Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Joel Hirschhorn is still opposed to cameras in the courtroom

Cameras in the courtroom
U.S. Supreme Court could kill the 'Florida experiment'

by Gene Miller
Miami Herald, Nov. 11, 1980

The case is Chandler vs Florida, and the last thing that lawyer [Joel] Hirschhorn wants to argue — at this late date - is innocence.

For now it is the camera that is on trial, not the client.

The crime began as a bizarre whodunit late one night in May 1977. John E. Sion, 22, a sickly junior college student, couldn't sleep.

"I have a digital clock, and when I woke up, it was 2:50 a.m." He lived with his mother on the 10th floor of a Miami Beach high rise. He owned a ham radio.

He picked up a book that night and turned on the radio. By chance it was set on Channel 3, 146.52 megahertz. "Some voices came on. I didn't pay much attention."

Two voices, male, spoke surreptitiously for possibly five minutes. "The numbers didn't work...I got it open anyway....the registers are empty."

Slowly, a thought dawned. "I think I tuned in some cat burglars." He fumbled around for a cassette. He found one on which he had taped "Police Story." He flipped it over and taped conversations for 7 minutes and 42 seconds.
Eventually, he mentioned the tape to a man who lived in the same high rise. He was Donald Froschneider, retired, a police buff, a sort of Jack Ruby character, a gentleman hard of hearing and in ailing health, in need of an oxygen tank, Valium, and smelling salts.

Froschneider meandered over to the Miami Beach Police Department. Casually, he gave the tape to a detective with the unlikely name of Lt. Jack Webb.

Some days later Sgt. Fred Morgan and Martio Mongeaugdo, of internal affairs, finally figured out exactly what they had. And it shocked them.

Not only had they a tape recording of a burglary, they recognized and identified the voices of the burglars: Two Miami Beach policemen — Otis Chandler and Robert Granger.
But solving the crime didn't come easily. "We didn't know what joint they'd hit," said Morgan. "We pulled all the sheets on burglaries and nothing fit."

Enter here, some weeks later, Martin F. Dardis, chief investigator for the Dade County state attorney. Dardis is a smart cop, an explosive, Type-A personality. He was the cop who linked Richard Nixon's campaign money to the Cuban Watergate burglars.

Dardis walked the sleazy South Beach neighborhood trying to make geographical sense from the tape.

Suddenly he noticed a 9½-foot tall chain-link fence. A couple of links had been replaced. Why? He spotted a new padlock. What happened to the old one? He found it lying in the weeds, broken and discarded.

Dardis glanced westward. And he knew instantly. Picciolo Italian American Restaurant, 136 Collins Ave., had to be the place.

"Any burglaries there?" he asked.

Weeks before, Picciolo's headwaiter, Larry Smith, had locked up 10 doors at about 12:30 a.m. on May 23. The cook, Louis Page, found one back door ajar the next morning.

And owner Vincent Picciolo found three neat drill holes in a kitchen safe concreted into the floor. Missing, he calculated, was about $5,500 in cash.

Investigator Dardis checked out Chandler's off-duty employment at LaGorce Country Club. Not so incidentally, he heard about a $16,000 safejob there, too. Chandler was a club mechanic.

At the club, Dardis found a man who had seen two walkie-talkies in Chandler's car. The man remembered the Japanese manufacturer. Dardis traced the importer to Las Vegas, then ran down the Miami distributor.

Dardis confronted his two brawny suspects. "I'm not going to arrest a cop unless I can guarantee a conviction," he began.

"I wanted to know what else they'd pulled. They stonewalled me."

In the courtroom, defense attorney Hirschhorn, then 34, fiercely contested almost everything.

Some years ago Hirschhorn qualified as the finest pornography lawyer in Miami, defender of adult bookstores, champion of the First Amendment for films such as "The Devil in Miss Jones."

In recent years his practice has narrowed to big money drugs: cocaine, marijuana and Quaaludes, along with an occasional white-collar defendant.

For Chandler and Granger, he argued invasion of privacy on the incriminating tape. He tried to get it suppressed. For a pre-trial motion, Chandler testified.

"We were, you might say, playing a practical joke. We had a bet going as to whether or not anyone was listening to that particular frequency — and the best way to prove it would be to stage a burglary on the airways."

