Tag Archives: discovery

The State might be Paying a Key Witness in the Theresa Sievers Murder Case

  • Indications are that Jimmy “The Hammer” Rodgers former girlfriend is being paid by LCSO
  • Rodgers and Mark Sievers facing possible death penalty in the murder of Mark’s wife Dr. Theresa Seivers.
Theresa Sievers

Theresa Sievers

We haven’t had much coverage in the case of Dr. Theresa Sievers, who was killed allegedly at the hands of two associates of her husband Mark, Curtis Wright and Jimmy “The Hammer” Rodgers. Curtis Wright has already pled to second-degree murder charges, and Rodgers and Mark Sievers are facing a possible death penalty. The case is extremely complex, due to the length of the investigation and the fact that it stretches all the way to Missouri, and the parties have been bogged down in discovery issues.

Now, NBC-2 has uncovered something very interesting in a discovery motion filed by Mark Sievers’ attorney. In the Motion to Compel Discovery, Sievers requests records relating to funds that are being paid to Taylor Shomaker. Shomaker was dating Jimmy Rogers at the time of the murder, and gave a statement against him, and is expected to be a key witness wen the case goes to trial. Therefore, if she has received payments for her testimony, especially if she’s receiving them on a regular basis, that’s fodder for the defense attorneys.

mark sievers jimmy rogers the hammer

Mark Sievers and Jimmy “The Hammer” Rodgers

The legal issue is whether the monetary incentive could influence a witness to testify favorably for one party. It’s not unusual for professional or expert witnesses to be paid for the time they spend working on a case: consider a doctor a or a lab expert that may be hired to give an opinion on a case. However, these types of witnesses are expected to be paid, and even then it is just for the actual time they spend. Even then, it is fodder for the other side to impeach a witness based on the money they are being paid to testify. The Defense will argue that she is being paid to get her to testify against the others, and the more money she is paid, the less reliable her testimony will be.

curtis wayne wright lee

Curtis Wayne Wright

Likewise, Curtis Wright is receiving compensation for his testimony, but not monetary. The Defense will argue that Wright is testifying so he can get a better deal. The State already let him plea to 2nd Degree Murder, effectively eliminating the risk of the death penalty for him, and potentially less prison time. In their motion, the the Defense is also trying to get documentation related to Wright’s proffer and his cooperation. Wright’s testimony will be key to tie Sievers into the plot, as it appears Wright and Rodgers committed the murder while Mark Sievers was out of town. They may have some evidence of communication between Sievers and Wright, but his testimony will be key to prove Sievers’ knowledge and complicity in the plot.

Taylor Shomaker

Taylor Shomaker from her law enforcement interview

That’s not unusual, for consideration to be given to one conspirator to go after another. However, the circumstances regarding the payments to Ms. Shomaker are extremely unusual. Perhaps it will be revealed that it was compensation for travel expenses or something innocuous, but the indications in the Defense’s Motion to Compel certainly sounds out of the ordinary.

via NBC-2

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Here’s the Story from NBC regarding Surveillance Cameras I was Quoted

me nbc2b

Atty Spencer Cordell on NBC-2 [Who Dey]

The link is up from last night’s NBC-2 follow-up story regarding use of surveillance cameras. The law is a little unclear, but there’s no doubt the best practice is for law enforcement to get a warrant when they are going to use the cameras: even the guy from the camera company recommends it. And everybody, prosecutors and defense attorneys, agree that when video surveillance is used, it needs to be disclosed when a case goes forward. My friend Rene Suarez, who is quoted at the beginning of the story, makes a great point: if the use of video cameras is not disclosed, it shuts the judicial system out of the analysis regarding the legality of the tactics. That’s eliminating judicial oversight. If nothing is being done inappropriately, the investigators should have nothing to hide.

Here’s a link to the story, I will try to embed it, below.

NBC-2.com WBBH News for Fort Myers, Cape Coral & Naples, Florida

And here’s a link to our story yesterday.

Is Law Enforcement Hiding Video Evidence?

NBC-2, which has been doing several pieces on the use of video cameras by law enforcement, continues to examine concerns about the practice in SW Florida. They ran a story yesterday that indicates that video surveillance is being used, and not disclosed, in the course of certain investigations. The story told by former prosecutor Stephanie Hoffman in that article was especially troubling: law enforcement did not reveal the use of video cameras until the middle of a trial of a drug dealer. The late disclosure meant not only a discovery violation, but that the prosecutor had to reduce the charge and offer probation instead of the mandatory prison sentence because she was afraid if she had gone forward with the trial, that the case would have been thrown out of court.

NBC-2 spoke to me about the story, so watch for the follow up, tonight. I have the benefit of the perspective of having been on both sides since I was a prosecutor before I was a defense attorney. My take, from either side of the aisle is, if there is video being taken, it should be disclosed. The Supreme Court has made it very clear that the government doesn’t just get to use the good evidence and pretend the bad evidence doesn’t exist. The accused has an absolute right to see evidence that may suggest their innocence, known as “Brady Evidence”.

