Florida Today, a newspaper out of Brevard County with a daily circulation of 80,000, echoed our call today for Governor Crist to investigate the systemic corruption in the Brevard County State Attorney's Office and Sheriff's Office. The paper quotes James Russo, the local Public Defender, who is also calling for an inquest:
"I have read the comments of our state attorney and the continued attempt to justify the shameful decision-making in this case," Russo said during an afternoon news conference. "This is a case where lawful evidence never existed in the first place."
Florida Today lists dog handler John Preston's now discredited, but alarmingly prolific, testimony in the County as the main impetus for an investigation. The paper also correctly notes that Preston's chicanery, which came to light in Brevard, stretches beyond the borders of that county to all of Florida. "Preston, proven to be a fraud, testified in hundreds of Florida cases, including three in Brevard County that have been overturned: Dillon, Wilton Dedge and Juan Ramos." (The current State Attorney who is refusing to cooperate with calls for an investigation, Norman Wolfinger, was a former defender who helped to clear Ramos and discredit Preston.)
The Innocence Project of Florida had previously produced this video about John Preston, including footage from a 20/20 exposé that aired in the mid-1980's.
More good reasons to appoint a special prosecutor exist, of course, including "a jailhouse snitch and an investigator who slept with a key witness in the case."
Dillon's case and others like it point to rampant collusion in Brevard County between the Sheriff's Department and John Preston. Gilbert Goshorn, a former Brevard County Judge, designed a test in 1984 to determine whether Preston's dog could do what it purported to do. When it failed the test, Goshorn concluded "that the only way Preston could achieve the results he achieved in numerous other cases was having obtained information about the case prior to the scent-tracking, so that Preston could lead the dog to the suspect or evidence in question." We have every reason to believe a criminal conspiracy exists there, and that innocent people are in jail.
Dillon himself added, "It's not about justice for some people. It's about convictions." Then, tapping a seemingly endless well of empathy, he said, "I feel their pain. I'm not angry. This is compassion, sadness."
Florida Today also ran an editorial today using stronger language and calling for the Governor to investigate. "Prosecutors’ mishandling of the cases along with actions by the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office follows a pattern of possible criminal behavior that can no longer be swept under the rug."
Preston had testified in countless other cases in Florida, while we know he was an utter fraud. How many times did his testimony put away an innocent person? Public confidence in the hundreds of other cases in which Preston testified has evaporated. Florida Today conlcudes, "[Governor Crist] must act at once to bring those responsible for this and other such tragedies to justice."
- Florida Today editorial, "Our views: Probe the corruption"
- Florida Today article from today, "Defender Demands Probe of Office"
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