Patrick Michael Megaro, Criminal Defense Attorney in Florida

About

Patrick Michael Megaro is a partner at Halscott Megaro PA. His primary areas of practice are criminal defense, criminal appeals, post-conviction relief, civil appeals, and civil rights litigation.


Contact Information


Halscott Megaro PA 

1300 N Semoran Blvd #195, 

Orlando, FL 32807

Phone: 407-255-2165

Toll-Free: 888-798-3507


LinkedIn Profile:   

https://www.linkedin.com/in/patrick-michael-megaro-%E2%AD%90-877b284/


Facebook:   

https://www.facebook.com/patrickmichael.megaro.9


Attorney Profile: https://criminal-defense-attorney.squarespace.com/patrick-michael-megaro-esq/


News


https://hype.news/patrick-megaro-attorney/n-ba064c55-8ee2-42b7-ba81-cf7edd4d175f/stories


https://attorneygazette.com/patrick-megaro%2C-esq


"U.S. Court of Appeals schedules oral hearing in case of controversial shooting of unarmed, 20-year-old Jayvis Benjamin," https://www.einpresswire.com/shareable-preview/yfN24tcOryIRzbFWOoKDmg


“Law Firm announces Essay Competition in Honor of the late Criminal Defense Attorney Deron Castro,” https://www.einpresswire.com/shareable-preview/EPaV4rMjuV0LPGY08mCHHA


“Attorney Patrick Megaro prevails in Appeal in 11th Circuit; lower court improperly granted immunity to police officer,” https://www.einpresswire.com/shareable-preview/PKMPk6yktn4PJyUDw10Okg


“Petition filed with United States Supreme Court challenging life sentence of marijuana offender Corvain Cooper; challenging Federal “Three Strikes” Law,” https://www.einpresswire.com/shareable-preview/m-YdC8tFrU5RjEBytZvYJw 


"Renowned Criminal Defense Attorney Patrick Megaro wins post-conviction relief for client," https://www.einpresswire.com/shareable-preview/YXWvJQZNB19uycU-4Z2HOg

About Patrick Megaro’s initiative to seek clemency for Corvain Cooper, who has been sentenced for marijuana-related offenses, see:

"Florida Attorney is Submitting Clemency Request for Corvain Cooper," https://www.einpresswire.com/shareable-preview/CKt5J6ZcMskL-efZ0l1BiA

Related to this Clemency Petition are:  

https://www.appealslawgroup.com/senior-partner-patrick-michael-megaro-files-clemency-petition-on-behalf-of-corvain-cooper/

https://www.appealslawgroup.com/wp-content/uploads/Letter-in-Support-of-Clemency-Petition-7-3-2018.pdf

Lawyer Patrick Michael Megaro, Halscott Megaro PA. His practice area is criminal defense.

Lawyer Patrick Michael Megaro, Halscott Megaro PA. His practice area is criminal defense.

Attorney Patrick Michael Megaro discusses Gamble vs. United States, pending in Supreme Court

Gamble vs. United States, pending before the Supreme Court

Supreme Court has granted certiorari to review criminal prosecution in federal and state court

In the next article of his instructional series, criminal defense attorney Patrick Michael Megaro reviews the pending case of Gamble v. United States.


Gamble v. United States is a case being appealed from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, originating from the state of Alabama. The defendant Terance Martez Gamble was pulled over in a traffic stop in 2015 for a broken taillight. During the stop, the police officer found a gun in Gamble’s car. Because Gamble had a prior conviction for felony robbery, he was barred from owning a firearm. Gamble was charged with illegal possession of a firearm by the state of Alabama and served one year in state prison. Afterwards, Gamble was charged by the Federal Government arising out of the same incident under the federal statute forbidding illegal possession of a firearm. Gamble was convicted and is currently serving time in federal prison.


Gamble challenged the federal prosecution during the trial in federal district court and then subsequently on appeal as violation of the Double Jeopardy Clause of the U.S. Constitution. A well-known constitutional protection, the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment bars subsequent prosecution for the same offense. 


Gamble’s challenge was denied due to a long-established exception to the Double Jeopardy clause known as separate or dual sovereigns doctrine. The doctrine holds that a particular criminal act is an offence against both the federal and state government or sometimes multiple state governments, which are distinct and separate sovereigns. In Heath v. Alabama, 474 U.S. 82 (1985), U.S. Supreme Court explained that “[t]he dual sovereignty doctrine is founded on the common law conception of crime as an offense against the sovereignty of the government. When a defendant in a single act violates the ‘peace and dignity’ of two sovereigns by breaking the laws of each, he has committed two distinct ‘offences.’ . . . . As the Court explained in Moore v. Illinois, 14 How. 13, 19 (1852), ‘[a]n offence, in its legal signification, means the transgression of a law.’ Consequently, when the same act transgresses the laws of two sovereigns, ‘it cannot be truly averred that the offender has been twice punished for the same offence; but only that by one act he has committed two offences, for each of which he is justly punishable.’" Relying this long-standing exception, both the district court and Eleventh Circuit denied Gamble’s challenge.


The Supreme Court’s cert is interesting given that it is reviewing a well-established doctrine in a case with fairly routine application of the principle. What adds intrigue to the cert is the fact that in Puerto Rico v. Sanchez-Valle, a 2016 case, Justice Ginsburg and Justice Thomas joined in a concurring opinion that discussed the need to revisit the separate sovereigns doctrine. While Sanchez-Valle case was decided on the Court’s finding that Puerto Rico did not have sovereignty independent from the Federal Government, Justice Ginsburg’s concurrence questioned the separate sovereigns doctrine as a whole: 


I join in full the Court’s opinion, which cogently applies long prevailing doctrine. I write only to flag a larger question that bears fresh examination in an appropriate case. The double jeopardy proscription is intended to shield individuals from the harassment of multiple prosecutions for the same misconduct. Green v. United States, 355 U. S. 184, 187 (1957). Current “separate sovereigns” doctrine hardly serves that objective. States and Nation are “kindred systems,” yet “parts of ONE WHOLE.” The Federalist No. 82, p. 245 (J. Hopkins ed., 2d ed. 1802) (reprint 2008). Within that whole is it not “an affront to human dignity,” Abbate v. United States, 359 U. S. 187, 203 (1959) (Black, J., dissenting), “inconsistent with the spirit of [our] Bill of Rights,” Developments in the Law— Criminal Conspiracy, 72 Harv. L. Rev. 920, 968 (1959), to try or punish a person twice for the same offense? Several jurists and commentators have suggested that the question should be answered with a resounding yes: Ordinarily, a final judgment in a criminal case, just as a final judgment in a civil case, should preclude renewal of the fray anyplace in the Nation.


Mr. Megaro notes that whether Justice Ginsburg and Justice Thomas tipped their hands in Sanchez-Valle will remain to be seen in Gamble v. United States.


The complete article and comment will be published on the Megaro Criminal Law Library website at https://themegarocriminallawlibrary.com/

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Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney Patrick Michael Megaro discusses Gamble vs. United States, a case now pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. Supreme Court has granted certiorari to review whether criminal prosecution in federal and state court arising out of the same conduct violates the Double Jeopardy Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

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As of October 19, about 78,000 people have signed Petition

U.S. Supreme Court denied review, Petition is Cooper’s only chance, explains Patrick Megaro

As of October 19, 2018, about 78,000 people have signed the petition for the release of Corvain Cooper. Cooper has been sentenced to life in prison for non-violent marijuana offenses under the “Three Strikes” law. 


The Petition is online at https://www.change.org/p/donald-trump-release-corvain-cooper-from-life-imprisonment-without-parole-for-marijuana.


Explains Cooper’s pro bono attorney, Patrick Megaro: “This Petition is of crucial importance for Corvain and his family. We had a filed a petition for review with the U.S. Supreme Court, but the Court declined to review the case. Thus, this Petition is Corvain’s only hope.”


Nevertheless, there is much support in the Community for Cooper, evidenced by almost 78,000 people who have signed the Petition for Cooper’s release (and the number keeps growing). 


Attorney Megaro has petitioned President Donald Trump for executive clemency and commutation of his sentence of life imprisonment without parole.


Patrick Megaro explains that he “felt compelled to help Cooper and his family. He has two little daughters who miss him dearly. This case has broader implications, it is estimated that there are about 2,000 people … men and women, fathers and mothers, in prison for life for non-violent drug offenses, oftentimes involving very small amounts of such substances. This punishment does not fit the crime. Marijuana is now legalized, decriminalized, or approved for medicinal use in one form or another in the majority of States. Fundamental fairness is at the heart of this case.”


Patrick Megaro explains the underlying story. Corvain Cooper was charged with conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute 1,000 kilograms or more of marijuana. Of particular importance in this case is that Cooper had two prior drug-related felony convictions in California state courts. This triggered the so-called “Three Strikes” law. It can result in a mandatory life sentence in prison.


Subsequent legal changes in California make this case even more disturbing. 


The State of California enacted Proposition 47 in 2014, which re-categorized several non-violent offenses as misdemeanors. Prior to enacting Proposition 47, possession of marijuana was considered a felony. This also allowed people who had prior felony convictions under the old statute to vacate them.


Proposition 64 (the Adult Use of Marijuana Act) was enacted on November 9, 2016, by the State of California which legalized the use of recreational marijuana. This Act permitted certain people who had been convicted of marijuana felony offenses to apply to vacate those convictions and reclassify them as misdemeanors.


Thus, in all fairness, the “Three Strikes” law should not apply to Cooper. Patrick Megaro concludes that he will continue to assist Corvain Cooper “no matter how long it takes.”


About the Corvain Cooper Case


According to a press release of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, “from in or about 2004 through January 2013, Cooper was involved in a drug conspiracy that trafficked marijuana from California to the Charlotte area. Court records show that Cooper was charged with conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute at least one thousand kilograms of marijuana as well as money laundering conspiracy and structuring financial transactions through banking institutions to avoid IRS reporting requirements. Cooper, along with two co-defendants, Evelyn LaChapelle and Natalia Wade, were convicted of all charges on October 18, 2013, following a three-day trial.” He was sentenced to life in prison on June 18, 2014. See https://www.justice.gov/usao-wdnc/pr/california-drug-trafficker-sentenced-life-prison-drug-conspiracy-and-related-charges


The order of the U.S. Supreme Court declining to review the Corvain Cooper case is at https://www.supremecourt.gov/orders/courtorders/101518zor_l5gm.pdf


Please join the other supporters of Corvain Cooper who have signed the petition at:

https://www.change.org/p/donald-trump-release-corvain-cooper-from-life-imprisonment-without-parole-for-marijuana


About Patrick Megaro


Patrick Michael Megaro is an attorney at Halscott Megaro PA. His primary areas of practice are criminal defense, criminal appeals, post-conviction relief, civil appeals, and civil rights litigation.


