By Edward Snook
Palm Beach County,
FL - On Thursday, September 15, 2011, a jury of six women determined Jamie
Clark to be guilty
of DUI Manslaughter according to Florida
Law. That law states any person who is "legally intoxicated" and "causes,
or contributes to the cause of the death of another while operating a motor
vehicle" shall be found guilty. If you believe in a strict sense that
consuming alcohol and operating a vehicle is a crime, I strongly urge you
to read this article.
The current judicial
system in the United States would have you believe that in most cases,
if you consume
alcohol and operate a motor vehicle, you
have broken the law - simple enough. Some states have even implemented new
laws that specify if your blood alcohol level is under .08, you can still
receive a DUI at the officer's discretion. As of 2011, all 50 States have
adopted the .08 blood alcohol level-standard for determining when someone
is "legally intoxicated".
What the United States
judicial system rarely recognizes however, is that many times there are
in which impairment and guilt, can and
should be, called into question. For example, in a recent DUI
Manslaughter case in Florida, an SUV driver who was over the legal limit made a left hand
turn late at night. A motorcycle coming the other way was seen traveling
80-90 miles per-hour just moments before and ran into the side of the SUV
as it turned. The cycle was determined to be engaged in a "wheelie" at
the time, its headlight pointing into the sky, when it ran straight in the
side of the other driver's car and literally up over the top of it, leaving
tire tracks across the roof. The driver of the motorcycle was not wearing
a helmet and was killed.
He was also found to
be under the influence of alcohol. However, the jury in this case was allegedly
never told about that fact. And, under Florida's
DUI law where an individual "causes, or contributes to the cause,” the
driver of the SUV was convicted of DUI Manslaughter. A court of appeals recently
ruled that even though the driver of the SUV had been drinking, the evidence
did not show him to have "caused or contributed to the death of the
motorcycle driver" as required by law. "The appeals court ordered
(Judge) Komanski to resentence the defendant for a lesser offense: DUI, which
carries a maximum sentence of 12 months in jail."
According to the Orlando
Sentinel newspaper, "The judge then revised
the sentence he had originally imposed on a second charge, leaving the scene
of an accident. He initially sentenced Pennington to 15 years of probation
for leaving the scene. ...he made that 12
years of prison followed by 15 years of probation."
Attorney) said case law prohibited a judge from ratcheting up a sentence
on a charge
unaffected by an appeals court ruling. The appeals
court had explicitly affirmed Pennington's conviction and sentence on that
"But Assistant State Attorney Deborah Barra had argued that since Pennington
had not yet begun serving that portion of his sentence, the judge was free
to rework it." Defense attorney Goerner is filing an appeal on Judge
Komanski's recent decision and it is this writer’s opinion that the
judge abused his lawful authority, which should favor Goerner's appeal.
In the majority of these
kinds of cases, it seems that even though the courts expect us to believe
evidence is always clear-cut and a jury trial will
be the deciding factor, the real choice juries have to make is slowly being
deteriorated through corrupt legal motions designed to exclude evidence from
the jurors. These are commonly referred to as "Motions in Limine".
Some basic questions come to mind when one looks into the facts surrounding
an alcohol-related vehicle accident. Questions such as: Who was involved?
What caused the accident? How much alcohol was consumed? And, what did the
responding law enforcement officers conclude? These are the types of queries
that a prudent investigation should answer.
Next, I would like to state that I am not in any way an advocate for drinking
and driving. However, I am an advocate for blind justice - the kind of justice
that seeks to protect the innocent and punish the guilty.
Although laws are clearly
not consistent across the U.S., where do we, as supposedly "informed citizens" draw the line? When does a law that
is deemed "unjust" become nullified? How does one determine whether
or not a law is "just"? Do jurors really see all of the necessary
evidence in order to return a proper verdict? Has our criminal justice system
been manipulated to the point that it makes it almost impossible for a defendant
to receive a fair trial? Why are more than 90% of all criminal cases in the
U.S. resolved through plea-bargaining? Why does the "Land of the Free" have
the highest incarceration rate per- capita than anywhere else in the world?