Chandler professed that he had purchased the walkie-talkies for deer hunting.

He didn't convince Circuit Judge Alan R. Schwartz. The tape became state's exhibit 1-BB.

Hirschhorn, long a ferocious opponent of cameras in the courtroom, had filed numerous protests even before the cameramen arrived.

During Florida vs Chandler, WPLG-TV televised 90 seconds on the trial one night; 65 seconds the next. WTVJ-TV Channel 4, using a pool arrangement, showed 80 seconds.

On Dec. 8, 1977, the jury convicted. The judge sentenced the two safe-cracker cops to seven years each for four felonies. They spent one night in jail before posting appeal bonds.

Hirschhorn petitioned the Supreme Court on Feb. 18, 1980. He labeled television "a blind rush to electronic justice."

"An electronic narcotic," he called it, "serving the public's attention to the sensational."

When the court granted the petition April 21, a congratulatory downpour drenched Hirschhorn in instant bar-celebrity status.

Legal heavies for the networks, public television, broadcasters, publishers, editors, reporters responded to Hirschhorn's assault. They argued the public's right, how public scrutiny fosters fairness, how television makes lawyers, witnesses and judges more conscientious.

Jim Smith
For Florida, Attorney General Jim Smith declared: "The defendants cannot defeat their convictions by arguing the hypothetical rights of hypothetical persons in hypothetical circumstances, absent a clear First Amendment claim."

Smith, 40, is political, a land-cattleman worth $8,033,762, an addicted jogger, and according to Hirschhorn, a perfect adversary for oral arguments on Wednesday. "Like taking candy from a baby," said Hirschhorn.

It will be Smith's first appearance before the court; Hirschhorn's too.

Hirschhorn denounced the media's so-called "surrogate" role to the public. "The real basis for the 'surrogate's' effort to override the accused's constitutional right, is economic competition. Next, the copy editors and typesetters will clamor to have their equipment in the courtroom. Perhaps the solution is to simply move the trial — lock, stock and barrel — to the television station or to the newspaper's plant," he said.

"The televised criminal trial rule is neither a social, nor economic experiment. It is, instead, an ill-advised experiment in 'living' jurisprudence, the effects of which, at best, are unknown, and at worst, disastrous.

"If, for any reason, the defendant were to be acquitted, his unwanted television notoriety will follow him to his grave," argued Hirschhorn.

He quoted an admirer: "As for Justice — she should remain blindfolded — not have one eye peeking at TV cameras."

Hirschhorn concedes, though, that for his clients, the safecracker cops, the case might be the wrong one to be argued before the Supreme Court.

"It reduces the issue to its purest form," he declares, and most lawyers, as well as television viewers, agree that he is quite correct.

Thirty-four years after arguing against cameras before the Supreme Court, Hirschhorn still firmly believes that they have no place in courtrooms.

"I am unabashedly, wholeheartedly, and unreservedly against cameras when the defendant objects," Hirschhorn told me by phone today.


Lakeland Ledger, July 7, 1977: Cyclops in the Courtroom

Palm Beach Post, Jan. 27, 1981: U.S. Supreme Court ruling will allow cameras in court

Miami News, Jan. 27, 1981: Camera-in-court fight not quite over

New York Times Magazine, Feb. 15, 1981: Television's Day in Court

U.S Supreme Court: Chandler v. Florida, 449 U.S. 560 (1981)



Today is B.B. King's birthday...

Tribute via my friend Craig Pittman: "B.B. King, who turns 89 today, is renowned for his ability to express emotion with his guitar, Lucille. What most people don't realize is that he's a scientist too. In the first video he attempts to measure, to the most scientifically precise level possible, how blue you can get."

Monday, September 15, 2014

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Sunday, September 14, 2014

Convicted killer James Herard dared a judge to give him the death penalty...and then things got really bizarre

Convicted killer James Herard. 
(Click to enlarge.)

In 2008, James Herard barked like a dog during a court hearing.

In August 2011, Herard laughed at his victim just before a judge gave him nine life sentences. A month earlier he'd been convicted by a Palm Beach County jury on 19 charges, including attempted first-degree murder.

Last Friday Herard was back in a Broward County courtroom as his lawyers attempted to convince a judge to disregard a jury's recommendation that Herard get the death penalty for a 2008 murder.