Website: https://www.appealslawgroup.com/our-attorneys/patrick-megaro-esq/

The Megaro Criminal Law Library: https://themegarocriminallawlibrary.com/

Blog: https://patrickmegaroblog.blogspot.com/

Attorney Profile: https://criminal-defense-attorney.squarespace.com/patrick-michael-megaro-esq/

Linkedin Profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/patrick-michael-megaro-%E2%AD%90-877b284/

Attorney Profile: https://solomonlawguild.com/patrick-michael-megaro

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According to a press release of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, “from in or about 2004 through January 2013, Cooper was involved in a drug conspiracy that trafficked marijuana from California to the Charlotte area. Court records show that Cooper was charged with conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute at least one thousand kilograms of marijuana as well as money laundering conspiracy and structuring financial transactions through banking institutions to avoid IRS reporting requirements. Cooper, along with two co-defendants, Evelyn LaChapelle and Natalia Wade, were convicted of all charges on October 18, 2013, following a three-day trial.” He was sentenced to life in prison on June 18, 2014. See https://www.justice.gov/usao-wdnc/pr/california-drug-trafficker-sentenced-life-prison-drug-conspiracy-and-related-charges

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Almost 70,000 people have signed Petition asking for the release of Corvain Cooper.

More than 70,000 people have signed Corvain Cooper Petition

Petition for review pending before U.S. Supreme Court

More than 70,000 people (as of October 8, 2018) have signed a petition requesting that Corvain Cooper be released from prison. He has been sentenced to life in prison for non-violent marijuana offenses under the “Three Strikes” law.


Currently, the U.S. Supreme Court is considering whether to hear Cooper’s appeal (the procedure is called “grant a writ of certiorari”). The petition was filed by his attorney Patrick M. Megaro, who is doing all the work pro bono (as service to the community). The procedure before the Court is that the petition is being distributed and reviewed among the Supreme Court Justices. Each of the Justices of the Supreme Court receives a copy of the petition. The Justices will then decide whether to grant the petition and agree to hear the appeal, or not.


Many people support Corvain Cooper. His lawyer Patrick Megaro created a petition that over 70,000 people have signed. See https://www.change.org/p/donald-trump-release-corvain-cooper-from-life-imprisonment-without-parole-for-marijuana


Attorney Megaro has simultaneously petitioned President Donald Trump for executive clemency and commutation of his sentence of life imprisonment without parole.


Megaro explains: “This is a particular disturbing case, and I felt compelled to help Cooper and his family. He has two little daughters who miss him dearly. This case has broader implications, it is estimated that there are about 2,000 people … men and women, fathers and mothers, in prison for life for non-violent drug offenses, oftentimes involving very small amounts of such substances. This punishment does not fit the crime. Marijuana is now legalized, decriminalized, or approved for medicinal use in one form or another in the majority of States. Fundamental fairness is at the heart of this case.”


The background is as follows. Corvain Cooper was charged in the United States District Court for the Western District of North Carolina with conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute 1,000 kilograms or more of marijuana, and conspiracy to commit money laundering and structuring transactions. A special information was also filed against Cooper, alleging two prior felony convictions for possession of drugs (one for marijuana, one for codeine cough syrup) in the California state courts. The filing triggered a mandatory life sentence without parole. The reason for the unusually harsh sentence is the so-called “Three Strikes” law. These laws require a person guilty of committing a drug felony and two other previous drug felony convictions to serve a mandatory life sentence in prison. The “Three Strikes” law significantly increases the prison sentences of persons convicted of a felony who have been previously convicted of two or more violent crimes or drug felonies, and limits the ability of these offenders to receive a punishment other than a life sentence.


Cooper tried appealing his conviction and sentence, arguing that the sentence of life for non-violent crimes was against his Eighth Amendment (Amendment VIII) of the United States Constitution which prohibits the federal government from imposing excessive bail, excessive fines, or cruel and unusual punishments. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit upheld the case.


The State of California enacted Proposition 47 in 2014, which re-categorized several non-violent offenses as misdemeanors. Prior to enacting Proposition 47, possession of marijuana was considered a felony. This also allowed people who had prior felony convictions under the old statute to vacate them.


Proposition 64 (the Adult Use of Marijuana Act) was enacted on November 9, 2016, by the State of California which legalized the use of recreational marijuana. This Act permitted certain people who had been convicted of marijuana felony offenses to apply to vacate those convictions and reclassify them as misdemeanors.


“I have been representing Mr. Cooper and I have said from day one that I am in this fight to help Corvain Cooper no matter how long it takes,” comments his attorney Patrick Megaro.


About the Corvain Cooper Case


According to a press release of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, “from in or about 2004 through January 2013, Cooper was involved in a drug conspiracy that trafficked marijuana from California to the Charlotte area. Court records show that Cooper was charged with conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute at least one thousand kilograms of marijuana as well as money laundering conspiracy and structuring financial transactions through banking institutions to avoid IRS reporting requirements. Cooper, along with two co-defendants, Evelyn LaChapelle and Natalia Wade, were convicted of all charges on October 18, 2013, following a three-day trial.” He was sentenced to life in prison on June 18, 2014. See https://www.justice.gov/usao-wdnc/pr/california-drug-trafficker-sentenced-life-prison-drug-conspiracy-and-related-charges


A link to the online Supreme Court docket can be found at 

https://www.supremecourt.gov/search.aspx?filename=/docket/DocketFiles/html/Public/18-5222.html


The petition is at https://www.supremecourt.gov/DocketPDF/18/18-5222/52544/20180706170004149_Petition%20for%20Writ%20of%20Certiorari%20and%20Appendix%20FINAL%20PDFA.pdf


Join the other supporters of Corvain Cooper who have signed the petition at:

https://www.change.org/p/donald-trump-release-corvain-cooper-from-life-imprisonment-without-parole-for-marijuana

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“The Megaro Criminal Law Library,” a public service of Criminal Defense Lawyer Patrick Megaro.

“The Megaro Criminal Law Library” updated

Additional Information

“The Megaro Criminal Law Library” is available online. Recently, the library has been updated with articles and videos, including an instructional series.


“The Megaro Criminal Law Library” is a public service created by criminal defense lawyer Patrick Megaro. Mr. Megaro is a Criminal Defense Attorney with offices in Orlando, Florida. The library contains all of Mr. Megaro’s Criminal Law articles and videos. There is also a “search” feature that allows users to search the videos and articles by keyword. The Library is organized by different sections, Videos, Articles, News and an Archive. 


Patrick Megaro is providing all this information as a public service, free of charge. “I have focused on this area of law for more than 20 years, and at this stage in my life and experience, I would like to share with the public, law students, and my peers all the knowledge I have acquired. I sincerely hope that some of my esteemed colleagues in the profession will find the materials useful for their own law practice.” Mr. Megaro explains the idea of the Library. He started out with a Blog with his written articles and commentary, but eventually it became too unwieldy and difficult to search. He therefore decided to organize all of the information more efficiently, and use an index service so that users can search the information by keyword.

The newest addition to the Library is Mr. Megaro’s “instructional series.” In his first article in his instructional series, veteran criminal defense attorney Patrick Michael Megaro comments on Martin v. State, an appellate decision from the Second District Court of Appeal of Florida, dealing with recent changes to Florida’s self-defense laws. Florida legislature’s amendment to section 776.032 marks an important shift in self-defense laws in the state of Florida. As the Martin court explained “[t]he Florida Legislature's amendment to section 776.032 added the following provision: (4) In a criminal prosecution, once a prima facie claim of self-defense immunity from criminal prosecution has been raised by the defendant at a pretrial immunity hearing, the burden of proof by clear and convincing evidence is on the party seeking to overcome the immunity from criminal prosecution provided in subsection (1).” The Martin court went on to explain that “as it now stands, the State bears the burden of disproving, by clear and convincing evidence, a facially sufficient claim of self-defense immunity in a criminal prosecution.”

This is obviously a very important change in criminal cases involving self-defense claims. Before the amendment, criminal defendants in Florida who wished to assert self-defense had the burden of proof. It was the defendant that had to convince the jury that their actions were justified due to self-defense. After the amendment, the defendant only has to present a facially sufficient claim of self-defense, a very low bar. The burden of proof now rests on the prosecution to show that there was no justification for self-defense, and the burden is by clear and convincing evidence, one step below beyond reasonable doubt, but still a very significant hurdle.

The Court went on to address whether the amendment applies only to cases going forward or retroactively to all existing criminal cases. “Statutory amendments may take one of three forms: substantive, which are usually applied prospectively, or procedural or remedial, either of which may apply retroactively to pending proceedings”, the Martin court explained. The court discussed that “[i]n the context of criminal cases specifically, ‘substantive law is that which declares what acts are crimes and prescribes the punishment therefor, while procedural law is that which provides or regulates the steps by which one who violates a criminal statute is punished.’” 

Finally, the court noted that “[i]n Florida, statutory changes to the burden of proof—the change at issue here—are invariably deemed procedural in nature for purposes of retroactive application.” Therefore, “[s]ubsection (4) now ascribes to the State what had, under common law precedent, been the defendant's burden of proof. That is not a substantive change. Neither the substantive rights of a successful claim of immunity nor the necessary elements of proof to establish a claim of immunity were altered by the June 9, 2017, amendment.” Thus, the amended standard of proof in self-defense cases applies not only to future cases, but also to existing cases and even those cases under appeal. The case is Martin v. State, Case No. 2D16-4468, (Fla. Dist. Ct. App., 2nd District, May 4, 2018).

The article will be published in full in The Megaro Criminal Law Library at https://themegarocriminallawlibrary.com/ and on the Blog of Mr. Megaro, https://patrickmegaroblog.blogspot.com/

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 The Megaro Criminal Law Library” is available online. 

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Criminal Defense Attorney publishes his first article in his series of Instructional Articles.

Changes to Florida’s self-defense laws

Additional Information

  

Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney publishes his first article in his series of Instructional Articles, the first one on recent changes to Florida’s self-defense laws


In his first article in his instructional series, veteran criminal defense attorney Patrick Michael Megaro comments on Martin v. State, an appellate decision from the Second District Court of Appeal of Florida, dealing with recent changes to Florida’s self defense laws.