For Jamie Clark, who has been locked up since 2011, many of these questions
are finally on the verge of being answered.
On the night of October
13, 2006, shortly after 9:00 pm, 35-year old Jamie Clark was returning
meeting friends after work when he came upon
a vehicle attempting to make a u-turn. The vehicle, turning around in a six-lane
busy thoroughfare, pulled directly in his path, causing a fatal accident
that resulted in the death of 85 year-old Lucy Miller who was operating the
other vehicle. A few minutes later Jamie found himself sitting in a nearby
Jewish Temple security officer's golf cart, with ice covering a gash bleeding
heavily above his eye. The security officer remembers Jamie stating, "There
was no way he could avoid the accident, the car pulled out right in front
of him." He was reportedly travelling at a speed between 5-10 mph over
the posted 45 mph speed limit.
According to an eyewitness
statement, the vehicle, operated by Lucy Miller, was travelling at "a very low speed". According to responding Police
Officer Michael D. Daly's report, one witness stated, "Due to the approaching
vehicles, I would not have attempted the u-turn at that time."
A Rabbi from the Temple,
Rabbi Bloch, who was in a vehicle directly behind Ms. Miller's stated during
a taped interview with police, "It was very
clear to me when she (Lucy Miller) was making it (u-turn), that I had a moment
of wanting to say, 'Don't go...What are...What are you doing!'" The
Rabbi further stated, "And... And... It was almost like there wasn't
enough judgment in the turn, because it was... I... I... would never have
made that turn." When Officer Daly asked her why she wouldn't have made
the turn the Rabbi stated, "Because I saw that cars were coming." When
he asked about the lack of "judgment" involved he said, "Slow,
slow motor skill type reaction?" The Rabbi replied "Yeah, like
very, very..." The Rabbi also stated that she couldn't tell if any of
the approaching vehicles were speeding. Officer Somers then asked her, "Was
it (approaching vehicle) to some degree of speed that would make you uncomfortable
making a turn at that particular time?" Rabbi Bloch responded, "Absolutely...
I cannot answer if that person was speeding or not. I don't remember if that
person was speeding or not." Officer Somers then stated, "That's
why I asked you the question that way." To which the Rabbi replied, "Yeah,
I know... and that's why I'm answering this way... I don't know if that person
was speeding or not. But I know for sure I would have never made that turn...
like I said, I wanted to scream out, 'Please don't go!' - But it was too
late." Surprisingly, not one of these statements were allowed to be
told to the jury during Jamie's trial - they had been blocked by a "Motion
Although other witnesses
were interviewed, there were reportedly no other "eyewitnesses".
Jamie was released from the scene that night after giving his statement,
without any field sobriety tests or a citation of any kind after a required
blood test was taken.
Almost 5 Years Pass Before Trial
Judge John Kastrenakes
Although the accident
in question occurred in October of 2006, it took the Palm Beach County
Office until April of 2007 before filing
charges. Even then, more than three and a half years would pass until December
2010, when a seemingly frustrated Palm Beach County Judge John Kastrenakes
denied the state's request for another extension and bluntly told the state
they would be "Picking a jury probably starting in an hour..." The
State Attorney's office then filed a "Nolle Prosequi" and dropped
the charges. Judge Kastrenakes said in part, "I wasn't going to postpone
it again... The people of Palm Beach County have the right to a speedy resolution
to a case... It's inexcusable that a case takes four years to be in the ready
position to be tried... And I really, frankly, am upset that anybody would
even walk in here and try to postpone the case after all of the postponements.
It doesn't speak well for the state to have a case postponed this long and
still try to get another postponement." He then discharged Jamie's bond
and advised, "Mr. Clark, you are free to go..." However, the following
year, in January 2011, the state filed the case again, restarting the clock.
