News from Tallahassee for 4/20/14

Warning Shot Bill Passes Senate Panel; DOC Sec. Talks Deficit, Prison Health Care posted on 1/9/14

by Sascha Cordner | WFSU

A panel of Florida lawmakers moved several bills forward Wednesday attempting to address certain hot-button issues within the state’s criminal justice system from juvenile sentencing to unintended consequences of firing a warning shot. They also confirmed the appointment of Florida Department of Corrections Secretary Mike Crews, who also gave Senators an update on the prison system.

DOC Secretary Talks Budget Deficit, Prison Health Care Privatization

At the start of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee hearing, Corrections’ Secretary Mike Crews talked about the progress his agency has made in cutting the department's budget deficit by almost half...

Crews says he’s cut costs by putting in new paper and paper towel contracts, which saved the state $850,000 a year. He’s also teaming up with the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association to see if the industry can donate bed sheets, pillowcases, and washcloths to the prisons...

'Warning Shot' Bill Passes First Senate Panel

Senators also unanimously approved a bill that attempts to address the unintended consequences of the state’s 10-20-Life law. It’s inspired by Marissa Alexander, a Jacksonville woman who fired a warning shot during an alleged domestic violence dispute and had received a 20-year-prison sentence. The bill’s Senate sponsor is Baker Republican Senator Greg Evers, who’s also chairs the Senate Criminal Justice Committee...

Juvenile Sentencing Reform Bill Passes

Another measure that passed its first Senate committee dealt with juvenile sentencing reform. Lawmakers tried to address the issue last year, but the effort failed. Fleming Island Republican Senator Rob Bradley, the bill’s author, is resurrecting the effort again, and says the issue must be addressed this year. It’s in response to a couple of U.S. Supreme Court decisions that state juveniles cannot face a life sentence without the possibility of parole, whether they committed a serious felony or murder.

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Proposed pension reforms would make police and firefighter benefits a matter of collective bargaining posted on 1/8/14

by David Bauerlein | Florida Times-Union

From courtroom judgments to the politically loaded question of tax increases, the talking points for Wednesday’s meeting of Jacksonville’s pension task force will kick off what could be a turning point in the city’s attempts at pension reform.

With the task force intending to finish its work over the next month, a memo circulated Tuesday by task force chairman Bill Scheu recommends major changes to a 30-year agreement that has guided the pension system for police and firefighters since 2001.

Scheu cited the legal impact of a Dec. 31 ruling that found the city has violated the state Sunshine Law.

The task force will dig into the politically loaded question of how the city can increase its financial contributions to the Police and Fire Pension Fund — a debate that will encompass whether to call for a tax increase.

A task force subcommittee will report on its discussions about boosting the city’s annual contributions to the pension fund, which would likely come from “increased tax revenues,” according to a memo the subcommittee distributed Tuesday.

Scheu said the task force won’t make any decisions at its Wednesday morning meeting at City Hall.

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Execution date set for Jimmy Ryce's killer Juan Carlos Chavez posted on 1/3/14

by Wayne K. Roustan | Sun Sentinel

The Governor's Office announced Thursday an execution date for the convicted killer of a nine-year-old Miami-Dade boy.

Juan Carlos Chavez, 46, is scheduled to be put to death on Feb. 12 for the Sept. 11, 1995 armed abduction, sexual battery and murder of Samuel James "Jimmy" Ryce, said Melissa Sellers, the communications director for Florida Gov. Rick Scott.

In a statement, the victim's father Don Ryce said, in part, "I just received the news that justice will finally be done in the murder of my son, Jimmy. I feel a combination of sadness and relief. I hope this sends a message to predators that this behavior will not go unpunished."

Jimmy Ryce was dropped off by his school bus about a block from his home in Redland. Chavez abducted him at gunpoint and ordered Jimmy into a truck. Chavez drove Jimmy back to his trailer where he ordered the child to remove his clothes and then sexually battered him, according to the arrest report.

Chavez held Jimmy captive for more than three hours before fatally shooting the boy when he tried to escape. Two days after the murder, Chavez dismembered Jimmy's body, filled three planters with Jimmy's remains, and sealed the planters with concrete, the report stated.

Chavez was arrested three months later after Jimmy's book bag was found in the trailer. He was convicted Sept. 18, 1998, and sentenced to death Nov. 23, 1998. His appeals to the Florida Supreme Court and federal Court of Appeals were denied, records showed.

Governor Scott signed the death warrant Thursday.

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6 charged in prison escape plot posted on 12/20/13

by BILL COTTERELL | Current

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement announced six arrests Thursday in the escape of two convicted killers who used forged sentence-reduction papers last summer to walk away from life sentences at a Panhandle prison.

FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey said a forger who once conned his way out of the Pinellas County jail for about 18 hours with fake documents was the kingpin of the prison conspiracy that briefly sprung Joseph Jenkins and Charles Walker in late August and early September. Both men were recaptured Oct. 19 at a Panama City Beach motel while awaiting a car from Atlanta that police said was to have taken them out of the area.

Bailey and FDLE Orlando Agent in Charge Danny Banks said Willie Slater, a former inmate on the outside whose brother had been killed by Jenkins, assisted in the plot because Jenkins had falsely submitted an affidavit that got him out of prison on a home-invasion robbery and assault case. Bailey said Nydeed Nashaddai, a forger serving 20 years for the Pinellas escape, ran the operation -- using prison library computers, printers and the "legal mail" that is not inspected by guards, usually used to communicate with lawyers.

Bailey said inmate Jeffrey Forbes and former prisoner Terrance Goodman of Panama City also were arrested in the case. He emphasized that the investigation is still open and more charges or added suspects are possible.

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Sheriff Enlists Legislative Help To Crack Down On Growing Problem: ‘Pillowcase Burglars’ posted on 12/19/13

by Sascha Cordner | WFSU

A Florida lawmaker has filed a bill that would make it a separate offense for anyone to travel to another county to commit a felony offense, like burglary or trafficking. It sprang out of what some say is a growing problem in several areas of the state: “Pillowcase Burglars.”  

“We have this phenomena here in Martin County, and most counties in the state of Florida have this as well. And, that is we have traveling burglars that have been dubbed ‘the pillowcase burglars’ because they break into houses near interstates and ransack the house for small valuables, such as guns, jewelry, and cash, and put the items in a pillowcase and then leave,” said Martin County Sheriff William Snyder.

The former state lawmaker says most of the about 60 burglars his county has arrested recently have trekked from Broward County to Martin County. And, once they leave their home and travel into another county to commit a crime, Snyder says traditional law enforcement methods become less effective as authorities try to capture them…

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