Florida legislature’s amendment to section 776.032 marks an important shift in self defense laws in the state of Florida. As the Martin court explained “[t]he Florida Legislature's amendment to section 776.032 added the following provision: (4) In a criminal prosecution, once a prima facie claim of self defense immunity from criminal prosecution has been raised by the defendant at a pretrial immunity hearing, the burden of proof by clear and convincing evidence is on the party seeking to overcome the immunity from criminal prosecution provided in subsection (1).” The Martin court went on to explain that “as it now stands, the State bears the burden of disproving, by clear and convincing evidence, a facially sufficient claim of self-defense immunity in a criminal prosecution.”

This is obviously a very important change in criminal cases involving self defense claims. Before the amendment, criminal defendants in Florida who wished to assert self defense had the burden of proof. It was the defendant that had to convince the jury that their actions were justified due to self defense. After the amendment, the defendant only has to present a facially sufficient claim of self defense, a very low bar. The burden of proof now rests on the prosecution to show that there was no justification for self defense, and the burden is by clear and convincing evidence, one step below beyond reasonable doubt, but still a very significant hurdle.

Martin case went on to address whether the amendment applies only to cases going forward or retroactively to all existing criminal cases. “Statutory amendments may take one of three forms: substantive, which are usually applied prospectively, or procedural or remedial, either of which may apply retroactively to pending proceedings”, the Martin court explained. The court discussed that “[i]n the context of criminal cases specifically, ‘substantive law is that which declares what acts are crimes and prescribes the punishment therefor, while procedural law is that which provides or regulates the steps by which one who violates a criminal statute is punished.’” 

Martin court noted that “[i]n Florida, statutory changes to the burden of proof—the change at issue here—are invariably deemed procedural in nature for purposes of retroactive application.” Therefore, “[s]ubsection (4) now ascribes to the State what had, under common law precedent, been the defendant's burden of proof. That is not a substantive change. Neither the substantive rights of a successful claim of immunity nor the necessary elements of proof to establish a claim of immunity were altered by the June 9, 2017, amendment.” Thus, the amended standard of proof in self defense cases applies not only to future cases, but also to existing cases and even those cases under appeal. The case is Martin v. State, Case No. 2D16-4468, (Fla. Dist. Ct. App., 2nd District, May 4, 2018), available at https://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=5709431534236501779&q=martin+v+state+&hl=en&as_sdt=4,10&as_ylo=2017.

The article will be published in full on the Blog of Mr. Megaro, https://patrickmegaroblog.blogspot.com/ 

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Criminal Defense Attorney publishes his first article in his series of Instructional Articles, the first one on recent changes to Florida’s self-defense laws.

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The Orange County Register Expose about Corvain Cooper

Corvain Cooper has been sentenced to life for non-violent marijuana offenses

Orange County, California (September 2018) – On September 10, 2018, The Orange County Register published a detailed analysis of the case of Corvain Cooper, whose only hope to ever get released from prison is a clemency grant by President Trump or a review by the U.S. Supreme Court. While such dire prospects would indicate that the most violent crimes are involved, Cooper’s offenses are non-violent marijuana offenses. But he had two prior offenses, which resulted in the application of the “three strikes law.”


The Orange County Register article was researched and written by journalist Brooke Edwards Staggs, who is a general assignment reporter with a focus on covering the politics, business, health and culture of cannabis. For this article, Staggs interviewed the mother of Corvain Cooper, other family members, and Cooper’s attorney, Orlando-based Criminal Defense Lawyer Patrick Megaro. Patrick Megaro has represented Cooper pro bono since 2014. Megaro has ceaselessly pursued justice for Cooper, but now it is down to two options – President Trump or the U.S. Supreme Court. 


The article quotes Megaro: “I’m just hoping that somebody, somewhere — whether that’s in the White House or across the street at the Supreme Court — sees that this particular sentence is complete madness.”


The article then summarizes the appeals that Patrick Megaro has initiated on Cooper’s behalf:


“Megaro appealed Cooper’s case to the U.S. Supreme Court, but in 2016 the justices declined to hear it. Still, two decisions made by California voters while Cooper has been in prison serve to give Megaro and Cooper hope. First, in 2014, voters approved Proposition 47, reducing many drug crimes to misdemeanors. Under that new law, Cooper’s conviction for possession of cough syrup with codeine was downgraded from a felony to a misdemeanor. Then, in November 2016, voters approved Proposition 64. In addition to legalizing the recreational use of cannabis, the measure reduced or eliminated nearly every marijuana-related crime. And in May 2017, Cooper’s felony marijuana charge from 2009 was reduced to a misdemeanor. Earlier this year, Megaro went back to federal appeals court in North Carolina and explained that Cooper’s two prior felonies were no longer strikes. But they refused to reconsider his sentence. In July, Megaro filed a new petition with the Supreme Court. And, last month, they got one bit of potentially encouraging news, when Solicitor General Noel Francisco requested more time to submit the government’s response to Cooper’s petition. … As they wait to hear back from the Supreme Court, Megaro is also appealing Cooper’s case to the White House — for the second time.”
It all began when Corvain Cooper was charged in the United States District Court for the Western District of North Carolina with conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute 1,000 kilograms or more of marijuana, and conspiracy to commit money laundering and structuring transactions. A special information was also filed against Cooper, alleging two prior felony convictions for possession of drugs (one for marijuana, one for codeine cough syrup) in the California state courts. The filing triggered a mandatory life sentence without parole. The reason for the unusually harsh sentence is the so-called “Three Strikes” law.  These laws require a person guilty of committing a drug felony and two other previous drug felony convictions to serve a mandatory life sentence in prison.  The “Three Strikes” law significantly increases the prison sentences of persons convicted of a felony who have been previously convicted of two or more violent crimes or drug felonies, and limits the ability of these offenders to receive a punishment other than a life sentence.


Background


The underlying court cases are United States v. Cooper, 624 Fed.Appx. 819 (4th Cir. 2015), and United States v. Cooper, 714 Fed.Appx. 259 (4th Cir. 2018). According to a press release of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, “from in or about 2004 through January 2013, Cooper was involved in a drug conspiracy that trafficked marijuana from California to the Charlotte area. Court records show that Cooper was charged with conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute at least one thousand kilograms of marijuana as well as money laundering conspiracy and structuring financial transactions through banking institutions to avoid IRS reporting requirements. Cooper, along with two co-defendants, Evelyn LaChapelle and Natalia Wade, were convicted of all charges on October 18, 2013, following a three-day trial.” He was sentenced to life in prison on June 18, 2014. See https://www.justice.gov/usao-wdnc/pr/california-drug-trafficker-sentenced-life-prison-drug-conspiracy-and-related-charges


The Orange County Register article is available online at https://www.ocregister.com/2018/09/10/this-man-will-spend-life-in-prison-for-a-marijuana-conviction-unless-donald-trump-or-the-supreme-court-helps-him/


A Wikipedia article on Three-Strikes Law is at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three-strikes_law


An online petition urging the President to grant Corvain Cooper clemency and release him from prison is athttps://www.change.org/p/donald-trump-release-corvain-cooper-from-life-imprisonment-without-parole-for-marijuana


About Patrick Megaro


Patrick Michael Megaro is an attorney at Halscott Megaro PA. His primary areas of practice are criminal defense, criminal appeals, post-conviction relief, civil appeals, and civil rights litigation.


Website: https://www.appealslawgroup.com/our-attorneys/patrick-megaro-esq/
The Megaro Criminal Law Library:https://themegarocriminallawlibrary.com/
Attorney Profile: https://criminal-defense-attorney.squarespace.com/patrick-michael-megaro-esq/
Linkedin Profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/patrick-michael-megaro-%E2%AD%90-877b284/
Attorney Profile: https://solomonlawguild.com/patrick-michael-megaro

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The Orange County Register publishes analytical Expose about Corvain Cooper who has been sentenced to life for non-violent marijuana offenses.

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As a public service, Criminal Lawyer Patrick Megaro sets up “The Megaro Criminal Law Library.”

“The Megaro Criminal Law Library”

As a public service, Criminal Lawyer Patrick Megaro sets up “The Megaro Criminal Law Library”

Patrick Megaro, a respected Criminal Lawyer based in Orlando, Florida, announced today that “The Megaro Criminal Law Library” is now available online. The library is a public service and contains all of Mr. Megaro’s Criminal law articles and videos. In addition, there is a “search” feature that allows users to search the videos and articles by keyword.


Mr. Megaro explains that he started out with a Blog with his written articles and commentary, but eventually, “with the growth of the content, it became too unwieldy and difficult to search. I thus decided to organize all of the information more efficiently, and use an index service so that users can search the Library by keyword.”


Mr. Megaro is providing all this information as a public service, free of charge. “I have focused on this area of law for more than 20 years, and at this stage in my life and experience, I would like to share with the public, law students, and my peers all the knowledge I have acquired. I sincerely hope that some of my esteemed colleagues in the profession will find the materials useful for their own law practice.”


The Library is organized by different sections, Videos, Articles, News and an Archive. The most recent featured article of Mr. Megaro is about “How to Preserve Error At Trial in Florida: An Appellate Lawyer’s Practice Tips (PART 1).” In that article, Mr. Megaro addresses the problem when an error at trial is not properly preserved for appeal. In legalese, that is something like “This issue before us was not properly preserved for appellate review and is therefore not now cognizable.  Affirmed.”  Mr. Megaro explains that “appellate lawyers cringe when we see these words written, especially in our own case decisions.  This means that no matter how brilliant the trial attorney was, they did not make a specific, timely objection at the trial level, which has effectively waived their client’s right to appeal that issue.” The law requires that any error during trial be properly preserved. Thus, a lawyer must be specific with the objection so as to inform the trial court of the perceived error.”  State v. Garza, 118 So.3d 856 (Fla. 5th DCA 2013). It means that the attorney must spell out WHY he or she objects (be it in a motion, a post-hearing memorandum of law, a written notice of objection, or an argument on the record at the appropriate time why something is legally erroneous). Further, such objection must be SPECIFIC. Finally, the objection must be TIMELY and CONTEMPORANEOUS.  This means that the attorney must immediately object when something is coming into evidence – sometimes before and after.

The Megaro Criminal Law Library is available to the public, free of charge, https://TheMegaroCriminalLawLibrary.com


About Patrick Megaro


Patrick Michael Megaro is an attorney at Halscott Megaro PA. His primary areas of practice are criminal defense, criminal appeals, post-conviction relief, civil appeals, and civil rights litigation.


