Wednesday, March 08, 2006


Mandatory minimum drug sentences not only destroy those who are sentenced but corrupt those who must determine when they will be applied. Because the Florida legislature has taken the decision-making process away from Florida judges, the decisions have been left to prosecutors or those given that authority by elected prosecutors. Your Clearwater Criminal Defense Attorney strongly believes that Florida Judges, not Florida prosecutors should be given discretion to go below mandatory minimum sentences, below I'll show you why.

While I was a prosecutor in the Pinellas Sixth Judicial Circuit in Clearwater, a man named Murphy who was assigned the tasks of watching the attorneys at trial, evaluating their performances as well as determining when the state attorney's office would amend the charging document to allow a judge to give a sentence below the the minimum mandatory range.

Murphy was trusted as the often green behind the ears attorneys in the office not only because he was the chief investigator, but because he had a long storied career of excellent service, judgement and achievment. I liked him a great deal. He was an affable irishman, always laughing, always ready to slap you on the back at the end of a successful drug trial. He'd always be there at sentencing to make sure neither you nor the judge dropped the ball and later he'd be at the bar buying a celebratory drink or two.

One day a young couple was arrested by the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office for forging scripts also known as prescription fraud for oxycodone they'd become addicted to after a horrific automobile accident a year or so before. The handful of pills triggered three year minimum mandatory sentences for each of them.

Not surprisingly Murphy recommended probation rather than jail in their cases. Without his recommendation neither the judges nor the attorneys would have been able to go under the three years.
Murphy had set up a hotel encounter with the wife, a quid pro quo for the mercy only he could give. Just as Murphy had taken off his clothes they heard a pounding at the door, the wife unlocked it and the husband burst into the room breaking things up.

Later taped conversations by FDLE and the FBI revealed that Murphy - the chief investigator and the man in charge of who could get less than the harsh drug sentence statutory mandatory - continued to solicite sex for a reduction of the sentence even after the hotel incident.

This obvious Prosecutorial Misconduct with the ensuing whirlwind of publicity aged Murphy and may have helped usher in Pinellas County Drug Court. Clearwater Criminal Lawyers will never forget seeing this once respected man humbled, jobless and ruined. At his sentencing with hands shaking, his health broken as he sat in his second-hand wheelchair with torn leather begging the judge to give him a period of probation rather than the lockup he surely deserved--- where those prisoners serving their dull dark minimum mantory years would certainly have murdered him...