Florida Criminal Appeals Attorney Law

Appellate Law, Criminal Defense and Appeals and Post Conviction Relief in Florida Courts, Federal District Courts and the 11th Circuit

Category: Palm Beach Circuit Court

You are Being Watched: Palm Beach County Juror Faces Criminal Contempt Charges for Social Media Comments

The Palm Beach Post is reporting the Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Jack Cox recently issued an order to show cause to a juror who used social media to “broadcast his views on a case he was deciding” despite admonitions to not engage in such conduct.  Apparently, counsel discovered Facebook comments by the juror while the proceeding was ongoing and reported the posts to the court.  Judge Cox was then forced to replace the juror with an alternate.

Florida’s Standard Jury Instruction 1.1 which is given when jurors are in the courtroom, prior to voir dire, warns:

I want to stress that this rule means you must not use electronic devices or computers to communicate about this case, including tweeting, texting, blogging, e-mailing, posting information on a website or chat room, or any other means at all.  Do not send or accept any messages to or from anyone about this case or your jury service.

(Emphasis added).

Given the prevalence of social media, it is surprising that fewer instances of juror misconduct are reported by the media.

Palm Beach County News: John Goodman Gets a New Trial and Lindsay Lohan Comes to Town for Rehab

Palm Beach polo magnate John Goodman caught a lucky break- it looks like on Friday, May 3, 2013, Palm Beach Circuit Court Judge Jeffrey Colbath granted Goodman’s motion for new trial based on juror misconduct.  Criminal defense and criminal appeals lawyers know that such a break is extremely rare indeed.  To read of an article about the defense victory, click here.  To read my previous post on Goodman’s motion, click here.  I wonder if the State will prosecute the juror for perjury based on his statements given during voir dire . . .

On another note, who knew that Palm Beach County was home to a rehab facility for Hollywood’s rich and famous?   According to reports on CNN and WPTV. com, Lindsay Lohan is going to complete her rehab at the Lukens Institute in Palm Beach Gardens.  If anyone sees Lindsay around town, be sure to give her a friendly wave!

Two Palm Beach County Cases Touch on Issues of Juror Misconduct

As I was scrolling through the news this morning, I came across two articles in the Palm Beach Post that I wanted to pass along to the local criminal defense and criminal appeals attorneys out there.

The first article reports that Palm Beach County Circuit Court Judge Karen Miller has stated that she will call back jurors to inquire into allegations that the jurors discussed a criminal case before the evidence was closed, in violation of the court’s instructions.  Although the Court has not set a date for the hearing, according to the article, the Judge decided to call the jurors back after a local criminal defense attorney filed an affidavit executed by one of the jurors, wherein the juror indicated that she had a “terrible concern that the verdict that the jury reached was not fair.”  The individuals were both found guilty of the 2011 shooting death of a 15-year-old South Bay youth.  They have not yet been sentenced.

In the next article (an op-ed piece), the Palm Beach Post notes that one of the jurors from the John Goodman trial recently admitted in a self-published book that his wife had once been arrested on a charge of DUI.  Obviously, Goodman’s defense team says it asked all potential jurors if any family members had ever been charged with DUI, and that if they had known of his ex-wife’s arrest they would not have selected him.  Armed with that information, John Goodman’s criminal appeals lawyers filed a motion in the Fourth District Court of Appeal case, seeking to have the Court relinquish jurisdiction so as to allow the trial court to consider the issue.  The Fourth DCA initially denied Goodman’s motion on March 22, 2013.  However, after Goodman filed a Motion for Reconsideration, the Fourth DCA granted the motion, and on April 1, 2013, the Court granted the Motion to Relinquish based on the newly discovered evidence of juror misconduct.  The Court’s April 1, 2013, order which can be found on the Fourth DCA docket for case number 4D12-1930, reads as follows:

The motion to reconsider the order denying stay dated March 22, 2013, is denied.  The motion for relinquishment based on newly discovered juror misconduct is granted for the defendant to file and present to the trial court a motion based upon the alleged juror misconduct and for the court to allow a juror interview and then to rule on the issue.  Such relief is not procedurally barred. See e.g. Marshall v. State, 854 So. 2d 1235, 1242 (Fla. 2003); Davis v. State, 778 So. 2d 1096 (Fla. 4th DCA 2001).  Relinquishment is for a period of forty-five days.  ORDERED that appellant’s motion filed March 28, 2013, for permission to file a reply to State’s response is hereby granted.

