Category Archives: Miami / South Florida

Murdered Children and ‘Honey Bun Hits’: A brutal look at Juvenile Corrections in Florida

This week the Miami Herald dropped a bombshell on Florida’s juvenile justice system and the Department of Juvenile Justice. They spent two years researching the last 10 years of juvenile justice history to prepare a report they call “Fight Club.” It’s a devastating read.

The Herald found multiple instances of violence against juveniles. Some from the guards, and others from inmates, sometimes at the behest of guards who would reward them with Honey Buns or other items from the commissary. The article points to low pay, inadequate personnel screening and standards, and tolerance for cover-ups. Indeed, Time and again the Herald found that guards involved in the violence, including juvenile death, were not criminally charged (much like the adult guards in the CCI homicide a couple years back.)

One of the facilities highlighted was here in SW Florida, at the Fort Myers Youth Academy. The Herald says the Youth Academy is a microcosm, “steeped in violence and a culture of coercive cover-ups.” It details guards that were hired, even though they’d been fired from previous prison guard jobs for sexual harassment and bribery to hide abuse. It sounds like the troublemakers cited in the report no longer work there, but the account is troubling.

DJJ filed a lengthy response. Unfortunately, the lives lost by years of abuse cannot be brought back, but hopefully a true culture change can prevent such abuses in the future.

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Clown Killer Case Solved after 27 Years

clown

Front Page of the Sun Sentinel in 1990

Marlene Warren

Marlene Warren

In 1990, Marlene Warren was celebrating her birthday when the door rang and she went to answer it. Standing outside with a person dressed in a clown suit carrying balloons and flowers; apparently in celebration of her birthday.When Marlene reached for the gift, the clown pulled out a gun and shot her. She later passed away from the injuries and detectives began an investigation. They initially looked at Marlene’s husband, as they hear there had been marital difficulties.

The investigation soon centered on Sheila Keen, whom detectives discovered was having an affair with Michael Warren, Marlene’s husband. Not only that, witnesses stated they had seen Ms. Keen buying a clown suit two days before the murder and she was also seen purchasing flowers at Publix. In spite of these connections, detectives did not feel confident that they would be able to prove their case and did not make an arrest, and the case went cold
sheila keen warren

Sheila Keen Warren mugshot

Fast forward 24 years to 2014, and the Cold Case unit of the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Department reopened the case to take another look. New technology allowed them to uncover DNA evidence that was able to able to affirmatively link Sheila Keen to the crime. Detectives also discovered that she had since married Michael Warren, and that the two were living together in Tennessee. Detectives arrested Sheila Keen Warren on a warrant for murder this week in Virginia. Her husband was reportedly with her, but has not been charged with anything at this time. Sheila Keen Warren is notably smiling in the mug shot when she got arrest. There is no indication if she gave a statement to law enforcement when she was picked up, but she’s probably impressed to have gotten away with it all these years.

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.

Man Gets $1.4 Million Dollar Bond for Undersize Lobster Tails

lobster tails monroe

Tails Seized by Monroe SO

A Miami man caught with a bunch of undersized lobster tails was arrested and given bond totaling 1.4 million dollars in Monroe County. Now, to be sure, he got caught with a lot (246) of undersized lobsters, and he has actually been caught stealing undersized lobsters before, so this isn’t his first rodeo. Still, a bond as high as the annual salary for an NFL player might be a little on the high side.

Unless this guy, Jorge Vargas, has massive independent wealth (which I doubt, since he’s stealing seafood), this is essentially a no bond hold. The court is directed to take into account a lot of things when setting bond, including his means to pay, his likelihood of showing up to court dates (he’s apparently missed them before), the threat to the community, and prior record. While his record of similar offenses, and especially if he’s missed a court date on criminal charges, would suggest a higher bond, that is an awful lot of zeros to put up there on a fish case. To be entitled to a no bond hold (pretrial detention without bond), the state has to make a showing of the strength of their case, and why no bond could protect the community. There’s no indication that this guy is violent or anything like that, so the bond is likely too high under Florida law.

