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Fort Lauderdale Lawyer Joe Pappacoda

The Pledge and Commitment
An article by Joseph J. Pappacoda, Esquire

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PART I: The Beginning

Few things are as scary as looking down the barrel of a gun! Perhaps facing a capital murder prosecution rises to that level. Such was the case for Jonas and Lineda Julien, charged with the capital felony murder and aggravated child abuse of their three year old niece, Ediana. She emigrated from Haiti along with Jonas' wife Lineda, two children and nephew to live with Jonas, who had been granted political asylum several years prior. Ediana died suddenly one day, four months after her arrival on United States' soil. The medical examiner deemed Ediana's death to be homicide. The cause of death was blunt force trauma to internal organs, with major cause of death listed as massive hemorrhage to the liver. The child bled to death from lacerations to her liver.

The prosecution of the Juliens was built upon supposition and innuendo in lieu of evidence, and ultimately failed miserably. This is why:

The Faulty Theory of a Homicide

In the murder trial, the theory of prosecution mirrored the medical examiner's opinion, that Ediana had been brutally and repeatedly beaten by Jonas, and/or Lineda, the child's only caretakers, and that both had knowledge of the beatings, making each at least ‘active bystanders'.

The Defense and The Alternative Death Scenario

The defense theory was that EMS personnel administering CPR, including multiple chest compressions for more than an hour, caused a broken rib, which EMS personnel did not know was broken at that time, to lacerate the baby's liver causing massive hemorrhage and death. CPR was administered, because EMS was summoned by Jonas when the baby had just stopped breathing. One EMS witness testified that although it would be a dangerous procedure to perform chest compressions on a toddler with a broken rib resting on top of the liver, there would have been no other option once the baby stopped breathing. That sole EMS technician was the only state's witness that testified honestly regarding an alternative cause of death for Ediana Julien, and gave birth to a reasonable hypothesis of innocence for Jonas and Lineda at the murder trial. Why did he testify truthfully? Because his job is to save lives, not blaming someone for a death.

The Jury and The Verdict

In the end, twelve jurors discounted the testimony of the medical examiner and believed the lone EMS technician regarding the cause of Ediana's death. Why was this reasonable hypothesis of innocence never investigated by the prosecution? Because if it were considered, the state would have had no case. Did the defense theory of causation create a reasonable doubt in the case? You bet it did, along with some thirty other points raised for reasonable doubt highlighted for the jury from conflicts in the evidence, from lack of evidence, and from the evidence itself. Reasonable doubt was raised by the defense in virtually all areas of the prosecution's case. By closing arguments, the prosecution's case had been ripped to pieces. The murder prosecution failed because it was founded on supposition and innuendo cloaked in a shroud of truth, but was not the truth.

So why did the state go forward with a capital murder prosecution of Jonas and Lineda Julien with no evidence? When a medical examiner rules a cause of death to be homicide, everyone else in the system assumes the death to be a homicide. The police are politically pressured to arrest someone, and the prosecutor will prosecute that person, guilty or not. Why?

PART II: The Pledge And Commitment

In a typical criminal investigation there is a pledge and commitment to a pledge. When police are confronted with an incident, an opinion is soon formed. Thereafter, a police report will be written. Other supporting police reports will also be written. When a death is involved, a police investigation moves like a train picking up speed. Soon conclusions are drawn, based upon written police reports. There will be a second, and possibly a third concurrence of the same conclusion. At some point the police investigation will be closed by an arrest. The police investigative package resembles a screenplay, replete with individual scripts for people participating in the forthcoming prosecution that will act as state's witnesses. Soon that screenplay becomes gospel, and a theory of prosecution is born. If nothing intervenes in this process, a charging document will be drafted and a criminal prosecution will soon follow. God save the Queen.

Their Pride Goes Before Your Fall

It should come as no surprise that the criminal investigation and prosecution processes are fundamentally flawed because of a simple human element; pride. It is human nature for a person to ignore facts that are contrary to one's opinion, once an opinion is formed and conclusions are drawn. One's receptiveness to differing theories shuts down. Perception vanishes. Bias ensues. The die has been cast. Ultimately, the human mind will ignore, or hide facts and evidence contrary to that drawn conclusion, because of another concern; one's reputation. The case has now become a mission in which the prosecutor has a personal stake. This is a far cry from justice in a civilized society. Justice has become susceptible to the personality disorders of those in charge. A scary proposition indeed.

The Purpose of a Defense Attorney

Oftentimes, jury panels have told me that the purpose of a criminal defense attorney is to “create reasonable doubt”; a common misconception. The fallacy of this statement is that a defense attorney cannot create something that does not already exist in the case. If a defense attorney attempted to create a fake doubt, based upon facts that did not exist in evidence, it is likely that they would be made to look like a fool by the prosecutor, and be viewed as a liar by the jury. Juries can rarely be tricked with Trojan horse defenses.

In the case of Jonas Julien, the state's witness list seemed endless, and it kept growing during the pendency of the case. There were approximately fifty witnesses on the state's witness list the day of trial, resembling a lynch mob from the fifteenth century. Although each witness contributed to a piece of the homicide investigation, only a dozen were material to the prosecution's case. Several witnesses had testimony that was exculpatory to Jonas' guilt and were not called by the state attorney. Why? Because prosecutors do not care about the truth? No, because prosecutors believe that their original pledge and commitment represents the truth.

The Phenomenon of Seeking Victory

Once this phenomena occurs prosecutors will prosecute the case even when they know their case is fundamentally flawed. Why? Because winning is everything at that point. The pledge and commitment to the case overshadow the real issues at trial: seeking the truth and presenting competent evidence needed for conviction. For the prosecution, winning is not only everything, but winning is the only thing. Seeking the truth is secondary.

 

 

More Articles by Joseph J. Pappacoda, Esq.

You may be interested in many other legal articles written by Joseph J. Pappacoda.

This article is for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as constituting legal advice. You should consult with your attorney to determine the best course of action to take on your case.

Copyright 2006 All Rights Reserved, by Joseph J. Pappacoda, Esquire, Courthouse Square Building, 200 SE 6th Street, Suite 100E, Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33301, 954-522-6659.

 

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