Articles Posted in Crimes of Violence

931789-Crimes-of-Violence-callout-08-20-10The world is constantly evolving, meaning that the law is evolving. New technologies may mean new avenues for obtaining the evidence you need to prove your innocence in a criminal trial. Getting that evidence, though, requires knowing how to engage in the legal processes properly and in a timely way. To do that, be sure you have representation from a skilled Tampa Bay criminal defense attorney.

One of the modern technological gadgets many people have in their homes these days is a personal assistant device from Amazon or a competitor such as Google. Amazon’s devices come with the well-known “Alexa,” a voice-activated, cloud-based AI service. You can tell Alexa to do many things, from compiling shopping lists to tuning in a radio station to even mimicking the sound of human flatulence, and the Amazon device will perform that task.

Technology like this, as it contains the ability to “listen” and record what is said to the device, has the potential for some unexpected uses. In fact, in one case currently pending in a trial court in Kentucky, Alexa may hold the key to proving a woman’s innocence, according to her attorney. In that case, K.E. was on trial for the April 2020 murder of her mother in the small town of Elizabethtown, KY.

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If you watch enough TV cop-and-lawyer shows, then you’ve likely heard one or more of the police characters talk about “the right to remain silent,” and the lawyer characters speak about “hearsay.” That’s because these are legitimately very big deals. If a piece of prosecution evidence qualifies as hearsay, then it is probably not going to be admissible under the rules of evidence. Similarly, if the police improperly coaxed a statement out of you after you invoked your right to remain silent, then the potentially incriminating things you said after invoking your rights may also be excluded. A skilled Tampa Bay criminal defense attorney has extensive experience in making – and winning – these kinds of arguments on behalf of the accused.

These issues of hearsay evidence and improper police questioning were on display in a recent felony case from Charlotte County. According to a 911 call, the alleged victim (who was also J.T.’s ex-girlfriend) was hiding from J.T. inside a camper when J.T. decided to hitch the camper to his vehicle and start driving it down a rural Charlotte County road.

Law enforcement caught up to J.T., and the alleged victim told the officers that J.T. had sent her threatening text messages. A detective reviewed the messages on the alleged victim’s phone.

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Any time you are facing criminal charges and the prosecution’s case relies very heavily on the testimony of one person, one potentially very effective – and successful — defense is to give the jury persuasive reasons to decide that the state’s witness is lying and should not be believed. When that happens, that evidence may be enough to convince the jury that your testimony is more credible than the state’s witness’s testimony. To do that, though, you need to amass the right kind of proof and you need to know how to argue for its admissibility. This is one area among many where a skilled Pinellas County criminal defense attorney can help you to present a complete picture and a vigorous defense presentation to the jury.

Those persuasive reasons why a prosecution witness might be lying are called evidence of the witness’s “bias.” Witness bias was the key issue in one St. Petersburg man’s criminal case recently. The man, B.P., was a homeowner who rented space in his house to a tenant, J.L. One night, the pair visited a jazz club together. On the way home, the two had an argument that became heated and J.L. ended up out of the van and on the ground. B.P. said J.L. fell out of the van, but J.L. said B.P. pushed her. After J.L.’s exit from the van, B.P. ran over her arm and went home. A jury eventually convicted B.P. of aggravated battery.

B.P.’s legal team succeeded in getting the conviction overturned on appeal. The accused man’s successful appeal is a useful reminder of how helpful witness bias evidence can be, especially in cases where the majority of the state’s evidence is witness testimony. In B.P.’s case, his legal team prepared to introduce evidence that J.L. only agreed to cooperate with the prosecution and to give damaging testimony against B.P. after B.P. evicted her.

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By now, most people are familiar with the “Florida man” meme and Florida man’s exploits, which are often criminal in nature. Sometimes, these events are actually more tragic than funny, arising as the results of severe (and often untreated) addiction and/or mental illness.

