As the jury entered the courtroom after completing their deliberations in the afternoon of Friday, January 8, 2016, two of the jurors looked at the Defendant and, oh so briefly, smiled.
That is when J.M.F., the Defendant in State of Florida vs. J.M.F., St. Lucie County Florida case number 56-200015-MM-2984, began, (for the first time in months) to breathe easy.
Moments later, as the Judge read the “Not Guilty” verdict to those attending, J.M.F., a 68 year old American citizen, born in the Dominican Republic, but living in the United States for the last 47 years, broke down in tears, grasping his middle-aged daughter who had stood by him throughout his ordeal. As they held one another in the courtroom—she too began to sob.
J.M.F.’s nightmarish trip through the labyrinthian American criminal justice system had begun some 14 weeks earlier, on a sultry September Saturday afternoon in Port St. Lucie, Florida.
That was the day a maniac and his brother beat J.M.F. to within an inch of his life, over an inconsequential parking lot confrontation.
Following the beating, J.M.F. immediately called the police and for the assistance of an ambulance. As J.M.F. was being transported to the Port St. Lucie Medical Center, responding ‘law enforcement’ arrived on scene, and began to question not J.M.F., but rather his tormentors. Based upon that interview, the cops chose to charge not the maniacs, but rather J.M.F., with the crime of “Battery.” [“Battery” in Florida is a 1st degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in the County Jail, a $1,000.00 dollar fine, and/or a year on probation].
The PSL Medical Center, given the gravity of J.M.F.’s injuries, had him transferred to the Lawnwood Trauma Center in Fort Pierce, which was better equipped to handle both open and closed head trauma, including brain hemorrhages, torn retinas, and the numerous other injuries visited upon J.M.F. by the brothers, than was the PSL facility.
Before he could be transported however, the Port. St. Lucie Police Department Officer ‘investigating’ the incident stopped by J.M.F.’s hospital room. Not to inquire as to how J.M.F. was faring, but rather to charge him with Battery upon one of the maniacs, and oh yes…..to fingerprint him while he was being treated in his hospital bed.
Does the reader doubt the veracity of this blog so far? Departing from our usual format, we will show you some of the important evidence.
First, please take a look at four (4) photographs of J.M.F., taken from his hospital bed.
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Note the bruises, contusions, and lacerations around his eyes, nose, forehead and cheeks, on the front and both sides of his face…resulting from him being repeatedly punched and kicked by his assailants. Note the abrasions on the sides of his arms, and the “road rash” on his back, the result of being dragged across an asphalt parking lot, while being kicked, by the two (2) maniacal brothers with the help of two of their “employees”.
They didn’t stop beating, punching and kicking J.M.F. until he feigned being dead on the ground. Only then did they cease the mauling.
Now please take a look at the 3 views of the alleged “victim” in the case.
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Three closeups of his face. One from the front, and one each from the left and the right profile. Are you able to identify any injury? Any injury at all??? You cannot see any injury for one reason and one alone….there isn’t any.
The question might be asked, “Why, then?” Why did the police arrest the person who was beaten so badly that he is now partially crippled (that’s right, J.M.F., after working full time for 47 years, now is barely able to walk), rather than the goons who administered the beating.
One can theorize. One can engage in conjecture.
—Perhaps because law enforcement only thought to investigate one-half of the story.
—Perhaps because J.M.F. is a gentleman “of color”, being from the Dominican Republic, and law enforcement just was not that interested.
—Perhaps because one of the two maniacal brothers, the alleged “victim”, was a retired (20) year veteran of the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Department.
But these are just theories, possible arguments….conjecture. Jury trials in America are not based solely upon those things, but instead, and primarily upon “evidence.” In the instant case, after J.M.F. retained Jonathan Jay Kirschner & Associates, LLC, the JJK/LLC team (Paralegals Collette Hood and Kimberly Koski) began gathering that evidence. The photographs. The witness statements. The medical reports. Prior police reports. Character evidence. Surveillance. Recordings of 911 calls. CAD reports, etc., etc., etc.
And then talented Private Investigator Brad Perron of Investigative Support Specialist, Inc., found the most remarkable thing. He found that one of the “brothers” was a twice- convicted Federal Felon. That same brother, he found out, had a scary tendency to “just snap”.
Just like he did when he beat his wife nearly to death in 2012. You’ve heard the term, “getting the sh*t beat out you.” That’s just what this maniac did to his wife in 2012. If your stomach is strong, you may review the brother’s arrest affidavit from 2012 below, when he was charged with Aggravated Battery of his wife, and Battery on a law enforcement officer (by spitting on him).
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Since J.M.F.’s defense was that he was ‘jumped’ by the brothers without provocation, and that one or both of them “just snapped”, the Judge correctly ruled that evidence of the alleged “victim’s” brother would be admissible into evidence in J.M.F.’s trial. (Interestingly, when confronted with that evidence, the brother denied, under oath, that he was a “violent” man).
The witness also misrepresented certain facts about his prior felony convictions. In Florida law, when a witness engages in perjury concerning his or her criminal past, the court is allowed to admit into evidence certified copies of the Judgments of Conviction and Sentence. The copies must however, be “certified”. In this case, although the team at JJK/LLC knew of the existence of the convictions, we had been unable to obtain certified copies of them, as once those convictions become a certain age, they are transferred to a Federal depository in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
The jury was chosen on a Tuesday, with the evidentiary portion of the trial to begin on Thursday. On Wednesday, paralegal Collette Hood, and Private Investigator Brad Perron, both acting independently of one another, located the judgements and persuaded the Government to ‘overnight’ the documents from Tulsa to Fort Pierce.
We received them moments before the trial began on Thursday morning. Had it not been for the unceasing efforts of the JJK/LLC team to obtain those materials, we would not have been able to introduce them into evidence after the witness lied, thus weakening the prosecutions’s case even further.
The jury however, understood the difference between argument, conjecture and evidence. And that is why they acquitted J.M.F. on that Friday afternoon just a few weeks ago. Here is the verdict form;
J.M.F. could never understand why the system he adopted as his own, without any provocation on his behalf, would charge him, the true victim, as though he were a criminal, and despite the fact that he had never had any interaction with the criminal justice system at any point in his life. He truly is, has, and continues to be a “model citizen.”
For months, he felt betrayed and alone. For months, he was unable to sleep at night. He unceasingly feared being incarcerated, perhaps for a year, for something he never did.
But the jury saw the truth. They saw what the police and the prosecutors were either unwilling or unable to see. That J.M.F. truly was ‘the innocent man, wrongfully accused”. What he received for his trouble was a piece of paper, called a “Judgment of Not Guilty”. It is copied below:
This blog started with the query: ‘is a “not guilty” verdict the same thing as “justice?”
J.M.F.’s physical injuries will not ever heal. Perhaps the mental ones will— someday. This fight is not over. Civil lawsuits against the two brothers, as well as the Port St. Lucie Police Department for failure to adequately investigate the incident, are under review as this blog is being written. None of the actors who participated in this egregious abuse of process; this abandonment of fairness; this abuse of our criminal justice system, will be spared their own measure of misery. But the question remains—- is it justice?
You tell me.