Assistance of Counsel for Defense
The Palm Beach Post reports that Fort Pierce Police officers and St Lucie County Sheriff deputies have apprehended Jonathon Peavy, 18, a fugitive sought by law enforcement authorities for several weeks on charges of aggravated assault with a firearm and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. The authorities recovered an AK–47 assault rifle from the area in which the fugitive hid to avoid apprehension.
The Fort Pierce Police had issued a public notice requesting information and assistance in finding Peavy. The notice warned that there was reason to believe that Peavy a danger to the community. A few weeks later, a deputy sheriff made a traffic stop in Fort Pierce near the intersection of 25th Street and Avenue M. Peavy, the driver, fled from his vehicle on foot. The deputy chased him and broadcasted an alarm. A responding Fort Pierce police officer with canine assistance tracked Peavy down, found him hiding on the back porch of a home in the 3600 block of Avenue K, and apprehended him. A later search of the area where he hid recovered Peavy’s AK-47 assault rifle, according to the report, which ends with a comment that “Fort Pierce Police detectives” associate Peavey with “gang-related violence.”
The police held Peavy on a $220,000 bond pending his presentment before a judge. At his initial hearing, the 19th Judicial Circuit Court ordered the bond to continue at $220,000 as a condition for Peavy’s pretrial release.
Pretrial release under the presumption of the defendant’s innocence unless and until evidence proves guilt beyond reasonable doubt is a important part of every criminal case. Besides the obvious issue of fundamental fairness, there is the practical matter of preparation for defense at trial, a task much more difficult for defendants in jail than for those at liberty. The newspaper report does not say whether defendant Peavy had assistance of counsel at his initial hearing. The fact that the $220,000 bond remained in place suggests that he was on his own. Under the Eighth Amendment, “Excessive bail shall not be required,” and presumably any competent attorney present for Peavy would argue for reduction of the bond amount as excessive and in effect, if not intent, an order of pretrial detention under a presumption of guilt.
As to the forensic evidence against defendant Peavy, some readers may wonder why the investigators failed to recover the assault rifle when they found him hiding on the porch. Others may note that the report does not describe him carrying the rifle while running from the traffic stop in his attempt to escape. As they think about it, they may conclude that, if Peavy in fact had an assault rifle in his vehicle, he would have no use for it in escaping apprehension as it would attract attention and slow him down in his flight. It would not be difficult for an astute attorney to argue that the rifle looks like planted evidence, is not probative beyond reasonable doubt, but actually raises doubts about the prosecutor’s evidence .
Finally, there is the anonymous comment that the defendant engages in “gang-related violence,” a clear example of prejudicial pretrial publicity that Peavy’s attorney, if he is fortunate enough to have a fighter who wants to preserve his rights and not a toady who wants to talk him into pleading guilty, could turn against the prosecutors to good effect.
The moral of Peavy’s story is that anyone charged with any firearm offense or other crime needs the services of a skilled, experienced Fort Pierce Firearms attorney as soon as possible. In every criminal case, no exceptions, there is no substitute for the advice and advocacy of professional counsel.