It was reported today in a big red BREAKING NEWS banner by the Pensacola News Journal “Billings Killer Mastermind Gonzalez to be re-sentenced”. Wow…the irony just glows in this case. If the case is to be re-sentenced, a new jury would be impaneled. The jury pool is now subconsciously already being swayed with the irresponsible words that will now be forever out. “Mastermind” & “Ringleader” are 2 phrases that will easily push potential jurors to go for the more severe penalty of death. Emma Kennedy and I had a tete-a-tete about this and Ms. Kennedy said that potential jurors have the option to not read her article using both buzzwords to describe Gonzalez. Ms. Kennedy must not know that the PNJ is the MAIN source of news for the majority of Northwest Florida. Gannett knows that. Look at their revenue in the area.
Ms. Kennedy is also ignorant to the power of the internet to keep stories alive in perpetuity. Every story that slanders and defames Gonzalez is at the whim of any user via Goggle. You can get 250+ stories in one sitting. Every biased comment ever slung at Gonzalez can be rounded up in a nice little bow. Not once is he ever referred to as the “alleged ringleader” or “alleged mastermind”. After all, that reference was given to him by people trying to leverage their own escape from the death penalty.
Maybe since Ms. Kennedy has been improperly trained but surely someone at the PNJ has some idea of the impact of media and the potential for denying anyone going to trial their 6th amendment right to a fair trial. They seem well versed in the 1st amendment when they feel their rights have been infringed, but forget it, if you are on the other side of the camera. The more grave the crime, the higher the stakes for the accused as well as the higher potential for confabulous stories for the “mullet wrapper”.
I wonder if I wrote 250+ posts on the incompetence of Ms. Kennedy if she may be impacted by that professionally. My blog ranks pretty well on Google. Maybe I should test that theory.
Moral of the story is that words carry power. Not understanding the power of those words is willful ignorance for a journalist.
So in the long line of people who cashed in, exploited and turned a blind eye in the Billings case, I want to welcome Bill Richbourg to the cast of characters who should be on the other side of the bars that they put their clients in. Mr. Richbourg could arguably be the most deplorable of the attorneys who rolled over and played dead in this case. Mr. Richbourg was hired by Gary Sumner to represent him. He paid Mr. Richbourg. For 6 weeks seemingly, work was done to further the defense case for Sumner. But on April 25, 2011, the day set for the jury selection, Mr. Richbourg tells Sumner (as they approach the courtroom) that he could not win this case, Sumner had no option but to take a plea. Richbourg strong-armed a disadvantaged young black man. Then the state had the gall to sue Sumner for the time they wasted for trial.
But the best part here is that Richbourg had an agenda from the onset of representing Sumner. He represented Bud Billings in the adoption fraud suit that somehow left the “stolen” child with the captor. Richbourg organized that circa 1989-90.
Can you say CONFLICT???? Representing a man that is being charged with killing a past client and then tanking the representation? Cheryl Barnes, Gary Sumner’s mother, should be suing this man on Gary’s behalf. Not only unethical, but it rises to level of criminal when he forced Gary into signing away his life rather than actually representing him. Any civil rights lawyers out there should be on top of this.
But the people who failed to do their job in this case is so numerous. Richbourg is just ONE of the highly respected attorneys who dropped the ball.
Tony Henderson forced Lenny Gonzalez into his plea and signed off on the man’s legal mental competence, despite the SSI ruling that states the man has brain damage, dementia, and numerous mental health issues. Also his VAN WAS INOPERABLE. That was a defense within itself, but Henderson managed to negotiate Lenny’s fate which led to his death. Shouldn’t that be beyond malpractice as well?
What about the public defenders who handled Florence & Thornton? There was a huge case for coerced confessions but they never represented their clients. They took the money the state paid them and walked those boys into prison. Now their lives are cast in stone. Statistics say that uneducated black men imprisoned early (18-25) build “criminal capital”. They turn prison into a community that they are comfortable with, can network in, to feel a sense of inclusion into SOMETHING. It is the same psycho-social phenomenon that draws people into gangs. That is on Joel M. Cohen (Florence’s public defender), & Cheryl Alverson (Thornton’s public defender).
Richbourg has a great deal of company in his criminality. I hope to see them punished just like Eddins, Geeker & Sir David.