I don’t know about you, but I am glad to see that both Courts have taken the courageous step of inquiring into the serious issue of juror misconduct.  Job well done.

Florida Supreme Court Disciplines Judge Shea of the Ninth Judicial Circuit

The Florida Supreme Court recently issued an opinion adopting the recommendations of the JQC, and disciplined the Judge Shea, a Circuit Court Judge for the Ninth Judicial Circuit.  I thought I’d pass this along because if you are criminal defense attorney who has cases pending before Judge Shea, or if you handle criminal appeals of any of Judge Shea’s cases, you should probably be aware of some of his inappropriate behavior (that is, if you’re not already).  In the opinion, Judge Shea stipulated to five charges:

[1.]  In the summer of 2007, Assistant State Attorney Sarah Freeman was sitting in the jury box with two other attorneys making notes on her pretrial docket while [Judge Shea addressed] a matter that was not hers.  When [Judge Shea] observed her shake her head, [Judge Shea] got up out of [his] seat, stood behind [his] chair and screamed loudly at her for what [he] perceived as disrespectful conduct.
[2.]  In 2007, during an off-the-record sidebar argument by Assistant State Attorney Camelia Coward regarding a plea to the bench, [Judge Shea] remarked to the opposing attorney, “Do you know what I do when my wife and I disagree? I just let her talk.” [Judge Shea] continued, “I find that it is best just to let her talk until she’s finished.”  [Judge Shea] then indicated that, once she is finished, you can do what you want anyway.
[3.]  On August 18, 2009, in State [v.] Habeych Case No. 48-2008-CF-12888-0, [Judge Shea] sentenced Mr. Habeych without his attorney present.  This was done over his objection. Mr. Habeych was charged with Trafficking in Hydromorphone, which carries a minimum mandatory sentence.  [Judge Shea] imposed the mandatory minimum sentence.  [Judge Shea] then told [Mr. Habeych’s] father that if he had any questions that he could go upstairs to the courtroom where the defense lawyer was appearing before another judge.
[4.]  In State v. Bullock, Case No. 48-2009-CF-8037-0, [Judge Shea] granted a Judgment of Acquittal on one of the counts of an Information alleging Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon.  That count had been severed for a separate trial from another count of the Information charging the defendant with Grand Theft of a Motor Vehicle.  At the subsequent trial call, on April 12, 2010, when Assistant State Attorney Stephen Brown announced his intention to proceed on the remaining count, [Judge Shea] mistakenly believed the State did not have a good faith basis to proceed on that charge. [Judge Shea] became visibly angry and reprimanded the attorney in open court by saying his duty was to act in an ethical manner and to follow his oath as an attorney rather than merely follow office policy guidelines of the State Attorney’s Office.  [Judge Shea] then ordered him into the jury room where [Judge Shea] continued to berate his ethics.  To [Judge Shea’s] credit, when [Judge Shea] realized [his] mistake, [Judge Shea] then apologized.
[5.]  These repeated actions constitute conduct unbecoming a judicial officer and lack the dignity appropriate to judicial office, with the effect of bringing the judiciary into disrepute.
I think it goes without saying that the Judge’s behavior is unacceptable, and I’m glad to see that he was disciplined.   So, what discipline did the Supremes dish out for the Judge?  A public reprimand accompanied by letters of apology and continuing mental health treatment.

Zimmerman Not to Have Pre-trial Hearing on Stand Your Ground Defense, and Martha Stewart Trial Testimony: It’s (not) a Good Thing

I’m not sure if you’re following the George Zimmerman case, but I thought I’d share a report I saw.  Apparently, his defense team has decided to forego the pre-trial hearing on the Stand Your Ground defense.   If you’re a Florida attorney who handles criminal defense work or criminal appeals, then you probably know that the pre-trial hearing isn’t necessarily required.  According to the news reports, the defense team has decided to just to go to trial and perhaps raise it there.  I suppose it’s a perfectly sound strategy, but for some reason, it just seems more risky to me.  What do you think?  (To see my latest post on possible amendments to the Stand Your Ground defense, click here).

Being that it’s Wednesday, I though you might need a little laugh.  A CNN Money report had a funny list of quotes from none other than Martha Stewart in her latest round of litigation.  I can almost see the smirk on her face as I read some of the lines. . . .

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