Dear LCDLA Members:
I recently heard from former LCDLA member/humorist David Bass, who left the Hub City about 15 years ago to become a roving Parrot-head/windmill-tilter. (David and wife Marge are pictured at the 1987 Bar Chili Cookoff in the attachment.) He is now in Tampa doing Godâ€™s work. After I updated David on LCDLAâ€™s recent success, and after having a look at our new website (lcdla.org – check it out!), he is joining as an honorary LCDLA member, dues paid and everything!
The following is the state of Davidâ€™s current world:
“After a long stretch trying cases in the Public Defender’s office here in Tampa (and taking a little time off to travel around) I am working in a state agency we have here called the Capital Collateral Regional Counsel – Middle District of Florida. After a capital murder trial and sentence of death an automatic appeal is taken directly to the Florida Supreme Court (bypassing our intermediate court of appeals). If the conviction and sentence are affirmed and the US Supreme Court denies cert, our office is then assigned for the post conviction work. This involves ineffective assistance of counsel claims, Brady/Giglio claims, and anything else that is not in the record. We hire our own doctors/crime scene experts/DNA testers/firearms expert and other experts to give the case a fresh look. We keep the case through the federal habeas track if the state courts give no relief. Our office has 15 lawyers, 13 investigators and support staff. Our cases come from convictions in the middle third of the counties in the state.
“In the last case I was assigned the murder happened in Feb 1999; the trial concluded September 2001; and the Florida Supreme Court opinion was dated December 2004. This is a pretty normal turnaround in these cases. (A normal felony case that happened in February of 1999 would have been in front of a jury by August 1999. There is a very strict Speedy Trial rule here.)
“Oldest case in the office? The murder happened in July 1976. It’s a case of actual innocence. We are still fighting it. It initially made it to the US Supreme Court and back and has had three sentencings. We are fighting the last affirmance. A hearing on it next week in Orlando, by the way.
“There is another CCRC office in Ft. Lauderdale that handles the southern part of Florida. It is similarly staffed. In the Northern District of Florida, post-conviction cases are handled by way of something called â€˜the registryâ€™. These are private lawyers who meet certain minimum criteria to handle capital cases and get paid a flat fee of (I think) $20,000 per case. It is billed on an hourly basis, so once the $20,000 is reached, some feel that the private lawyer stops working diligently. Lots of local politics involved.
“You probably know about this website – www.deathpenaltyinfo.org – it is a wealth of background, statistics and current events on the subject.
“If you are really into it, you can watch Florida Supreme Court oral arguments on the web at www.floridasupremecourt.org. Just follow the prompts. Upcoming highlights – on December 2 a lawyer in our office will argue an innocence claim in a DNA case. Barry Scheck was brought in by our office and will argue as well. Check it out. (If you miss it on the 2nd you can see it in the archives later.)
“Please give my regards to the membership. Let me know if I can be of any assistance if anyone finds themselves in the Sunshine State on law business . . . or monkey business.” â€“ David Bass
Chuck Lanehart, LCDLA Liaison