When Judges Become the Helping Hand of the Prosecutor
Again, bad judges who stray from their role as neutral arbiter and become the helping hand of the prosecutor are exposed in Ronnie Williams v. State, 4D12- 3723. Ronnie Williams was a Broward County resident, where law enforcement officers have a standing order from many store and market owners to issue trespass warnings to people loitering on the property. Williams was outside of a market, when a detective approached Williams to trespass him off of the market property. It stead of just trespassing Williams off of the property, the detective also stopped Williams and pat him down for “weapons.” During the “pat down” the detective testified that a container “fell” from William’s pocket and at that time, William’s took a swing at the detective and ran. During the chase, the Detective also testified that another container fell from William’s pocket as he ran away from the law enforcement officer.
The previous facts were vigorously confronted and cross examined during a hearing on a motion to suppress file by Williams. The predecessor judge, hearing the motion to suppress, agreed with William’s to suppress the “container” of drugs that fell to the ground during the pat down. The judge however allowed the “container” that allegedly fell to the ground during the foot chase of Williams to be introduced into evidence when the case proceeded to trial.
As many criminal cases sometimes take years to resolve, William’s case was no different. As Williams awaited trail for almost 4 years, he trial finally occurred but not before the original judge but before a successor judge. Judge Jeffery Levenson was the trial judge and had the duty to provide Mr. William’s with a fair and impartial trial, but that was not the case.
During the period of time the case awaited trial, the State “accidentally” mixed up the containers and further allowed the “lids” of the containers to pop off. Thus, the illegal drugs got “mixed” together. This is a particular problem in Florida, because Florida Law more severely punishes individuals based on the amount of drugs they or illegal substances they possess at the time they are arrested. Criminal sentencing laws in Florida are directly proportional when it comes to the increased weight of the illegal substance equally increasing incarceration. Here, the drugs that were suppressed by the original judge were combined with the illegal drugs that the original judge did not suppress causing an unfair amount of weight against the defendant.
The newly assigned Judge, Judge Levenson, blamed Mr. Williams for the problem of the State mixing up the drugs, and in fact “Reversed” the prior judge’s ruling on the motion to suppress and allowed all the illegal drugs to come into evidence at William’s trial. This is obviously an abuse of discretion because the judge is allowing the suppressed weight of the drugs to be commingled with the lawfully seized contraband.
Here is an excerpt from the fiery abusive Judge and the defense lawyer: DEFENSE: My client is saying none of it. In other words, he didn’t own any of this cocaine. . . . . THE COURT: Then he has no standing to object to either one if he doesn’t own it, if it’s not his. DEFENSE: But Judge Gold already suppressed the one that was supposedly in his pocket. THE COURT: [Directing a question to the state] Are you moving for the Court to reconsider at this time? STATE: Yes, your Honor. THE COURT: [Directing a question to defense counsel] What evidence do you have of standing to object to that cocaine? DEFENSE: The fact that it was suppressed and now it’s been commingled. THE COURT: I am vacating the [predecessor judge’s] order of suppression.
The facts of this case show how easily the trial judge can become the hand of the prosecutor. This prior colloquy demonstrates in the simplest form how easily, certain trial judges turn their hats from impartial cold neutral arbiters into the long hand of the prosecutor, by tipping the Assistant State Attorney off to what they should say and they should act. There is no shortage of cases from Florida courts that have considered the issue of the trial judge becoming the prosecutor’s helping hand, and this Broward County case exemplifies the ongoing threat to our Florida Judiciary.
The frightening trend of impartial judge is playing out more and more throughout South Florida courtrooms. The trend comes directly from the normal matriculation from Assistant State Attorney to Judge, which is having a direct impact on the fairness of the bench and rulings that are affecting everyday Floridians. Mr. William’s case shows what happens in our system of justice, when the impartiality goes unchecked by trial judges, as Mr. William was wrongly convicted according to the 4th District Court of Appeals, when they issued and order reversing and remanding the matter back to the trial court for a new trial due to judicial prejudice.
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