"I'm actually hoping you give me the death penalty, because I know the Supreme Court won't allow me to die for something I didn't commit," Herard told the judge.

After Herard testified for about an hour, his attorneys started calling witnesses to vouch for their client's sterling character.

The only problem is that all his character witnesses were wearing handcuffs and shackles.

Local 10's Glenna Milberg has the story.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The way we were...The Boss plays the Orange Bowl

29 years ago this week, Bruce Springsteen played two sold-out concerts on Sept. 9th and 10th at the Orange Bowl.

Bruce Springsteen performs at the Orange Bowl on September 9, 1985.
(Photo by Kathy Willens/AP)

On Tuesday, Sept. 10, the Miami Herald's Carl Hiaasen offered up a list of do's and don'ts for those planning to attend Springsteen's second concert.


by Carl Hiaasen
Miami Herald, Sept. 10, 1985

Tonight is the final installment of Bruce Springsteen at the Orange Bowl, and another sell-out crowd is expected to hear the tough guitarist from Jersey play his workingman rock 'n' roll.

For many fans, this will be their first experience at a mega-concert in a sports stadium. Over the years a distinct rock-show etiquette has evolved, and for the uninitiated here is a guide.

1. Scalping. This is the amiably usurious act of finding desperate, drooling souls to buy your $17.50 tickets for $200. The pain of this transaction is lessened if you address the buyer as "brother" or "dude" and make a few penetrating remarks about Bruce's music.

2. Dress Code. For Springsteen, blue jeans mandatory -- and they have to be old, OK? Domestic, too -- none of this Paris designer dreck.

Afew of you might choose to partially disrobe late in the show, as is customary. Use good judgment in this endeavor. Some fans -- and you know who you are -- should never remove their clothes in public. Please don't spoil the concert for others.

3. Booing the Opening Act. This popular pastime can range from simple jeering to small-arms fire directed at the stage. Fortunately, Springsteen usually doesn't use an opening act, so try to control yourselves tonight and save the booing for the next Billy Idol concert.

4. Rushing the Stage. This happens regularly at stadium concerts because in the whole place only about 13 persons (all relatives of the city commissioners) are actually seated close enough to see the band. Everyone else might as well be watching an ant farm.

The traditional rushing of the stage by sweaty throngs takes place about two-thirds into the show. If you must participate, be polite and don't trample. This isn't a soccer match.

5. Stupidly Shouting Song Requests. Don't do this unless you really want to broadcast your idiocy. It's inevitable -- 80,000 screaming fans in the Orange Bowl and one guy in the upper deck is hollering, "Yo! Bruce! Do Pink Cadillac!" Like he can almost hear you.

6. Fist-Shaking. When Springsteen breaks into Born to Run, everyone around you will cheer wildly and raise their fists to the sky, punching in rhythm with the song. Fist-shaking is a seminal rock custom and it's important to try to keep time so you don't look like a complete putz. And, for God's sake, don't accidentally slug the guy in front of you. This is Miami, remember, Land of the Casual Uzi.

7. Fighting. While head-bashing and eye-gouging might be routine at concerts by Ratt or Motley Crue, it is extremely bad form at a Springsteen show. His music is both hearty and intelligible, and his fans are expected to behave accordingly.

With one exception: If anyone standing near you should unleash one of those loud pneumatic boat horns, feel free to pummel them into dog meat.

8. Substance Abuse. Some concert fans will ingest industrial-strength drugs and show no effect, while others will giggle and dance in circles and perform ungainly butterfly imitations. Steer clear of these people because the next phase, after butterflies, is throwing up.

9. Bouncers. The men who guard the stage at rock concerts are best described as a cross between a cement mixer and a wolverine. If you insist on trying to climb on stage to go dancing in the dark with Bruce, be prepared to go home in a grocery bag.

10. Encores. Any rock musician worth his salt always gives two encores, and any experienced rock fan knows exactly what to do.

When Springsteen trots offstage, the lights will go off and everyone in the audience will chant for more and light a match. This is a vivid ritual, but it has drawbacks. Years ago I was at an Elton John concert, waiting for such an encore, when a young woman's hair actually caught fire.

If this happens, by all means forget the music and put out the flames.

Bruce, and his insurance company, would want it that way.