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Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office faces criticism amid ethical misconduct reports

Katherine Fernandez Rundle has been Miami-Dade’s top prosecutor for three decades. But in recent years she’s come under criticism for the allegedly rogue misconduct of some prosecutors.
Carl Juste
/
Miami Herald
Katherine Fernandez Rundle has been Miami-Dade’s top prosecutor for three decades. But in recent years she’s come under criticism for the allegedly rogue misconduct of some prosecutors.

Defense attorneys and criminal justice watchdog groups are pushing Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle to create a prosecution integrity unit following the resignation this year of a prosecutor who directed the controversial use of a convicted murderer to gather information about suspects inside a jail.

Former Miami-Dade prosecutor Michael Von Zamft was thrown off the death penalty case of a Miami gangster after a judge said he and another Miami-Dade prosecutor manipulated witness testimony to give the state an unfair advantage in court,according to the Miami Herald, a WLRN news partner.

The newspaper’s investigative team found that the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office for 10 years used a confessed mass shooter, William “Little Bill” Brown, to build cases against other defendants by using information he’d gotten from jail. Criminal justice experts told the Herald the actions were improper, and likely, unconstitutional.

“In manufactured jailhouse meetups, [Brown] obtained confessions and gathered intel on the defense strategy of accused criminals, and gave it to law enforcement,” according to the Herald. The newspaper reported that prosecutors gave Brown “the plea deal of a lifetime — 25 years for two murders, including one involving a middle-schooler, when he was potentially facing the death penalty.”

On the South Florida Roundup on Friday, WLRN's Tim Padgett spoke to Miami Herald investigative reporter Brittany Wallman, who co-authored the story on Brown and the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office, and Lauren Field Krasnoff, president of the Miami chapter of the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

"Prosecutor made a deal with this guy," Wallman said. "Instead of being shipped off to state prison, they [kept] him in the Miami Dade jails for the past 10 years and used him to collect intel on cases that he had nothing to do with."

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Field Krasnoff said this case is not the first instance of misconduct that the FACDL has found related to the county's state attorney's office.

"My organization actually had already been investigating specific prosecutors after we identified patterns of misconduct among them," she said.

Amid the reports of ethical misconduct in the state attorney's office, the FACDL has requested Fernandez Rundle to set up an ethics oversight unit in her office. Field Krasnoff said this unit should be headed by a person or committee who has never worked for her before.

"The state attorney's office has proven that they cannot police themselves," she said.

Fernandez Rundle asked the FACDL to give her 45 days to consider the proposal.

You can listen to the full conversation above or wherever you get your podcasts by searching: The South Florida Roundup.

Jimena Romero is WLRN’s News and Public Affairs Producer. Besides producing The South Florida Roundup, she is also a general assignment reporter.
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