Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Playboy pinup in federal court this week

Enough with hung juries and murder trials.

There was a Playboy model testifying in federal court this week.

María del Luján Telpuk descended on Miami beneath a cascade of camera lights and questions.
Journalists from three countries pounced on the 27-year-old bombshell as she arrived from South America on Sunday morning. Looking dainty and fresh after her eight hour flight, she posed for photographers, gave a pair of live telephone interviews, and said little about her role in a legal case that could shame two presidents.
Telpuk is known as the ''suitcase girl'' in her native Argentina. She is in Miami to testify in federal court about the alleged coverup of an international scandal that involves the United States, Argentina, Venezuela, and a suitcase full of $800,000 in unexplained cash.
The case has transformed the one-time nursery school teacher into a Playboy pinup, and, evidenced by her loving embrace of the cameras at Miami International Airport, she is clearly savoring her 15 minutes of fame.
''The truth is I still don't totally understand'' the turn her life has taken, Telpuk told The Miami Herald as she walked to the car waiting to whisk her away to an undisclosed hotel. ``It's been very shocking for me, though it's brought many new and good things.''

Joe Cool jury hangs on first degree murder counts

That's a victory for the defense.

The jury did convict on 4 gun counts. The prosecution will be happy with some convictions after it looked like the jury would hang on everything yesterday, especially since the potential sentences on those counts are life.

Food for thought -- should Judge Huck order a new trial on all counts because the jury may have been confused on the gun counts based on its previous note and because it appears that the jurors compromised after the Allen charge? If the case has to be retried anyway, why not try the whole thing? What are your thoughts?

Chuckie Taylor case opens

The DOJ lawyer, Chris Graveline, spoke about the "Demon Forces", a unit that tortured people, including cutting a man's penis with a knife and dumping him in a pit.

Assistant Federal Defender John Wylie said if the case were a newspaper headline, it would read "Desperate and disgruntled Africans accuse American to escape wartorn Liberia".

Should be a very interesting trial. I will post media coverage shortly.

Monday, September 29, 2008

RIP Joe Eaton

I never really knew Joe Eaton, but everyone always says such nice things about him... Sadly, we've lost another one of the old guard. If you have a good story about Judge Eaton, please post them in the comments.

From the Palm Beach Post:

The U.S. district judge who ruled to integrate Palm Beach County's public schools died on Sunday, leaving behind a sea of accomplishments that focused on serving others.
Joe Eaton saw everyone as equal, no matter the color of one's skin, because that's what he learned growing up on a watermelon seed farm in northern Florida. Those teachings stuck with him for the rest of his life, said Janet Eaton Sherr, the youngest of Mr. Eaton's three children.

"We were taught as children the importance of equality in life," said Sherr, of Boca Raton, who is also a member of the Boca Raton Airport Authority.
After Mr. Eaton's ruling to integrate schools in 1973, a man tried to kill him, Sherr said, by trying to strangle him in his truck. Mr. Eaton, who at the time was about 6-foot-2 and 260 pounds, managed to take control and call police. But even then, he didn't regret his decision of bringing equality to all students.
Mr. Eaton accomplished so much in his 88 years, it's difficult for his daughter to even know where to start. "He's just done so many things," Sherr, 58, said.
In 1967, he was appointed by President Lyndon B. Johnson to take the U.S. District Court seat in the Southern District of Florida. He was a state senator, an assistant state attorney and a captain and a pilot in the U.S. Army Air Corps. He eloped with his then-17-year-old bride, Patricia Eaton, before joining the military, where he earned honors including the Purple Heart, Sherr said.
Patricia and Joe Eaton were married 66 years. He died in his sleep in their home at the East Ridge Retirement Village near Miami.
He spent his free time fishing and boating on the Peace River in Arcadia, Fla., where he owned a second home. At the East Ridge Retirement Village outside of Miami, where he and Patricia lived, he sang in the chorus and was chairman of the town council.
He had six grandchildren, five great-grandchildren and At the age of 81, Mr. Eaton wrote his first and only book about his time in the war and named it Tiger Stripe.
"I could tell my dad everything," Sherr said through tears. "I lost a best friend along with a dad."
A funeral will be held at 2 p.m. on Friday at the First United Methodist Church of South Miami. The family will receive guests at 6:30 p.m. Friday at 9881 SW 103rd St., Miami.