And if I was a prosecutor, and there was video of narcotics traffic at the house of an accused drug dealer, you’re darn right I’m going to want to know about that evidence, too! All evidence that gets collected needs to be disclosed, otherwise we lose confidence in the fairness of the justice system: which is bad for everyone.

Issues Mount for Angela Corey, the George Zimmerman Prosecutor

Angela Corey and assistant prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda

Angela Corey and assistant prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda

She’s being criticized all over for losing the prosecution of George Zimmerman for killing Trayvon Martin, and problems continue to mount for prosecutor Angela Corey. We covered the news that she fired the whistleblower employee , Ben Kruibdos, who revealed that she was unlawfully suppressing evidence on this blog a few days ago when the news broke. As I predicted, a whistleblower lawsuit against Ms. Corey’s office has been announced by Mr. Kruibdos’ attorney. In a bit of delicious irony, the attorney Mr. Kruibdos has retained is himself a former employee of Ms. Corey, who resigned last year due to disagreements with the way she ran the office.

Mr. White was subpoenaed to testify at the hearing for sanctions, and it got pretty contentious when he was examined by prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda, his former boss at the SAO. So, basically Angela Corey’s State Attorney’s Office is kind of a shitshow. Defense attorney Don West was called to the stand during that hearing, alleging under oath that they had caught de la Rionda “hiding the information.” The judge reserved ruling on the discovery violations at that time, saying they would be better handled after the trial.

Now that the trial is concluded, the Defense team is pushing for the issue to be revisited. Mark O’Mara went so far as to tell Reuters, “This is not acceptable, and is not going to be tolerated in any case that I’m involved in.” He continued,  “They are a disgrace to my profession.” That’s the kind of harsh rhetoric that is more likely to come from his co-counsel on the case. Mr. O’Mara’s demeanor has consistently been more low-key, but the alleged violations have really riled him up. And rightly so, if the allegations are true, that the State Attorney’s office deliberately suppressed Brady information, that is a serious breach of the public trust and the right of the Defendant to a fair trial. It will be interesting to continue watching the fireworks.

George Zimmerman’s Prosecutor, Angela Corey, Fired the Whistleblower Tech

State Attorney Angela Corey

State Attorney Angela Corey

The progress of the case against George Zimmerman was particularly contentious. Defense attorneys frequently complained of questionable tactics by the State in their preparation of the case. Their complaints were realized to be justified when it was revealed that the prosecutors’s office, headed by Angela Corey, had additional digital information that had been recovered from Trayvon Martin’s phone which they had not turned over. That information is known as Brady information, basically any information that might help the defense, and it is mandatory that the prosecutors disclose such information. The Defense team had explicitly requested the information from Mr. Martin’s phone, and had been informed that there wasn’t any more.

The reason that the information came to light was thanks to a whistleblower: Corey’s IT Director Ben Kruidbos. It came to the attention of Mr. Kruibdos that the information he had found, including numerous pictures and text messages, were not part of the packet that had been disclosed to the Defense. According to Mr. Kruibdos, he attempted to go through the proper channels within his office, including informing ASA Bernie de la Rionda, who handled prosecution case. Kruibdos was called to testify, and it became clear that Ms. Corey’s office deliberately withheld discovery information, was in violation of Brady, and did so to the detriment of the Defendant. The court indicated that sanctions could be possible after the trial. Mr. Kruibdos received notice that Ms. Corey had terminated him last week.

Mr. Kruibdos, who is not an attorney, felt ethically obligated to do something after he found out about the subterfuge. He was also afraid of his own liability for his role and his knowledge of the Brady material. He hired an attorney and his attorney turned the information over to Zimmerman’s defense team. Fortunately, the harm was revealed in time, and it did not prevent the Defense from successfully defending Mr. Zimmerman, who was exonerated this past weekend by the jury. Even if you disagree with the verdict, the Defense should not be prevented from putting on their case do to subversion by the prosecutor’s office. If the State has to violate someone’s rights to convict them, you have to question their motives.

This has looked like a political prosecution decision from the time the Governor brought in Ms. Corey to handle the case. Her statements since the trial have done nothing to dispel that concern. To summarize: 1. Angela Corey’s office withheld Brady material in a murder case, 2. One of her employees noticed the issue, and tried to go through channels to resolve it, 3. His complaints were ignored, and he felt legally obligated to disclose the information, 4. Angela Corey fired him, 5. The State lost the case, in spite of the subterfuge, 6. Now Corey’s office is going to get sued for wrongful termination by a whistleblower, and cost her taxpayers thousands of dollars. Of course, it’s not her money. It’s one more questionable, expensive decision by this elected official.

I will have more thoughts on Zimmerman being exonerated, but wanted to get this out since it was breaking today.