Website: https://www.appealslawgroup.com/our-attorneys/patrick-megaro-esq/

The Megaro Criminal Law Library:https://themegarocriminallawlibrary.com/

Attorney Profile: https://criminal-defense-attorney.squarespace.com/patrick-michael-megaro-esq/

Linkedin Profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/patrick-michael-megaro-%E2%AD%90-877b284/

Attorney Profile: https://solomonlawguild.com/patrick-michael-megaro

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Patrick Megaro, a respected Criminal Lawyer based in Orlando, Florida, announced today that “The Megaro Criminal Law Library” is now available online. 

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Blog of Orlando, Florida, Attorney John Guidry.

Law Blog of prominent Criminal Defense Attorney

Blog is publishing two guest articles by criminal defense attorney Patrick Megaro

Respected Orlando Criminal Defense attorney John Guidry, II has served the community by defending the criminally accused since 1993. Among his numerous awards and accolades are “Top 100 Trial Lawyers” and “Best Criminal Defense Lawyer in Orlando” (2016). To provide information to the public, Mr. Guidry maintains a Blog with matters of crucial importance in the area of criminal defense, questions such as “Must an Alleged Victim Show Up in Court?” and “Can I Be Convicted If There’s No Evidence?


Mr. Guidry is now publishing a series of two guest blog articles on his Blog. The first of the articles is “How to Preserve Error At Trial in Florida: An Appellate Lawyer’s Practice Tips (PART 1)”, written by fellow Criminal Defense Attorney Patrick Megaro. In the first article, just published on the Blog, Mr. Megaro addresses the problem when an error at trial is not properly preserved for appeal. In legalese, that is something like “This issue before us was not properly preserved for appellate review and is therefore not now cognizable.  Affirmed.” Mr. Megaro explains that “appellate lawyers cringe when we see these words written, especially in our own case decisions.  This means that no matter how brilliant the trial attorney was, they did not make a specific, timely objection at the trial level, which has effectively waived their client’s right to appeal that issue.”


The law requires that any error during trial be properly preserved. Thus, a lawyer must be specific with the objection so as to inform the trial court of the perceived error.”  State v. Garza, 118 So.3d 856 (Fla. 5th DCA 2013). It means that the attorney must spell out WHY he or she objects (be it in a motion, a post-hearing memorandum of law, a written notice of objection, or an argument on the record at the appropriate time why something is legally erroneous). Further, such objection must be SPECIFIC. Finally, the objection must be TIMELY and CONTEMPORANEOUS.  This means that the attorney must immediately object when something is coming into evidence – sometimes before and after.


Mr. Megaro then continues with specific advice about common issues that arise during the course of a trial. One of those issues is the suppression of evidence. 


Explains Patrick Megaro: “If you move to suppress evidence prior to trial, make sure you make another objection at the time the evidence is introduced in order to preserve the objection.  You can make the objection at the time of introduction by incorporating your prior arguments, and by making any new arguments that came up during the trial (such as authenticity, foundation, etc).”


The second part of the blog articles is forthcoming shortly.


About Attorney John P. Guidry, II


The Law Firm of John Guidry is dedicated to defending the rights of the criminally accused.  Mr. Guidry has defended thousands of citizens arrested on a wide variety of crimes.  This aggressive, intelligent criminal defense work started with an Accounting Degree, then a Master's Degree, then a Juris Doctorate, all with Honors, then admission to the Florida Bar (1993). Website: https://www.jgcrimlaw.com/

Mr. Guidry’s legal blog is at https://www.orlandocriminaldefenseattorneyblog.com/


About Attorney Patrick Megaro


Patrick Michael Megaro is a partner at Halscott Megaro PA. His primary areas of practice are criminal defense, criminal appeals, post-conviction relief, civil appeals, and civil rights litigation.

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The Blog about criminal law of Attorney John P Guidry II is at https://www.jgcrimlaw.com/

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Website of Criminal Defense Lawyer Patrick Megaro

Patrick Megaro - Appeals hearing in case of shooting of unarmed man

20-year-old was unarmed; dashboard cam is inconclusive

U.S. Court of Appeals schedules oral hearing in case of controversial shooting of unarmed, 20-year-old Jayvis Benjamin


Attorney for the family of Benjamin, Patrick Megaro, will argue the issues before the appeals court.


Orlando, FL (August 2018) – The law firm of Halscott Megaro announced that an appeal involving the shooting of Jayvis Benjamin will be heard by the Court of Appeals. In January 2013, Lynn Thomas, a police officer in Decatur, Georgia shot and killed an unarmed 20-year-old black college student, Jayvis Benjamin. Benjamin had allegedly stolen a car and crashed it in a residential front yard. Officer Thomas shot and killed Benjamin after he exited the vehicle through the window because the door would not open. The facts as to what exactly happened when Benjamin exited are in dispute. The police cruiser’s dashboard video of the incident is inconclusive, the shooting took place off-camera.


A civil grand jury recommended officer Lynn Thomas be indicted for Benjamin’s death. In March 2016, however, the District Attorney decided not to charge the police officer, supposedly because its investigation concluded that a struggle had ensued. 


See news report https://decaturish.com/2016/03/reports-avondale-estates-officer-will-not-be-charged-for-shooting-unarmed-man/


Officer Thomas was subsequently promoted to Police Chief in 2016. See the news report at https://decaturish.com/2016/07/avondale-estates-officials-defend-hiring-police-chief-who-shot-unarmed-man/


With the assistance of attorney Patrick Megaro, Benjamin’s mother filed a lawsuit over the death of her son in May 2016 pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (civil rights violations) in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Georgia, alleging Excessive Force, Negligent Hiring/Training/Retention of Employment Services, and Wrongful Death against Avondale Estates Police Department (AEPD) Sergeant Lynn Thomas, Officer Thomas Gillis, Chief Gary L. Broden, and The City of Avondale Estates. All of the defendants except for Lynn Thomas were dismissed from the case. Lynn Thomas successfully moved for summary judgment (a decision based on the pleadings and available evidence before an actual trial), resulting in an appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.


The Court of Appeals determined on August 3 that oral argument is necessary in this case. The issues in the case are essentially as follows: whether there are material facts in dispute that preclude summary judgment, especially where the issue is excessive force, and whether deadly force was justified under the circumstances in which Jayvis Benjamin was not being arrested for a violent offense, was not armed, and did not attack Lynn Thomas.


Patrick Megaro, the attorney for Benjamin’s family, noted that he appreciates the opportunity to explain the disputed issues to the Court. “This case has been controversial and divisive. Facts are in dispute. Hopefully the hearing before the Court will clarify the issues for a just resolution of the matter.”


This incident has been widely reported and commented on in the press. Based on the published articles and opinions, it appears that to this day the facts are still controversial and disputed. The many news articles about the incident include, apart from the two articles referred to above: 


The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “DeKalb DA: Cop won’t be charged in controversial shooting,” https://www.myajc.com/news/crime--law/dekalb-cop-won-charged-controversial-shooting/Rf5YuWCDyIY321rHX2m8GN/


New York Daily News: “King: A Georgia cop gunned down unarmed black student Jayvis Benjamin nearly three years ago — so why no grand jury hearing?,” http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/king-georgia-won-indict-fatally-shot-black-man-article-1.2466691


The appeals case is MONTYE BENJAMIN, and on her own behalf as administratrix for the estate of her Son Jayvis Ledell Benjamin v. LYNN THOMAS, Court of Appeals Docket #: 18-10204 (United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit).


About Attorney Patrick Megaro


Patrick Michael Megaro is a partner at Halscott Megaro PA. His primary areas of practice are criminal defense, criminal appeals, post-conviction relief, civil appeals, and civil rights litigation.

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The appeals case is MONTYE BENJAMIN, and on her own behalf as administratrix for the estate of her Son Jayvis Ledell Benjamin v. LYNN THOMAS, Court of Appeals Docket #: 18-10204 (United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit). 

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Website of Patrick Megaro, Criminal Defense Lawyer at www.AppealsLawGroup.com

Attorney Patrick Megaro prevails in Appeal

Court of Appeals largely agreed that the police officer had no good reason to stop driver

Attorney Patrick Megaro prevails in Appeal in the U.S. Court of Appeals, 11th Circuit; lower court improperly granted immunity to police officer who had falsely arrested the Plaintiff

Court of Appeals largely agreed with the arguments of Patrick Megaro, that the police officer had no good reason (“probable cause”) to stop driver


Orlando, FL (August 2018) Florida Criminal Defense Attorney Patrick Megaro prevailed on appeal in a case where a police officer stopped the vehicle of Mr. E.L. without justification. 


The Law Firm of Halscott Megaro PA announced that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit largely agreed with the arguments of Mr. Megaro, that the police officer had no good reason (“probable cause”) to stop E.L. The opinion of the three judges of the Court was unanimous (“per curiam”).


The underlying criminal case arose out of a traffic stop. According to the police officer’s testimony, E.L. was driving somewhat erratically, including multiple lane changes. When the officer stopped E.L., the testimony whether E.L. appeared intoxicated was contradictory.


The officer arrested E.L. for violating the Traffic Control Devices (changing lanes); for the violation Required Position and Method of Turning at Intersections (for turning into a middle lane instead of the nearest available lane); and finally, for Driving Under the Influence (DUI). 


Later testing revealed that the client had 0.0% of blood alcohol concentration, and absolutely no drugs in his system. Despite the testing results, the police officer maintained that the client appeared to be intoxicated. 


On behalf of his client, Megaro filed a 42 U.S.C. §1983 action (civil rights violations), claiming that this was a false arrest. In the trial court, the judge granted the police officer qualified immunity and thus summary judgment (a decision on the pleadings, without a formal trial). 


Attorney Patrick Megaro appealed, and the Court agreed with the key arguments. On the issue of the multiple lane changes, the Court found that the applicable law does not prohibit such multiple lane changes, and it seems there were no solid yellow lane lines or solid double white lane lines. Thus, E.L.’s lane changes do not create a reason to arrest him. As to E.L.’s left turn into the middle instead of the nearest available lane, again the applicable law does not require that the turn be made to the extreme left hand lane lawfully available. There, based on the available information, the police officer did not have probable cause to stop and then arrest E.L. 


Attorney Patrick Megaro comments: “First, let me say that we support the police who are dedicated public servants sworn to protect public safety. For that we are truly grateful. However, everybody, even police officers, must follow the law. We applaud the Court’s ruling that no reasonable police officer could have believed that my client’s conduct at the time of the stop was DUI.” 


Mr. Megaro notes in particular that the police officer was “not entitled to qualified immunity on the false arrest claim …. because … no reasonable police officer could have believed that [E.L.]’s conduct at the time of the stop constituted driving under the influence.”


The Court sent the case back to the trial court for a proceeding on the false arrest claim.

The underlying case is Llorente v. Demings, No. 17-14452 (11th Cir. 07/30/2018).


