Monday, August 20, 2007

Cuban Spies go to Atlanta

While most of Atlanta was focused on Michael Vick today, the 11th Circuit heard a spirited oral argument (the third argument in this case) in the Cuban Spy case. According to this AP account, there was a line out the door to see the argument:

Dozens of people lined up outside the Atlanta courthouse more than two hours before the arguments began to watch the latest chapter of the decade-long saga unfold.

Pictured is defense lawyer Brenda Bryn and Richard Klugh. To her left is AUSA Caroline Heck Miller. The picture is from the AP's Richard Miller. Here's the background on the case:

The "Cuban Five" have been lionized as heroes in Cuba, while exile groups say they were justly punished.
Castro's government sent Gerardo Hernandez, Ramon Labanino, Rene Gonzalez, Antonio Guerrero and Fernando Gonzalez to South Florida to gather information about anti-communist exile groups and send it back to the island using encrypted software, high-frequency radio transmissions and coded electronic phone messages.
The five were convicted of being unregistered foreign agents, and three were found guilty of espionage conspiracy for failed efforts to obtain military secrets. Hernandez was also convicted of murder conspiracy in the deaths of four Miami-based pilots whose small, private planes were shot down in February 1996 by a Cuban MiG in international waters off Cuba's northern coast.
They were sentenced to terms ranging from 10 years to life in December 2001, but the case has ping-ponged through the court system the last six years due to a round of appeals.
In August 2005, a three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta tossed the verdicts, saying the five didn't receive a fair trial because of anti-Castro bias in Miami. But the convictions were reinstated exactly a year later by the full 11th Circuit.
Monday's arguments before another three-judge panel of the court offered the five their latest shot at freedom.

Richard Klugh for the defense:
Defense attorney Richard Klugh focused his arguments on Guerrero, who was accused of sending detailed reports on the Naval Air Station at Key West. He said his client could have used public information _ not clandestine espionage _ to piece together the reports.
"An enterprising reporter could have obtained the same info that Antonio Guerrero obtained on that base," Klugh said. "He's doing a life sentence for something that could have been published in the Miami Herald."

And Brenda Bryn followed, saying that "prosecutors breached 12 different categories of misconduct that 'have never before been identified in one case.' She said the law demands the court reopen the case based on the "flagrancy" of the misconduct, noting that 28 of 34 objections lodged against prosecutors during closing arguments were sustained."
AUSA Caroline Heck Miller responded:

"Red baiting. Communism. Your Honor, that was not the record of this case," Miller said. "It was a soberly tried case."


Anonymous said...

28 of 34? What's the big deal. Gosh, you act like you have never seen a State Court PD at work. Jeez.

Rumpole said...

why is this back on direct appeal? Didn't the en banc decision settle it all?

David Oscar Markus said...

The first panel reversed only on the venue issue without deciding anything else. The en banc vacated that opinion. Now, the original panel is considering all those issues it didn't decide...

Rumpole said...

Those issues generally don't arise in disorderly conduct cases.