Monthly Archives: November 2012

Robert Dunn review

Thanks again to the for the mention in their recent article on the Dunn trial.  I know Mr. Dunn’s attorney, David Brener, takes an exception to my characterization of some of the facts of the case as horrific, but that’s a fair interpretation of the facts.  Mr. Dunn is now convicted of taking a gun into a day care and shooting his estranged wife in front of a classroom full of children.  It doesn’t matter what I call it in an article, those are bad facts that the jury will be weighing during the sentencing phase.  I had also commented that there are mitigating factors that the jury would consider, such as Mr. Dunn’s history of mental health issues.  That comment didn’t make the final cut, but Mr. Stewart did include Mr. Brener’s comments regarding his illness.  Brener is an excellent death-penalty defender, and Mr. Dunn would be foolish to have him removed from the case, as he has requested of Judge Steinbeck. 

As discussed in the article, the conviction is only part of the way to the death penalty, and the last several 1st Degree convictions in Lee County did not result in a death sentence.  Mr. Brener was able to avoid the death penalty for Kemar Johnston, in spite of evidence that Mr. Johnston was a gang leader, and directed the torture of the 2 victims (though the details were in dispute).  The last death sentence in Lee County was 5 years ago in the Twilegar case, wherein Mr. Twilegar beat the victim over the head and then buried him alive.  Crimcourts will continue to follow the #robertdunn case.


I have linked to few articles/videos that spoke favorably to the legalization of marijuana.  I recently ran across a counter-point to share (without comment, other than encouragement to read the online comments), from an op-ed in the News-press:

Michael Jackson murder conviction overturned by FL Supreme Court (not THAT Michael Jackson!)

A Florida man who shares his name with the deceased pop singer had his murder conviction overturned by the Florida Supreme Court.  The Court ruled that the trial court improperly allowed portions of the detectives’ interview with Michael Renard Jackson to be played to the jury.  The offending portion of the interview included several statements of opinion by the detectives, their firm belief in the defendant’s guilt, several statements regarding the victim’s character, and other statements.

Michael Jackson – accused murderer

To break it down simply, anything a defendant says may be used against him at trial.  However, anything the police say to him as they try to elicit a confession should not be used against him.  Their statements are not admissions.  It’s a different story if they ask him a question, and he adopts their statement, but not when he denies the allegation as Mr. Jackson did.  There are exceptions.  For instance, when Mr. Jackson took the stand and testified that he had a relationship with the victim, he opened the door to his statements where he denied knowing her.

The Supreme Court decided the error to allow the interview to be played calls into question the validity of the jury verdict.  The Court found that there were several statements of opinion that were improper and/or inflammatory, and that there is a concern the jury may have given weight to the recorded statements of the officers.  The error falls not only on the judge, but on the prosecutors as well, who fought to introduce the improper evidence over the defense objection.  The lead prosecutor was the elected State Attorney for that judicial circuit, Angela Corey.  She is currently the appointed prosecutor prosecuting George Zimmerman in the Trayvon Martin killing.

Corey has a reputation for being an exceptionally aggressive prosecutor.  In her comments, she defends the right of the officers to be aggressive in their questioning, which is correct.  However, the fault for the conviction being overturned falls not on the detectives or their aggressive interview technique.  The fault lies in the introduction of the inflammatory statements to the jury, and that falls right on her lap.  Officers are allowed to ask a lot of questions, but many of these comments should not be entered into evidence in court.  Due in large part to her aggressiveness, the case will be reopened and set for a retrial.

Also, Corey indicated she was frustrated because the defense agreed to the segment of the interview played in court, according to her.  This does not sound accurate, for in order for the defense to have standing to appeal, the issue must have ben objected to at trial.  If the defense had agreed to the playing, the right to appeal that decision would have been waived.  Since the Court granted the appeal, the objection must have been lodged, contrary to Ms. Corey’s claim in the article.  I do not doubt her claim she will continue to prosecute the case with the same vigor.

