South Florida

As George Floyd Case Nears End, South Florida Activists Seek Similar Speedy Trials

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Tuesday marks the one-year anniversary of George Floyd’s death, and in just over one month the former police officer convicted of his murder will find out how long he will be behind bars.

South Florida legal experts say it's almost unheard of that former officer Derek Chauvin is already awaiting sentencing just a year after Floyd died.

The rapid trial against a police officer bolstered claims the justice system can work. Now there are calls though for this to be the rule, not the exception.

Not even the pandemic slowed down what happened in the George Floyd murder case. Some South Florida community leaders say getting justice for everyone involved quickly when police officers are accused of wrongdoing is in everyone’s best interest.

"That’s huge. We’ve seen we look at a lot of high profile cases across the county that many times the cases linger for two to three years, and often the perception is that justice has not been served because of that delay," said attorney Melba Pearson, a Miami-Dade community activist.

Pearson, who is also a former South Florida prosecutor, said that when cases involving law enforcement take so long to come to a conclusion, the communities who mistrust the justice system don’t believe its working.

"I’ve had cases that are three, four, five years old,” Pearson said.

Former North Miami officer Jonathan Aledda went on trial on charges of attempted manslaughter in March of 2019, two years and eight months after therapist Charles Kinsey was shot by Aledda. It was June 2019, almost three years later, before Aledda was finally acquitted on the serious charges and convicted of a misdemeanor.

"So, I think it’s in the system's and everyone’s best interest in a community we are able to see these cases moved forward in a expedited manner, not rushed," Pearson said.

Attorney Christina Currie heads the citizens panel in Fort Lauderdale that looks in police complaints. Currie said seeing the speed in prosecuting Chauvin gave her hope, but it's also a reality check when it comes to Broward.

"Why do we have so much stuff sitting around in our offices here?" Currie said.

Broward Sheriff's Deputy Peter Peraza was indicted on manslaughter charges two years and six months after the 2013 shooting death of Jermaine McBean. Five years later, the Florida Supreme Court ruled he was standing his ground, so there was never a trial.

Fort Lauderdale defense attorney Eric Schwartzweich convinced the high court that police officers too deserve protection under the “stand your ground” law that’s for Florida civilians.

"I found it to be a really impressive job that they did but at the same time and discouraging to know that here in my county there are cases at the prosecutor's office that have been going since 2012 that are still getting continuances," Currie said.

Pearson thinks more funding for the courts, prosecutors, and public defenders would be beneficial.

"It absolutely can be done and I think its a matter of the system being more aggressive,” Pearson said.

The Broward and Miami-Dade State Attorneys did not have data showing what the average time it takes for a murder case to get to trial and the Broward State Attorney said that it's all about fairness, and generally it’s defense attorneys who request delays.

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