Another nine months would transpire before the case finally reached trial
in September of 2011, just one month shy of five years since the fatal collision
During trial, while questioning
Police Officer Michael Daly, the Defense Attorney posed a question: "In any accident, particularly a fatal accident,
is it very important for a trained and experienced officer to note any indication
of impairment...?" Daly's response was, "Yes". The Defense
Attorney continued, "And you have been trained in DUI detection, correct?" Officer
Daly again replied, "Yes." Actually, after several discussions
with Jamie right after the accident, including a taped interview that lasted
more than 40 minutes, three responding police officers that admittedly were
trained in DUI detection and enforcement (one being the most senior officer
on the police force with more than 22 years experience and another being
a DUI Instructor that had "literally made hundreds of DUI arrests"),
could only testify to an odor of alcohol on Jamie's breath. According to
all of their sworn statements and reports, there were "No signs of intoxication
whatsoever" (No slurring of speech, slowed reaction, loss of balance,
bloodshot or glassy-eyes, etc.).
Evidence excluded from Jurors
Lucy Miller, who was
pronounced dead at the scene, had a restriction "A" on
her Florida Driver's License. This restriction requires corrective lenses
to be worn while legally operating a motor vehicle. According to a police
evidence voucher, Ms. Miller's glasses were located in her "make-up
bag", which was in her purse at the time of the accident. However, this
critical piece of information was never provided to the jury during Jamie's
According to statements
allegedly made by Lucy Miller's son, Ms. Miller had injured her foot while
earlier that evening when she fell from
a choir riser. Her shoes were found in the backseat of her vehicle, and pictures
taken at the scene, revealed her feet had no presence of shoes. According
to police reports, statements made by a Temple security guard who was first
to approach Ms. Miller's car after the collision, stated her foot was "wrapped
in some kind of bandage", allegedly before she attempted to drive that
evening. Although driving without shoes is not illegal in Florida, one Florida
Cullen stated, "...There might be a circumstance where
a driver could be found to be careless for not wearing shoes, and be cited
under that particular traffic statute". However, again, none of this
information regarding Ms. Miller's glasses, the injury to her foot, or her
driving without shoes was provided to the jury during trial. It is also the
kind of information any reasonable person would deem as "evidence" needing
to be considered in the events and circumstances that led up to the collision
on that tragic evening.
Due to the laws in Florida
that govern a motor vehicle accident when a fatality occurs, a blood draw
conducted at the scene. Toxicologist Xiaoqin Shan,
Ph.D., Senior Forensic Scientist for the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office
Crime Lab confirmed the results. The outcome from two separate blood draws
alleged that Jamie had a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of .12% at 22:26 hrs.
and .10% at 23:30 hrs. Questions were posed by the defense that either the
blood was not Jamie's, or the testing was inaccurate. Follow-up analysis
to determine accuracy showed only to be a "positive match for blood-type" but
witnesses involved stated that the "Facts surrounding the trial, and
reports by police, left a high-probability of the tests being mishandled
or inconclusive at best."
As recently as Oct. 25,
2012, accusations of highly
inaccurate blood tests are still being reported
South Florida. These allegations have "caused
much concern in the legal area" according to prominent local defense
attorney, David Bogenshultz. WSVN News reported, "Could bad blood tests
have affected the outcome of thousands of court cases?" Public Defender
Howard Finkelstein stated, "If it's not accurate, (crime lab blood-test
results) that could throw into question convictions of DUI... DUI Manslaughter,
even Murder cases. The really sad part here is, if we have inaccurate results,
there could be people who are absolutely innocent sitting in prison as a
direct result." Currently, more than 3600 cases are being retested to
find out just that.
