Tag Archives: florida

Lois Reiss Captured in Texas: Accused of Fort Myers Beach Murder

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Lois Reiss

Lois Reiss, a possible serial killer who struck on Fort Myers Beach, has been captured. Authorities caught her in Texas on South Padre Island: a resort location about 45 minutes from the Mexican border. She faces charges for killing a tourist that resembled her on Fort Myers Beach, to assume her identity as she was hiding out for the murder of her husband in Minnesota. It remains to be seen if she will be transported to deal with her charges in Florida or Minnesota first. Her Lee County, FL case could potentially be a death penalty case, as it sounds like an intentional, pre-planned first degree murder, done with the intent to hide out from her earlier crimes. She was apparently captured when an alert restaurant employee recognized her and called authorities. She apparently missed the news that hiding out usually means laying low…

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Is there a Serial Killer on the Loose in Southwest Florida?

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Suspect Lois Reiss

A manhunt is underway for the woman suspected in a murder at Fort Myers Beach that was discovered on Tuesday. Detectives believe Lois Reiss was hiding out in the Fort Myers Beach area, and targeted victim Pamela Hutchinson due to the similarity of their appearance. Ms. Hutchinson was found deceased in her hotel room, murdered by a gunshot to the head. LCSO believes Reiss then stole Ms. Hutchinson’s identity, and her car, and her current whereabouts are unknown: though they indicate she may have fled to Texas.

Ms. Reiss was already the suspect in the murder of her husband in Minnesota. David Reiss was found dead after he failed to show up for a fishing trip on March 23. His body was found in their home with multiple gunshot wounds, his car was missing, and money had been taken out of his business account and transferred to his personal account. Authorities allege Reiss then forged his signature on checks which she cashed, totaling $11,000. She apparently made her way to Fort Myers Beach, identified Ms. Hutchinson due to her similarity of appearance, and then killed her and fled in her stolen vehicle. A nationwide search is underway, and Ms. Reiss is believed to be armed and very dangerous.

Florida Legislature Agrees on Stand Your Ground Changes

As the legislative session neared a close last week, the Florida House and Senate reached a compromise to a bill that substantially changes the Stand Your Ground Law in Florida. The new law would shift the burden from from the Defendant to the prosecutor at the pretrial hearing to prove that the case is strong enough to proceed against the Defendant. If Governor Scott signs the bill, the burden will no longer be on the Defendant at the ‘Stand Your Ground Hearing’.

Though both the House and Senate agreed that they wanted to put the burden on the prosecutor for the pretrial hearings, it wasn’t until the last day of session on Friday that both houses came to a compromise on what that burden should be. The Senate was pushing for a beyond a reasonable doubt standard, while the House position to use a clear and convincing standard ultimately won out. The bill will now go to Governor Scott’s desk to sign before it becomes law. It is expected he will sign it, as the bill garnered widespread Republican support in both houses of the legislature.

What does this change mean? The original ‘Stand Your Ground’ law, among other things, created a right of immunity from prosecution for people who use justifiable force to defend themselves. Unfortunately, the legislature did not clearly establish a procedure for determining when immunity was appropriate, that is, how do you know when force is justified so that a person cannot be prosecuted. Over the next 12 years, the courts formulated a procedure whereby a hearing would be held prior to the case going to trial. The courts put the burden on the Defendant to demonstrate that he was immune from prosecution.

The legislature has now essentially said, hey wait: the burden is on the state to prove a case. We didn’t establish immunity to burden the Defendant, or to remove the burden from the State… we created it to protect those who used force to defend themselves. This new law, if it is signed by the Governor, will put the burden on the prosecutors to demonstrate by clear and convincing the likelihood that the defendant was not justified in using force before they can put the defendant to trial (where they will still have the burden beyond and to the exclusion of every reasonable doubt).

While there was strong support for the bill, there was opposition from anti-gun activists, as well as from many prosecutors. The opposition from prosecutors may seem surprising from a generally conservative profession, but this bill directly affects them by making it more difficult to prosecute cases where use of force will be raised as a defense. It has been speculated that prosecution costs will rise, but the other effect of the bill may be to discourage prosecutors from proceeding on cases they are less likely to win. The cost may end up being a wash when all the factors come to bear, but only time will tell. In the meantime, this bill will definitely help people who claim justifiable use of force.

Florida’s Death Penalty Reinstated, Governor Signs Law for New Procedure

Governor Rick Scott has signed into law the bill amending the procedure for Florida’s death penalty. The new law requires a unanimous jury finding for the death penalty, in order for it to pass constitutional muster.

Casey Anthony Breaks her Silence

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Casey Anthony in Court

Casey Anthony spoke publicly for the first time about her case, in which she was accused and acquitted at trial in the death of her infant daughter, Caylee. The case and trial were  media sensation, not just here in Florida, but across the country. She gave a multi-part interview to the AP, which really leaves more questions than it answers. It sounds like she has not maintained a relationship with her parents (her attorney suggested at trial that her father may have been responsible for the death of her child), and she has been living in West Palm Beach, working for the investigator that worked on the case.

 

This is the second time she’s been in the news lately. Last week, Hon. Belvin Perry, the retired judge who had presided over the case and trial, was in the news prognosticating that she may have tried to give the baby chloroform and accidentally caused her death. He concluded it was accidental, in light of no evidence of abuse of the child. That’s just his best-guessing after the fact though, there are no definitive answers as to the real reason for the tragic death of Caylee Anthony.

Attorney Cordell will talk Privacy on NBC-2 Tonight

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Attorney Spencer Cordell

This week the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform released a bipartisan report calling for standards on how cell-phone tower simulators, known as Stingrays, are used by government agencies. We don’t know how extensively they are being used, or even how much data they are able to collect: not just from criminals, but from average citizens whose phones get caught up. We do know there have been abuses in the past.

NBC-2 is doing a story tonight, and I may show up with some comments. The Stingray, and the secrecy around the agencies’ use of the technology is troubling. There are legal means to use technology, the most straightforward is just to get a warrant. We encourage standards and oversight, especially in Florida, which leads the country in Stingray use.

Tune in to NBC-2 tonight at 6 p.m.

Friday Fun from Florida: Gator Stolen

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The Stolen Gator

A Sarasota resident was surprised when an Alligator wandered into his yard. He didn’t need to be scared, because the gator’s mouth was already taped up. It appears the gator had recently been trapped, but that the gator had then been stolen. I guess the thief ended up with a little more than he bargained for!

via NBC-2