About Attorney Patrick Michael Megaro


Mr. Megaro is a native of New York where he played Division I college football and rugby at Hofstra University before graduating from Hofstra Law School. While at Hofstra Law, Mr. Megaro found his calling in life as a litigator and courtroom attorney. In law school, he interned at The Legal Aid Society in Queens, New York City and practiced criminal defense at the Criminal Justice Clinic at Hofstra Law School, representing real clients prior to graduation.


Patrick Megaro began his legal career at The Legal Aid Society Criminal Defense Division in Manhattan, New York City as a public defender. At Legal Aid, Mr. Megaro represented hundreds of clients charged with misdemeanors and major felony offenses, gaining invaluable trial experience fighting in court daily for the rights of clients in the area of criminal law. 


Mr. Megaro entered private practice as a criminal defense attorney in 2004 as an associate at a high-profile criminal defense law firm in New York City before forming his own firm in 2007. In private practice, Mr. Megaro represented clients in New York, New Jersey, Florida, and various Federal courts around the nation, concentrating on criminal trial defense, sentencing advocacy and mitigation, criminal appeals and post-conviction relief. In private practice he handled many high-profile criminal cases in New York City, earning a reputation as a fierce litigator in the area of criminal law. He continued to practice criminal law and appellate law in New York and New Jersey until 2014.


Since 2014, Mr. Megaro has been a partner at Halscott Megaro PA, based in Orlando, Florida, focusing in criminal defense, criminal appeals, post-conviction relief, and civil rights litigation. In his current position, he represents clients in legal appeals, post-conviction litigation, and at the trial court level. At the law firm of Halscott Megaro PA, Mr. Megaro joined forces with Orlando criminal defense attorney Jaime T. Halscott, Esq., bringing more than a decade of experience to Halscott Megaro PA in the area of criminal law.

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The underlying case is Llorente v. Demings, No. 17-14452 (11th Cir. 07/30/2018). 

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Attorney Patrick Michael Megaro announces the creation of the Deron Castro Memorial Scholarship.

Essay Competition in Honor of the late Deron Castro

Patrick Michael Megaro announces the creation of the Deron Castro Memorial Scholarship.

Deron Castro, a New York criminal defense attorney par excellence, departed this Earth too soon and too suddenly in late July 2018. He will not be forgotten by his family, his children, his colleagues whose respect he earned, and his many grateful clients whom he served in over 24 years of his law practice. He sought justice for many unjustly accused. He took more than 90 criminal cases to trial, winning the vast majority of them.


Only days earlier, in early July 2018, Deron had a major win in the Queen’s County Supreme Court when the judge agreed to throw out evidence against the defendant in a murder case after a pre-trial hearing. The District Attorney sought to introduce statements of the defendant made during an interrogation by homicide detectives. 


After carefully cross-examining the detective at the hearing, Castro was able to persuade the judge to suppress the evidence by citing past cases where similar evidence was tossed out. It is quite unusual for a judge to suppress a defendant's own statements, let alone to have them suppressed in a murder case. Few attorneys could accomplish such a feat in court. Deron was one of them.


In his honor, Halscott Megaro, P.A. will be hosting its Annual Essay Writing Competition, which is open to all current full-time and part-time enrolled students in an ABA accredited law school. One winner will be selected and will receive a $1000.00 scholarship award from the Deron Castro Memorial Scholarship.


Deron Castro, Esq. was a personal friend and colleague of Patrick Michael Megaro. Mr. Castro started his career at The Legal Aid Society, Criminal Defense Division, in Queens, New York as a public defender before going into private practice. Mr. Castro and Mr. Megaro cooperated in criminal cases, such as the successful appeal in People v. Small (2011), see https://caselaw.findlaw.com/ny-supreme-court/1565846.html.


He was well-known and respected as one of the most successful and skilled criminal defense attorneys, securing acquittal after acquittal for his clients. A fearless advocate, he provided nothing but the highest caliber of representation to his loyal and dedicated clientele.


States Mr. Megaro, “If I or anyone in my family was charged with a crime, I would have hired Deron Castro. He was hands down one of the best trial attorneys in New York and in the country. Castro won with his skill, preparation, and fighting spirit. He was highly respected by other criminal defense lawyers and feared by prosecutors.”


Outside of the courtroom, Deron Castro was a loving and devoted father of three and caring husband. Always involved in his children’s activities, one could find Mr. Castro running from basketball practice to dance recitals at night and on the weekends. He was known for his kindness, generosity, and perpetual positive attitude which impacted all those around him.


This Scholarship is dedicated to the memory of one of the great lawyers in New York City, and the United States, to ever grace a courtroom with his presence.


Eligibility:


The scholarship is open to all current full-time and part-time matriculated students in an ABA accredited law school.


How to Apply:


For applying the essay contest, the candidates must write a 1000 word or fewer essay on the following topic:

What makes the difference between a good and a great criminal defense attorney?


Deron certainly was one of those great attorneys, but what exactly makes a criminal attorney “great”? 


Here is a starting point. One criminal defenses attorney suggests that four qualities are necessary to be at least “good”: “[1] The single most important thing a criminal defense lawyer can do is over-investigate their case. It is the probably the biggest single difference in lawyers, how much independent investigation they do. …. [2] Everyone knows that criminal defense lawyers must be strong negotiators. … There are really only two factors that should be considered in negotiation: what does this person deserve and what is the likelihood of conviction if the case proceeds to trial (what is the strength of the case). … [3] Third, provide a technical legal defense. This is the kind of thing you learn in law books. Read the discovery. Read the law. Reread the discovery. Reread the law. There is usually something to argue about. … [4] In my opinion, the toughest skill, is being able to win at trial. Not many lawyers will take tough cases to trial. …” Robert King, “What makes a good criminal lawyer?”, see https://www.robertkinglawfirm.com/blog/2017/may/what-makes-a-good-criminal-lawyer-/ (2017)


Submission Details:


Your essay must be submitted via email to info@appealslawgroup.com and must be in Word or PDF format.

In the alternative, the applicant may submit a 5-minute (or less) video essay. The video must be a closeup of the applicant, giving their essay as a lecture or speech, addressing the camera directly and must have a green screen in the background. Editing is permitted.


The essay must be submitted along with a short bio on the applicant, a passport-style photograph of the applicant, and a release permitting publication of the photograph and the essay (or video) by Halscott Megaro, P.A., its agents or assigns.


Award Amount:


The $1000.00 scholarship will be awarded to the winning candidate.


Application Deadline:


The deadline for essay submission is September 1, 2018


The winner will be announced September 8, 2018


Halscott Megaro, P.A. is a law firm dedicated to the pursuit of justice, focusing on criminal and civil appeals, post-conviction relief, criminal defense, clemency advocacy, and civil rights advocacy. Website: https://www.appealslawgroup.com


Deron Castro Condolences are published at https://fairchildsons.com/tribute/details/1860/Deron-Castro/condolences.html#content-start

Attorney Patrick Megaro prevails in Appeal 11th Circuit; court improperly granted immunity to police

Attorney Patrick Megaro prevails on traffic stop case

Court of Appeals largely agreed that police officer had no good reason to stop driver

Florida Criminal Defense Attorney Patrick Megaro prevailed on appeal in a case where a police officer stopped the vehicle of Mr. E.L. without justification. The Law Firm of Halscott Megaro PA announced that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit largely agreed with the arguments of Mr. Megaro, that the police officer had no good reason (“probable cause”) to stop E.L. The opinion of the three judges of the Court was unanimous (“per curiam”).


The underlying criminal case arose out of a traffic stop. According to the police officer’s testimony, E.L. was driving somewhat erratically, including multiple lane changes. When the officer stopped E.L., the testimony whether E.L. appeared intoxicated was contradictory.


The officer arrested E.L. for violating the Traffic Control Devices (changing lanes); for the violation Required Position and Method of Turning at Intersections (for turning into a middle lane instead of the nearest available lane); and finally, for Driving Under the Influence (DUI). 


Later testing revealed that the client had 0.0% of blood alcohol concentration, and absolutely no drugs in his system. Despite the testing results, the police officer maintained that the client appeared to be intoxicated. 


On behalf of his client, Megaro filed a 42 U.S.C. §1983 action (civil rights violations), claiming that this was a false arrest. In the trial court, the judge granted the police officer qualified immunity and thus summary judgment (a decision on the pleadings, without a formal trial). 


Attorney Patrick Megaro appealed, and the Court agreed with the key arguments. On the issue of the multiple lane changes, the Court found that the applicable law does not prohibit such multiple lane changes, and it seems there were no solid yellow lane lines or solid double white lane lines. Thus, E.L.’s lane changes do not create a reason to arrest him. As to E.L.’s left turn into the middle instead of the nearest available lane, again the applicable law does not require that the turn be made to the extreme left hand lane lawfully available. There, based on the available information, the police officer did not have probable cause to stop and then arrest E.L. 


Attorney Patrick Megaro comments: “First, let me say that we support the police who are dedicated public servants sworn to protect public safety. For that we are truly grateful. However, everybody, even police officers, must follow the law. We applaud the Court’s ruling that no reasonable police officer could have believed that my client’s conduct at the time of the stop was DUI.” 


Mr. Megaro notes in particular that the police officer was “not entitled to qualified immunity on the false arrest claim …. because … no reasonable police officer could have believed that [E.L.]’s conduct at the time of the stop constituted driving under the influence.”


The Court sent the case back to the trial court for a proceeding on the false arrest claim.


The underlying case is Llorente v. Demings, No. 17-14452 (11th Cir. 07/30/2018).


About Attorney Patrick Michael Megaro


Mr. Megaro is a native of New York where he played Division I college football and rugby at Hofstra University before graduating from Hofstra Law School. While at Hofstra Law, Mr. Megaro found his calling in life as a litigator and courtroom attorney. In law school, he interned at The Legal Aid Society in Queens, New York City and practiced criminal defense at the Criminal Justice Clinic at Hofstra Law School, representing real clients prior to graduation.


Patrick Megaro began his legal career at The Legal Aid Society Criminal Defense Division in Manhattan, New York City as a public defender. At Legal Aid, Mr. Megaro represented hundreds of clients charged with misdemeanors and major felony offenses, gaining invaluable trial experience fighting in court daily for the rights of clients in the area of criminal law. 


