Past Case History: First-Degree Murder

Interviewer: Can you give me an example of a case where the odds were really stacked against the client and yet you prevailed?

Randy Berman: Sure. I represented an individual charged with first-degree murder. The incident occurred at a convenience store. My client’s fingerprints were on the counter and on some items that were brought to the counter. When he was questioned about whether he had ever been in the store by the police, he denied having ever been there. The clerk at the store was shot and killed in a foiled robbery attempt and the police testimony was inconsistent about certain significant facts during the trial of the case.

That opened the door for me to not only argue that the police were fabricating a story of my client being present during the robbery attempt, but that it was reasonable for my client, knowing that the police wanted to implicate him for a crime that he had nothing to do with, to lie about his ever having been at that store. I argued to the jury that the store was a filthy mess and my client could have left his fingerprints on the counter or the items that they found there at any time, not necessarily at the time that the clerk was shot. Since fingerprints cannot be dated, the jury agreed and found him not guilty.

Interviewer: Any other cases where you were shocked at the results or that had a particularly good result?

Randy Berman: I’m never shocked at the results. Like I said earlier, nothing surprises me, having done this for over 30 years. When you’ve got what seems to be a mountain of evidence against you and you prevail it keeps your faith in the system. I’ve had clients charged with violent crimes and fraud, sexual battery, drug possession and others, where the witnesses unequivocally identified them and I prevailed with the juries getting not guilty verdicts based on a question of their ability to truly have the time to clearly see the individual and correctly pick them out of a lineup. Once a witness picks someone out of a lineup, they usually stick with that decision whether it was a correct identification or not.

It’s tough to get around that identification when they’re testifying before a jury and they’re pointing their finger at your client saying, “That’s the guy who did it.”

Recently, there has been research showing that eyewitness identification is significantly flawed. There are experts in this field that effectively challenge eyewitness identifications and the problems associated with eyewitness identification and how it’s wrought with error. The experts in this field of study can effectively explain to a jury how someone might truly, honestly believe that the person that they’re pointing to committed the crime, but are just totally mistaken, even though they think they’re right.

Interviewer: What else? How about the strangest case you’ve ever dealt with?

Randy Berman: I don’t know if it’s the strangest case but it was probably the most interesting because it involved drug trafficking, murder on the high seas, kidnapping of girlfriends, and ultimately a shooting and an attempted murder charge. It was just quite an interesting story that went from Florida to the Caribbean to Texas and back to Florida. It was quite an adventure. That client turned down an offer of probation on attempted first degree murder. The victim was paralyzed for life from a gunshot wound that he claimed my client did. It was explained to the jury that the victim, who was a drug dealer, ripped off a load my client was to deliver. I had to admit my client’s criminal conduct but explained that the suppliers my client delivered for were the perpetrators of the shooting, and since the victim had never met the suppliers, he wrongfully implicated my client. The jury found him not guilty.