It’s important to remember, this decision does not reflect on Mr. Jackson’s innocence.  It only means that his case must be tried again (without the offending statements).  There is still a great deal of evidence suggesting that he is guilty of this brutal rape and murder of Ms. Andrea Boyer.  It’s a shame for everyone involved that the case will have to be revisited, but to maintain our faith in the system, it is paramount to ensure that everyone gets a fair trial.

Robert Dunn, Guilty on all charges

Wink News is reporting that Robert Dunn has been found guilty of first degree murder, burglary and child abuse.  He now faces the death sentence.  There will be a new phase of the trial to see if the jury recommends the death penalty.  Mr. Dunn has indicated he wants to represent himself, and the court will be required to do an inquiry to see if he will be allowed to proceed pro se.

Serial Killer – OJ claim documentary on Glen Rogers

Glen Rogers DOC photo

I checked out the documentary on Glen Rogers, the so-called Cross-Country Killer that aired recently on the Investigation Discovery channel, and it is haunting.  The film doesn’t focus on the Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman murders for most of its 2 hours, though the OJ link is the big hook that it builds up to at the end.  The film spends a good deal of time going through the history of Glen Rogers, the making of a serial killer.  Extensive interviews with his sister and brother, who narrates the film, paint a desolate picture of an evil man.

The murders committed by Glen Rogers were brutal and horrific.  He claimed, and his brother believes, that he killed upwards of 70 people before he was caught.  While is only formally attributed 5 victims, there seems to be strong evidence of at least several others presented in the documentary.  The 70 would seem to be unrealistic.  It is certainly plausible that he killed more prior to beginning his documented spree (1993 until his capture in 1995), or others in the interim.  The last three were killed in a spree in about a week shortly preceding his capture.

I have to admit the Simpson/Goldman killings are possible.  They occurred in the midst of his serial killings, and apparently while he was living in the Los Angeles area.  His brother claims that he had discussed meeting Nicole Brown Simpson prior to her death, and had even made a comment about intending to “take her down”.  Therefore, he had opportunity and clearly the depraved mind making him capable of brutal murder.  His brother claims that Rogers sent his mother an angel pin, a souvenir taken during the killing.  Rogers has claimed that OJ was there, and put him up to the crime, but wasn’t the actual killer.

Skeptics have pointed out that the M.O. of the crime differs from Glen Rogers history.  However, like many of Roger’s murders, it was a violent knife attack with multiple stab wounds.  The motive was apparently robbery, which was a motive in other offenses (he was concurrently convicted of Robbery and Theft in the Cribbs case in Florida).  He certainly can’t be ruled out as a suspect in the case.

The implication of Glen Rogers’ involvement in the Brentwood murders does not absolve OJ: Rogers claim would involve OJ and still make him legally responsible for the murders.  Additionally, there is substantial and well documented evidence of OJ’s involvement in the killings (he was found civilly liable for the deaths in a later trial).  But the possibility that Rogers was involved does not rule out that OJ was guilty, as well.  There is a suspicion that such claims would be brought up now in a late ploy to try to delay Rogers’ trip to the executioner’s chair, which makes it less likely that the state would care to investigate the claims.  Which would be a shame.  Rogers may go to his death without a full accounting of his deeds.  There may be a lot more victims out there whose families will never know what happened.  I am still a skeptic, but I am fascinated at the far-reaching ramifications of a nearly 20-year-old killing spree.

Robert Dunn closing arguments finished

Closing arguments concluded this evening in the Robert Dunn – Bobbie Noonan Day Care Killing case, according to Wink News.  The case will be handed over for the jury to begin deliberations tomorrow morning, which will mark the beginning of the 6th week of trial.  There’s no telling how long jury deliberations will take.  I didn’t get to follow the case as closely as I would have liked, but I expect the jury will be able to come to their verdict tomorrow.  There are a lot of jury instructions for them to go over, plus multiple charges and multiples degrees for them to sort through.

The State would like the jury to find him guilty not only of the premeditated murder, but also the Burglary and Child Abuse charges, as these would be aggravators when they argue for the death penalty.  Child Abuse does not require physical harm to come to a child, and can be based on the infliction of mental harm.  Burglary is simply entering a place he was not invited with the intent of committing a crime.  It seems the Defense was arguing hard against pre-meditation, as a conviction of the lesser murder charge could spare Dunn’s life.  The case for premeditation was circumstantial, but it is a fairly impressive case.