Mr. Megaro entered private practice as a criminal defense attorney in 2004 as an associate at a high-profile criminal defense law firm in New York City before forming his own firm in 2007. In private practice, Mr. Megaro represented clients in New York, New Jersey, Florida, and various Federal courts around the nation, concentrating on criminal trial defense, sentencing advocacy and mitigation, criminal appeals and post-conviction relief. In private practice he handled many high-profile criminal cases in New York City, earning a reputation as a fierce litigator in the area of criminal law. He continued to practice criminal law and appellate law in New York and New Jersey until 2014.


Since 2014, Mr. Megaro has been a partner at Halscott Megaro PA, based in Orlando, Florida, focusing in criminal defense, criminal appeals, post-conviction relief, and civil rights litigation. In his current position, he represents clients in legal appeals, post-conviction litigation, and at the trial court level. At the law firm of Halscott Megaro PA, Mr. Megaro joined forces with Orlando criminal defense attorney Jaime T. Halscott, Esq., bringing more than a decade of experience to Halscott Megaro PA in the area of criminal law.

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The underlying court case is Llorente v. Demings, No. 17-14452 (11th Cir. 07/30/2018), see https://www.pacermonitor.com/public/case/9730427/Llorente_v_Demings_et_al 

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Corvain Cooper has been sentenced to life for marijuana offenses, based on the  “Three Strikes” law.

Criminal Defense Attorney files Cert for Corvain Cooper

Attorney Patrick Megaro petitions Supreme Court to review Corvain Cooper life sentence

The Law Firm of Halscott Megaro, P.A. has announced that criminal attorney Patrick Megaro has filed a petition in the United States Supreme Court to challenge Corvain Cooper’s sentence of life without parole under the Federal “Three Strikes” law. The "Petition for Certiorari" was filed by Cooper’s attorney in the Supreme Court on July 6, 2018, asking the Court to stop the injustice of mandatory life sentences for non-violent drug offenders.


Explains Corvain’s attorney who filed the petition, Lawyer Patrick Megaro: “In the legal realm, you have to present the issue as a legal query. In this case, the official query presented to the U.S. Supreme Court is ‘Whether a Petitioner Who Was Sentenced to Life Without the Possibility of Parole, Which was Enhanced By Two Later Invalidated State Convictions, May Apply for Resentencing …’ The reality of the situation is that drug law reform, especially marijuana reform, is at the forefront in many state legislature’s agendas. Marijuana is now legalized, decriminalized, or approved for medicinal use in one form or another in the majority of States. Due Process and fundamental fairness are at the heart of this case. Boiled down to its essence, the question for this Court is whether a sentence of life without parole is justified for a person who now has no predicate felony convictions.”


Corvain Cooper was charged in the United States District Court for the Western District of North Carolina with conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute 1,000 kilograms or more of marijuana, and conspiracy to commit money laundering and structuring transactions. A special information was also filed against Cooper, alleging two prior felony convictions for possession of drugs (one for marijuana, one for codeine cough syrup) in the California state courts. The filing triggered a mandatory life sentence without parole. The reason for the unusually harsh sentence is the so-called “Three Strikes” law. This law requires a person guilty of committing a drug felony and two other previous drug felony convictions to serve a mandatory life sentence in prison. The “Three Strikes” law significantly increases the prison sentences of persons convicted of a felony who have been previously convicted of two or more violent crimes or drug felonies, and limits the ability of these offenders to receive a punishment other than a life sentence.


Mr. Cooper tried appealing his conviction and sentence, stating that the sentence of life for non-violent crimes was against his Eighth Amendment rights (Amendment VIII) of the United States Constitution which prohibits the federal government from imposing excessive bail, excessive fines, or cruel and unusual punishments. However, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit upheld the case, and the Supreme Court declined to even hear the case. 


The State of California enacted Proposition 47 in 2014, which re-categorized several non-violent offenses as misdemeanors. Prior to enacting Proposition 47, possession of marijuana was considered a felony. This also allowed people who had prior felony convictions under the old statute to vacate them.


Proposition 64 (the Adult Use of Marijuana Act) was enacted on November 9, 2016, by the State of California which legalized the use of recreational marijuana. This Act permitted certain people who had been convicted of marijuana felony offenses to apply to vacate those convictions and reclassify them as misdemeanors. Thus, his attorney is trying one more time.


Adds attorney Patrick Megaro, “I have been representing Mr. Cooper and I have said from day one, that I am in this fight to represent Corvain Cooper no matter how long it takes. Today, is yet another example of my strong commitment.” Mr. Megaro went on to add, “We need to quit playing political games and allow the sentence to fit the crime, as both of these Propositions (47 and 64) favor individuals such as Corvain Cooper.”


Patrick Megaro has simultaneously filed a petition for commutation of sentence with President Donald Trump on Corvain Cooper’s behalf, and has started a petition on Change.org in support of the petition that already has over 3,000 supporters.


Background


The “Petition for Certiorari” filed on behalf of Corvain Cooper with the U.S. Supreme Court should be available soon on the Court’s website at https://www.supremecourt.gov under “Docket Search.”


A Wikipedia article on Three-Strikes Law is at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three-strikes_law


The underlying court cases are United States v. Cooper, 624 Fed.Appx. 819 (4th Cir. 2015), and United States v. Cooper, 714 Fed.Appx. 259 (4th Cir. 2018). According to a press release of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, “from in or about 2004 through January 2013, Cooper was involved in a drug conspiracy that trafficked marijuana from California to the Charlotte area. Court records show that Cooper was charged with conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute at least one thousand kilograms of marijuana as well as money laundering conspiracy and structuring financial transactions through banking institutions to avoid IRS reporting requirements. Cooper, along with two co-defendants, Evelyn LaChapelle and Natalia Wade, were convicted of all charges on October 18, 2013, following a three-day trial.” He was sentenced to life in prison on June 18, 2014. See https://www.justice.gov/usao-wdnc/pr/california-drug-trafficker-sentenced-life-prison-drug-conspiracy-and-related-charges


For more information, contact:

Patrick Michael Megaro, Esq.

Halscott Megaro, P.A.

1300 North Semoran Boulevard, Suite 195

Orlando, FL 32807 USA

Phone: (407) 255-2164

http://www.halscottmegaro.com


Please review the latest Change.org petition for Mr. Corvain Cooper, and sign and support this worthy cause: https://www.change.org/p/donald-trump-release-corvain-cooper-from-life-imprisonment-without-parole-for-a-non-violent-drug-crime

Attorney Patrick Megaro is asking to stop the life sentences for non-violent drug offenders.

Florida attorney submitting clemency for Corvain Cooper

Attorney Patrick Megaro is filing clemency petition for Corvain Cooper

Florida attorney is submitting clemency request for Corvain Cooper 

Orlando, FL (June 2018) Halscott Megaro PA has announced that Patrick Megaro of the firm Halscott Megaro, P.A. is asking President Donald J. Trump to stop the madness of mandatory life sentences for non-violent drug offenders, and commute Corvain Cooper's sentence. Back on June 18, 2014, Corvain T. Cooper was convicted in the United States District Court for the Western District of North Carolina in Charlotte for the crime of conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute marijuana. Mr. Cooper was convicted of a non-violent crime and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. 

Mr. Cooper tried appealing his conviction and sentence, stating that the sentence of life for non-violent crimes was against his Eighth Amendment (Amendment VIII) of the United States Constitution which prohibits the federal government from imposing excessive bail, excessive fines, or cruel and unusual punishments. However, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit upheld the case, and the Supreme Court declined to even hear the case. 

Once the courts upheld the lower courts decisions, the attention turned to the State of California who had passed Proposition 47 and 64 as part of legislative drug law reforms after the state legalized marijuana. Both Propositions favored individuals, such as, Corvain Cooper. Mr. Cooper applied to the courts asking them to replace his drug felony convictions with misdemeanors. 

A petition was filed to pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 2255 in the Federal court, challenging his life sentence under the "Three Strikes" law - since two of the three strikes were no longer felonies, but misdemeanors. However, the Federal courts have denied the challenge and Mr. Coopers case is once again before the United States Supreme Court. Back in 2016 an application for clemency was present to then President Barack Obama, asking the President to commute the sentence from life-imprisonment to a non-violent drug offense. However, the President denied the chance for clemency. 

“I believe in God, the Constitution, individual freedom and personal liberty.  This is why I have been fighting for Corvain Cooper and his rights since 2014, and I will continue to do so until we have exhausted all options”, Patrick Megaro stated. Mr. Megaro also added “Because his family has been unable to afford legal fees, I have been representing him for free - pro bono. I have pledged to continue to fight for this young man, who is a genuinely good person who does not deserve this Draconian punishment.”

We are asking President Donald J. Trump to stop the madness of mandatory life sentences for non-violent drug offenders, and commute Corvain Cooper's sentence to a non-violent drug sentence. Mr. Cooper deserves to be treated and sentenced based on the crime, not for political gains.

Background

The underlying court cases are United States v. Cooper, 624 Fed.Appx. 819 (4th Cir. 2015), and United States v. Cooper, 714 Fed.Appx. 259 (4th Cir. 2018). According to a press release of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, “from in or about 2004 through January 2013, Cooper was involved in a drug conspiracy that trafficked marijuana from California to the Charlotte area. Court records show that Cooper was charged with conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute at least one thousand kilograms of marijuana as well as money laundering conspiracy and structuring financial transactions through banking institutions to avoid IRS reporting requirements. Cooper, along with two co-defendants, Evelyn LaChapelle and Natalia Wade, were convicted of all charges on October 18, 2013, following a three-day trial.” He was sentenced to life in prison on June 18, 2014. See https://www.justice.gov/usao-wdnc/pr/california-drug-trafficker-sentenced-life-prison-drug-conspiracy-and-related-charges

For more information, contact:

Patrick Michael Megaro, Esq.

Halscott Megaro, P.A.

1300 North Semoran Boulevard, Suite 195

Orlando, FL 32807 USA

Phone: (407) 255-2164

pmegaro@halscottmegaro.com

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Mr. Patrick Megaro's video on the "Three Strikes Law" is at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ol7km1UFrp0

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Criminal Defense Attorney wins post-conviction relief

Client had been sentenced to 22 years

New Jersey, (June 2018) Halscott Megaro PA announced that attorney Patrick Megaro has won a Post-Conviction Relief Petition for his client Altariq Coursey. Mr. Coursey was charged on September 24, 2012, by an Essex County grand jury and was convicted after a jury trial and sentenced to 22 years with 11 of those years’ ineligibility for parole. 

Once Mr. Coursey was sentenced, Patrick Megaro, Esq. field an appeal on his client’s behalf. However, the New Jersey Appellate Division affirmed the conviction, but noted that Mr. Coursey could challenge his conviction with a Petition for Post-Conviction Relief on the grounds of ineffective assistance of counsel. 

