Articles Posted in Attorney Richard Ansara

Over the last several decades, the American criminal justice system has relied increasingly on forensic testing to definitively identify suspects, nail down timelines and prove or disprove theories about what happened and who was involved. justice

However, there is an increasing amount of data showing that some of these methods are not as bullet-proof as they were previously held out by prosecutors and the scientific community to be. In 2015, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalists at ProPublica detailed the great deal of faulty forensics that had been reported in previous years.

On one hand, the emergence of DNA analysis became a powerful prosectuorial tool – but also one that was valuable for defendants, resulting in the revelation of scores of wrongful convictions. Recently, the Washington Post reported on a substantial study by the National Association for Criminal Defense Lawyers that found 26 out of 28 examiners in the FBI’s forensic hair comparison unit gave flawed testimony in more than 200 criminal cases during the 1980s and 1990s. Continue reading

Florida’s death penalty has been the source of intense scrutiny over the last year. handcuffs

Last year, the Florida Supreme Court’s ruling in Hurst v. State struck down the prior capital sentencing statute allowing judges to impose the death penalty if a majority of jurors recommended death or to override a jury’s recommendation for a life sentence. Meanwhile, a separate decision in Perry v. State tossed an amended version of the statue, which gave judges the authority to impose the death penalty if 10 or more jurors recommended it. The state supreme court noted that it must be jurors who make that final decision and that determination must be unanimous, per the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2002 ruling in Ring v. Arizona. Non-unanimous cases accounted for 20 percent of all Florida death sentences, and were disproportionately represented in exonerations of death row inmates. Also last year, the state legislature passed S.B. 280 which eliminated non-unanimous jury recommendations for the death penalty. That was signed and approved by the governor last month.

This brings us to the conflict regarding Orange-Osceola State Attorney Aramis Ayala, who has outright stated a refusal to seek the death penalty. The issue arose initially in a high-profile case in which Ayala asserted she did not plan to seek the death penalty for a man accused of killing a police officer. She further stated she did not plan to seek the death penalty for anyone else either. Scott subsequently removed her from the police killing case – and then also from 21 other first-degree murder cases.  Continue reading

A South Florida computer expert starting out his decade-long sentence for a conviction of espionage has just been found guilty again, this time of underage sex trafficking. handcuffs

The Miami-Herald reports defendant was accused and ultimately convicted of exploiting girls who were underage – between 13 and 16 – for sex while he was working in Honduras for the U.S. Department of Defense. The crimes allegedly occurred between 2010 and 2014. Now 36, the former West Palm Beach native faces a minimum mandatory additional 15 years in prison, with the possibility of being handed a life sentence.

In a classic case of “what not to do when you’re facing serious felony charges,” the man represented himself during the Miami-based federal trial, which lasted for a month. The proceedings were marked by bizarre episodes. For example, although defendant was born and raised in the state of New York and spoke fluent English, he demanded the court provide him with a Spanish interpreter to help translate the proceedings.  Continue reading

Spring break in Florida is something of a rite of passage for many college students across the country. They flock here for a brief, sunny respite from the mid-semester doldrums and flood the state’s beaches and bars. welcometomiami

Many communities thrive off this yearly influx of younger visitors. However, state and local police are issuing stern warnings about what is expected of visitors here and what kinds of enforcement actions they can expect.

In particular, police are focused on:

  • Public drinking
  • Drinking and driving
  • Underage consumption of alcohol

Continue reading

Florida Senate committee members unanimously voted on a measure that would eliminate mandatory minimum sentences in 118 crimes where such requirements currently exist. Members of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee say mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines, a holdover from all those “tough-on-crime” initiatives, passed SB 290, which gives judges more discretion in sentencing on non-violent offenses (save for drug trafficking). prison

The decision came as lawmakers noted that thousands of people are being locked up in the state every year for decades-long sentences that are costing taxpayers an inordinate amount of money, ruining lives and doing very little to keep anyone safe in the long-run. In fact, these efforts may be counter-intuitive to public safety because they leave those hemmed up in the system with very few resources or supports once released after spending a much of their life in prison.

Take for example the case of a woman serving a 25-year sentence at the Homestead Correctional Institution for selling less than 40 pills in exchange for $300. Minimum mandatory sentencing guidelines required the judge to impose the maximum penalty of 25 years. She won’t be released until 2023. By then, her incarceration will have cost taxpayers more than $450,000.  Continue reading

Concerns about due process violation have been raised with the increasing use of a form of technology that conducts “probabilistic genotyping” as opposed to the regular DNA testing that has long been used as evidence in criminal cases. science

One example of this offered by ProPublica, a non-profit, Pulitzer prize-winning online publication, was a case out of New York two years ago. Police officers attempted to pull over a vehicle that was operating without headlines. However, they driver and passenger fled on foot. Officers gave chase and then heard a gunshot. Police never actually caught up with the suspects, but they did find a loaded handgun nearby. The car, which had been abandoned, was connected to its owner. Police arrested him, but they couldn’t link him to that gun unless they could secure a DNA match. Unfortunately for them, the DNA that was left on the handgun did not provide a good sample for conventional methods. DNA from at least four or five people was on the weapon. So prosecutors requested an analysis from a company that offers the genotyping software program.

