top of page
Search

THE IMPORTANCE OF CRIMINAL TRIAL LAW EXPERIENCE IN APPELLATE AND POSTCONVICTION PROCEEDINGS

In the postconviction field, it is essential to understand what a trial lawyer should and should not be doing. For example, should a lawyer take depositions in every case? The layman may so believe—we have heard this claim innumerable times. In reality, however, one of the most famous criminal defense attorneys ever, F. Lee Bailey, never took depositions. Ever. Likewise, as roughly 98% of cases result in pleas, there is seldom a basis for taking depositions that will contribute nothing to the plea process. In clear-cut cases, depositions—which are extremely expensive—produce little to no information in a case that will ultimately result in a plea agreement anyway.


Another example is objection. In many instances, an objection to an improper statement (or question, etc.) may serve no purpose other than highlighting the statement for the jury. Where defense counsel is certain that the objection will be overruled, calling attention to the statement serves only to tell the jury that the statement is unfavorable to the defendant, rather than forcing them to reach that conclusion on their own. Thus, in an ineffective claim, the court would ultimately deny the claim based on reasonable trial strategy.


We offer these as only two examples, but there are so many instances where trial procedure is invaluable to the postconviction litigant. Similarly, knowledge of the evidence code—especially as applied in criminal cases—is critical to successful criminal trial litigation, and as such, even more critical to postconviction.


With over twenty years of trial experience—indeed, over 130 trials—our office has the requisite wisdom, skill, and understanding to effectively litigate any postconviction claim. Below are some examples of our successful application of trial law:


State of Florida v. Dennis Moore


Fla. 4th Cir. No. 01-3016-CFA


Division D (Repeat Offender Court)


Judge: The Honorable Lance M. Day


The State of Florida brought Mr. Moore to trial on one count of Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon. The allegations were that Mr. Moore shot another person in the stomach and immediately fled the scene. Two nearby officers, having heard the shot and observing Mr. Moore running away, chased after Mr. Moore. The pursuing officer testified at trial that once Mr. Moore turned a corner, the officer heard what sounded like of metal sliding across pavement. Mr. Moore was found hiding under a vehicle and the gun was found on the pavement about 20 feet away.


Mr. Moore was immediately taken back to the scene of the person who was shot. That person told the police that officers—and testified at the trial—that Mr. Moore was the person who shot him. A ballistics expert testified at the trial that the bullet retrieved from the scene came from the gun found just 20 feet from where Mr. Moore was apprehended.


The Law Office of W. Charles Fletcher defended Mr. Moore at the trial.


The jury returned a verdict of not guilty.


State of Florida v. Ellis Crum


Fla. 4th Cir. No. 03-0003086


Judge: The Honorable John Skinner


The State of Florida brought Mr. Crum to trial on one count of Strong Armed Robbery. The allegations at trial were that Mr. Crum and two of his associates pulled up behind an elderly woman who was unloading a grocery cart into the trunk of her car. Mr. Crum allegedly approached the woman and pushed her into the trunk of her car, then ran off with her purse. The police eventually caught up to Mr. Crum’s car, in which had the victim’s purse was found. Mr. Crum was arrested and taken back to the Publix parking lot, where he was positively identified as the robber by the victim and four bystanders who had witnessed the incident.


The Law Office of W. Charles Fletcher defended Mr. Crum at trial. He took the stand in his own defense and testified that he did, in fact, steal the victim’s purse, but that he never touched or shoved the victim. Although the victim had never been arrested, and the defendant had two prior felony convictions, Mr. Fletcher persuaded the jury to believe his client over the victim, and to convict Mr. Crum ONLY of a petit theft—which Mr. Crum admitted while testifying.


The jury found Mr. Crum not guilty on all other counts.


State of Florida v. Donald Thomas


Fla. 4th Cir. No. 02-27097-MM-A


Judge: The Honorable James Ruth


The State of Florid a brought Mr. Thomas to trial on one count of Battery. The allegations at trial were that Mr. Thomas punched and knocked out his boss after his boss fired him. Mr. Thomas’s boss had a black eye, a bloody/severed lip, and a gash in his tongue from the force of a punch to his chin. The State of Florida refused to make any offers to Mr. Thomas prior to the trial.


