Articles Posted in Homicide

Forensic science has played an increasingly larger role in criminal courtrooms across the country – particularly in cases involving more serious crimes, such as homicides, robberies and sexual assaults. However, the scientific veracity of this evidence has come under fire in recent years as even more advanced science has proven some of those convicted largely on these older forensics were indeed innocent as they’d always claimed.criminal defense attorney

In 2015, The Washington Post reported the U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI both formally acknowledged that almost every examiner in the FBI forensics unit gave flawed testimony in nearly every trial in which they offered evidence against criminal defendants in the nearly two decades preceding 2000. Of the methods to which they testified were forensic hair analysis and forensic bite mark analysis. Among those cases effected, 32 were sentenced to die, with 14 having already been executed or died in prison. This was acknowledged by the agency after a study found that in 95 percent of nearly 300 cases reviewed, forensic examiners overstate those forensic matches in ways that favored the prosecution’s case.

Other forensic disciplines touted as practically airtight in criminal trials for decades had by that time been largely discredited, including shoe and tire impressions and handwriting. A 2009 report from the National Academy of Science released a groundbreaking report revealing these “sciences” were not as credible as what they claimed to be, as they aren’t rigorous, grounded in peer-reviewed research and outcomes often rely on judgments of individual practitioners. The report stated opinions offered by these “experts” were generally more subjective than scientific. Specific to bloodstain patterns, the report stated complex patterns fluids make as they exit wounds are “highly variable,” making valid interpretations difficult or impossible.

Recently, a ProPublica investigation delved into another reportedly dubious forensic analysis method, bloodstain pattern analysis. The case they highlighted was that of a once-loved high school principal in Texas who was sentenced to 99 years in prison for the murder of his wife, an elementary school teacher, who was shot in their home in 1985 – a key piece of evidence in his conviction being bloodstain pattern analysis.  Continue reading

It’s been a year since the U.S. Supreme Court deemed Florida’s process of deciding death penalty cases unconstitutional for the second time.criminal defense lawyer

Florida had a long-standing practice of allowing imposition of the death penalty without the unanimous support of a jury. Before the 2016 ruling in Hurst v. Florida, courts here only required a recommendation of a simple majority of jurors (7-5), though the decision was ultimately up to the judge. Not Ok, ruled the U.S. Supreme Court, finding it a violation of the Sixth Amendment. The state legislature revised the rules, deciding at least 10 out of 12 jurors needed to agree in order to impose the death penalty. Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that still wasn’t good enough, as it violated the Eighth Amendment’s provision against cruel and unusual punishment. Juror input and consensus is mandatory in capital cases.

Now, the Tampa Bay Times reports that since those two rulings, there have been “far fewer” convicted murderers sentenced to death in the state. 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

The 30-year-old suspect was likely going to be facing drug trafficking charges. He didn’t want to confront that possibility. Instead, he fled from police in an attempt to escape. But he lost control of the car. The vehicle overturned and careened into a nearby canal and started to sink. Defendant swam out through a window, but police caught him within minutes.carwater

What the suspect didn’t inform police of until it was too late was that there were two other people still trapped in that submerged car. It wasn’t until officers asked that he offered up the information.

Now the Sunrise man is facing two second-degree murder charges in those deaths. He is being held without bond, and faces up to life in prison if convicted. Continue reading

The Florida Supreme Court – for the second time in as many months – ruled the state’s death penalty law is unconstitutional and can’t be applied to prosecutions that are pending. Effectively, that means death penalty murder trials are on hold for now. The ruling was handed down in a one-paragraph order. Some judges, including chief judge John Galluzzo for Brevard and Seminole counties, have held that the guilt phase of these trials may proceed, so long as the sentencing phase is postponed until after state lawmakers have time to rewrite the statute. prison

These judges have defended the decisions saying that while the rulings that have been handed down from the Florida Supreme Court may seem confusing, it’s believed capital murder trials could continue, so long as certain defense rights are defended. Specifically, that means that all 12 members of the jury must unanimously agree to recommend the death penalty, rather than simply a majority or having the judge decide, as has been the case in the past with this state.

