Last Sunday, I had the honor of returning to Channel 10 news Roundtable, “This Week in South Florida”. It was an outstanding time. We got really deep in the debate as to whether or not Governor Scott was wrong to remove State Attorney Aramis Ayala from the Markeith Loyd case for her stance on the death penalty; the fact that no charges were filed in the death of Darren Rainey [the inmate who was boiled to death by prison guards], and lastly, the ongoing debate on healthcare. It definitely got heated at times but it was a healthy debate on the issues. In case you missed it, check out the link here and share your thoughts! The Roundtable begins at 26 minutes.
Yesterday, Florida Governor Rick Scott overstepped his boundaries by removing Florida 9th Judicial Circuit State Attorney Aramis Ayala from handling the Markeith Loyd murder case for her refusal to seek the death penalty. The defendant has been charged with the Orlando murders of his pregnant ex-girlfriend Sade Dixon, and Orlando Police Lieutenant Debra Clayton.
State Attorney Ayala explained her decision, stating that she was no longer seeking the death penalty in any of her cases, because “Florida’s death penalty has been the cause of considerable legal chaos, uncertainty and turmoil.” She further said capital punishment often leads to years of appeals and other court hearings, and that it costs more than a life sentence. Florida law gives every state attorney the discretion on whether or not to seek the death penalty.
Ms. Ayala holds the distinction of being the first African American state attorney in the state of Florida. Elected in November 2016, she assumed office at the beginning of this year. In her short time in office, she now also holds the distinction of being the only prosecutor removed in this fashion by this governor.
Read more here
I voted this gorgeous Florida morning. No lines, in and out. It took me longer to walk to my station than to vote.
Polls are open from 7am-7pm in Florida. If you are not sure where your polling station is, please click here.
Join me in taking a stand against racism, misogyny, and the general buffoonery we have seen in recent months. This is NOT the America I want for my future. I hope you feel the same — and show this by VOTING!
YOUR VOTE IS YOUR VOICE, RAISE IT LOUD AND PROUD!
Last night, I attended my first live debate. I witnessed Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders do battle as to why they should be the Democratic nominee at Miami -Dade College. It was a rowdy, raucous atmosphere. The energy was electric, and we were all ready for the fireworks that were going to erupt on stage.
Now I’m no pundit or pollster, but these are my takeaways as a layperson/political news junkie.
The millennials love Bernie.
The energy for him was strong, he had rock star status for sure. They screamed, stomped and urged him on. The establishment Dems, however, weren’t so enthusiastic. Idealism vs Pragmatism? Maybe.
Ok I’m obsessed.
The moderator who was representing Univision (and was notoriously told by a certain candidate on the other side to “go back to Univision”) was tough as nails. In another life he would have made an amazing defense attorney with his masterful cross examinations, holding the feet to the fire of the candidates (mostly Hillary).
But Hillary did clap back when he asked her if she would step down if she was indicted over her emails. “That’s ridiculous, I’m not even going to answer that!”
I’ll be watching more of him for sure.
I guess my Spanish will have to improve though.
Biggest laugh of the night?
Bernie demanding the transcript of Hillary’s infamous $225,000 speech — “I’d think a speech so great, you’d want to share!!”
The crowd was more in favor of Hillary but the Bernie group was strong. Bernie BOMBED the question on if he regrets praising dictators like Fidel Castro and the Nicaraguan leader Daniel Ortega back in the ’80s. That was the wrong place and crowd to say ANYTHING nice about Castro. The same themes came up over and over — Bernie really despises Wall Street. He’s radical to the core. Hillary wants to work within the system to change things. So, complete anti-establishment in Bernie vs. middle of the road in HRC. I don’t think many minds were changed last night.
I’m still undecided
To be blunt, it has been said that both candidates are tone deaf to the concerns of African Americans. It’s more of we weren’t even part of the conversation. Granted, last night’s focus was immigration. Both candidates pretty much agreed, with onion thin differences. But Bernie weaves in his plan every chance he got to regarding getting Wall Street to pay for his lofty goals. He talked about investing in jobs programs, free public college, raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour, and universal health care. He briefly mentioned the high level of unemployment of African American young people (51%). Hillary discussed breaking down barriers. But there was no discussion of public safety, criminal justice, investing in drug/mental health treatment, and other than Bernie’s jobs program, no specific details of how more jobs will be created. I question Bernie’s practicality; I question Hillary’s resolve to get things done. Will she back down in the face of adversity, or fight?