The Joe Cool jury says it can't reach a verdict: "As a jury we feel stuck in the sand and no hope or expectation that we will be able to move to consensus one way or the other."

Judge Huck read them the Allen charge:

I'm going to ask that you continue your deliberations in an effort
to reach agreement upon a verdict and dispose of this case; and I have
a few additional comments I would like for you to consider as you do so.
This is an important case. The trial has been expensive in time,
effort, money and emotional strain to both the defense and the
prosecution. If you should fail to agree upon a verdict, the case will be
left open and may have to be tried again. Obviously, another trial would
only serve to increase the cost to both sides, and there is no reason to
believe that the case can be tried again by either side any better or
more exhaustively than it has been tried before you.
Any future jury must be selected in the same manner and from the
same source as you were chosen, and there is no reason to believe that
the case could ever be submitted to twelve men and women more
conscientious, more impartial, or more competent to decide it, or that
more or clearer evidence could be produced.
If a substantial majority of your number are in favor of a
conviction, those of you who disagree should reconsider whether your
doubt is a reasonable one since it appears to make no effective
impression upon the minds of the others. On the other hand, if a
majority or even a lesser number of you are in favor of an acquittal, the
rest of you should ask yourselves again, and most thoughtfully, whether
you should accept the weight and sufficiency of evidence which fails to
convince your fellow jurors beyond a reasonable doubt.
Remember at all times that no juror is expected to give up an
honest belief he or she may have as to the weight or effect of the
evidence; but, after full deliberation and consideration of the evidence
in the case, it is your duty to agree upon a verdict if you can do so.
You must also remember that if the evidence in the case fails to
establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt the Defendant should have
your unanimous verdict of Not Guilty.
You may be as leisurely in your deliberations as the occasion may
require and should take all the time which you may feel is necessary.
I will ask now that you retire once again and continue your
deliberations with these additional comments in mind to be applied, of
course, in conjunction with all of the other instructions I have previously
given to you.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Joe Cool jury still out

They are coming back Monday (one of the jurors can't deliberate tomorrow, so they are taking the day off).

Apparently, people can hear shouting from the jury room....

Vanessa Blum reports on this juror question, which the defense should be happy about:

Would a South Florida man automatically be guilty of a crime for bringing his gun on board the Joe Cool charter vessel, even if he didn't know a crime was going to take place? (emphasis added)

That's what a federal jury panel in the murder-at-sea case asked the trial judge Thursday after two full days of deliberations.U.S. District Judge Paul Huck did not answer the question directly, instead referring jurors to his previous instructions on the law. The jury is still deliberating.At roughly 5:30 p.m., Huck sent home the seven men and five women with instructions to return Monday for continued deliberations. The jury was given Friday off so one juror could attend a funeral.

Interesting. Any thoughts?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

News & Notes

1. The Joe Cool jury is still out. It's been two sleepless nights for the lawyers.

2. The Chuckie Taylor trial is underway before Judge Altonaga. (More via the Miami Herald here).

3. I closed today... We ended sooner than expected. So regular blogging to resume soon. (Here's a short article about the case).


And as everyone knows, the First Monday in October signifies that rich American tradition: Start of the Yankees-Red Sox baseball playoffs. Woops. Not this year. It also signifies the start of the new term for the Supreme Court (Motto: "Just callin balls and strikes.Hahahahaha")

Anyway, the wonderfully informative SCOTUS blog has the pending petitions for cert in their "Petitions to Watch"  part of their blog. Here are some, and we are not making any of these up:

"Whether a prison librarian can face personal liability for preventing a prisoner from using a "comb-binding machine" to file a petition for cert at the supreme court." Huh? A petition for cert about a petition for cert? What's a comb-binding machine? 