Mr. Megaro filed a Petition for Post-Conviction Relief in the Essex County Superior Court in 2016. Mr. Megaro reviewed the case and stated “Mr. Coursey’s prior attorney committed several unprofessional errors, that had they been corrected at the time of the trial there is reasonable probability, that the result of the proceeding would have been different.” 

On June 4, 2016, the Essex County Superior Court granted post-conviction relief, and ordered the State to give Altariq Coursey a new trial, tossing out his convictions.

Mr. Megaro went on to add, “we are very pleased with the decision from the Superior Court of New Jersey. They considered our petition for Post-Conviction Relief and it was GRANTED.”

The term Post-Conviction Relief refers to a law or court rule that allows a collateral challenge to a judgment of conviction which has otherwise become final in the normal appellate review process. Post-conviction relief is governed by federal and state laws, which vary by state, and may be used to preclude state or federal habeas corpus.

Attorney Patrick Megaro received both his Bachelor's Degree and Law Degree from Hofstra University. He is also the recipient of the Leon Stern Award (2002). Mr. Megaro has had several articles published and has made numerous appearances on national media such as the “Today Show” and “Happening Now” on the Fox News Channel.

Attorney Patrick Megaro has won a Post-Conviction Relief Petition for his client Altariq Coursey.

Attorney Patrick Megaro has won a Post-Conviction Relief Petition for his client Altariq Coursey.

Statute of Limitations in Extradition Request from Mexico

In case of extradition request from Mexico, Sixth Circuit considers statute of limitations

In case of extradition request from Mexico for a 2006 murder in Mexico, Sixth Circuit considers whether statute of limitations applies


Samuel Francisco Solano Cruz was to host a goat roasting party for the municipal leaders of Santa Maria Natividad, a village in the State of Oaxaca, Mexico, and for the members of the town band on New Year’s Day 2006. He went to a New Year’s Eve party outside the local municipal hall to deliver the invitations. Shortly after he arrived he was approached by a man screaming “son of a bitch!” and who then shot him six times. A bystander, Antolin Cruz Reyes, who came to Solano Cruz’s help, was shot as well. The murderer then got in his truck and fled the scene. Both men died from their wounds.

Avelino Cruz Martinez, then a United States permanent resident (and a citizen since 2010) was accused by Solano Cruz’s family of the murders. Within two weeks of the shooting, Solano Cruz’s widow and parents met with Cruz Martinez’s wife and brother, who lived in Santa Maria Natividad, before a town clerk and signed an agreement stating that Cruz Martinez had “committed the homicide.” The agreement also provided that Cruz Martinez’s family would pay 50,000 pesos for the expenses incurred by Solano Cruz’s relatives as a result of the “unfortunate incident,” and that once the parties accept the agreement and enact its terms the matter shall be closed. 

A few days after the families’ agreed, two eyewitnesses made sworn statements before public officials, pointing to Cruz Martinez as the New Year’s Eve murderer. On February 23, 2006, an Oaxacan judge issued an arrest warrant charging Cruz Martinez with “murder with the aggravating circumstance of unfair advantage,” and notified the public prosecutor’s office the next day. 

Following the murders, Cruz Martinez returned to the United States—Lebanon, Tennessee. He traveled back to Mexico a couple of times. 

When in 2009, an American consular official asked about the status of Cruz Martinez’s arrest warrant the Oaxacan court responded that it was “still pending and executable.” In May 2012, the Mexican government filed a diplomatic note with the United States Department of State, informing it of the charges against Cruz Martinez and requesting his “provisional arrest.” Over a year later, he was arrested by the American authorities. The Mexican officials filed a formal extradition request in August 2013.

Complying with the diplomatic, judicial, and quasi-judicial procedures, the Secretary of State filed Mexico’s extradition request with a federal magistrate judge in Tennessee. Cruz Martinez raised multiple challenges to his provisional arrest and to the extradition proceedings, which were rejected by the magistrate judge. The magistrate judge certified to the Secretary of State that Cruz Martinez could be extradited. Cruz Martinez then filed a habeas corpus action contesting the magistrate judge’s certification decision. He argued that his prosecution has become barred by (1) the relevant American statute of limitations and (2) the Speedy Trial Clause of the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The district court denied his petition. Cruz Martinez appealed. 

The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirms district court’s decision. 

“’Extradition shall not be granted,’ Article 7 of the United States-Mexico Extradition Treaty says, ‘when the prosecution or the enforcement of the penalty’ for the charged offense ‘has become barred by lapse of time according to the laws of the requesting or requested Party.’ Extradition Treaty, U.S.-Mex., supra, art. 7, 31 U.S.T. at 5064-65.”

Cruz Martinez argued that the charged offense is analogous to second-degree murder under American federal law, meaning that a five-year limitations period applied to the charges. However, the Court agrees with the panel majority’s opinion that the statute of limitations did not expire even if the five-year period applies. 

“‘[N]o person shall be prosecuted, tried, or punished for any [non-capital] offense,’ the five-year limitations statute provides, ‘unless the indictment is found or the information is instituted within five years next after such offense shall have been committed.’ 18 U.S.C. § 3282(a). Because statutes of limitations protect defendants from excessive delay between the time of the offense and the time of prosecution, they stop running when the prosecution begins—which means, in American federal courts, when an indictment or information is returned. United States v. Marion, 404 U.S. 307, 320-23 (1971). But Mexico, which models its legal system not on Blackstone’s common law but on Napoleon’s civil law, lacks the sort of indictment and information procedures that exist in the United States. Miguel Sarré & Jan Perlin, ‘Mexico,’ in Criminal Procedure: A Worldwide Study 351, 372 (Craig M. Bradley ed., 2d ed. 2007). Does that mean there is nothing Mexico can do under § 3282 to prevent a ‘lapse of time’ from occurring? No: Because the issuance of an arrest warrant marks the end of the preliminary investigation and the beginning of the prosecution in Mexico, that event stops the American statute of limitations from running. And because a Mexican court issued an arrest warrant within two months of Cruz Martinez’s alleged offense, the five-year limitations period does not bar his prosecution.”

“The only other circuit to consider this question agrees. It held that ‘a Mexican arrest warrant is the equivalent of a United States indictment and may toll the United States statute of limitations’ for purposes of an extradition treaty. Sainez v. Venables, 588 F.3d 713, 717 (9th Cir. 2009). The Third Restatement of Foreign Relations Law echoes the point. ‘For purposes of applying statutes of limitation to requests for extradition,’ it notes, courts generally calculate the limitations period ‘from the time of the alleged commission of the offense to the time of the warrant, arrest, indictment, or similar step in the requesting state, or of the filing of the request for extradition, whichever occurs first.’ Restatement (Third) of the Foreign Relations Law of the United States § 476 cmt. e (1987).”

Cruz Martinez argued that Mexico should be able to satisfy § 3282 even though it does not have an indictment or information procedure. He further argued that American clock keeps ticking until Mexico does something that would stop the limitations period from running Under Mexican law, which cannot be an arrest warrant. 

“[…] The extradition treaty, however, offers a defense to extradition when prosecution is barred ‘according to the laws of the requesting or requested Party,’ Extradition Treaty, U.S.-Mex., supra, art. 7, 31 U.S.T. at 5065—a formulation that does not require us to mix and match national laws by applying Mexican legal requirements to American limitations periods. That language is especially significant given that some extradition treaties do demand this sort of jumbling, requiring the requested State to ‘take[] into consideration insofar as possible’ any ‘acts constituting an interruption or a suspension of the time-bar in the Requesting State.’ Extradition Treaty, U.S.-Belg., art. 2(6), Apr. 27, 1987, T.I.A.S. No. 97-901, at 2; see also Extradition Treaty, U.S.-Lux., art. 2(6), Oct. 1, 1996, T.I.A.S. No. 12,804, at 4. The American statute of limitations does not bar Cruz Martinez’s prosecution.”

In a separate argument Cruz Martinez stated that the treaty’s “barred by lapse of time” provision picks up the Speedy Trial Clause of the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which says that, “[i]n all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial.” The Court did not agree with this argument.

“[…] When the Sixth Amendment says ‘all criminal prosecutions,’ it refers to all prosecutions in this country, not anywhere in the world. See United States v. Balsys, 524 U.S. 666, 672-75 (1998). […][T]he guarantee applies to extradition proceedings, which are not ‘criminal prosecutions.’ See Martin v. Warden, 993 F.2d 824, 829 (11th Cir. 1993). […] The text and context of the treaty provision, the illuminating history behind it, and all precedential authority and scholarly commentary establish that the phrase ‘barred by lapse of time’ does not incorporate the American Constitution’s speedy-trial guarantee.”

“Text. Article 7, recall, prohibits extradition ‘when the prosecution or the enforcement of the penalty for the offense for which extradition has been sought has become barred by lapse of time according to the laws of the requesting or requested Party.’ Extradition Treaty, U.S.-Mex., supra, art. 7, 31 U.S.T. at 5064-65. Put less passively, time must do the barring. Yet the Sixth Amendment does not create a fixed time bar on trial initiation—a time limit after which the trial must be called off. As the Supreme Court has explained, the speedy-trial right is ‘consistent with delays’ (and thus consistent with lapses of time) and ‘depends upon circumstances,’ as it is ‘impossible to determine with precision when the right has been denied’ in our system of ‘swift but deliberate’ justice. Barker v. Wingo, 407 U.S. 514, 521-22 (1972) (emphasis added) (quotation omitted). The right is a ‘relative,’ ‘amorphous,’ and ‘slippery’ one. Id. at 522 (quotation omitted). Because the Sixth Amendment does not establish a time limit, fixed or otherwise, before a trial must start, it does not create a rule that ‘bar[s]’ criminal prosecutions due to ‘lapse of time.’”

“Not only does Cruz Martinez’s argument require us to add something to the Sixth Amendment that does not exist (a time bar), it requires us to subtract requirements of the Sixth Amendment that do exist. A criminal defendant cannot win a Sixth Amendment challenge by pointing to a calendar and counting off the days. He instead must show that, by balancing the four factors the Supreme Court has instructed us to consider in speedy-trial cases, he should receive relief. Id. at 530-33. The ‘[l]ength of delay,’ it is true, is one of those factors—but only one. Id. at 530. Courts also must weigh “the reason for the delay, the defendant’s assertion of his right, and prejudice to the defendant’ in determining whether a speedy-trial violation occurred. Id. Even if there has been considerable delay, for example, ‘a valid reason’ for that delay, ‘such as a missing witness, should serve to justify’ it. Id. at 531. If a defendant fails to object contemporaneously to the lapse of time, the Supreme Court has told us, that will also ‘make it difficult for [him] to prove that he was denied a speedy trial.’ Id. at 532. ‘[N]one of the four factors’—not even delay of a specified length—is ‘a necessary or sufficient condition to the finding of a deprivation of the right of speedy trial.’ Id. at 533. The Court could not be clearer: Lapse of time, standing alone, does not—cannot—violate the Speedy Trial Clause in the absence of at least some of the other factors. We know of no case in which a lapse of time by itself created a speedy-trial violation—or, to put it in the words of the treaty, in which the prosecution was ‘barred by lapse of time.’”

