Monthly Archives: March 2013

Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law Exonerates Domestic Violence Victim in Lee County

Last April, Amanda Arruda was brutally attacked by her lover, Vincent Deluca. After a night drinking on the town, Deluca became jealous and pulled Arruda away from the club and the two returned to Deluca’s Bonita Springs residence. Drugs were likely involved as well. The argument escalated at the home, and Ms. Arruda alleges that Deluca pulled a gun on her, put it to her head, and threatened to kill her. Arruda fled the bedroom and during the course of the altercation, was able to grab a knife. Deluca pursued her to the living room, threw her to the ground and jumped on her, at which point he was stabbed and Ms. Arruda was able to flee to the garage. Deluca followed her to the garage while calling 911. He opened the door only after law enforcement arrived.

Amanda Arruda's mug shot

Amanda Arruda’s mug shot

This is not the first domestic situation that Mr. Deluca has been involved in. It was revealed at the Immunity hearing that he has two outstanding injunctions already in place. During one of the previous incidents, he also pulled a gun and threatened to kill the other victim. Mr. Deluca was not even allowed to be in possession of a firearm due to the active injunctions against him.

Mr. Deluca claims that Ms. Arruda attacked him. He had the benefit of making the first report to law enforcement, as she was cornered in the garage while he was calling 911. Sadly, law enforcement bought his story, and arrested Ms. Arruda for Aggravated Battery, a second degree felony putting her at risk of up to 15 years in prison.

This is a prime example of the value of the immunity provision of Florida’s Stand Your Ground law. Where a victim was erroneously arrested for exercising her right to defend herself, Florida’s law provides her with an outlet. At the immunity hearing this week, the court took testimony from Ms. Arruda, Mr. Deluca and the law enforcement officers who handled, or mishandled, the investigation. The court also heard testimony from Roy Bedard, an expert on the use of force and self-defense. Ms. Arruda, and her attorney Janese Carruthers, were also aided by an investigator they hired to fill in the gaps of the investigation.

As they say, the truth comes out in the wash. The court found Mr. Deluca’s testimony to be unbelievable. He found Ms. Arruda to be credible, and the physical evidence from the scene supported her version of the events. The judge was able to determine that she was, in fact, the victim, and dismissed the charge against her. Great work by Ms. Carruthers and her defense team to put on the case that made the facts clear for the judge.

It is unfortunate that the victim was revictimized by being arrested by reactionary law enforcement. She spent a month in jail before her family was able to raise the substantial bond to get her released. She plans to file a motion for the state to reimburse her attorney fees, which is specifically authorized by statute. It’s sad that the case even got to this point. It reminds me of the recent case in Punta Gorda where the judge threw out the case, commenting that the evidence wasn’t “even close”. These Defendants have a right to just compensation under the law, and the agencies that wrongly prosecuted them should pay. That’s the only way they will learn to be more judicious in their arrests in the future. Sadly, it’s our taxpayer money that pays for such errors. I shudder for the bill that could come due if George Zimmerman is acquitted.

Paul Bergrin Guilty on All Counts

Paul Bergrin Illustration

Paul Bergrin Illustration

The verdict is in, and Attorney Paul Bergrin has been convicted of all 23 counts he was facing, including murder, racketeering, and promoting prostitution. Bergrin, a former prosecutor and later hotshot defense attorney, represented himself at trial. He previously got a hung jury on a couple of counts, before the new judge agreed to try them all together. He faces life in prison for his convictions.

Whitey Bulger’s Judge Ordered Off the Case

James "Whitey" Bulger

James “Whitey” Bulger

James “Whitey” Bulger, the former gangster facing trial in Boston after years on the lam, scored a major victory last week when the Court of Appeals ordered Judge Stearns off the case. This is one of those “appearance of impropriety” decisions that often control on removal questions. Stearns worked at the prosecutor’s office, as a supervisor, during the time when Bulger was being investigated and was cooperating to some extent with law enforcement. To make matters more complicated, Bulger claims he was given an immunity deal from the prosecutor he was dealing with at the time, and who has since passed away. While Stearns may not have had anything to do with the case at the time, it helps ensure a fair trial, and eliminates an appellate issue for Bulger, which is more cost-efficient in the long run. Former Justice David Souter penned the opinion.

Shane Simpkins Found Guilty of Murder

Shane Simpkins

Shane Simpkins

I wasn’t able to post over the weekend, but court personnel were busy this weekend. The Shane Simpkins murder trial did not finish on Friday, and court convened for s special session on Saturday to conclude the trial. Simpkins was found guilty as charged on all three counts, second degree murder, burglary, and grand theft. He faces up to life in prison for the murder charge. The sentencing will be sometime in April. Senior Judge Thomas Reese handled the trial, and will also handle the sentencing. Reese was known to be a harsh sentencer before he retired from regular judicial duties, and it would not surprise Crimcourts if Simpkins gets a life sentence.


It’s tough out the for everybody, but the change in the job market for lawyers since the economic collapse has been stark. Change may be on the way, as law school applications have continued to dip (and the rate of … Continue reading

Murder Defendant Simpkins Fires Lawyer, Then Takes Him Back

Shane Simpkins Mug Shot

Shane Simpkins 

I have to confess this is the first time I’ve ever seen a Defendant who fired his attorney take the attorney back in the middle of trial. It is not unusual for Defendants to want to change attorneys late in the game, even during the course of the trial. However, I have never seen a Defendant go back to their old attorney in the middle of the same trial! Shane Simpkins expressed dissatisfaction with his attorney, Steve Smith, yesterday after a cross-examination, but decided to keep him. Things changed this morning, and he fired the attorney, who stayed around as standby counsel. That was a good call, because the court re-appointed Smith to Simpkins for the presentation of the Defense case. reporter Jacob Carpenter is live blogging the trial:

Miranda Arrest Remembered 50 Years Later

Yesterday marked the 50th anniversary of the arrest of Ernesto Miranda in Phoenix, whose appeal of his conviction was the named case that we refer to when we talk about people being informed of their right to remain silent and to have an attorney: being read their Miranda rights. The Supreme Court created a format that would make it easy for law enforcement to follow and create a bright-line rule to determine if a person’s statements would be admissible against them. Law Enforcement officers are required to inform suspects of their rights if they are going to interrogate them after arrest. The case remains one of the most important landmarks for the protection of individual rights in our nation’s history.

I add that the Miranda rights do not have to be read after every arrest. In Florida, cops actually don’t have to tell people what they are being arrested for at that time. Miranda readings are only required if the cops interrogate someone after arresting them. I am adding this because that’s one of the most common misconceptions defense attorneys see among accused people, generally. It’s also fascinating to learn that the decision didn’t help Miranda, anyway. He was given a new trial without his confession being entered, and he was convicted anyway.