Robert Dunn found competent to stand trial – 11/26

Robert Dunn has been found competent to stand trial in his ongoing murder trial today.  Judge Margaret Steinbeck had appointed two mental health experts to evaluate him, and both experts testified today that they believed that he was competent.

The trial then returned to its previous state where Mr. Dunn had requested to change his plea.  Judge Steinbeck asked him where he stood on that request, and Mr. Dunn indicated that he changed his mind, and no longer wished to plead guilty at this time.  He did indicate he wants to represent himself at the penalty phase.  The judge said that issue would be discussed after the guilt phase, if that is necessary.  Closing arguments are slated to begin this afternoon.  Barring some unusual circumstance, they jury should receive the case by late this afternoon.

Thanks again to the News-Press for mentioning Crimcourts in their coverage!

What is incompetence to proceed?

Robert Dunn’s attorney has filed a motion to determine if his client is competent to proceed with the remainder of his 1st Degree Murder trial.  There’s always a lot of confusion about what incompetence means, so I wanted to do an informative post about it.

First, keep in mind that incompetence is not the same as insanity.  Competence has to do with whether or not a defendant is presently able to stand trial.  Insanity generally deals with their mental state at an earlier time: at the time the crime occurred.  The insanity defense argues that the defendant was so crazy at the time of the offense that they could tell right from wrong, basically.  It is actually pretty rare, in spite of hearing about it all the time in movies, because the level of insanity has to be very high, and it is an affirmative defense: that is, the Defense has to prove the defendant was insane.

When someone is incompetent to stand trial, they are not currently able to be tried due to their mental state.  This usually is related to their sanity, but can also be due other mental incapacities, such as learning disability, Alzheimer’s disease, or brain injury.  The Florida Eleventh Circuit has a handy breakdown on their website.  Defendants should be found incompetent if they do not:

  • understand the charges/allegations against them
  • comprehend the possible penalties
  • understand the adversary nature of the legal process
  • have the ability to disclose to an attorney pertinent facts that would aid in their defense
  • exhibit appropriate courtroom behavior
  • have the ability to testify relevantly

When an issue regarding competency arises, such as a defendant starts acting irrationally, or fails to continue communicating with their attorney, it is the attorney’s duty to address the issue with the court.  They do so by filing a motion, specifically stating their reasons for their concern.  Then it becomes the duty of the judge to order that the Defendant be evaluated, by up to 3 experts, who will then report back to the court to determine if the Defendant can stand trial, or continue with trial if it is already underway, as in the case of Robert Dunn.

If they are found incompetent, the judge will commit them to a facility for treatment if the Defendant is not suitable to be treated in the community.  The treatment will actually attempt to restore their competency if possible, at which point they will be brought back to court to conduct a trial.  They must be subject to continuing review to determine if they must remain committed, or to see if the case can return to court to be resolved (by trial or other resolution).

The court is hoping to have the expert reports by Monday to determine if the trial will be able to proceed.  If he is found competent, he could finish the trial, or enter a plea, as he has indicated is his desire.  If he is found to be incompetent, he would almost certainly be committed.  Additionally, the judge may not be convinced if the experts are not in agreement, and it’s possible a third evaluation could be ordered.  #robertdunn

Cops giving back on their vacation

Here’s a heartwarmer for your Thanksgiving: Charlotte County deputies are giving their vacation time to help Hurricane Sandy cleanup in New Jersey.  Kudos to public servants doing MORE public service on their time! Thanks guys, and Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! #goodcops

War Story

All attorneys have “war stories” – tales from in the trenches of practicing law.  Occasionally, I like to share them on Crimcourts.

Yesterday one of my clients was sentenced to serve 3 months in jail, which was a pretty good deal for his case.  At booking, they allegedly found cigarettes and pills stuffed in his drawers.  He was charged with introduction of contraband into a detention facility.  At his first appearance hearing on the new arrest, I asked the judge to impose a ‘Stay Away’ order from the location of the offense.

The judge said, “Nice try, Mr. Cordell.”