Stop the Speculation Before the Harris Case Spins Out of Control

Written by Mark O'Mara on . Posted in Opinion

stop speculation

I’ve just read a report about the Justin Harris case, where the 22-month-old died after being left in his Dad’s car. It references a unnamed source “close to the investigation” who said “this is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s more than what meets the eye.” It also claims an unnamed law enforcement source says there was a search on Harris work computer for information on how long it takes an animal to die in a hot car.

Hold on a second.

This case is on the verge of spinning wildly out of control, and there is a risk of it turning into another Casey Anthony case or another Zimmerman case. It has all the elements: people are passionate and emotional about what happened. Unconfirmed information is leaking out, maybe, from the law enforcement offices. Or its simply being made up or embellished by someone who wants to have an opinion. We’re seeing public criticism of the charges, and law enforcement is getting defensive.

Speculation should be limited more than our collective imaginations, fed by sensational half-truths.

Social Media Jury Investigations Weed Out Stealth Jurors

Written by Mark O'Mara on . Posted in Education

jury selection

The time spent waiting for a jury to render a verdict is, perhaps, the most excruciating time for any trial lawyer. There is doubt. There is second-guessing. There is a wish that the team could put in some extra effort to affect the outcome. A witness that could have been called; a question asked better; an exhibit used differently; an argument made more convincingly.

One time to put in that “extra effort” is during jury selection — by conducting social media jury investigations.

In April, the American Bar Association issued Formal Opinion 466 in which they found that investigating potential jurors via social media is ethical, provided lawyers and their teams do not connect with potential jurors in the process.

We think social media jury investigations — when performed properly — are not just ethical, they a critical part of a trial lawyer’s responsibility as a zealous advocate.

When Bullying Looks Like Felony Stalking

Written by Mark O'Mara on . Posted in Opinion

This is a story of tragedy on top of tragedy: A 14-year-old boy, Noel Estevez -- relentlessly bullied for months -- stabbed his bully to death.

A month earlier, Noel had attempted to take his own life. His parents had tried without success to obtain a “safety transfer” so they could send their son to a different school. Now the bully is dead, and Noel is being charged as an adult for murder.

I’ve been campaigning for an anti-bullying law here in Florida for months. And for months, people have been telling me “kids will be kids,” and “kids need to learn to stick up for themselves.”

Fine. So here’s the problem with that:

Supreme Court decision on guns a small step in right direction

Written by Mark O'Mara on . Posted in Opinion

Straw men cannot and should not buy guns. A “straw man,” in this context, is a person who buys a gun on behalf of another, an act that is prohibited when the purchase is made from a federally licensed dealer.

The intention of the federal law was to ensure people who cannot legally buy guns – felons, minors and the mentally ill, for example -- can’t simply hire a proxy, someone who can pass the rigorous background checks licensed dealers are required to perform. It is meant to inhibit those from buying guns with the intent of selling to other, incompetent 3rd party buyers.

An argument before the Supreme Court suggested this law shouldn’t apply to eligible gun owners buying on behalf of other eligible gun owners.

While this is probably the least obnoxious set of facts, the Supreme Court still did not agree, upholding the statute, and its application to even these facts, by a 5-4 vote. Justice Kagan, writing for the majority, stated that the law’s core purpose would be virtually repealed, and no part of it “would work if the statute turned a blind eye to straw purchases—if, in other words, the law addressed not the substance of a transaction but only empty formalities.”

Will this ruling keep guns out of the hands of felons and the mentally ill?

Sadly, no -- but it is a start.