Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Rules in drug, DUI cases shift a bit

A Tampa man will get a new trial because he didn't get to confront the crime lab technician who conducted tests for his case.

By a 5-2 vote, the Florida Supreme Court last week upheld an appeals court decision to reverse Lorenzo Cephus Johnson's 2004 conviction on charges including possession of cocaine and cannabis.

The majority concluded that Johnson had a constitutional right to confront his accuser at trial — in this case, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement lab tech who established the illegal nature of the substances Johnson possessed.

In fact, technicians must testify about their findings in most criminal cases rather than just submitting reports, Justice Peggy Quince wrote in a pair of rulings.

Johnson, 50, is scheduled to be released from prison in 2012.

Spokeswoman Heather Smith said the FDLE had not yet evaluated the impact of the decisions.

Justice Charles Wells dissented, saying technicians' testimony added nothing to most cases. He worried that the majority decision "will needlessly make it much more difficult and expensive to prosecute DUI cases."

He wrote: "This will have an adverse effect on the safety of our highways and streets."

• • •

With three judges retiring this year, it's not surprising that several lawyers are running for the open seats.

But it's rare for incumbent judges to face opposition. So why did two lawyers signed up this week to take on judges who are seeking re-election?

Constance Daniels, who will run against Circuit Judge Martha Cook, didn't return a call.

Catherine Catlin will try to unseat Circuit Judge J. Kevin Carey. She thinks her 20 years of experience in family law — she represented former Judge Betsey Hapner's ex-husband during their messy divorce in the '90s — makes her qualified to sit on the family law bench. Carey is stationed there now.

"I truly understand the need to run an efficient courtroom and to move the cases," she said. "I just felt like this was a race I need to be in."

• • •

Plenty of parents brag that their child stands out in a crowd.

Circuit Judge Tracy Sheehan's "child" truly did last week.

The courthouse buzzed April 24 with boys and girls involved in Take Your Child to Work Day.

Sheehan brought Molly, her Labrador. "I didn't have a child, so I figured she was my child," the judge explained.

Molly stayed for half the work day, hanging out at a mock trial held for the children and then in Sheehan's courtroom.

The pup soaked in the attention — tastefully, the judge said.

"She didn't get mouthy or anything of the sort," Sheehan said. "She did behave, probably better than some of the human children."

Got a tip? For cops news, contact Abbie VanSickle at (813) 226-3373 or For courts news, contact Colleen Jenkins at (813) 226-3337 or

Rules in drug, DUI cases shift a bit 05/03/08 [Last modified: Friday, May 9, 2008 12:33pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. ICYMI: Florida education news in review, week of July 16, 2017


    Seems like Broward County has started a domino effect. It was the first school board to commit to filing a lawsuit against the state and its controversial education bill, House Bill 7069. Then, the St. Lucie County School Board signed on, too. A running tally of school boards that have reportedly expressed interested in …

    Kali Davis (left), training director for Springboard to Success, helps to coach Justin Black (center), who will be starting his third year of teaching PE at Melrose Elementary, as he works to instruct students in a math lesson during the Spring Board program of Summer Bridge at Woodlawn Elementary School in St. Petersburg.
  2. In advertising, marketing diversity needs a boost in Tampa Bay, nationally


    TAMPA — Trimeka Benjamin was focused on a career in broadcast journalism when she entered Bethune-Cookman University.

    From left, Swim Digital marketing owner Trimeka Benjamin discusses the broad lack of diversity in advertising and marketing with 22 Squared copywriter Luke Sokolewicz, University of Tampa advertising/PR professor Jennifer Whelihan, Rumbo creative director George Zwierko and Nancy Vaughn of the White Book Agency. The group recently met at The Bunker in Ybor City.
  3. Kushner to testify before two intelligence committees


    WASHINGTON— President Donald Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner is set to make a second appearance on Capitol Hill — he will speak with the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, one day after he is scheduled to speak with Senate Intelligence Committee investigators behind closed doors.

    White House senior adviser Jared Kushner is scheduled to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee and the House Intelligence Committee. [Associated Press]
  4. Rays blow lead in ninth, lose in 10 to Rangers (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Rays manager Kevin Cash liked the way Alex Cobb was competing Friday night. He liked the way the hard contact made by the Rangers batters went away after the second or third inning. So as the game headed toward the ninth, there was no doubt in Cash's mind that sending Cobb back to the mound was …

    Rays starter Alex Cobb can hardly believe what just happened as he leaves the game in the ninth after allowing a leadoff double then a tying two-run homer to the Rangers’ Shin-Soo Choo.
  5. Exhumation of Dalí's remains finds his mustache still intact


    FIGUERES, Spain — Forensic experts in Spain have removed hair, nails and two long bones from Salvador Dalí's embalmed remains to aid a court-ordered paternity test that may enable a woman who says she is the surrealist artist's daughter to claim part of Dalí's vast estate.

    Salvador Dal? died in 1989 leaving vast estate.