Monthly Archives: July 2017

Inmates Are Still Dying at Charlotte County Prison

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Antonio Kirkland

A spate of troublesome deaths has continued this year at Charlotte Correctional Institute. Most recently, it was just revealed that inmate Antonio Kirkland was reported dead on July 10, 2017. The report was released Thursday, with no details on how he died. News-Press reporter Melissa Montoya was able to extract a telling quote from FDLE spokesperson Jessica Cary, who pointedly stated, “We don’t normally investigate deaths of natural causes.” Kirkland was serving life in prison for armed robbery, in addition to attempted murder and other charges in Pinellas.

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Cesar Ruano

Kirkland’s death is the second to be investigated this year at CCI. In May, a 37-year-old inmate named Cesar Ruano, a.k.a. “El Diablo”, was found dead, and no information was released to date. Ruano was serving life in prison for a first-degree murder out of Miami-Dade. The News-Press article indicates there was an investigation for this death, and as Ms. Cary pointed out, they don’t usually investigate deaths of natural causes. While FDLE and DOC have not released any information, a person claiming to be Ruano’s brother commented on a Facebook post, claiming that he died in solitary confinement, crying for help.

There was another inmate death earlier this year, making Kirkland’s at least the third at CCI this year. 48-year-old Michael Diffenderfer passed away suddenly in April at CCI. He had been serving consecutive life sentences for murder and armed robbery from Palm Beach. The cause of death in his case has been reported to be natural: pulmonary embolism as a result of deep vein thrombosis. That’s according to Diffenderfer’s ex-wife… FDLE did not publicly release any information regarding that death either. We don’t have any suggestion that his death was suspicious, but no official word from FDLE, either.

The News-Press says that FDLE is still investigating three deaths from last year (2016), and another from 2015. Including the two from the last couple months, that’s six troublesome cases that are apparently still under investigation. That doesn’t include the 2014 death of Matthew Walker, who’s death was determined to be a homicide at the hands of correctional officers, but for which the State failed to secure an indictment, due in part to a botched investigation and/or cover-up. That means more than 10 criminal probes in the last few years. Coverage of that case, and others, garnered at Pulitzer Prize for the Charlotte Sun. But even their award-winning writing has not led to answers for the ongoing spate of inmate deaths. Nor has it brought an end to the growing body-count piling up at Charlotte Correctional Institute.

More coverage of Charlotte Correctional Institute is worth reading

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Beauty Queen Exonerated by Stand Your Ground Law

vanessa barcelo.jpgVanessa Barcelo, the 2017 Miss Miami Lakes that competed in the Miss Florida pageant, had been charged with battery from an incident that occurred at a party at her home several months ago. She hosted a party to promote her baking business, One Love Cakes, and her cousin over-indulged. She and other party-goers became concerned that the DJ was going to take advantage of the cousin, and grouped together to escort him out. That’s when the real trouble started…

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Vanessa Barcelo, via facebook

Barcelo said she took an aluminum baseball bat and brandished it to intimidate the DJ, though she never touched him. She says he proceeded to grab the bat out of her hand and swing it around, before he handed it to a community security guard. A friend of Barcelo’s then struck the DJ, knocking him to the ground, at which point Barcelo jumped on top of him and slapped him. She testified in court that she did not know if he still had the bat, and she was afraid for herself and her guests. The court found her actions to be reasonable, and dismissed the battery charges against her.

Florida’s Stand Your Ground law gives the Defendant a chance to have their charges dismissed at a hearing prior to having to go to trial. Governor Scott recently signed a new law that shifts the burden to the State to demonstrate they are justified in going forward at that hearing, a change opposed by prosecutors, for obvious reasons. A judge in Miami found the law change to be unconstitutional, but that won’t affect other cases until it is subject to appellate review.

O.J. Granted Parole

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OJ Simpson

O.J. Simpson was granted parole at his Nevada DOC hearing yesterday. He has to stay in custody until October, and will continue to be supervised when he’s released. Regular readers of this blog were not surprised at the result, as I’ve stated for months that he was likely to be granted parole, based on his past track record. The next big question is where he’s going to go, with some friends speculating he may move here to Southwest Florida. He was a Florida resident for years prior to being incarcerated, as Florida provides homestead protection so it’s difficult to take someone’s house away, for instance when they have a large civil judgment against them, as O.J. does for the civil suit finding him responsible for the deaths of Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman.

Will the Juice get Loose? O.J. up for Parole Hearing Tomorrow…

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OJ Simpson, via NV DOC

Tomorrow the State of Nevada will hold a parole hearing for O.J. Simpson, who’s been incarcerated there since he was convicted of an armed robbery in Las Vegas in 2008. He was previously granted parole on some other charges, but the more serious charges were not eligible until this year. Since he was successful at the last hearing, there is a good chance he will be granted parole this time, which should allow his release in October. He’s apparently even telling friends that he feels good about his chances.

Interstingly, even the victims support his release. One of them already passed away, but his family indicates that the would have supported his release, and the surviving victim indicates he has forgiven Simpson and feels he’s served enough time. In a crazy anecdote, a former prison guard recounts that OJ nearly got written up for an illicit cookie, which could have derailed his parole chances.