Tag Archives: jacksonville

Darth Vader Arrested (Again)

vader 2b

Surveillance of Darth Vader’s most recent robbery attempt

darth vader robbery2Darth Vader committed another robbery, this time in Jacksonville Beach, Florida. Vader can be seen on surveillance videos at an 8 ’til Late convenience store, where he walked in, pulled out a gun, and demanded money.

jacob mercer vader

Jacob Mercer mug shot

This is where it gets amazing: apparently the force was not strong with this Vader. One of the clerks in the store threw a wine glass at him, striking him in the face. Vader ran out, only to be captured a short time later. Judging by the suspect’s mug shot, the clerk seems to have struck him square in the face. Why didn’t he use the force?

This is the second time Vader has struck this year, that I’m aware of. As I pointed out last time, still not as classy as the Point Break guys. But, programming note… they are releasing a new Point Break remake next month, a week after Star Wars – The Force is Highly Anticipated. Doesn’t look as classy as the first one, though…

point break2

Point Break (2015)

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Marissa Alexander Released from Custody Today

Marissa Alexander

Marissa Alexander

Marissa Alexander, who garnered national news for the prosecution and 20-year sentence she received for firing a warning shot near hear abusive ex-husband, with 2 other people in the room, was released today. She lost at trial and received 20 years, but the conviction was overturned on appeal. However, she would have faced a 60 year sentence if she had been convicted on the retrial. By taking a plea to 3 years, she finished her time on the case today, though she will still have community control (essentially house arrest), with ankle bracelet monitoring.

Alexander coverage: https://crimcourts.wordpress.com/tag/marissa-alexander/

The Michael Dunn Retrial is Underway

Michael Dunn mug shot

Michael Dunn mug shot

Dunn was previously convicted of several counts of attempted murder and discharging a firearm into an occupied vehicle. The first jury hung on the First Degree Murder count, and jury selection for the retrial has begun today. He is claiming justifiable use of force (self defense). His attorneys attempted to move the case due to the local publicity, but the judge declined to do so. He faces a mandatory life sentence if convicted of the final charge. He already faces a mandatory 60 years combined on the charges fro which he has been convicted, but not yet sentenced, which makes the cost of a retrial seem to be not very cost effective. Keep in mind the first trial cost nearly $100,ooo!

http://www.cnn.com/2014/09/22/us/florida-loud-music-trial/index.html?hpt=hp_t2

When Can Juveniles Be Tried as Adults in Florida?

Recently, Crimcourts covered the 9-month-old in Pakistan charged with attempted murder. That got me thinking about the rules in Florida, and how old someone has to be to be tried as an adult, as there have been some high-profile cases of young people being tried as adults. For certain serious offenses, there is no minimum age for children to be tried as adults in Florida. According to a juvenile sentencing report by the University of Texas, there are examples of 11-year-olds being charged as adults, and that theoretically a 7-year-old accused of murder could stand trial as an adult. For less serious offenses, children over age 16 can be charged as adults at the discretion of the prosecutor, even for misdemeanors if they have priors.

Christian Fernandez

Christian Fernandez

Florida was recently in the news for the case of Christian Fernandez, a 12-year-old charged as an adult in Jacksonville, who faced mandatory life in prison without parole if convicted at trial. Ultimately, Fernandez plead to a deal that allowed for him to be sentenced as a juvenile, and he will remain incarcerated until he turns 19. That’s the most recent of a history of aggressive prosecutions of juveniles.

Lionel Tate at 14

Lionel Tate at 14

Florida made news several years ago when Lionel Tate, who was also 12 at the time of his offense, lost at trial and was sentenced to life in prison. He was the youngest person in America to have been sentenced to life without parole, until his sentence was overturned on appeal. He then entered a plea deal that spared life in prison, and he ultimately violated his probation by committing a robbery. Tate’s case also garnered attention because he was convicted of felony murder, which means that he did not have to intend the death of the playmate he killed. It was a first degree felony murder because it occurred in the commission of child abuse, despite the fact that Tate was only 12, himself.

There has been a growing effort in Florida to amend the way juveniles are handled in relation to adult court. Currently, Florida prosecutors are given great power in that they have unquestioned discretion to “direct file”, that is to charge a juvenile in adult court. It most instances, the decision cannot be reviewed by a judge, or appealed. The Florida Times-Union did a fascinating examination of how prosecutors gained this power during a reactionary period 20 years ago when there were several high-profile attacks on tourists. This unfettered discretion could lead to abuses if State Attorneys use it unfairly.