If a person commits a criminal act while suffering from a mental issue, he may not be competent to stand trial or may be not guilty of any crime due to his mental state. If you need to present arguments and evidence about your mental state in your criminal matter, be sure you have an experienced Tampa Bay criminal defense attorney by your side handling your case.

This backdrop brings us to news reports about J.D. from Bay County. In May 2014, J.D. believed that his neighbor stole his dog. Reportedly, J.D. confronted the woman with a shotgun. First, he threatened to blow the woman’s kneecaps off. Then he threatened to kill her. A male member of the household came outside, and J.D. shot him. That man subdued J.D. with a hammer and police came and arrested J.D.

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One of the most well-known elements of Florida criminal law and procedure, at least among lay people, is this state’s “Stand Your Ground” law. This law can provide an important tool in the defense arsenal of a person accused of a violent crime who was, in fact, simply defending him/herself. Whether your criminal defense case involves an assertion of self-defense, other affirmative defenses or different trial strategies, your criminal case is too important to take chances with. Be sure you are getting the best defense possible by retaining an experienced Saint Petersburg criminal defense attorney.

While many “Stand Your Ground” cases that make news headlines involve guns, W.J.’s case was a bit different. W.J. was a St. Petersburg man who had a difficult relationship with his roommate. The two fought, but it was hardly the sort of lighthearted roommate squabbles one might see on a classic episode of The Odd Couple. This pair’s battles allegedly involved the roommate brandishing a baseball bat and threatening to kill W.J.

W.J. kept a knife on his bedside table because of his fear related to the roommate’s behavior. On the day of the roommate’s death, W.J. alleged that he awoke in his bedroom to find the roommate’s hand in his pants pocket, which was where W.J. kept his cash. A physical struggle ensued, which traveled from the bedroom to the living room to the backyard. In the backyard, W.J. finally gained control of the knife and stabbed the roommate, killing him.

There are many different ways that you or a loved one can avoid a criminal conviction in a felony case. One way that this can occur is if the trial court concludes that the defendant is not mentally competent to stand trial. If a trial goes forward against an incompetent person, that person may be entitled to a reversal of his conviction. All of these things require a detailed understanding of criminal law, so if you have a loved one facing this type of circumstance, reach out without delay to a knowledgeable Florida criminal defense attorney.

A news-making case from Orlando became a trial that touched upon this issue of competency to stand trial. Antoine was scheduled to go on trial for murder in 2015 after he allegedly killed his girlfriend in the condo they shared shortly before Christmas 2011. The man allegedly slit the victim’s throat and stabbed her repeatedly. He admitted the killing. Antoine, though, had schizophrenia and asserted that he heard voices in his head. Prior to the start of the trial, Antoine’s lawyer submitted to the court a document known as a “notice of incompetency.” When that happens, the law requires the court to stop the progress of the underlying case and hold a hearing to determine whether or not the defendant is legally competent to stand trial.

The trial court ordered a competency hearing to assess Antoine. Before the hearing, two court-appointed experts analyzed the defendant and determined that Antoine was not competent. A few months later, mental health providers determined that Antoine’s competency had been restored. Another hearing was scheduled, and, at the hearing, Antoine’s attorney reported to the judge and the prosecutor that the newest court-appointed expert had deemed the defendant to be competent. Without reviewing the expert’s report and without taking any evidence, the court declared that Antoine was competent and that the case should go forward.

There are certain rights guaranteed to every citizen. One of these is the right to legal counsel in your criminal matter. If you think that you or a loved one is suspected of a domestic violence crime, it just makes good sense to act without delay and retain the services of an experienced Florida domestic violence attorney. The police are very skilled at their jobs. Make sure that you have skill on your side by having counsel representing you.