This case may be ripe for a habeas corpus, essentially an appeal to the higher court to order the lower court to reevaluate the bond on the case. Even if he gets the bond lowered, it will still be relatively high due to his record, and the volume of lobster he had taken. And even if he can post bond, that’s just to assure his presence in court… he may be facing some substantial incarceration if he is ultimately convicted of 246 counts of possession of undersized lobsters!

The Large Penis Defense Worked! Richard Patterson Found Not Guilty

Richard Patterson

Richard Patterson

Richard Patterson, who’s attorney claimed that his girlfriend accidentally choked to death on his large member during oral sex, as opposed to being intentionally choked, has been found not guilty by a jury this afternoon. Patterson did not take the stand, but the Defense presented testimony from the former county medical examiner that her injuries could be consistent with choking to death on his member. Medical testimony from the state called that theory into question, but the associate medical examiner could not state for certain the manner of death. The jury was not able to find beyond a reasonable doubt that the death was murder, and Patterson is a free, well-endowed*, man.

In fact, his attorney conceded that the explanation of death while performing oral sex was unlikely, but shifted his focus that the death could have been from a heart attack or other accident. While her body was decomposed, her throat cartilage was not broken, leaving open the possibility of an accidental death. Prosecutors could not prove the cause of death, nor how long she had been dead, which complicated their burden of proof, on an extremely complicated case.

*Presumably well endowed, as the defense decided not to put his penis in evidence, nor to show it to the jury…

#onlyinflorida

The Penis Defense Case is going to the Jury

Richard Patterson

Richard Patterson

Attorneys for Richard Patterson, accused in the choking death of his girlfriend, Francisca Marquinez, are doing their closing arguments today, and the jury should begin deliberations this afternoon. The case has made headlines after Patterson’s attorney filed a motion to allow the jury to view his client’s penis. Apparently, he decided against the presentation, as he rested the defense case before the court had to rule on the motion. The Defense did present the former Broward County medical examiner, who testified it was possible that the victim could have choked during oral sex. Previously, the state presented testimony from a current associate medical examiner, who testified about why it was unlikely she died this way, but that he could not rule on the manner of death due to the body’s condition when it was discovered. Prosecutors argued in closing that Patterson did not call 911 right away, which might be expected if the injuries really occurred accidentally, in addition to pointing out other statements by Patterson. The jury could reach a verdict later today.

Our original story on the case: https://crimcourts.wordpress.com/2017/05/17/florida-man-to-use-penis-defense-in-murder-trial/

#onlyinflorida

 

Florida Man to Use Penis Defense in Murder Trial

Richard Patterson

Richard Patterson

When I heard about this murder case, I was confused because I also heard it was a choking case. Horrifically, I was not given bad information: it is a choking case, and Richard Patterson claims the woman choked on his member. Trial is underway, and Patterson’s attorney argued a motion to allow the jury to see his penis. Reportedly, the state does not object: what can they say if that is the defense he claims. Defendants have broad latitude to present and argue their defenses.

At issue is whether or not the penis will be erect… The state argues that it should be erect, for proper context. That actually kind of makes since, as the Defendant is arguing that she accidentally choked while giving him oral sex. It appears there will be no dispute that she was otherwise healthy and died of asphyxiation, but to prove second degree murder, the state will have to show that the defendant cased the death by an act that was “imminently dangerous” AND “demonstrating  a depraved mind without regard for human life”. An accidental death during consensual sexual activity would not meet this standard, though the State is likely to argue that his story doesn’t make sense. The Defendant indicated in his motion that they intend to call the Broward Medical Examiner who will testify the death is “consistent” with accidental asphyxiation during oral sex. This could end up being the trial of the year…

The trial started yesterday, and a jury has been selected. The judge has not ruled whether the penis will need to be erect for the jury demonstration. The death occurred in Broward county in 2015, and Patterson is facing life in prison if convicted.