The Florida Bar has a committee advocating for the Legal Needs of Children, who are pushing the recommendations from 12 years ago against the direct filing of juveniles. The committee has been advocating changes for years. The committee’s position was recently adopted by the Florida Bar’s Board of Governors as an official legislative position of the Florida Bar. This isn’t a minority advocacy group, or even a Defense oriented group, this is the position of the Florida Bar as a whole.

State Attorney Angela Corey

State Attorney Angela Corey

Rob Mason, an assistant public defender in the 4th circuit, and director of that office’s juvenile division, says that the State does use their power to unfairly coerce pleas from juveniles in his circuit. Angela Corey, who has raised red flags around here before, is the State Attorney there, in the circuit including Jacksonville. Mason’s allegations about her practices seem to be borne out in the record. He says that about 80% of the direct commitments handled by his office are threatened with being charged as adults, which entices a quick plea to avoid potentially longer sentences for those juveniles. Moreover, the Florida Times-Union reports more than 1400 direct commitments over the last four years. In contrast, there were only 34 during the same period Miami’s district, in spite of having about twice as many juveniles as Jacksonville’s. Further, 29 percent of the direct commitments in Jacksonville stem from misdemeanor cases. Those kids are likely receiving harsher sentences as juveniles that comparable adult offenders. It was Angela Corey’s office that filed Christian Ferndandez’s case in adult court, before relenting.

The great power afforded to prosecutors in Florida is unnecessary. It would not be a great burden to use judicial review for the appropriateness of such decisions. The majority of state attorneys probably do not abuse the discretion, but the numbers suggest that even one can negatively affect thousands of children. Judicial review would put a check in the system to ward off abuses, and still allow prosecutors to push for adult prosecution where it was appropriate: not just whenever it is convenient or advantageous to coerce a plea deal. That’s why the Florida’s Bar’s Legislative committee will now advocate for such a change.

The Michael Dunn Trial Cost $99,000

Michael Dunn mug shot

Michael Dunn mug shot

The city of Jacksonville released financial numbers indicating the Dunn trial cost taxpayers $99,158.26. These numbers don’t include a lot of important costs, such as the expenses incurred by the State Attorney to prosecute the case. The majority of these costs were for law enforcement overtime, and the costs associated with jury sequestration. Unfortunately for city coffers, the hung jury on the most serious counts mean that a similar retrial is likely. This case cost substantially less to try than the Zimmerman case, and is being used as a model for upcoming cases, such as the Marissa Alexander case. That case will also be a second trial.

Wait, why doesn’t double jeopardy apply to these cases? Because they were not acquitted the first time around. Had they been found not guilty, they could not be tried again. In Dunn’s case, the hung jury on the murder charge essentially

Marissa Alexander

Marissa Alexander

makes the trial on that count a nullity, and it must be retried anew. The convictions on the other charges will stand. As Marissa Alexander was convicted the first time around, she could have let that verdict stand. But since she got the benefit of a new trial being ordered on appeal, she faces the prospect of a new trial. Normally, the sentence cannot be increased on a retrial, as it could be seen as vindictive. However, legal changes may force the judge to order any minimum mandatory sentences under 10/20/Life to be served consecutively. That legal change may force the court’s hand, which would suggest the increased sentence was not due to vindictiveness. Defendant’s are not eligible for gain-time or other early release on a 10/20/Life sentence, which means Ms. Alexander would serve every day of 60 years, less what credit she already had.

No Verdict Yet for Michael Dunn

The jury is still out in the ‘loud music shooting’ case. They will continue to deliberate, starting today at 9:00 a.m. in addition to the 1st degree murder charge, there are several lesser offenses and attempted murder charges for the other boys in the truck. The first degree murder charge is probably a reach, any premeditation was minimal at best. If the prosecutor tries to oversell the case, they lose credibility on the lesser charges. That may help Dunn’s attorney on his self-defense claim. This is the same prosecutor that overcharged on the George Zimmerman.
Un fortunately, I wil be out of town this weekend, so I may not get to comment right away when the verdict comes in.

Jury is Still Out on Michael Dunn

Accused killer Michael Dunn mug shot

Accused killer Michael Dunn mug shot

Closing statements were yesterday, and the jury broke for the night, to continue deliberations today for Michael Dunn, accused of murder and three attempted murders in the so-called loud music shooting.