Once you’ve retained counsel, you have a right to have that attorney present when being questioned by the police, in many situations. If the police fail to follow this rule, you may be entitled to get statements you’ve made to them excluded from evidence. An example of this was the case of a Manatee County man named Cornelius. On the afternoon and evening of June 6, Cornelius had been acting strangely while visiting his parents’ home. By 4 a.m. on June 7, the parents took Cornelius to the hospital, and he was committed under the Baker Act. The Baker Act is a state law that allows for involuntary confinement of an individual due to mental illness. This commitment can be initiated by a judge, a police officer, a doctor, or a mental health professional.

That meant Cornelius was in the hospital and was not free to leave. On the evening of June 7, Cornelius’ mom returned to the hospital. The staff there told her she couldn’t see her son. Cornelius’ girlfriend, she was told, had been found murdered in her home, and the police were coming to question Cornelius. Cornelius’ mother did what a wise mom in her shoes should do:  she immediately retained legal counsel for her son. Cornelius’ lawyer arrived at the hospital sometime later, but the staff didn’t let him talk to his client. He left a business card with the staff.

The case of a father convicted of child abuse in Pinellas County back in the 1990s is back in the news again. Multiple news sources, including CNN and the Tampa Bay Times, have revisited the father’s story after the Second District Court of Appeal recently ruled that the newly discovered evidence presented by the father’s legal team entitled him to a hearing. The evidence, according to the defense lawyers, showed that the child’s injuries were due to a bone disease and that the child was not a victim of abuse at all. The headline-making case shows just how important scientific evidence can be in certain criminal defense matters.

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Saint Petersburg, Florida

What started as a simple disagreement led to a bar fight for two local men on February 10.  A 39-year-old man and the 52-year-old victim got into an argument at Angelo’s Bar and Grill in downtown St. Pete. The two men went outside and the older man was punched.  He then fell backwards, hitting his head on the curb.  He became unconscious.  He was hospitalized at Bayfront and the suspect was arrested and charged with felony battery.

This all changed March 7 when the victim, who was in hospice died.  The coroner determined that the blow to the head was the cause of death.  While the victim’s family mourned, the suspect got an enormous shock.  His charges were upgraded to manslaughter.

Based on the victim’s death, the defendant is now charged with his unintentional killing.  Despite the defendant having no intent to kill the man, his punching the victim was an intentional act done with “culpable negligence” and is punishable by up to 15 years in prison in the state of Florida.

While this is an overall tragedy, it is also a powerful reminder- any argument can lead to a fight, any fight can lead to a death.  Teenagers fighting is ridiculous, grown men fighting is embarrassing.  Now because two men couldn’t settle their differences by walking away, one man is dead and another man is almost assured to go to prison.  These two men have left behind children and families…all because they couldn’t walk away. Continue reading

I like the movie version better…In San Francisco, three Sheriff’s office deputies are charged with running their own “Fight Club” at a jail.  They would allegedly force inmates to fight each other while law enforcement watched.

Former Officer Scott Neu and Officers Eugene Jones and Clifford Chiba are now facing various felony and misdemeanor criminal charges.  The San Francisco DA claims that the deputies forced the fight between two inmates with a weight difference of over 200 pounds on March 5 of last year.

The two inmates, R. Garcia and S. Harris were threatened with a transfer to a stricter jail unless they fought each other.  Deputies also threatened the men with beatings and mace unless they fought.  One of the inmates suffered a cracked rib and both men suffered bruises and cuts.

Scott Neu was the ringleader and also forced inmates into gambling in exchange for cleaner clothing and food.  The losers were punished by solitary confinement and extreme exercise bouts.

These crimes came to light when an inmate told his public defender about them.  An investigation revealed all of the odd details.

“We call this sort of a “Game of Thrones” gladiator fight…they were betting money on the winner” the DA said in a prepared statement.

Neu’s criminal defense attorney disagreed, saying that there was never any fight club.  Rather he claimed his client allowed two inmates to wrestle in order to settle a disagreement.

Scott Neu was charged with four counts of assault, four counts of making threats and multiple counts of inflicting cruel and unusual punishment.

Eugene Jones is charged with two counts of felony assault and Clifford Chiba was charged with one count of obstruction. Continue reading

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