A criminal defense lawyer’s sole responsibility is to advocate, within ethical and legal boundaries, on behalf of his or her client. Each step the lawyer takes in a case should be focused on achieving the best resolution of the matter for his client. The lawyer should not be swayed by outside influences and should not be distracted by arguments that do not further his cause.
The defense attorneys for Dalia Dippolito filed a Motion for Order to Show Cause asking that prosecutors be held in criminal contempt of court. Recently, the Judge issued a gag order with instructions on what defense attorneys and prosecutors may comment on while the case is pending. The defense is now alleging that prosecutors should be held in criminal contempt because the Boynton Beach Police Department continues to publicly post videos of Dalia Dippolito. One of the videos still on the Boynton Beach Police Department Youtube channel depicts the staged crime scene that police set up. It is well established that police are agents of the State. Thus, the prosecutor’s office can be held responsible in court for the actions of law enforcement.
The defense also claims that Liz Quirantes, the wife of prosecutor Craig Williams, sent out a tweet on the case. Liz Quirantes is a CBS Channel 12 news anchor in West Palm Beach. The tweet was however, sent out prior to the last hearing at which prosecutors moved for a gag order and requested that Defense Attorney Brian Claypool be removed from the case.
The defense complains about this tweet and other tweets by the news anchor. The Judge’s Gag Order applies to the attorneys on the case and does not apply to news anchors. In addition, all of Ms. Quirantes’ and CBS News tweets merely recite any rulings by the court or expected motions to be heard in court. According to the Gag Order, even the attorneys are allowed to comment on these matters.
In this case, it is unclear to me what Ms. Dippolito’s lawyers are trying to accomplish for their client. Asking that prosecutors be held in contempt of court is unlikely to be helpful when this case goes to trial. I suppose that if the goal were simply to make sure that evidence about the case is not posted online, then potentially the motion makes logical sense. However, if that were the case, then the defense should have started by simply sending a copy of the Order to the Boynton Beach Police Department with a cease and desist letter. Also, the defense could have simply emailed the prosecutors asking them to instruct the Boynton Beach Police Department to remove the videos. I am unaware of any such actions being taken.
The infamous crime scene video that is posted by Boynton Beach Police Department is the very video that the defense does not want any jury to see. Now, by filing this motion and requesting a hearing, more publicity on this video will occur.
If there were any chances of obtaining a reasonable plea offer in this case, those chances have significantly diminished by the filing of this motion. You can’t throw the prosecutor’s wife into the mix and expect anything positive in return. Sometimes a criminal defense lawyer will file motions in an effort to get the prosecutor to see some of the flaws in their case. The hope is that the prosecutor will ultimately make a better plea offer. However, attacking the prosecutor and his wife is pretty unlikely to convince that same prosecutor or even the elected State Attorney to be more reasonable.
As to the merits of the motion on this matter, the tweet listed as an exhibit in the defense motion, was a tweet sent out by Liz Quirantes, prior to the last hearing and not after the Judge issued the gag order. This defense exhibit has pictures of other tweets. One shows a picture of Liz Quirantez on the news that was sent out by a lawyer in West Palm Beach and other pictures of tweets by other news organizations and not CBS. The Judge’s gag order does not apply to news anchors. The Order only applies to attorneys on the case. The Liz Quirantes tweet complained about by the defense was not only sent out before the Gag Order was issued, but also merely told the viewers about the motion prosecutors had filed. According to the gag Order, even the attorneys may comment on these matters. The gag order specifically states that attorneys “may comment generally on the progress of the case, procedural matters or rulings of the Court, provided the comments are consistent with the Florida Rules of Professional Conduct.”
If the motion is not helpful for trial purposes and is unlikely to assist the defense lawyer in obtaining a better plea offer, then one has to wonder why it was filed in the first place. Was it filed because the defense lawyers are upset that the prosecutor requested and obtained a gag order? Was it filed to get back at the prosecutor? Was it filed to simply generate more publicity about the case without violating the gag order? Who knows for sure. Perhaps Ms. Dippolito’s defense lawyers have a plan. They did manage to get a hung jury in the last trial. Maybe they have something up their sleeve. If they do, it better be really good, because everything just got ramped up 100 times.