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.
Criminal Justice expert Dr. Edward J. Bronson recently analyzed the pre-trial publicity in the Billings Murder case. It was a fascinating look at just the local newspaper coverage. The reason he was called to look at this has to do with the fact that it has become an inarguable fact that press coverage prior to trial impacts jury verdicts. There have been 44 empirical studies with 5500+ people by dozens of social scientists over the last three decades.
The biggest shocker of Dr. Bronson’s analysis was that the Billings Murder case–overall–is the 27th highest publicized case EVER. This case rivals OJ, the Lindbergh baby, Bundy, Zodiac, Son of Sam and Jon Benet Ramsey just for starters. The average high publicity case has around 100 articles written about the case, pretrial. The PNJ & InWeekly did 250 articles on this case. Each of these articles were biased against the defendants, particularly Pat Gonzalez Jr. Not one of these articles were by anyone close to Gonzalez Jr or who advocated his character in any way, despite his contributions to the community, although the Sertoma club “Man of the Year” award was mentioned in passing as was high martial arts career. Not one of these articles offers any other theory of the crime or any leads outside the narrative the Sheriff concocted.
The Michigan Supreme Court ruled to delay a trial by 9 mos because of 1 news comment by an attorney on a Sunday morning at 6 AM. The judge determined the attorney had the potential to have tainted the jury pool with this one appearance. In comparison, Sheriff Morgan held press conferences up to twice a day locally; he spoke on Dateline NBC, Nancy Grace, Oprah Winfrey and Larry King to name a few. He said things like, “extremely gruesome scene”, “hateful, senseless crime” “bad seed” (speaking of Gonzalez Jr.), “stupid thugs” and referred to the Billings as “very good Christian people”. Adding on to the fact, Morgan greeted the Grand Jury panelists prior to the indictments of Gonzalez Sr and Jr. He shook each person’s hand and said things like, “I’ve done my job; now it’s time for you to do yours”. This seems like a directive from the highest law enforcement officer in the community.
The PNJ articles were extremely damaging as they are the only point of printed news in the area. 174 times the death penalty was mentioned in relation to this crime—prior to any trial commencing. This is extremely damning because the implication is that these people deserve death, before the facts of the case or the defenses were laid out.
Dr. Bronson noted that he had never seen more inflammatory comments within the PNJ by the reporters and in letters to the editor prior to trial. There was no possible way a reasonable person could consider that an unbiased jury could be had in this community. Judge Geeker doesn’t think this is an issue but ultimately this will go to the US Supreme Court, who has no ties to Escambia County corruption.
As for the media circus that propelled Morgan’s career and ultimately kept him in office, here’s the take away: David Morgan whored himself out to every news outlet possible. He was the source of most people’s knowledge of this case. As the community and world has seen with every instance in Morgan’s tenure where he smiles pretty for the camera, he seldom is the most accurate point of information. He stretches the truth and even lies to make himself seem important. Why would it be any different with this case? Good news for all the defendants, because if Pat Gonzalez gets a new trial, the flood gates of motions and lawsuits will dominate what was the old news of this case….with Morgan as the punchline.
Sir David’s narcissism is going to be his undoing in the “case of a lifetime”. Sir David’s greeting of the GRAND JURY on August 11th, 2009 (and prior indictment on July 31st, 2009), was wholly unconstitutional. This has been brought up in another case. Daniel Levitan vs. David Morgan, a federal case in 2012 that is still under litigation. Mr. Levitan claims biasing the jury was the only way Sir David had of obtaining an indictment. This has not been decided due to pro se errors by the defendant, Levitan, currently an inmate in Century prison. Procedural errors and Sir David’s being afraid of being deposed in this case have drawn this case out indefinitely. But make no mistake the question of legality of jury tampering has not been dismissed.
In the Patrick Gonzalez Jr. case, the following is just 1 claim asserted in the Motion for Postconviction Relief ie Motion to Vacate due to State’s Violations of Due Process. Judge Nickolas Geeker is still the judge but the motion to get his ass out of that seat is pending in the Florida Supreme Court. That is another story entirely.
However, read the claim as to the many pleas by federal judges and the head of the public defenders office. They make the case for Gonzalez Jr. The appearance of impropriety is ridiculous. A defense attorney would not be allowed to the things Morgan did nor would a paralegal or even the family of the victims or accused. Yet Morgan continues to this day…
COUNSEL FOR MR. GONZALEZ WAS INEFFECTIVE FOR FAILING TO CHALLENGE THE GRAND JURY INDICTMENT ON THE GROUNDS THAT ESCAMBIA COUNTY SHERIFF DAVID MORGAN ENGAGED IN OUTRAGEOUS GOVERNMENTAL MISCONDUCT BY IMPROPERLY INFLUENCING MEMBERS OF THE GRAND JURY WHO ISSUED THE INDICTMENT AGAINST MR. GONZALEZ.
