The Red Queen & 
the Knave of Hearts

Go for the jugular, come up empty


"Off with his head!" shouted state attorney 
 Angela Corey, the Red Queen, after 
 she declared she'd prosecute Michael Dunn a second time for Murder One. The first jury hung, or choked, on whether the rage triggered by raunchy rap and some "fuck you"s was sufficient to constitute premeditation in the shooting death of Jordan Davis.

"Off with his head!" echoed Seventh Circuit 
State Attorney R.J. Larizza. The Knave of Hearts, he stole Corey's tarts by charging Christopher Fries with Murder One after he shot Paul Crookshank in a beery brawl outside the Giggling Gator, a louche lounge somewhere between St. Augustine's Bridge of Lions and the Road to Perdition.

Corey's prosecution of Dunn was incompetent, as the learned Larizza's will be, because both are overcharging their defendants. Murder One requires premeditation, defined thusly by the Florida Supreme Court: " ‘Killing with premeditation' is killing after consciously deciding to do so. … The law does not fix the exact period of time that must pass between the formation of the premeditated intent to kill and the killing. The period of time must be long enough to allow reflection by the defendant."

Do prosecutors think enough time elapsed between the "fuck" and the "you" of the Dunn case to constitute premeditation? Do they think, in the Fries case, that the moment between the smack of the haymaker and the splat of butt on asphalt was long enough for any meditation, pre- or non-? In the vapor of law school seminars, where angels dance on pinheads splitting hairs, it's clever to argue the existence of "instantaneous premeditation." Try selling that to a jury.

As annoying as prosecutors' soap-operatic flourishes (weeping relatives, TV-camera indignation) is their practice of presenting a jury with a smorgasbord of frequently unappetizing charges. Corey indicted Dunn for first-degree murder, second-degree murder, manslaughter, attempted murder, attempted manslaughter, launching a deadly missile ….

I don't know where the list ended. Expelling bad breath onto a law enforcement officer? Disrespecting an official shoeshine? No wonder the jury hung. They might have reasonably concluded that the prosecutor did not herself know which charge was appropriate.

Juries are usually sequestered during high-profile trials, which means they're locked away under guard in whichever scrofulous hostelry will accept late payment from stingy court clerks. Bailiffs confiscate every medium, printed or electronic, that might deliver news and views. Even Gideon Bibles, with their modicum of comfort, are taken, lest some juror detect divine hints as to innocence or guilt among the mysterious anagrams in Psalms.

Understandably, jurors often arrive in court less than chipper. They can get annoyed when prosecutors, who earn six figures, ask them to sort capital and non-capital charges, for their court-sanctioned $15 per day.

In these two cases, the Murder One charge offends a jury's common sense. Neither Dunn nor Fries is a cold-blooded murderer who plotted and planned. Both are hot-blooded fools who shot first and then pondered — briefly or never — what they were doing.

For these defendants, manslaughter is an appropriate charge because the state need prove only that the killing was intentional. Given that the accused pulled gats and squeezed triggers, intentionality is self-evident. Pistols are made for killing, not for gentle persuasion of discourteous youth or bumptious barflies.

The objective of outrageous prosecution is political, not judicial. Elliott Spitzer, ex-New York governor, showed the way to higher office. As attorney general, he indicted Wall Street titans before tangled microphones in hot network klieg lights, then diverted attention when defendants were acquitted or charges tossed by furious judges. He was headed for the White House until he was caught fornicating in knee socks with the luscious ladies of a Manhattan madam.

(Note to Larizza: That car-salesman moustache must go. What sells is a well-barbered chin thrust Spitzer-like toward the lens.)

Before the next election, we'll know if the voters, or the governor, have tired of the prosecutorial horseplay of the Red Queen and her Knave. Until then, appropriate prosecution of bloody killings will vanish, like the Cheshire Cat's smile, into the injusticiable chaos

Of Crime City.

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The question of reasonable doubt seemed to be lost in the approximately 45 minutes the jury came to its decision. During this period the evidence (quite a number of items) was brought into their room, a foreman was chosen, and "deliberation" was to have occurred, following the judges instructions, and with a presumption of innocence on the part of the defendant as the basis

The key witness, a Mr. Garrett did NOT see what caused the argument and he did not see the struggle over the gun. He only saw a small slice of what occurred in the middle. The considerable time when the struggle over the gun occurred (these men were not playing cards) was critical time as was the beginning when Mr. Fries was pushed from behind-so surprised he could not break the fall with his hands and fell on the side of his face.. Either man could have been shot


This witness indicated the argument was over a women. However, despite diligent efforts on the part of the Prosecuting Attorney, no connection with a woman was found. There was also rumor that the defendant and decedent knew each other, that they had "issues" etc. etc. Again 2 1/2 yrs of investigation proved this to be untrue. These 2 supposed facts were instrumental in the charges asked for and granted by the grand jury. An overcharge? This witness to about 10 seconds of the incident also described a long over shirt - but it was proven that the defendant only wore a t shirt of normal length. The crime scene technicians who were responsible for preserving the crime scene did not arrive until more than an hour after the incident. During this time police, detectives , rescue personnel etc. were walking around the area, and patrons were also coming out of the bar and removing their cars.

For those of us at the trial, we were surprised by the fact that this witness was not brought outside to show his vantage points,. The lighting (or lack thereof) was not determined. Since no photos were taken of the number of cars parked along the area between the parking lot where the witness was and the parking lot, immediately adjacent where the incident occurred , no line of site and obstructions to same were identified. One witness did say their was a truck parked in this area. Also, no measurements could be taken of the distance between the witness and the 2 men involved, since no vantage point was established. There is much more. This was a 5 day trial decided upon in a very short time.

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