Traditional DNA analysis asks researchers to visually and manually interpret the markers on the sample to determine whether there is a match. This new type of testing runs the information through a computerized algorithm in order to determine the likelihood that a certain individual’s DNA is present in the mixture, when compared to the DNA of a random person. Those who developed the technology insist the results are the best way to remove human bias from the process. However, criticism has arisen about whether this process undermines defendants’ due process. Continue reading

The high-profile murder-for-hire plot case of Dalia Dippolito is slated for a second jury trial before the end of the year, now that the Florida Supreme Court has refused to hear a request from defendant to toss out the charges.sad

In the matter of Dippolito v. Florida, justices gave no explanation for the denial, saying only it was denied upon review. A circuit judge had denied her dismissal request earlier this year. Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal rejected her request without even holding a hearing.

The bizarre case out of Boynton Beach has raised all sorts of issues about entrapment and whether the alleged plot was ever real to begin with. According to ABC News, Dippolito is accused of concocting a scheme to kill her former husband when they were just newlyweds. She reportedly, with the help of a friend, helped to hire a “hit man,” who was actually an undercover detective, to kill her husband. Continue reading

Prosecutors in California who withhold exculpatory evidence or tamper with evidence in a criminal case will now face felony charges themselves. The recent law, signed by that state’s Governor Jerry Brown, allows a penalty of up to three years’ prison time for prosecutors who withhold evidence that defendants could use to exonerate them. Before this law passed, such actions were criminal, but they were only considered misdemeanor crimes. gavel

Officials say the measure was necessary in light of a growing number of cases wherein people have been wrongfully convicted at least in part because prosecutors abused their power and position. The measure follows a high-profile case in Orange County where a prosecutors in a murder case was found to have repeatedly violated defendant’s rights by not turning over key evidence. Although the court overseeing the matter did not find the prosecutor had engaged in willful misconduct, he was nonetheless removed from the case.

There are allegations from the public defender’s office in that region that corrections officers have for years violated inmates’ rights with an illegal jailhouse informant program that prosecutors tried to hide. This involved using the testimony of fellow inmates in exchange for leniency in their pending cases – while not disclosing this deal at trial. A number of high-profile criminal cases have collapsed as a result. Prosecutors are now saying if the law applies to them, it should apply to defense lawyers too.  Continue reading

Three years ago, Florida legislators passed a controversial bill that affected almost every kind of court case in the system – including criminal cases. The change involved the standard to which expert witnesses are held in court. Their expert qualifications, their methodology, their testimony – all of this came under greater scrutiny when justices did away with the previous “Frye Standard” and instead adopted the “Daubert Standard,” which is used in federal courts and in most other states. gavel21

This was largely deemed a positive move for two groups: Criminal and corporate civil defendants. However, personal injury lawyers and some state attorneys have taken issue with it. The Florida Bar is the group that has asked the Florida Supreme Court to consider reverting back to the Frye Standard.

The Frye standard asks the judge to consider whether to allow expert witness testimony into evidence based only on whether the it represents principles that are considered generally accepted in that particular field. The Daubert standard, meanwhile, requires judges to use a more stringent standard. Judges are asked to allow the expert witness testimony only if it’s based on sufficient facts or data, if it’s the product of reliable methods and principles and the expert witness has applied the methods and principles of the case correctly. Often, this requires something of a mini-trial before the trial. Continue reading

A Florida man has been arrested by the FBI on federal charges for allegedly making Facebook threats against the LGBTQ community at events in both Wilton Manors and nearby Fort Lauderdale, according to The Sun-Sentinel.computermouse

Fifty-year-old Craig Jungwirth is accused of violating federal statutes on interstate commerce when he reportedly made reference to the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando and made numerous threats against LGBTQ events planned over Labor Day weekend. Additionally, he was charged with driving on a suspended license, an unrelated offense.

A six-page FBI affidavit that formed the basis for the arrest accuses Jungwirth of sending communication that threatened to kidnap or injure another person. A conviction on the federal charge could result in up to five years in prison, a $5,000 fine or both. He was taken to jail in Seminole County, but is facing charges in federal court.  Continue reading