There's a case named "Kickapoo."  Seriously. What if it becomes settled law? Can you imagine walking down the hallways of federal court. You bump into a friend. 
"Hey where are you going?"
"Aww I have a Kickapoo hearing before Judge Huck at 11." 

Here's one that just seems all wrong:
Lucero v. Texas Issue: Whether, under the Sixth Amendment, a jury foreman may read Bible passages during deliberations to persuade holdout jurors to impose the death penalty.

Wouldn't you assume the bible reader would be arguing for life, not death?  Wait.  It was a Texas juror. Never mind. 

Here's a scary one:
Lee v. Louisiana Issue: Whether the Sixth Amendment, as applied to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment, allows criminal convictions based on non-unanimous jury verdicts.

And this one shows how times have changed:
Case name: Lowery, et al. v. Euverard, et al. Issue: Whether, under the First Amendment, a high school football coach may dismiss players for circulating a petition calling for his termination.

Rumpole notes that in our day, doing that would have resulted in you running the stadium steps and then scrubbing the showers. Now everyone has lawyers. 

There are some important pending petitions for Cert that effect all of us, including search and seizure issues, sentencing issues post Booker, and evidentiary issues. The SCOTUS BLOG does a great job and any federal practitioner should scan it once a week or so, especially while court is in session. 

Monday, September 22, 2008

Joe Cool defendant testifies

From Vanessa Blum's article:

Zarabozo, in short, matter-of-fact responses to lawyers' questions, said he was on the Joe Cool because Archer told him they would be working a security job in Bimini.Zarabozo said he was in the bathroom when he heard gun shots and emerged to see Archer standing near the lifeless body of Samuel Kairy, the boat's first mate.The corpses of Capt. Jake Branam, his wife Kelley, and Branam's half-brother Scott Gamble were outside on the deck, Zarabozo said.He said Archer ordered him to help dump the bodies overboard and clean the boat."He was pointing my gun at me," Zarabozo said.In her cross examination, prosecutor Karen Gilbert pressed Zarabozo for more details and suggested aspects of his testimony differed from earlier accounts."Sir, it's not hard to remember if it really happened," Gilbert said."All I've done for the past year is try to erase that day from my mind," Zarabozo replied.Zarabozo showed little emotion and seldom glanced at the jury during more than three hours on the witness stand.At one point, his lawyer, Anthony Natale, instructed him to look directly at the jury and answer: "Did you shoot anyone on that boat?""No," Zarabozo said.

The jury will have the case tomorrow....

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Federal Bar Association dinner

My dear readers:

You are cordially invited to attend the annual

Federal Bar Association Dinner and Installation of Officers

Friday October 17, 2008

Reception 7:00pm
Dinner 8:00pm

The Biltmore Hotel
Alhambra Ballroom
1200 Anastasia Avenue
Coral Gables, Florida

$90 per person/open bar

RSVP Lourdes Fernandez at Lourdes_Fernandez@flsd.uscourts.gov or 305-523-5770

Celeste Higgins is your incoming president. I'm outgoing.

Thursday, September 18, 2008


While David battles the forces of evil in West Palm Beach (not to mention I-95 traffic)  I have agreed to post some thought provoking articles. It's either my drivel or staring at David's post announcing the start of the Joe Cool trial for the next few weeks. 

I realize this is the Federal Blog, and there is a certain level of decorum that is expected. (Click here for my idea of decorum). So I won't be duplicating my state court blog posts and ponder cross dressing judges or lawyers and clerks being caught under the bench canoodling. Just log on to the Broward Blog if you need more of that. 

This NY Times Article on the  diminishing impact of US Supreme Court decisions in foreign jurisdictions caught our eye. After years of Supreme Court Judges bashing Justice Kennedy and his citations to foreign decisions, the courts of other nations have decided to reciprocate. 