The Law Office of W. Charles Fletcher defended Mr. Thomas at trial. The defendant took the stand and testified that after his boss fired him, he packed up his belongings and proceeded to the door. However, when he refused to return the keys to a company car, his boss stood in the doorway and would not let him leave. Mr. Fletcher argued successfully that the defendant’s boss had falsely imprisoned Mr. Thomas, who then had a right to use force to get his boss out of the way. Mr. Thomas did just that.


The jury found Mr. Thomas not guilty.


State of Florida v. Edjarador Cromer


Fla. 4th Cir. No. 03-4064-CF-A


Judge: The Honorable Michael Weatherby


The State of Florida brought Mr. Cromer to trial on one count of Sale or Delivery of Crack Cocaine. The Law Office of W. Charles Fletcher defended Mr. Cromer at trial.


At the trial, a narcotics officer testified that while working in an undercover capacity, he approached a woman in the parking lot of a convenience store and asked her if she could help him get some crack cocaine. The woman agreed and the officer gave her a marked twenty dollar bill.


The officer, who was wired with a recording device, watched as the woman approached a man who was allegedly Mr. Cromer. The woman came back to the officer and gave the officer some crack cocaine, which she said she obtained from Mr. Cromer. Mr. Cromer was detained and se arched about five minutes later. The detaining officer testified at the trial that he found the marked money in Mr. Cramer’s pocket.


Although both the woman and the detective testified at the trial—and despite the fact that the officer played an audio recording of the entire transaction—the jury found Mr. Cromer not guilty.


State of Florida v. Daniel Taylor


Fla. 4th Cir. No. 01-316 9 7-MMA


Judge: The Honorable Roberto Arias


The State of Florida brought Mr. Taylor to trial on one count of Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol. The arresting officer testified at trial that, among other things, (1) Mr. Taylor had a moderate odor of alcohol on his breath; (2) Mr. Taylor was unsteady on his feet; (3) Mr. Taylor had a flushed face, watery blood shot eyes and slurred speech; and (4) Mr. Taylor swayed and lost his balance during the field sobriety exercises. Mr. Taylor also refused to submit to a breath test, prompting the State to argue that his refusal was evidence of his consciousness of guilt.


The jury, however, sided with the theory of defense presented by our office, and returned a verdict of not guilty.


State of Florida v. Cedric Cutter


Fla. 4th Cir. No. 01-31697-MMA


Judge: The Honorable David Gooding


Cedric Cutter was indicted for two counts of First Degree Murder and the State filed a Notice of Intent to Seek the Death Penalty. The Law Office of W. Charles Fletcher represented Mr. Cutter.


Almost two years into the case, we took the deposition of the State’s primary witness. This witness said that the gunman, whom he identified as Cedric Cutter, was at least six feet tall. Cedric Cutter, however, was barely 5’8”.


After Mr. Cutter patiently waited in jail for almost two years, we were able to convince the State that they had the wrong guy, and that we would prevail at trial with the defense of mistaken identification.


In response, the State dropped all charges, and an innocent man returned home to his family.


State of Florida v. Steven Heggs


Fla. 4th Cir. No. 99-6635-CFA


Judge: The Honorable Lance Day


The State of Florida brought Mr. Heggs to trial on one count of Possess ion of a Firearm by a


Convicted Felon. The allegations were that, during a search of the trunk of Mr. Heggs’ car, the arresting officer found a fully loaded 9 mm Uzi. The arresting officer testified at trial that Mr. Heggs confessed to owning the Uzi and that he had purchased it on the streets of Jacksonville.


The Law Office of W. Charles Fletcher defended Mr. Heggs.


Despite the evidence presented at trial—including Mr. Heggs’ confession—the jury returned a verdict of not guilty.


State of Florida v. Michael Holloway


Fla. 4th Cir. No. 01-8566-CF A


Judge: The Honorable Peter Dearing


The State of Florida brought Mr. Holloway to trial on one count of Burglary to a Dwelling. The allegations were that, in response to a silent burglar alarm, a police officer was dispatched to an address on the Westside. As the officer got out of his patrol vehicle he observed two black males walking out of the apartment to which he was dispatched. The officer stopped the men and asked the what they were doing.


Both ran.


The officer carefully noted that Mr. Holloway was carrying a small black camera bag. Both men were caught in the apartment complex within a few minutes. The Law Office of W. Charles Fletcher defended Mr. Holloway at trial.


