorney’s proceed, but I anticipate they will probably put Mr. Zimmerman on the stand.

Drew Peterson Update: Divorce lawyers says Stacy threatened to accuse Drew of the Savio murder

Update from the ABA journal:  Drew Peterson defense attorneys put on testimony from a divorce attorney that 4th wife Stacy Peterson spoke to.  He testified that she considered using the threat of accusing him of murder to gain an advantage in her potential divorce proceeding.  Of course, she disappeared before any divorce proceeding could be commenced.  Does this testimony help Peterson… or suggest more of a motive to have murdered Stacy? (He has not been charged in Stacy’s disappearance… yet.)

Jeff Ruby offers $100,000 reward for Stacy Peterson information: Drew Peterson updates

This won’t immediately affect Drew Peterson’s trial for allegedly murdering 3rd wife, Kathleen Savio, but Jeff Ruby has offered a major reward for help finding Stacy Peterson’s body; his 4th wife whose disappearance sparked the reopening of the investigation into Savio’s death.  A few days ago, Ruby made news for being barred from the courtroom for making faces at Drew Peterson during the trial.  He’s adding to the circus atmosphere, while simultaneously complaining about the lawyers antics. 

In other news, the prosecution rested, and the defense has begun their case.  Several witnesses have been called to cast doubt on the State’s witnesses.  Again, the Tribune has running updates.

And finally, the jury has been coordinating their clothes for the duration of the trial, possibly taking their lead off a couple of defense attorneys (a husband and wife). It culminated in all of them wearing sports jerseys today (I see an Urlacher in the back row).  Quirky and fun, and I’m sure a tension breaker for the long, hard work of sitting on this many-weeks trial.

Thanks to @kendallherold for the heads up on the Jeff Ruby story.

Open letter to Lee County Court Admin: Update

I know that it is complicated and probably expensive to close the courthouse, but several parts of the county are under a hurricane warning.  With today’s advanced forecasting, we cn say with great certainty that the hurricane will be off our coast on Monday, and that we will be experiencing high, tropical storm level winds, perhaps much more.  The schools are closed, government offices are closed, and I think you can safely determine there’s no way the courthouse will be open on monday, so that those of us who work there can plan accordingly.

Also, Lee County Government, you probably ought to have your webpage updated with something.  Kudos to Lee schools for excellent notification.

Update: The Courthouse is officially closed Monday. Thank you Admin for not waiting until 4 pm to make the announcement.

Man’s conviction overturned, but he’s still sitting in a California prison

Exonerated Daniel Larsen is still in prison

Thanks to Steve K. for the heads up on this one.  Daniel Larson’s conviction was overturned 2 years ago, but he’s still in prison.  He has served 13 years for it.  Not only that, the state is fighting to keep him there.  I appreciate that they want to follow the letter of the law on appeals and timing and so forth… but, isn’t there a greater miscarriage of justice for an innocent man to be locked up.  It’s bad enough that the 3-strikes laws gave him a 27 year sentence for being in possession of a knife, but since he’s been exonerated, why would anyone wish him to be unjustly incarcerated.

I hope it’s not about money; that the state is afraid of getting sued for wrongful incarceration.  The article doesn’t say it, but it’s gotta be a concern.  If it was, shouldn’t they want him out before he sits there any longer?  Do the crime, you may have to do the time… but, you shouldn’t do the time if you didn’t do the crime.  EVER.  Cases like this hurt prosecutors in the long run, as they undermine society’s faith in the system.  Perhaps the Governor can just pardon him and do some justice.