Last night, I met some amazing people. It was so awesome to be a part of our process, and watch how it works. I was truly honored to be in attendance.
But will I #FeeltheBern or #StandwithHer when I early vote in Florida this weekend?
I still don’t know. There will be a lot more research in the coming days. But rest assured, your Resident Legal Diva will be voting, because your vote is your voice. Too many people died for me and you to have the right to vote!!
The second in a series of panels sponsored by the National Black Prosecutors Association (NBPA) aimed at educating young men of color was held at Ponce Middle School in Miami. Please click the link above for this article, showing professionals and law enforcement working together to help the young men in the community. We have three more panels coming in the next two weeks.
Follow me on Twitter @ResLegalDiva, or email me directly for more information.
First row L-R: Miami Central Vice Principal Lita Thompson, Melba Pearson, Ronald Dowdy, Gera Peoples, Sgts Louis and Pierre, Principal Gregory Bethune.
Back row: Markenzy Lapointe, Bruce Brown and Brian Kirlew
Not pictured: Pastor Carl Johnson.
This past week, the National Black Prosecutors Association (NBPA) hosted a series of panel discussions entitled “Real Talk: Lessons Learned from Trayvon Martin”. The panels were geared towards young African American men attending high school and middle school. Both Atlanta and Miami held these discussions in recognition of the two year anniversary of the shooting death of unarmed teen Trayvon Martin. Six high schools in Atlanta participated, including Benjamin Banneker, and Southwest Dekalb High.
In Miami, 75 male students of color at Miami Central High School engaged in small group
discussions on the topics of Crime, Consequences, and Options. The Crime panel included
Miami-Dade Police Department Homicide Det. Closel Pierre, who talked about seeing the
tragedies that violence brings on a daily basis. Federal prosecutor and NBPA National
President Bruce Brown hammered home the importance of finding a positive influence. “My positive influence was my mom. One, because I was afraid of her, and two because I didn’t want to let her down.” Sgt. Greg Louis of the Miami-Dade Police Crime Suppression Team opened up about his own challenges of growing up in a tough area. His focus during his youth was on sports activities. Sgt. Louis reminded the boys that “nothing short term is going to last. Where would I be if I had let people talked me into hanging out instead of going to practice? Don’t let peer pressure get the best of you”.
The Consequences panel featured a state prosecutor, a federal prosecutor, and a public
defender. This panel encouraged the young men to think about the consequences of their
actions, and what the repercussions can be of being in the criminal justice system. Brian
Kirlew, a public defender, echoed the sentiments of staying away from crime, but also told the boys “America is a very forgiving place if you are willing to change your behavior. Don’t let past mistakes hold you back”. Federal prosecutor Gera Peoples took a different tactic, by informing the boys of the realities of going to prison. “Think about the consequences to your family”, he implored.
The last panel, Options, included a stirring message from Pastor Carl Johnson of the 93rd
Street Community Baptist Church, and Mark Lapointe, partner at the firm Boies, Schiller and Flexner, LLP. Pastor Johnson rallied the boys to action, stating “your ways determine your walk; get your personality on track, and don’t leave high school without a plan.” On the topic of violence he stated ” if you are confronted with violence, do not let someone draw you out of your personality and lead you down the path of wrong. Stand firm in who you are and walk away”.
Much like some students, a number of the speakers came from single parent families — but
found success through positive role models. The message that was reiterated by all of the
speakers was access. As the event closed, Principal Bethune informed the boys that all of the speakers agreed to be available at any time in the future to give guidance, and answer
The event was an overwhelming success, and will be repeated in Miami schools throughout the next few weeks. This program is critical to bringing encouragement to young men that are often labelled and forgotten.
Melba Pearson is an attorney in Florida. Follow her on Twitter at @ResLegalDiva.
She is also the Southeast Regional Director for the National Black Prosecutors Association. For more information about NBPA go to http://www.blackprosecutors.org.
Legal Divas of Color: Gwen S. Cherry
Born in Miami, Florida in 1923, Gwen Sawyer Cherry was a trailblazer like no other. She earned three degrees between 1946 and 1965, while mothering two children. Her bachelor’s degree and law degree were from Florida A&M University; she also earned a master’s degree in science from New York University and studied at three other out-of-state universities. She later returned to FAMU to be a law professor.
Upon her graduation from law school, Ms. Cherry became Miami-Dade County’s first African American female attorney.