On March 17, 2011 United States District Court Judges M.Casey Rodgers, Roger Vinson, and Lacey Collier wrote a letter to Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan as follows:
Our court utilizes the parking area at the corner of Gregory and Alcaniz Streets for the parking and transport of potential jurors to the courthouse for jury selection via the city trolley service. Recently, when a prospective juror appeared for service in our court with your business card, we became aware of your practice of regularly greeting and interacting with the prospective jurors as they await the trolley.
Your interaction with these prospective jurors raise legitimate concerns about the court’s ability to seat fair and impartial jurors, especially when considering that the majority of those selected will serve on criminal juries. The potential for bias created by a senior elected public law enforcement official greeting prospective jurors and handing out business cards to them just prior to jury selection is undeniable, as is the disruption to out local criminal justice system that would result if the court were unable to seat fair and impartial juries to hear these trials. Even if no actual bias results, the court nonetheless is concerned that your practice at a minimum gives the appearance of bias, which in our view seriously undermines the public’s confidence in the fair administration of justice.
As a result of these concerns and in an effort to ensure the fair and equal administration of justice to all who appear in federal court, we must request that you refrain from any further contact with our court’s prospective jurors. We make this request in the hope we are not put in the very difficult position of being unable to seat juries in criminal cases. Your prompt response to this matter is appreciated.
On March 17, 2011 Sheriff Morgan responded by letter to the Federal District Court Judges tersely defying their request stating:
I am in receipt of your correspondence dated March 3,2011. Since no one has extended the courtesy of a call, or request, for what exactly (as sheriff) I am communicating to prospective jurors I will begin with that; “Good morning, I’m Sheriff David Morgan, I attempt to get down here on as many Monday’s as possible to thank you for answering the jury summons. I know this is a disruption of your business or personal day, but you are an integral part of the judicial process. Thank you for your service.” This is the extent of my alleged “interaction”. I continue this practice of putting a complimentary face on law enforcement for the antithesis of a potential juror failing to respond (voluntarily) to a jury summons is getting to see the “sheriff” by virtue of an arrest warrant.
The assertion that only recently the court has become aware of my practice of greeting prospective jurors is inconceivable. I have been engaged in this activity since January of 2007, first as a candidate and continuing as sheriff. Additionally, approximately four months ago Judge Vinson communicated his knowledge of this practice through local attorney Roy Kinsey, to my Chief Deputy Larry Aiken, who communicated with me. More recently, Judge Vinson sent an email again to Mr. Kinsey who then called Escambia County Sheriff’s Office staff attorney, Commander Darlene Dickey, who communicated this call to me. Additionally, my practice of greeting jurors has been covered extensively by the local media (Independent News and PNJ) both as a candidate and as an elected official. This activity is conducted in the open, on public property.
On December 2, 2010, Sheriff Morgan signed an affidavit concerning his jury greeting activities swearing under oath as follows:
In Escambia County, jury selection day is normally Monday or Tuesday in the event that Monday is a holiday. Prior to my election as sheriff I regularly went to the juror parking area, located near the Civic Center, Pennsacola, Florida, on each jury selection day. The juror parking area is where prospective jurors for Escambia County Circuit Court and County Court are directed to park their vehicles and be transported by bus to the EscambiaCounty Courthouse. At the juror parking area my practice was to introduce myself to as many potential jurors as possible, thank them for appearing to serve as a juror, and provide them with my business card.
I have routinely continued this practice after my installation as Sheriff. Although I do not do so for every jury selection day, I continue the practice on most jury selection days. I did not do so on October 25, 2010, which was the jury selection day for Gonzalez, accused of the Billings murders. . . .
On March 24, 2011 Sheriff Morgan wrote a letter to State Attorney Bill Eddins stating:
There is no honor in this acquiescence. Yet what can only be defined as an impending media circus must be avoided. I cannot and will not be a player to a diminution or denigration of the judicial process. This is evidenced by the most recent filings by local defense attorneys asking that as Sheriff and Executive Officer of the Court, I stay away from prospective jurors in an upcoming Billings Trial. The Criminal Defense Bar and the Public Defender’s Office are well aware that I had voluntarily agreed to suspend these greetings during these selections because I was the “public face” of these cases. I will not be a party to this. Furthermore, it has been suggested by members of the local media that I be photographed greeting prospective jurors. This is also something I will not be a party to, as a public official, it would be unavoidable. Therefore, I am ceasing the greetings of prospective jurors effective immediately.
On September 17, 2010, J. Christopher Klotz the President of the Society of the Criminal Defense Bar of Escambia County, wrote a letter to Circuit Court Judge Terry Terrell concerning Sheriff Morgan and his jury greeting and stated:
I am writing on behalf of the Society of the Criminal Defense bar, the local chapter of the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. Having discussed the recent conduct of the Escambia County Sheriff, our Board of Directors has authorized me to reach out to you on behalf of our association. We recently became aware that Sheriff Morgan is initiating some type of one on one contact with prospective jurors as they are assembling at the Pensacola Coliseum and again at the Escambia Courthouse. As an organization, we agree with the Office of the Public Defender that contact of this nature has a great potential for harmful impact on citizens on trial in Escambia County. Respectfully, we are requesting that you exercise your authority under Florida Law to curb the inappropriate contact of the Sheriff with prospective jurors.
