Saturday, 10 March 2007

Lawyers File to Keep Roberts


Published Saturday, March 10, 2007

Lawyers File to Keep Roberts

Defense lawyers filed written requests to the 2nd DCA to keep her on the Ballard case.

BARTOW - Defense lawyers are asking that Judge Susan Roberts be allowed to remain on several murder trials, and on Friday they filed written requests with the 2nd District Court of Appeal.

Lawyer Byron Hileman has asked the 2nd District Court of Appeal to reconsider its ruling taking Roberts off the Roy Ballard case. In that case, she made remarks to an assistant state attorney suggesting that the state might want to reconsider pursuing the death penalty against Ballard because he is 65 years old. The State Attorney's Office asked Roberts to remove herself from the case, and she refused.

The 2nd DCA sided with the State Attorney's Office, saying that Roberts' remarks could cause a reasonable person to fear that they would not get a fair trial.

Hileman filed a motion "en banc," asking that all of the 2nd DCA's judges review his motion, rather than just the three who made the decision to remove Roberts from the Ballard case.

There are 14 judges listed on the 2nd DCA's Web site.

Hileman said in his motion that the 2nd District Court of Appeal's opinion in this case is "of exceptional importance in that it broadens and modifies the accepted standard set forth in existing case law as to the requisites of legal sufficiency in a motion to disqualify a trial judge."

He argued that when Judges Charles Canady, Craig Villanti and Douglas Wallace removed Roberts from the Ballard case, their ruling had the potential to open a "Pandora's Box" that would allow many more judges to be removed from cases than had been in the past.

In separate cases, the Public Defender's Office filed a motion with the 2nd DCA urging that it not remove Roberts from six murder trials in which the defendants are being investigated by Lakeland police.

The State Attorney's Office had asked that Roberts be removed from those cases because Roberts' son Carson Brawley is being investigated by Lakeland police in connection with a serious head injury to a child who was in his care. The two detectives investigating that case are also lead detectives in the six cases from which the State Attorney's Office is asking that Roberts be removed. One of the detectives has already interviewed Roberts in that matter, according to the State Attorney's Office.

The State Attorney's Office argued that while presiding over those murder trials, Roberts could be called on to make decisions about the credibility of the two detectives investigating her son.

The State Attorney's Office had also filed motions asking that Roberts, the judge currently assigned to preside over all first-degree murder trials in the 10th Judicial Circuit, be removed from all of the first-degree murder trials in the circuit.

They said that prior rulings have shown that her rulings are contrary to the law and prejudicial to the prosecution. The 2nd DCA declined to remove her from all of the cases but is still considering whether to remove her from the Lakeland cases.

In the motion filed by Marion Moorman of the Public Defender's Office on Friday, Moorman said "… Roberts has recently fallen into disfavor with the State Attorney. Apparently the State now deems her unsuitable to conduct the people's business in these capital cases. Its pique notwithstanding, its motion is legally insufficient and its facts are just plain wrong."

Moorman argued that it is "utterly premature" at this point to assume that a criminal case will be filed against Brawley, and that, if filed, Roberts will be a witness for or against the State and that her opinion of the detectives' testimony would be affected if a case were filed against her son.

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