August 24, 2017

                         Advocating for the just and humane treatment of those who are incarcerated.


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MARISSA ALEXANDER’S LETTER TO COMRADES

Marissa Alexander, whose case became a rallying cry for survivors of domestic violence, walks by her dad Raoul Jenkins surrounded by her legal team and supporters, Jan. 27, 2015, after three years of incarceration.        Photo by Bob Mack/Florida Times-Union/AP

 

Marissa Alexander walks by her dad Raoul Jenkins and surrounded by her legal team and supporters after her sentencing in Jacksonville, Fla., Jan. 27, 2015. (Photo by Bob Mack/Florida Times-Union/AP)

                                                                 Message From Marissa:
“I do not know you, I do not know the circumstances of your case.   I don’t have judgement either way.  I am simply following my spirit which aligns with God’s purpose for my life.  I am simply providing information that I believe could potentially help you or others like you.  My only request is that you share this amongst other comrades behind the wall.  This article is specifically about a medical examiner in the 4th Judicial Circuit, Jacksonville, FL, who was found incompetent having examined and performed autopsies and in some cases, depositions and testimony.  Examine your legal work to see who the medical examiner was during your time of pre-trial and litigation and determine if it matches the person mentioned in the following article by Folio Weekly Magazine.”

Article Courtesy of Folio Weekly Magazine
Claire Goforth – claire@folioweekly.com

Dr. Margarita Arruza, former Chief Medical Examiner (ME) of the local office which covers Clay, Columbia, Duval, Hamilton and Nassau counties, retired the end of 2010.
Attorney Patrick McGuinness said that he noticed that something was terribly wrong with Arruza at a deposition on Spetember 1, 2010.  “I took a deposition with her in a child homicide case where it was clear she wasn’t in her right mind and I sent it to some other medical examiners who were shocked.”  McGuinness provided Folio Weekly Magazine a transcript of that deposition.  In it Arruza, testifying to the content of her autopsy report which she has in front of her answers some qestions, others she answers incorrectly even when assisted with locating the information in the file.  In 13 instances, Arruza doesn’t respond to direct questions.  Asked whether the skull was fractured in the parietal, occipital, sphenoid or mastoid process, she responds, “Well, it looks like it’s a skull.”  McGuinness said Arruza was ‘very distressed” and her conduct that day was in such contrast to her usual professionalism that he was concerned she                                   was having a mini-stroke or drug reaction.
Rhonda Peoples-WatersAtty Rhonda Peoples-Waters said that not only were prosecutors under an ethical obligation to inform the defense of such, she believes that some defendants may be able to successfully file what is informally known as a ‘3850’, a petition for post-conviction relief, based on ineffectiveness  of counsel under Rule 3.850 of the Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure.  It’s basically saying that because of the ineffectiveness of counsel, the outcome would have been different.  And it can be filed not just against defense counsel, it can be filed against the prosecutor.
Is it possible that all of the convictions in which Arruza autopsied the victims in her last years of practice will be reopened?  Plea deals may be invalidated and convictions overturned.  In the last two years she was in office, Arruza autopsied victims whose deaths led to 25 homicide convictions, 24 in Corey’s jurisdiction, one in Columbia County.   If prosecutors had informed defense counsel of Arruza’s condition, the defense may have questioned her autopsy reports, such as by seeking an independent expert witness or cross-examining the ME who testified to Arruza’s findings.  In cases where the cause of death was undeniable, it likely would not have had much effect on the outcome but it’s impossible to know for sure how it would have affected cases.  Now the courts may have to decide whether suppressing such would have made an impact on the case.
Public Defender Matt Shirk said that his office will probably file motions to vacate convictions on behalf of all eight defendants in whose cases Arruza performed autopsied on the victims in her last years as the ME.  It is possible that the litigation will cost taxpayers millions.
Godspeed – keep your head up – never give up hope!
Marissa Alexander

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