(ran PW, PS editions)
Nathan Joe Ramirez, who will be tried again in the 1995 rape and murder of a 71-year-old woman, has a new attorney. During a hearing in Pasco County Circuit Court on Thursday, Ramirez' public defender, Paul Firmani, stepped down from the case. Lawyer Keith Hammond was appointed as Ramirez' counsel. Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected efforts to block a new trial for Ramirez, accused of killing Mildred Boroski of Veteran's Village. In its ruling, the nation's highest court let stand a Florida Supreme Court ruling that Ramirez's confession had been obtained illegally. That decision will force prosecutors to try Ramirez again, only this time without benefit of his videotaped confession. The state court overturned Ramirez's conviction in July 1999 and blasted Pasco sheriff's detectives for using "cajoling" and "trickery" to persuade Ramirez, who was 17 at the time, to waive his right to an attorney. Hammond said Thursday that the public defender stepped down because the state has added new witnesses to the case, and the public defender's office has a conflict of interest regarding those witnesses.