From the article:

"One of our great exports used to be constitutional law," said Anne-Marie Slaughter, the dean of the Woodrow Wilson  School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton. "We are losing one of the greatest bully pulpits we have ever had."

From 1990 through 2002, for instance, the Canadian Supreme Court cited decisions of the United States Supreme Court about a dozen times a year, an analysis by The New York Times found. In the six years since, the annual citation rate has fallen by half, to about six.

Australian state supreme courts cited American decisions 208 times in 1995, according to a recent study by Russell Smyth, an Australian economist. By 2005, the number had fallen to 72.

Rumpole asks: does it matter? Do we want to be recognized and admired for our legal system, or do we just not give a damn about what the rest of the world thinks about us?

Personally, we think this just highlights a trend of diminishing American prestige and influence among the rest of the world. 

When the Supreme Court issues decisions like it did in  Bowles v. Russell, 551 U.S. ____2007, closing the courthouse doors to a prisoner, who following a federal judge's instructions filed a notice of appeal on the 17th day after a decision, when the law only gave him 14 days, there is nothing much for us to be proud of. The decision in Bowles prompted this outburst from Justice Souter:"it is intolerable for the judicial system to treat people this way." He added, "There is not even a technical justification for condoning this bait and switch."

Based on how our system treats its own citizens, we think it's not surprising that the rest of the world relies less and less on what our judges write. Now how we treat our insurance companies and brokerage houses that go belly up- that's an entirely different story. 

Go get em David. 

See You In Court. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

News & Notes

Why appointments are better than elections. (via Sun-Sentinel)

Joe Cool case continues; apparently "four days before Guillermo Zarabozo and his accomplice chartered the Joe Cool fishing vessel for a trip that led to his arrest for murder, he received a letter from Miami-Dade police accepting him as an applicant." (via Miami Herald).

Anyone want to guest blog for a couple weeks?

Monday, September 15, 2008

Openings in the Joe Cool case

The jury was picked in a morning and both sides already have given opening statements. If this was state court, it may have taken a week to pick a jury in a murder case. Not in federal court....

Here's Vanessa Blum and Curt Anderson on openings and Luisa Yanez on jury selection.

Jeffrey Tsai opened for the government.
Tony Natale for defendant Guillermo Zarabozo.

Co-defendant Kirby Archer, who pleaded guilty to life in prison, is not expected to testify for the government. The defense has painted Archer as the criminal and stated in openings that Zarabozo was also a victim.

Friday, September 12, 2008

You know it's going to be a long trial...

.. when the government is still doing direct of its first witness at the end of the first week.

--David Oscar Markus

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Jack Abramoff's sentence reduced by Judge Huck

Here's the AP's Curt Anderson:

A federal judge agreed Wednesday to shave two years from former Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff's prison sentence for a fraudulent Florida casino boat deal because of his extensive cooperation in that case and a wide-ranging political corruption probe that upended Washington politics.
The decision by U.S. District Judge Paul Huck guarantees that Abramoff, 49, will serve no more than an additional four years in prison — the sentence imposed by a Washington, D.C., judge last week in the separate corruption case.
Abramoff's attorneys had sought to have the Florida sentence reduced from nearly six years to about two. Huck called that request "greedy" and said it would not reflect the gravity of the fraud involved in the 2000 purchase of SunCruz Casinos by Abramoff and a partner.
"We've got two distinct sets of crimes. They are very serious," Huck said. "It could be that he would walk out of jail very soon. I'm not going to do that."
Huck accepted a Justice Department recommendation to reduce Abramoff's 70-month prison term to 45 months. He has already served nearly two years, leaving him with nearly two more to serve.

Any thoughts on whether the reduction was appropriate? Were defense lawyers being "greedy"? Did the prosecution ask for enough time off or too much time off?

Tuesday, September 09, 2008


Bill Barzee just hung his second jury in a row, this time in the Iranian Night Vision Goggle case. Here's Vanessa Blum's Sun-Sentinel article.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Major Eleventh Circuit ruling on reach of crack retroactivity

I am in a meeting right now, but I thought I would pass along the 11th circuit's big decision on the crack guidelines. Below is the link to Doug Berman's blog on the subject. More to come later.