However, the most recent order handed down by the state supreme court says that Florida’s death penalty law has been invalidated “as a whole.” The court was very clear in saying it cannot be applied to prosecutions that are pending. Meanwhile, the high court’s ruling last month indicated that the state’s death penalty law was so fundamentally erroneous – and had been that way for so long – that more than half the people on death row are likely entitled to new sentencing hearings. That covers more than 200 inmates who are waiting to die on Florida’s death row.  Continue reading

A South Florida domestic violence arrest recently led to a reportedly huge break in a 26-year-old cold case.handcuffs1

Joseph Zieler, 54, was arrested in August for allegedly shooting his adult son with an rifle. His was not seriously hurt, but Zeiler was facing a felony charge nonetheless. Because this was a violent felony charge, Zieler’s DNA was entered into CODIS (Combined DNA Index System). Lab workers reported a “hit” – on a double homicide/ sexual assault that occurred in Cape Coral way back in 1990.

According to The News-Press, police believe Zeiler, who was 25 and lived in the area at the time, killed 11-year-old Robin Cornell and 32-year-old Lisa Story, at their home in Cape Coral. Story was the roommate and friend of Robin’s mother, Jan Cornell. Continue reading

The state attorney is considering whether to charge a Miami woman with murder after she gunned down a burglar on her property.guncloseup

Florida has one of the strongest “Castle Doctrine” laws on the books, which allow homeowners to use lethal force against those who unlawfully enter their homes. The law does require that in order to threaten or use deadly force, the resident/ homeowner has to believe such force is necessary to either prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to herself or someone else or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony.

In this case, the 54-year-old homeowner wasn’t at the time of the burglar’s initial entry, but rather was alerted to the break-in by a home security camera. She reportedly returned home and searched the property room-to-room, until she spotted the teen climbing out a window. She told investigators there was a confrontation and she shot him. Further, police were reportedly on their way. Continue reading

The death penalty in Florida may be on its last leg. needle

Recently, the Florida Supreme Court nixed the state’s practice of having a judge – rather than a jury – decide a person’s fate in a death penalty case. Then there was the judge in Miami who struck down Florida’s death penalty law as unconstitutional because the state allows a majority – rather than a unanimous – jury decision to determine whether someone should die for their crimes.

Now, there is yet another hurdle for the state: The only three federally-approved sources that provide the lethal mix of injectable drugs used in Florida executions have withdrawn their use for this purpose.

Pfizer, a huge pharmaceutical manufacturer, has stated it wants its medications to be associated with saving lives, rather than ending them. It argues there is no legitimate medical purpose to execute someone. Continue reading

The case is packed with so many odd twists and turns, it sounds like some kind of made-for-television movie. And strangely, that’s what the defendant says she was trying to do: Act the part of the villain so she could score a reality television show. The alleged victim was even in on it, she said.lipstick

But the Boynton Beach police who arrested her for allegedly paying a hit man to kill her now-ex husband say the plan was real. Meanwhile, the police were filming a “COPS” episode of the whole investigation, and even staged a fake murder scene as part of the case.

Dalia Dippolito was charged and later convicted of solicitation to commit first-degree murder with a firearm and sentenced to 20 years in prison. Then the conviction was overturned two years ago based on improper jury selection. Now, Dippolito’s defense lawyers are arguing the charges should be dropped, presenting testimony from her one-time friend-turned-police-informant Mohamed Shihadeh says he was pressured by police to set up Dippolito.  Continue reading

A single shove outside a Florida tire shop ended one man’s life and forever altered another.
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Casey Fletcher, 28, is facing a charge of manslaughter, following an altercation outside the store on Prospect Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale. The fact pattern in this case has been described as “unique” for the fact defendant did not intend to cause harm to the alleged victim. Rather, he was coming to the aid of his girlfriend, and he didn’t try to use or even have possession of a weapon.

However, that single push resulted in the 66-year-old falling on the concrete, striking his head hard on the ground. His brain injuries were serious. His brother recently spoke with a reporter about the decision to take him off life support. He described his “shock” and called the whole incident “a shame.”
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