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Two top death penalty lawyers in Miami-Dade fired
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Thread: Two top death penalty lawyers in Miami-Dade fired

  1. #1
    Administrator Heidi's Avatar
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    Two top death penalty lawyers in Miami-Dade fired

    A Miami-Dade taxpayer-funded criminal defense office fired two of its top death penalty defense lawyers unexpectedly Tuesday, including the lead defense attorney for Carmen Barahona, accused in the murder of her adopted daughter.

    The firing of Eugene Zenobi, 66, and Kellie Peterson, 34, came as a surprise in Miami-Dade’s legal circles as both were slated next month to begin a high-profile murder trial defending a man accused of slaying a Miami police officer in 1988.

    Peterson also was scheduled to lead the defense for Barahona, in a horrendous case that rocked the state’s child welfare agency. It is unclear who will replace Peterson as Barahona’s attorney.

    The two lawyers worked for Miami-Dade’s Office of Criminal Conflict and Civil Regional Counsel, a taxpayer-funded office created in 2007 to defend clients who cannot afford an attorney. The office defends clients when the Miami-Dade Public Defender’s Office cannot handle a case because of a conflict of interest.

    Joseph George, who has headed the office since its creation, fired the pair Tuesday without a specific reason, they said.

    In another curious twist: Zenobi has applied for George’s job.

    George could not be reached Tuesday for comment. Gov. Rick Scott will decide whether to replace him in the near future.

    As part of the conflict office, Peterson had been assigned to many high-profile case. That included representing Oniel Pedley, who is accused of murdering a Coral Gables jogger in a robbery, and Bjon Lee, one of five men accused of killing a mother and her young son during a Spiderman-themed child’s birthday party in North Miami-Dade.

    “I’ve never seen a more dedicated person,” Zenobi said of Peterson, a single mother of the three.

    Zenobi and Peterson also represented Dennis Escobar, one of two brothers accused of murdering Miami police officer Victor Estefan in 1988. Trial was set for October 31. It was unclear Tuesday who will assume the case for the conflict counsel office, and if the trial will be delayed.

    Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/09/0...#ixzz1XE26A8ak

  2. #2
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    A third death-penalty lawyer is fired

    Another lawyer has been booted from a state-funded criminal defense office, bringing the total to three in the past few days.

    The abrupt terminations plunged the Miami-Dade Office of Criminal Conflict and Civil Regional Counsel into turmoil.

    Rene Palomino, 52, was fired Wednesday, joining attorneys Eugene Zenobi and Kellie Peterson, two death penalty lawyers who lost their jobs earlier this week.

    The criminal conflict office was created in 2007 with state funds to defend clients who cannot afford an attorney. About 30 lawyers handle cases when the Public Defender’s Office has a conflict of interest with a client.

    Joseph George has been head of the office since it was created. Now Florida Gov. Rick Scott is looking to replace him — and Zenobi is one of the leading candidates for the job.

    Palomino said George fired the other two for supporting Zenobi’s bid.

    George claimed the three were booted for drinking on the job, Palomino said. The lawyers say they toasted Palomino and Peterson’s birthdays in the office after-hours on July 13 with red wine.

    “I think it was a Cabernet,” Zenobi said.

    “If it’s such a serious issue, why didn’t he fire us back then?” Palomino said.

    George refused Wednesday to speak to a reporter about the firings

    Peterson represents Carmen Barahona, a high-profile defendant accused of murdering her adopted 10-year-old daughter. And Peterson and Zenobi were scheduled to begin trial next month defending accused cop killer Dennis Escobar, who asked a judge Wednesday to allow the lawyers to remain on the long-delayed case.

    Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/09/0...#ixzz1XMUTspZz

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