1. News

Epilogue: Dean Livermore, a Pasco County public defender who handled hard cases and advocated against the death penalty

Dean Nelson Livermore, a longtime public defender who represented the accused in some of Pasco County's highest-profile criminal cases, died Nov. 28. He leaves behind a legacy of fighting against the death penalty and earning the respect of lawyers from around the region. [Courtesy Faith Livermore]
Published Dec. 12, 2018

The stakes were lower than usual, but his effort no less urgent, when Dean Livermore called Paul Firmani one morning a few years ago.

There's a miniature pig in our driveway, the assistant public defender told Firmani, his former supervisor and now a Pasco County judge.

Would you help find someone to take care of it? the attorney asked.

"You even save little pigs," the judge remembers telling his friend, who fought for years defending the lives of accused killers and who stood tall against the death penalty.

Mr. Livermore died on Nov. 28 from a heart condition. He was 66 and two days from retirement after serving Pasco County for 30 years in the Sixth Judicial Circuit Public Defender's Office.

"By showing compassion and tolerance, he was a great example of how you should live," Firmani said. "He left this world a better place by being who he was."

The attorney made his name in capital cases over the past decade, defending clients charged with gut-churning crimes — like Adam Matos, convicted of murdering four people in Hudson in 2014.

Mr. Livermore did so out of duty.

"He defended the Constitution," said Firmani, who worked with him as a public defender for 12 years.

"He felt that even people charged with some pretty heinous crimes ... they more than anybody needed someone to defend them," Firmani said.

And the death penalty made no sense to Mr. Livermore. How could the state say that killing is bad, he reasoned, when the state itself put people to death?

Mr. Livermore's idealism earned him the respect of other public defenders. So did his wealth of knowledge — and his willingness to share it.

"Never once did he tell me to come back later," said Phil Cohen, an assistant public defender who worked with Mr. Livermore for almost 25 years.

"It didn't matter if you had been at the office for 25 years or 25 seconds," Cohen said.

And because of his manner in court — gentle with traumatized witnesses, forceful but respectful in arguments — even his opponents liked him.

"I think if you took a survey of all the lawyers, nobody would say a bad thing about Dean Livermore," said Michael Halkitis, a retired prosecutor who tried dozens of cases while opposing him. "If you talked to people about him, they'd say he was the type of lawyer they'd want to represent them."

Dean Nelson Livermore was born on Dec. 11, 1951, in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, to Nelson and Jacqueline Livermore.

He graduated from Lycoming College in 1974 and married Katherine Elwood the next year. In 1977, he graduated from Cumberland Law School.

The couple lived in Pennsylvania before moving to Pasco County in 1988, when Mr. Livermore joined the Public Defender's Office. He worked first in the Dade City bureau and, in 1994, transferred to the New Port Richey location.

Firmani was his supervisor in that office until 2006. They formed a friendship as they tag-teamed cases, going to each other's homes and getting to know each other's families. That included the Livermores' two children, Douglas and Faith.

"He just liked to make people smile," Faith Livermore said. "He was always willing to be embarrassingly goofy."

Mr. Livermore loved to kayak, raft and camp, his daughter said. He helped form a local Boy Scout troop and refereed high school sports.

This summer, he built a wooden boat at a class in Maine, hauled it back to Florida and was applying the final layers of sealant to it at the Land O' Lakes home he shared with his wife.

The couple planned to move to The Villages when he retired. He and his wife, who had a career as a tutor, were counting the days until Nov. 30.

But first, Mr. Livermore traveled to Georgia with his wife and daughter to spend Thanksgiving with a widowed friend.

On the Sunday after the holiday, as the couple got ready to travel back, he collapsed. He died three days later. The Nov. 30 office retirement party for him was cancelled, and so was the Dec. 1 party his wife had planned for a year.

Instead, everyone attended his memorial on Friday.

"He was just a very compassionate man. He had a kind word for everyone," said Firmani. "That's why it was such a loss."

News researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Contact Justin Trombly at Follow @JustinTrombly.


  1. Firemen and ambulance attendants remove a body from the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, where an explosion ripped the structure during services Sept.15,1963 . Associated Press
    Fifty-six years ago, a bomb blew apart the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, killing four girls and injuring dozens more.
  2. Danielle Harris of Pinellas Park leans against a large photo of Terri Schiavo and her mother, Mary Schindler, during a vigil outside the Woodside Hospice Villas in 2003. Associated Press
    “Terri Schiavo is now a martyr,” one then-state representative said upon learning of her death.
  3. Yesterday• Pasco
    The Port Richey Citizen's Advisory Committee recently installed a mini library at the Mallett Fishing Pier. The box has a painting that depicts the stilt houses off the Port Richey coast, Johnny Cash (who was known to have loved the city and visited often), as well as dolphins playing. This is the second mini library the committee has erected, with the first installed at City Hall, next to the dog park. Pictured, from left: Blaine Lee, builder of the mini library; City Council member Jennie Sorrell (committee member), Laurie (committee member) and Jeff Simpson, Judi Cain (artist), Interim City Council member Angel Nally (committee member) and Tom Kinsella (committee member). Claudia Smith
    News and notes about your neighbors
  4. Yesterday• Hernando
    Members of the Live Oak Conservatory Pre-K 1 Combo Class rest after their first session of tap, jazz and ballet. The class includes children from 18 months to 5 years old. The conservatory kicked off its second year in August, offering performing arts classes for children and adults. The Live Oak Theatre Company is a nonprofit repertory company, located at the Carol and Frank Morsani Center for the Arts in Brooksville. Visit Jane Russell Geddings
    News and notes about your neighbors
  5. Check for the latest breaking news and updates.
    Charges in the accident are pending.
  6. Florida Supreme Court Justices Barbara Lagoa, left, and Robert Luck, right, were appointed to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta by President Trump. Florida Supreme Court
    Ok losers, who needs access to our state politicians, anyway?
  7. The Dade City Monarch Butterfly Festival will be Oct. 12 in Hibiscus Park. AP
    News and notes from Pasco County
  8. Bubba's 33 recently broke ground on its first restaurant in Florida, which will open in Wesley Chapel in December. Pictured, left to right: Experience Florida's Sports Coast (Tourism) Director Adam Thomas, Bubba's 33 marketing director Crista Demers-Dean, Bubba's 33 managing partner Jeff Dean, Pasco County Commissioner Mike Moore and North Tampa Bay Chamber CEO Hope Allen. Andy Taylor
    News and notes on local businesses
  9. Taylor Bland-Ball, 22, posted this photo and open letter to Judge Thomas Palermo to her Instagram account on September 10, the day after she lost custody of her 4-year-old son Noah McAdams. The boy's parents wanted to treat his leukemia with natural health care remedies instead of chemotherapy. [Instagram] ANASTASIA DAWSON  |  Instagram
    The couple refused chemotherapy for their son, instead seeking alternative treatments including dietary plans, alkaline water and THC and CBD oil treatments
  10. Mos Antenor, 42, drives a bulldozer while clearing the road after Hurricane Dorian Mclean's Town, Grand Bahama, Bahamas, Friday Sept. 13, 2019. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa) RAMON ESPINOSA  |  AP
    Threatening to exacerbate islands’ problems, Humberto’s rains were falling on Abaco island.