Shared by firm partner, Kenneth Rhoden, Esquire, a death penalty qualified criminal defense attorney, Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure 3.112.
*This story uses no names and some of the facts have been changed to protect the privacy of the participants.*
The Defendant had a prior record and he scored mandatory prison on the Criminal Punishment Code scoresheet. The State Attorney, feeling justifiably confident in his case, offered only a stiff prison sentence as a plea bargain. Feeling the Defendant had nothing to lose I set this for trial.
Sometimes officers are suddenly unavailable for trial and a case gets dismissed or evidence was lost or another unlikely event happens. In this case, the cocaine had been sent to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement Lab which confirmed it was indeed cocaine. The State Attorney smoothly introduced the cocaine into evidence over my repeated, but correctly overruled, objections. Then the officers were called to testify.
The first officer strutted into the court room with a smirk on his face. On direct examination, the officer was arrogant and all but rolled his eyes letting everyone know that this trial was a waste of his precious time. Despite this the officer completely explained the events to the Jury and there was no doubt the Defendant committed the crime. While the officer was disdainful of the State Attorney on direct examination he was openly hostile to me on cross examination. No case is hopeless. It might be a very tough case but you should never give up.
What was reported as happened: Two law enforcement officers were on motorcycles when they spotted a car parked behind a closed business. They decided to check and see if any crime was taking place. The officers parked a distance behind the car and approached from behind, one officer on each side of the car, the suspect was engrossed in what he was doing and did not notice the officers approaching.
The officers positioned themselves on each side of the car, looking in the windows. The officers could clearly see the suspect smoking crack cocaine from a pipe. After watching the suspect for a few minutes the officers knocked on the side of the car. The startled suspect surrendered peacefully and admitted he had been smoking crack cocaine and pipe and arrested the suspect for possession of cocaine and possession of paraphernalia.
As unpleasant the officer became, the more polite I became. When his testimony was over the officer left the courtroom as he had arrived. The testimony of the second officer was a carbon copy of the first. By the facts of the case the client was guilty.
After short closing argument by the State and closing argument by the defense the Jury left the courtroom to deliberate. I expected a quick verdict. Sure, enough in fifteen (15) minutes the jury had a verdict, Not Guilty.
This event is commonly called a “Jury pardon” and it is a rare event. In this case the Defendant was very lucky. A trial is a complex event in which the unexpected can happen. This case shows you should never give up and when you have nothing to lose, always roll the dice.
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