--David Oscar Markus

Wednesday, September 03, 2008


I was supposed to start a month-long trial this week in West Palm Beach, but it got postponed till next Monday. Here are some stories about other trials that started this week:

1. Participant or just translator? Shahrazad Gholikhan started trial in front of Judge Cohn. She is charged with attempting to export night vision goggles to Iran. This was the case that originally pled out to credit time served, but the government moved to vacate the sentence saying it had made a mistake in the guidelines. Judge Cohn then resentenced her to 29 months. Then the defense moved to vacate the plea, saying that everyone had thought it was a CTS case. Judge Cohn agreed and here we are in trial. Vanessa Blum covers it here:

The strange legal odyssey that led an Iranian woman to surrender last year to face charges she tried to supply Iran with U.S.-made night vision goggles took another turn Tuesday with opening statements to jurors in Fort Lauderdale federal court.A prosecutor told jurors that Shahrazad Mir Gholikhan, 30, conspired with her former husband to illegally purchase thousands of military-grade night vision goggles and traveled to Vienna in 2004 to obtain a sample pair.Gholikhan's attorney countered that she went to Vienna without knowing her ex-husband's plan and served only as his translator.

2. The Venezuelan cash smuggling case started up before Judge Lenard. Here's Curt Anderson's take:

A wealthy Venezuelan businessman went on trial Tuesday on U.S. charges that he illegally acted as his government's agent in an elaborate scheme to conceal the source of $800,000 in political cash carried in a suitcase into Argentina.
Prosecutors say Franklin Duran, 40, was doing the bidding of Venezuela's intelligence service when he and others used promises of $2 million in cash and veiled threats of violence to make the cover-up work. The FBI taped dozens of conversations between Duran and his alleged cohorts on the telephone and in South Florida restaurants and coffee shops.
Jury selection began Tuesday before U.S. District Judge Joan Lenard, with the trial expected to take up to six weeks. Duran, who has pleaded not guilty, faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted of conspiracy and failing to register with the U.S. as a Venezuelan agent.
The purported cover-up involved a cash-stuffed suitcase brought into Argentina aboard a Venezuelan aircraft in August 2007 that prosecutors say was intended as a contribution for new Argentine President Cristina Fernandez. Both she and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez have denounced the trial as politically motivated, but U.S. officials deny that.
Still, the case has further strained the already sour relationship between the U.S. and Venezuela. Duran's lawyer, Ed Shohat, has repeatedly insisted the trial is intended mainly to embarrass Chavez and his allies in Latin America and that Duran wasn't even aware of the registration law he is accused of violating.
"Our view is that this case is a political attack," Shohat said.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

More polygraphs

John Pacenti covers the recent use of polygraph testing here. The intro:

For Leonard Bierman, the sentencing hearing for Fred Massaro illustrated polygraphs can be a valuable — and reliable — tool in court. Massaro of Sunny Isles Beach faced sentencing in a mob case for racketeering and the murder of a woman found bound in a truck on the outskirts of the Everglades. He passed a lie detector test when asked if he killed exotic dancer Jeannette Anne Smith, whose body was found in a stereo box beneath a boat ramp. But U.S. District Court Judge Paul C. Huck dismissed the finding and sentenced Massaro to life in prison in 2002. “That’s when co-defendant Ariel Hernandez stood up in court and said, ‘Your honor, I did the woman,’ ” Bierman said. Massaro died in prison before his appeal could be heard but, for Bierman, it showed the lie detector worked. He said his findings as the examiner were consistent with the “ground truth.’’

Full disclosure -- I just used Lenny Bierman as a witness in federal court.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Gustav, Hanna & Ike

Shouldn't we be able to stop these things? Apparently they stopped trying in the 60s, but now they are trying again.

Labor Day

If you are working (like I am), then the good news is that Starbucks is open. Bad news -- the parking ticket guys are out in force.