Mr. Holloway took the stand in his own defense, testifying that he had taken his friend to one of his friend’s apartments and was waiting outside. When his friend did not return, Mr. Holloway walked up to the apartment and stepped in for just enough time to realize that the apartment’s door had been kicked off its hinges. He called for his friend and his friend walked out of a bedroom and tossed him the black camera bag. During closing arguments, Mr. Fletcher argued that the only crime that Mr. Holloway committed was a trespass.


The jury found Mr. Holloway not guilty of Burglary to a Dwelling, and guilty only of the lesser included offense of trespass, as asserted by the defense.


State of Florida v. Corey Bright


Fla. 4th Cir. No. 2012-CF-O11582


Judge: The Honorable Brad Stetson


Corey Bright was indicted for First Degree Murder after being identified by multiple witnesses as one of four gunmen involved in a shooting that left a Jacksonville man dead. The State sought the death penalty.


When Mr. Bright was arrested, he confessed to being involved in the shooting and to discharging a firearm. One of his co-defendants testified at trial that he witnessed Corey Bright raise his gun and fire a shot at the victim as the victim was running away.


The State called fourteen witnesses in all. The defense called none.


During the trial, Mr. Fletcher argued that the court give the jury the “Independent Act” jury instruction. During closing arguments to the jury, Mr. Fletcher argued that the death of the victim was a result of the “independent act” of one of the other gunmen because the State could not definitively establish that Mr. Bright’ s fired bullet caused the death of the victim. We also argued that the jury should disregard the state’s “principal theory” and only convict Mr. Bright of a lesser included offense.


The jury agreed, and found Mr. Bright not guilty of First Degree Murder, and instead, only guilty of Aggravated Assault.


State of Florida v. David Green


Fla. 4th Cir. No. 16-2004-CF-7726


Judge: The Honorable Peter Fryefield


A grand jury issued an indictment against David Green, charging him with one count of First Degree Murder and one count of Attempted First Degree Murder. At the trial, the state called witnesses to testify that David Green was involved in an ongoing dispute with the victim about money that was owed for a car. The State also called several witnesses to say that a young black male matching the description of David Green walked into the Family Dollar Store on Edgewood Avenue and stood behind the two victims for a couple of seconds, and that he then pulled out a handgun and shot both of them at point blank range.


Testimony revealed that just before one of the victim’s died, the victim whispered to one of the store clerks that “David did it.” The other victim, who had been shot in the face, lived and testified at the trial that he knew David Green and that it was David Green that came into the store and s hot him in the face and killed his friend.


The State also called one of Mr. Green’s cellmates to the stand to testify that Mr. Green had told him all about the case and confessed to doing the shooting.


Despite all this evidence, our office obtained a verdict of not guilty of both First Degree Murder and Attempted First Degree Murder.


State of Florida v. Glendon Beene


Fla. 4th Cir. No. 02-11672-C FA


Judge: The Honorable Michael Weatherby


The State of Florida brought Mr. Beene to trial for Attempted Second Degree Murder. The allegations against Mr. Beene were that during an argument with his girlfriend, he poured a bottle of rubbing alcohol on her and then set her on fire. The Law Office of W. Charles Fletcher defended Mr. Beene at the trial after more than a year of preparation.


At the trial, the victim testified that Mr. Beene had poured the rubbing alcohol on her back, and when she turned around to confront him, he lit her on fire. Paramedics testified that when they arrived at the scene, the victim’s skin was falling off the upper half of her body. The defendant took the stand in his own defense and testified that after an argument with the victim, she went into the bedroom and attempted to commit suicide by lighting herself on fire.


The jury agreed and found Mr. Beene not guilty of all charges.


Conclusion


From this knowledge has developed a perspective in postconviction proceedings that could not exist absent years of trial practice. Together with unmatched writing abilities, our office offers a combination of experience, skill, and wisdom that breathes the calm confidence to our postconviction clients that comes from knowing that he or she is in good hands.

Recent Posts

See All

Sentence Manipulation by Prosecutors

Do you know about the 5/6 “Dipsy-Do” technique? This is a tactic used by prosecutors that is intended to ensure increase sentencing exposure for defendants charged with one level 6 offense and one lev

LEGAL WRITING AND POSTCONVICTION

The vast majority of postconviction pleadings are completed by pro se--that is, self-represented--litigants. Below is a discussion that we hope will assist the pro se litigant. Feel free to print this

Comments


bottom of page