The Sixth Amendment guarantees defendants the right to effective assistance of counsel during all "critical stages" of a criminal proceeding. In the context of plea negotiations, this means that criminal defense attorneys must convey plea offers to their client in a timely fashion and give adequate advice about the consequences of accepting or rejecting the offer. The United States Supreme Court previously held, in a case called Padilla v. Kentucky, that this duty extends to advice about the immigration consequences of entering a plea. In an opinion rendered last week, Lee v. United States, the Supreme Court held that bad advice about immigration consequences can support post-conviction relief, even in situations where the defendant did not have any reasonable hope of winning at trial.
Approximately 96% of all vehicles manufactured since 2013 are equipped with devices called event data recorders-or "black boxes"-that keep track of data such as when the driver brakes, steering, engine rpm during a crash. More sophisticated black boxes record a wealth of information about a person's driving habits ranging from where they go, how fast they drive, and even whether the vehicles systems are in working order. In the hands of law enforcement officers or prosecutors, such data can become powerful evidence in a criminal case.
In Florida, it is a crime for anyone infected with the human immunodeficiency virus to have sexual intercourse with another person unless they first disclose the infection and obtain that person's consent. HIV can spread through a range of sexual activities. Until recently, however, some Florida courts used a very limited definition of "sexual intercourse" that only applied to heterosexual encounters that involve contact between male and female sexual organs. A recent decision by the Florida Supreme Court-Debaun v. State-clarified the definition so that it now applies to all types of sexual encounters.
In an opinion rendered this week-Pena-Rodriguez v. Colorado-the Supreme Court carved out an important exception to a longstanding rule prohibiting jurors from being questioned about conduct during deliberations after a verdict has been rendered. The case involved a Colorado man who was convicted for sexually assaulting two teenage girls. The jury returned a verdict against him. After the trial, two jurors approached Mr. Pena-Rodriguez's criminal defense attorney and expressed concerns about another juror's racial comments during deliberations. Specifically, the juror went into a lengthy tirade about Mr. Pena-Rodriguez's Hispanic heritage, noting that he "believed the defendant was guilty because, in [the juror's] experience as an ex-law enforcement officer, Mexican men had a bravado that caused them to believe they could do whatever they wanted with women."
A recent case argued before the United States Supreme Court, Packingham v. North Carolina, may shake up how the government can regulate the internet activity. The petition involves a First Amendment challenge to a North Carolina law that imposes criminal penalties to registered sex offenders who visit "social media sites," such as Facebook or Youtube, where users can communicate or exchange information with minors. The case arises from a sex-offender who was prosecuted for posting the phrase "God is Good!" on Facebook to celebrate the dismissal of a traffic ticket.
In March of this year Florida Legislators made a change in the death penalty laws, requiring only a 10-2 vote by jurors to impose the death penalty. In an article published by the Daily Record, Bill Sheppard is quoted as being "dumbfounded" by the change. Sheppard has defended many clients in death penalty cases over the course of his career as a prominent criminal defense attorney, including Gary Alvord.
We have received several inquiries about the status of the lawsuit we brought with prominent local civil rights attorney Sam Jacobson, Scott v. Hogan, over the disenfranchisement of almost 440,000 registered non-republican voters in the local state attorney race. As of the this posting, the lawsuit remains pending in the Florida Supreme Court, which has not yet decided whether it will exercise its discretionary jurisdiction to hear the case. For those unfamiliar with the lawsuit, our firm, along with Bledsoe, Jacobson, Schmidt, Wright, & Sussman P.A., filed a lawsuit to enforce the Universal Primary Amendment in the local State Attorney race. This amendment is a provision of the Florida Constitution that requires primary elections to be open to all registered voters, regardless of party affiliation, where the winner of the primary will not face opposition in the general election.
The AAJ Civil Rights Section presents the Leonard Weinglass in Defense of Civil Liberties Award, annually, to honor an attorney or a civil rights advocate who has made a noteworthy contribution to the defense of our civil rights and civil liberties bringing, trying, or resolving a suit, or by otherwise protecting or advancing civil liberties, in a way that has had a significant impact.
Kevin Gay, founder and CEO of Operation New Hope, will receive the Medal of Honor, The Florida Bar Foundation's highest award for non-lawyers on June 16th. Operation New Hope was founded in 1999 to rebuild Jacksonville's challenged communities and give felons an opportunity to lead productive lives upon their release from incarceration.
William "Bill" Sheppard has been prominently featured in a new book Fifty Years of Justice: A History of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida by James M. Denham, published by the University Press of Florida. From the very first page, Mr. Sheppard is identified as a prominent civil rights lawyer alongside the likes of Thurgood Marshall, Constance Baker Motley, William Kunstler, Drew S. Days, and Tobias Simon.