“Another textual clue points in the same direction. The treaty does not cover any and all ‘lapse[s] of time’ that may occur in a criminal case. It applies only to time lapses with respect to ‘the prosecution or the enforcement of the penalty’ for the charged offense. Extradition Treaty, U.S.-Mex., supra, art. 7, 31 U.S.T. at 5064-65. That language naturally applies to statutes-of-limitations periods that ‘bar[]’ the commencement of a ‘prosecution’ or ‘enforcement’ proceeding. It also naturally applies to limitations periods that ‘bar[]’ ‘penalt[ies]’ already handed down from being ‘enforce[d]’ to the extent any exist—limitations periods that, while generally unknown in the United States, are common in civil law countries like Mexico. See Yapp v. Reno, 26 F.3d 1562, 1568 (11th Cir. 1994). The same is not true for guarantees that apply after an indictment (or its equivalent) through the end of trial. Just as this treaty provision would not cover criminal procedure guarantees that apply to a trial already begun, it does not naturally apply to speedy-trial requirements that prohibit the criminal process, once started, from continuing. The speedy-trial right after all operates not by barring the initiation of a prosecution but by preventing it from continuing, see Marion, 404 U.S. at 320-23, and may not apply to the execution of sentences already pronounced, cf. United States v. Melody, 863 F.2d 499, 504-05 (7th Cir. 1988). These rights, like trial guarantees, usually kick in outside the two periods in which extradition limits apply: (1) the initiation of a prosecution and (2) the enforcement of a ‘judicially pronounced penalty of deprivation of liberty.’ Extradition Treaty, U.S.-Mex., supra, art. 1(1), 31 U.S.T. at 5061.”

The Court then looks for the answers in legal dictionaries, extradition treaties, state laws, precedents and commentaries. 

“[…] In this case, as in many cases involving treaty interpretation, we have not one official text but two—the English and Spanish versions of the treaty, each of which is ‘equally authentic.’ Id., 31 U.S.T. at 5075. The English version of Article 7 bears the title ‘Lapse of Time,’ while the Spanish version says ‘Prescripción.’ Compare id., art. 7, 31 U.S.T. at 5064, with id., art. 7, 31 U.S.T. at 5083. And the phrase ‘barred by lapse of time’ reads, in the Spanish version of the text, ‘haya prescrito,’ using a verb form related to the noun ‘prescripción.’ Compare id., art. 7, 31 U.S.T. at 5065, with id., art. 7, 31 U.S.T. at 5083. We must interpret the translated documents in tandem, because, ‘[i]f the English and the Spanish parts can, without violence, be made to agree, that construction which establishes this conformity ought to prevail.’ United States v. Percheman, 32 U.S. (7 Pet.) 51, 88 (1833). […]”

“The English and Spanish texts of the 1978 extradition treaty ‘conform[]’ quite easily, it turns out, because ‘prescripción’ means ‘statute of limitations.’ Bilingual legal dictionaries tell us as much, with one Spanish-English dictionary providing ‘[s]tatute of limitations’ as the first definition of ‘prescripción.’ Henry Saint Dahl, Dahl’s Law Dictionary 385 (6th ed. 2015). Mexican legal provisions tell us as much, because Article 88 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of Oaxaca—the state where Cruz Martinez’s alleged crimes occurred—uses the phrase ‘[c]ómputo de la prescripción’ to describe the ‘[c]alculation of the [s]tatute of [l]imitations.’ R. 2-19 at 2, 7. Previous treaties tell us as much, because the 1899 United States-Mexico extradition treaty translates the phrase ‘has become barred by limitation’ (a phrase that, as Cruz Martinez concedes, refers only to statutes of limitations) as ‘la prescripción impida.’ Treaty of Extradition, U.S.-Mex., art. III(3), Feb. 22, 1899, 31 Stat. 1818, 1821. […]”

“The practice of using these terms as synonyms within the law of extradition continues today. Take our treaty with South Korea, which, in a section titled ‘Lapse of Time,’ permits the parties to deny extradition ‘when the prosecution or the execution of punishment’ for the charged offense ‘would have been barred because of the statute of limitations of the Requested State.’ Extradition Treaty, U.S.-S. Kor., art. 6, June 9, 1998, T.I.A.S. No. 12,962, at 4; see Extradition Treaty, U.S.-Arg., art. 7, June 10, 1997, T.I.A.S. No. 12,866, at 5 (stating, in an article titled ‘Lapse of Time,’ that ‘[e]xtradition shall not be denied on the ground that the prosecution or the penalty would be barred under the statute of limitations in the Requested State) […]”

“The phrase ‘lapse of time’ also holds a similar meaning in American law, where it has been used in the context of state laws applying out-of-state statutes of limitations to out-of-state causes of action. Consider the Minnesota borrowing statute upheld by the Supreme Court in Canadian Northern Railway Co. v. Eggen. 252 U.S. 553 (1920). The statute provided that, ‘[w]hen a cause of action has arisen outside of this state, and, by the laws of the place where it arose, an action thereon is there barred by lapse of time, no such action shall be maintained in this state unless the plaintiff be a citizen of the state who has owned the cause of action ever since it accrued.’ Id. at 558 (emphasis added) (quotation omitted). The Court characterized this statute, phrased in ‘precisely the same’ terms ‘as those of several other states,’ as granting a ‘nonresident the same rights in the Minnesota courts as a resident citizen has, for a time equal to that of the statute of limitations where his cause of action arose.’ Id. at 560 (emphasis added).”

“Every case on the books has concluded that this phrase encompasses only statutes of limitations. The Eleventh Circuit faced Cruz Martinez’s precise argument and rejected it. Here is what the court said:

‘Weighing heavily against [the accused’s] position is the fact that for over a century, the term `lapse of time’ has been commonly associated with a statute of limitations violation. . . . Thus, we hold that the `lapse of time’ provision in Article 5 of the [United States-Bahamas] Extradition Treaty refers to the running of a statute of limitations and not to a defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial.’ Yapp, 26 F.3d at 1567-68. A district court has reached the same conclusion. Gonzalez v. O’Keefe, No. C 12-2681 LHK (PR), 2014 WL 6065880, at *2-4 (N.D. Cal. Nov. 12, 2014). […]”

“So far as our research and the research of the parties have revealed, all scholars see it the same way. The Third Restatement of Foreign Relations Law notes that, ‘[u]nder most international agreements, state laws, and state practice,’ an individual ‘will not be extradited . . . if the applicable period of limitation has expired.’ Restatement, supra, § 476. The commentary to that provision notes that some treaties prohibit extradition if prosecution ‘has become barred by lapse of time,’ ‘if either state’s statute of limitations has run,’ or if there is a ‘time-bar.’ Id. § 476 cmt. e. Eliminating any doubt, the section concludes by noting that, ‘[i]f the treaty contains no reference to the effect of a lapse of time, neither state’s statute of limitations will be applied.’ Id. The only way to make sense of the Restatement’s discussion is to recognize that each of these terms—‘period of limitation,’ ‘lapse of time,’ ‘time-bar,’ ‘statute of limitations’—means the same thing.”

“Because the constitutional speedy-trial right has no fixed time limit, in contrast to statutes of limitations, what extraditee will not raise the claim in all of its indeterminate glory? The mutability of the right makes it impossible to know how much delay is too much delay. Take the alleged delay in Cruz Martinez’s case: around six years. Although a delay of one year or more is presumptively prejudicial, six years may not be enough to state a speedy-trial claim in view of other considerations, our court has said, when the government is not to blame for the delay and the defendant does not identify any evidence of prejudice. See United States v. Bass, 460 F.3d 830, 838 (6th Cir. 2006). […]”

The Court concluded that “[i]n the final analysis, Cruz Martinez’s argument comes up short. No matter where we look—to the text of this treaty (in English and Spanish), to the text of other treaties, to historical principles underlying those treaties, to judicial decisions interpreting those treaties, to commentaries explaining those treaties, to guidance explaining how to draft those treaties, to the Factor default rule—all roads lead to the same conclusion. The United States and Mexico did not impose a speedy-trial limit when they forbade the extradition of fugitives whose ‘prosecution’ was ‘barred by lapse of time.’”

The Court affirmed district court’s decision. 

Judge Clay dissented.

“The majority’s premise—that the phrase ‘lapse of time’ refers only to a fixed statutory limitations period—is not supported by any of the multitude of cases, treaties, or texts it cites. The majority points to no authority of any kind that associates this distinctive language with, much less restricts it to, statutes of limitation. ‘Lapse of time’ is a phrase frequently used in connection with any number of legal doctrines that operate based on the passage of time—including speedy trial rights. These uses are too numerous and varied to permit the conclusion that the term ‘lapse of time’ is so strongly or so inherently associated exclusively with statutes of limitation that the treaty’s drafters relied on it as a term of art to refer solely to statutes of limitation. Instead, the frequent use of the phrase in connection with constitutional speedy trial claims confirms that a literal reading of the text of Article 7 incorporates the Speedy Trial Clause.”

“For these reasons, this case should be remanded for the district court to determine whether Cruz Martinez’s Speedy Trial Clause rights were violated.”

Judge Bernice Bouie Donald also dissented. “The treaty’s text is ambiguous. The English version’s ‘lapse of time’ language is broad enough to include the Sixth Amendment’s speedy trial guarantee as Judge White’s concurrence and Judge Clay’s dissent ably demonstrate. However, the Spanish version’s use of ‘prescripción’ is narrow enough to exclude the Sixth Amendment’s speedy trial guarantee as the majority’s erudite opinion makes clear. Since the treaty appears to say one thing in English and another in Spanish, we cannot resolve this case through a plain-meaning textual analysis. That said, I agree with Judge Clay that history and policy considerations support reading the Sixth Amendment’s speedy trial clause into the treaty.”

Citation: Martinez v. US, 828 F.3d 451 (6th Cir. 2016). 

Lawyer Patrick Michael Megaro is a partner at Halscott Megaro PA.

Lawyer Patrick Michael Megaro is a partner at Halscott Megaro PA.