09 August 2007

Prosecutors Still On Crack in Florida

Prosecutors in Florida are still attempting to have a retrial of in the case of Mark O'Hara, where a man was convicted and sentenced to 25 years in prison for possessing prescription drugs for which he had a presecription. An appeallate court overturned the conviction finding the prosecution's legal theory absurd, ruling after the man had already spent two years in prison for the non-offense.

O'Hara spent two years of a 25-year sentence in prison after a jury found him guilty of trafficking in hydrocone. He was arrested by Tampa International Airport police in 2004 after they found the Vicodin and a small amount of marijuana in his illegally parked bread truck.

O'Hara didn't contest the marijuana charge, which netted 67 days in jail. However, he swore he had a prescription for the pills. A doctor and a pharmacist backed him up at trial. But jurors weren't told that it is legal to possess the drug with a prescription.

In July, the 2nd District Court of Appeal overturned O'Hara's conviction.

Sadly, while I'm not sure quite why this happens, an important minority of prosecutors seem highly succeptable to a tendency to press for convictions and maximum sentences beyond all standards of reasonableness and any legal authority to the contrary.

Most prosecutors have, at least, a mild case of this disease, but it is rarely as aggravated as this Florida case. On average, you are far more likely to get a break you aren't legally entitled to when facing criminal charges from a prosecutor than you are from a judge.

For example, in Colorado, only one of twenty-one district attorney's offices in the state routinely seek enhanced habitual criminal sentences in a large share of cases eligible for that kind of sentencing, and most of the time most district attorneys' offices offer reasonably lenient plea bargains in escape charges where the escape is a mere walkaway or AWOL case involving a halfway house or work release offender. Likewise, the vast majority of Colorado district attorneys seek the death penalty in only a small proportion of cases eligible for that punishment. But, those prosecutors don't make the headlines or fill appellate court dockets.

From here via How Appealing.


Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

A status conference in the case is scheduled for September 18, 2007. A trial date could be set at that time if prosecutors insist on continuing to press the case and the judge allows it.

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

A pardon was issued in a similar but more serious case (i.e. a law was actually broken) in Florida.

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

In November, 2007 a plea bargain was reached:

"O'Hara, 45, pleaded guilty to possession of hydrocodone, a lesser felony. A judge sentenced him to time already served."

The fact that this man got a felony conviction for his action is despicable and a very poor reflection on the prosectors in Florida.