The above stated letters to, from, and about Sheriff Morgan’s jury greeting practices, establish that (1) From the time Sheriff Morgan was sworn in as Sheriff of Escambia County he has routinely and consistently greeted jurors in the jury assembly parking lot and giving them his business card for the express purpose of putting a “complimentary face” on law enforcement; (2) Sheriff Morgan admitted the impropriety of greeting jurors on any “Billings” case as he was the “face of the investigation;” (3) Sheriff Morgan claims he did not greet the jurors on October 25, 2010, which was when the jury was selected on the Gonzalez case.
Mr. Gonzalez asserts that if it is improper for Sheriff Morgan to meet with prospective jurors on any Billings case because he was the “face of the investigation,” it is equally improper for him to meet with prospective members of the Grand Jury charged with the decision of whether there was sufficient evidence to charge him with first degree murder. This is especially so as to the Gonzalez Grand Jury because Sheriff Morgan was far beyond just the “face ” of the investigation, but rather had appeared on local and national television, and, as was established in Claim One of this motion, referred to Mr. Gonzalez as an inveterate liar, a psychopath, and a lying con man. The Grand Jury in this case issued the indictment against Mr. Gonzalez on August 11, 2009. It is the undersignedcounsel’s understanding and belief that the potential Grand Jurors arrive in the same general assembly parking lot where Sheriff Morgan engaged in his jury greeting and influence activities. Based upon the time frame Sheriff Morgan says he greeted the prospective jurors and when the Grand Jury was convened to issue the indictment,counsel has a good faith belief that Sheriff Morgan greeted some or all of the members of the Grand Jury who indicted Mr. Gonzalez at the jury assembly parking lot, and he did so to put a complimentary face on law enforcement.
Counsel for Mr. Gonzalez had to have been aware of Sheriff Morgan’s jury influencing activities, based on the letter from Mr. Klotz, President of the Defense bar, and the admission from Sheriff Morgan that he would not greet any prospective jurors on the Billing’s case, and from the news reports Sheriff Morgan referenced in his letter concerning extensive press coverage of his jury greeting practices.
Wherefore, counsel for Mr. Gonzalez was ineffective for not challenging the Grand Jury indictment against Mr. Gonzalez due to Sheriff Morgan’s greeting of them at the jury assembly parking lot for the express purpose of putting a complimentary face on law enforcement. The proper means to challenge the Grand Jury is by motion to dismiss the indictment. Failure of defense counsel to make that motion results in a waiver of any challenge to the Grand Jury. In Rudd v. Christian, 310 So.2d 295 (Fla. 1975), the Florida Supreme Court stated:
if a State Attorney, and his assistants should in any way attempt to influence the finding of the Grand Jury, other than presenting evidence and rendering legal advice, any indictment returned may be set aside for improper influence. An overstepping of the State Attorney’s function could constitute an invasion of the function of the Grand Jury and interfere with their independence.
Although Sheriff Morgan is not an Assistant State Attorney, he clearly is an arm of and part of the prosecution team, as the lead investigative law enforcement officer in the Gonzalez case and self -professed “face” of the investigation. He may not in any way attempt to influence the Grand Jury. Accordingly, Mr. Gonzalez’s counsel was ineffective for failing to file a motion to dismiss the indictment due to Sheriff Morgan’s greeting of some or all of the Grand Jurors with the express purpose of influencing them to have a positive view of law enforcement.
In Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984), the Court held that counsel has a “duty to bring such skill and knowledge as will render the trial a reliable adversarial testing process.” Strickland requires a defendant to plead and prove (1) unreasonable attorney performance, and (2) prejudice. The prejudice prong is met if “there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel’s unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different. A reasonable probability is a probability sufficient to undermine confidence in the outcome.” Id. at 694. See also Porter v. McCollum, 558 U.S. 30, 130 S.Ct. 447 (2009) (explaining that the Court does not require proof “‘that counsel’s deficient conduct more likely than not altered the outcome’ of his penalty proceeding, but rather that he establish ‘a probability sufficient to undermine confidence in [that] outcome.’” 558 U.S. at 44, 130 S.Ct. at 45556 (2009), quoting Strickland).
Prejudice under Strickland is established for this claim because the legal debacle of the elected Sheriff of Escambia County improperly influencing members of the Grand Jury undermines confidence in the entire trial proceedings and the proper administration of justice due to indictment procedure compromised by a governmental official.
So the only SOLID case, if you would call it that, that Sir David has as his “claim to fame”–as does Bill Eddins, is unconstitutional. That isn’t even to mention that the composition of the Grand Jury room was violated by David Rimmer by allowing Barry Brook and/or Corey Aittama inside the jury room instead of the statutorily required second attorney. So while Morgan basks in the glow for now, come election day, his undoing awaits…Damn I love Karma!