After careers as a teacher and a lawyer, Ms. Cherry was elected to the Florida House in 1970. Ms. Cherry was the first African-American woman elected to the Florida Legislature. While in office, she introduced the Equal Rights Amendment in 1972, chaired the state’s committee for International Woman’s Year in 1978, and co-authored Portraits in Color: the Lives of Colorful Negro Women with Pauline Willis and Ruby Thomas. Additionally, Ms. Cherry chaired the Minority Affairs Committee for the Democratic National Convention and the National Women’s Political Caucus in 1972 while serving as legal counsel for the National Organization for Women (NOW)’s Miami chapter.
Tragically, Ms. Cherry died in a Tallahassee car accident in 1979. In his eulogy, then Florida Governor Graham called Gwen Cherry ‘a champion for the rights of all people and a voice of reason and concern.’
At FAMU, a lecture hall was dedicated to Ms. Cherry for all of her hard work and dedication. There is a park in Miami that bears her name, as a testament to her work to benefit the youth.
In 2005, what was previously known as the National Bar Association Women Lawyers Division Dade County chapter was renamed Gwen S. Cherry Black Women Lawyers Association in her honor.
I am proud to serve on the Board of Directors for this organization.
Gwen S. Cherry, I thank you for being one of the ORIGINAL Legal Divas!!
Here is my point of view on the Michael Dunn verdict, and the surrounding controversy. It was published on Essence.com yesterday. Please feel free to weigh in!
So I awoke this morning to hear of two more shooting tragedies. One in a school in Roswell, New Mexico, and the other north of me in Florida.
Let me be abundantly clear. My husband and I own firearms.
Am I a sharpshooter? Furthest thing from it.
Can I handle a weapon in an emergency and hit a target? Better believe it.
Do I have an understanding and healthy respect for the power of a gun? Absolutely.
Should everyone own (and carry) a gun? Not if you will not be responsible as well as ready to take a life…because if you point a gun, you better be ready to fire. And accept the consequences of firing.
Of late, I have been involved in some heated debates over gun possession. There seems to be a viewpoint that every man, woman and possibly teen should be able to possess a gun with little to no restrictions.
In the first case of Roswell, New Mexico, a 12 year old boy brought a sawed off shotgun to school, and shot two students. No one seems to know why. A courageous teacher got right in front of the boy, and convinced him to put down the gun.
So how does a 12 year old in New Mexico get a sawed off?
Not thinking that he got it at the local gun shop…it probably came from the parents’ gun cabinet.
After the Sandy Hook shooting, there was some discussion about letting personnel carry guns into schools, or having armed security in the hallways. So if the teachers had guns (which some folks are proponents of), would the situation have ended as it did?
I submit to you that there would have been a lot more death and bloodshed.
In contrast, let’s look at the shooting in Wesley Chapel, Florida. The shooter, Curtis Reeves, is a retired police officer. He flipped out because the victim was texting in a movie theater.
Have we all been annoyed by that? Sure.
Do we feel the need to start a fight, then shoot someone? No.
I can script where this will go. His defense attorney has already claimed self defense at the bond hearing. The judge wasn’t having it and is holding him no bond until trial. Then what? Stand your ground. Again. Even though witnesses claim that the victim threw popcorn at the defendant, the defendant will claim he was in fear for his life (even though he started it), and that’s why he shot the victim Chad Oulson in the chest. I doubt this motion will be granted, especially in light of what the witnesses saw, and the woman that has come forward to say this defendant also harassed her during a movie because she was texting.
In all honesty, I will concede that gun control laws would not have changed the outcome of this situation, unless the defendant was found to be mentally ill at some point. He’s a former police officer, so he would fall into the category of someone who should be able to carry.
But looking at the extreme version of this. If the victim had a gun, then what? Shoutout at the movie theater? And what about people caught in the crossfire?
Too bad so sad?
All I’m saying is let’s be reasonable. If you need a permit to fish, a license to drive, and have to register to vote, why shouldn’t there be greater accountability for the ownership of something that, by its very design, is meant to kill? Why do we need to live in a society in which everyone needs to be strapped?
There HAS to be a middle ground, between gun ownership, upholding the Constitution, and keeping citizens safe. Let’s constructively talk about ideas, and respect that not everyone feels the same way about firearms.
Please keep the victims in your thoughts and prayers….especially the 3 year old who does not have a dad anymore because he died for texting her.
Food for thought.
As always, I am up for a good debate.
Prosecutors came out yesterday and announced that charges against George Zimmerman will be dropped. These charges were in connection with a domestic violence incident with his supposed girlfriend, Samantha Scheibe.
SO the burning question is…did this really happen, or did they make this up for attention?
See my article published on theLaw.tv below…