Monthly Archives: February 2017

Florida Man Incarcerated for Streaming Video of a Trial

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Jonathan Clyde Davis

A man in North Florida was found in contempt of court last week and sentenced to 6 months in jail for posting a live stream of a trial on Facebook Live. Jonathan Davis was sentenced to 6 months in jail in Gainesville, which is the maximum possible sentence for contempt of court. Prosecutors indicated that witnesses were already reluctant to testify in the murder case that was going on, and that the streaming may have been a tactic to discourage participation.

However, there are several problems with this charge, primarily the First Amendment. People have a protected right to publish, and there’s nothing that would indicate that the courtroom had been closed. Generally open court is open court, and is not only open to the public, it is open to being recorded and being disseminated. (For that matter, all court proceedings are recorded). Apparently there is an administrative order that people must get permission to record or broadcast, but it is unclear if Mr. Davis knew about that order. There’s even an issue whether that order is Unconstitutional, though there is clearly an interest in the court in making sure cameras do not disrupt the proceedings.

At first blush this case is going to have difficulty holding muster on appeal. Apparently, he lied to the judge about what he was doing, and if the judge couched his conviction on that, he might be upheld. The Gainesville Sun spoke to UF Law professor Kenneth Nunn, who astutely points out that a Direct Contempt proceeding may not have even been appropriate since the Bailiff’s alerted the judge Mr. Davis’ activity. The fact that Mr. Davis was streaming is not itself inherently disruptive. One can appreciate why the court and the prosecutor are concerned, but the proceedings in open court are always public and subject to publication.

The State was still able to obtain a conviction on the second-degree murder charges.

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Second Guilty Verdict in Tara Sidarovich Murder Case

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Tara Sidarovich

Today, a Charlotte County Jury found David McMannis guilty in the 2001 murder of teenager Tara Sidarovich. It was ten years before he and codefendant Phillip Barr were charged in the case. Barr was previously convicted at trial, and sentenced to life. After trial, the judge sentenced McMannis to life in prison for the crime. This kind of case is extremely difficult for prosecutors, as it was a cold case for several years, but justice has finally been served.

Could OJ Simpson get out of Prison this Summer

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OJ Simpson via NV DOC

OJ Simpson is coming up for parole this year, and might actually be able to get out this fall. He’s in prison in Nevada for his role in a robbery since 2008, when he was sentenced to up to 33 years. He came up for parole on some of those charges in 2013, and was granted parole to those charges, but was not eligible for every count for which he is imprisoned. The other charges will be parole-eligible in October and they will likely hold the hearing on eligibility this summer. It’s completely within the discretion of the parole board, but in light of his being granted parole earlier on the other charges, and due to his advancing age, I expect he will be able to get parole later this year. I am far from an expert on it, since I don’t practice in Nevada, but Sports Illustrated does a great job looking into the process.

Major Allegations of Misconduct at Naples PD

The Naples Police Department is currently fighting a Federal lawsuit for police misconduct, and the allegations that have come out in the course of the case are more and more shocking. In an affidavit filed Monday, a former Naples officer stated that he and his fellow officers were “constantly pressured” to increase numbers for arrests, stops, and citations, and that supervisors would chastise officers who did not “produce statistics”. The affidavit makes it sound as though the department had a de facto quota system that encouraged officers to be reckless.

The lawsuit claims over a million dollars in damages against former Officer Kyle Bradshaw, who has since left the department. The city was dismissed from the case, but could still end up on the hook for at least part of the damages Bradshaw could be facing. Bradshaw’s attorney contends he was just doing his job. Naples police, including Bradshaw, initially responded to Bayfront for a noise complaint, and things escalated quickly. There is video of the incident, which has been played to the jury for dramatic effect for the beating allegedly given to the suspects. The trial continues in Fort Myers this week.

Florida Legislature Planning Bill to Re-establish the Death Penalty

The Death Penalty has been on hold in Florida for some time. While the Florida Supreme Court struck down the current law for its non-unanimous procedure, that law was only passed a year ago to address earlier decisions that prohibited the enforcement of the death penalty, also for procedural reasons. The courts have made it clear they will require a unanimous finding by a jury before a judge can impose death. A new bill being prepared would address that. Once the law is reestablished, the prosecutors across the state will have to review the cases since 2002 to determine if they wish to proceed on new death penalty sentencing hearings: which will affect a few cases here in Southwest Florida.

Cape Coral PD Breaks into the Wrong Home- Scares Little Old Lady

ccpdAs if Cape Coral did not have enough trouble with some of the bad warrants they had last year as a result of the Kordelle McKissack situation we helped uncover last year, you’d think they would have really buttoned down their warrant procedure. Alas, it was reported today that SWAT broke in the door of the apartment of a 78-year old little old lady, and they were at the wrong apartment. The last one cost them several cases, and no arrest was made this time… but it will likely cost them a lot of money. The woman has post-traumatic stress disorder, and is preparing a lawsuit.

The Department claims they were technically and procedurally correct. I disagree. If you break in the door for an innocent little old lady, you’re not just failing to achieve excellence. You are seriously doing something wrong. Let’s hope that this leads to better procedures to stop these things from happening. Unfortunately, the legal remedy is for them to be punished financially through a lawsuit. We all have to pay for their incompetence, but there must be a ramification so that these mistakes teach a lesson.

Man Beaten to Death with Fire Extinguisher

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Laciana Tinsley

This one leaves me speechless. Normally our weird battery stories don’t involve significant injury (excepting the death by wedgie), but this one tragically ends in death. Laciana Tinsley, a 42-year-old woman from New Jersey, beat her elderly husband to death with a fire extinguisher. She has been charged with murder, after he died as a result of multiple blows to the head.

Her attorney has indicated that she claims to have been acting in self-defense. He says there was a history of violence, and that the alleged victim was trying to suffocate her when the killing occurred.

#weirdbattery