However, there was never
a question of whether or not Jamie had consumed alcohol that evening. The
in which he reportedly took to consume
four drinks along with food, coupled with Police testimony that he showed "absolutely
no signs of intoxication" other than an "odor of alcohol" on
his breath, is what causes concern for how his blood tests were conducted
Former Prosecutor, Ellen Roberts
Causing even more concern
for the defense are other cases in Florida where people involved in DUI
have been either "not
given probation with little
to no jail time. One case, specifically where
Assistant State Attorney Ellen Roberts (who also prosecuted Jamie Clark)
decided not to prosecute for reasons that appeared to be, "Exactly why
she prosecuted Jamie's case", left certain people confounded.
Questions arose regarding
Jamie's speed - which ultimately posed the question that had he been driving
speed limit, could the accident have been avoided?
Experts for the defense disagreed with experts for the prosecution, which
is nothing unusual. Ellen Roberts sided with her "expert witnesses" by
allegedly portraying to jurors that Jamie "gave up his right-of-way
when he decided to travel over the speed limit", which was relevant
However, Ellen Roberts
not to prosecute a separate case - that involved an off-duty police
who was "traveling 64 mph in a 40 mph zone" and
killed 6 -year old Jasmine Jenkins, as well as leaving her younger twin brother
handicapped for life. One 3-year old twin had permanent brain damage and
was left a quadriplegic, paralyzed from the skull down and the other brother
suffered moderate brain damage. Here, prosecutor Ellen Roberts had a completely
different approach. When asked why charges would not be filed in that case,
Roberts said, "Maldonado (mother, and driver of the vehicle with Jasmine
Jenkins) violated the right-of-way when she turned in front of Cohan (the
off duty police officer)..." This is clearly the exact opposite of what
Prosecutor Roberts stated regarding Jamie's loss of right-of-way, which brings
into question "selective prosecution", and is also why the uncertainty
of her ethics have caused great concern.
Additionally, the "Event Data Recorder" (EDR) or "black-box" which
provides critical information from a vehicle involved in a collision, e.g.
the speed it was travelling, brakes being applied, airbag deployment, etc.
was never produced for Lucy Miller's vehicle. The defense never had that
data at trial and Jamie's attorney was allegedly informed that "no usable
information was available", but there was "usable data" according
to witness statements. Besides the correct EDR data being withheld from Jamie's
defense team during his trial, it has also been discovered that a different
set of documents altogether were put in place of the actual EDR report and
submitted to the court and defense - documents that were not even from Ms.
Miller's car. All of this leads to the obvious question; had the jury known
about all of these different and important facts, would they have reached
the same conclusion?
As of today, Jamie Clark,
now 41, awaits his appellate decision from a prison cell. Although before
accident he had no criminal history, had never
been convicted of DUI, or even been involved in a car accident, he was sentenced
to fifteen years; eleven in the custody of the Department of Corrections
and four years of monitored probation. If that surprises you, it might also
surprise you to learn that the attorney hired to represent Ms. Miller's estate
in a civil suit is an Executive Director on the Board of M.A.D.D. (Mothers
Against Drunk Driving). Nonetheless, Jamie currently has a legal team working
hard to make sure he receives a fair shot. His attorneys now have the EDR
information that could possibly prove to be a "Brady Violation" from
the first trial (when exculpatory evidence is withheld from a defendant in
discovery), and perhaps even a "Gigalo" claim (when a prosecutor
knowingly presents false evidence).
Prosecutor Ellen Roberts is now retired and Judge Kastrenakes is no longer
a criminal judge. Should the case be referred back to the lower court, the
new judge would then decide whether or not Jamie is entitled to a new trial,
and the new prosecutor should ensure blind-justice for Jamie Clark, should
the Palm Beach County State Attorney's office decide to prosecute his case
Note: The US~Observer fights for the rights of victims who have been
charged or convicted.
We have taken Jamie's case and ask
that you give your opinion based off of the facts you have read. We will
be providing more evidence as our investigation continues and look forward
to hearing from each and every one of you. If you have information regarding
anyone mentioned in this article, please contact the author: firstname.lastname@example.org.