Paul L. Caron

Monday, May 23, 2022

Dan Markel's Murder: Will The Jury Convict Katie Magbanua? Why Did Charlie Adelson Change Lawyers?

David Lat (Original Jurisdiction), The Dan Markel Case: Opening Statements:

Magnauba (2021)I listened to the opening statements. And if you, like me, are hoping for a conviction of Katie Magbanua this time around, you should be worried—very worried.

The prosecution did a solid job. This time around, assistant state attorney Sarah Dugan delivered the opening statement, instead of chief assistant state attorney Georgia Cappleman (who has been the lead prosecutor on the case for years, and who delivered the opening in 2019). Dugan outlined the case against Magbanua methodically, thoroughly, and persuasively. Perhaps Dugan could have delivered her opening argument with more emotion, but I appreciated her sober delivery and focus on the evidence. She did well.

Tara Kawass, who along with co-counsel Christopher DeCoste represents Magbanua, gave a more animated opening—and a very strong one, I must admit. As her opening made clear, the defense is going to be more aggressive this time around—and it just might work. ...

This time around, Katie Magbanua’s lawyers have an alternative theory of the case. In her opening, Tara Kawass conceded two important points to the prosecution: yes, the two hitmen, Sigfredo Garcia and Luis Rivera, actually committed the murder of Dan Markel, and yes, they were hired by Charlie Adelson. In fact, throughout her opening, Kawass attacked Charlie, blaming him for the murder and calling him a “master manipulator” who mistreated Katie during their relationship—like he mistreated so many other people in his life.

The defense’s main point of disagreement with the state: Magbanua did not serve as the go-between connecting the hitmen with Charlie, was not involved in the plot, and in fact knew nothing about it. Instead, Charlie Adelson contracted directly with Sigfredo Garcia for the murder of Dan Markel. ...

Now, anyone familiar with the case knows that this defense has some serious problems. It does not account for so much evidence that incriminates Katie Magbanua, including but not limited to evidence about communications she was involved in right after the murder, the “money drop” she participated in, and secretly recorded conversations between her and Charlie Adelson.

But to jurors who don’t have intimate knowledge of this case—like these jurors, since jurors with strong knowledge and opinions were removed during voir dire—the defense theory might actually fly. And even if jurors find the prosecution theory more plausible than the defense theory, at that point Tara Kawass and Chris DeCoste can invoke the usual “it’s the prosecution’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt” argument. They can argue this to the jury: even if you find the prosecution’s theory marginally, or even significantly, more plausible than our theory, that’s not enough—you need to accept their theory beyond a reasonable doubt. ...

Even if the defense can’t persuade all the jurors, if it can persuade one or two to become holdout jurors, as it did back in 2019, then Magbanua gets a mistrial. And I would consider that a victory for her. It won’t necessarily set her free—I expect that the prosecution would want to try her again and in the meantime she would stay in jail, where she has been ever since her 2016 arrest—but it would give her yet another chance at a full acquittal.

David Lat (Original Jurisdiction), The Dan Markel Case: Charlie Adelson Gets A New Lawyer:

Charlie Adelson 4Davis Oscar Markus of Markus/Moss, the longtime lawyer of Charles Adelson, is withdrawing from representing his notorious client.

As followers of this case will recall, Charlie Adelson stands accused of hiring two hit men to kill his ex-brother-in-law Dan Markel in 2014. Just last month, after years of being a prime suspect, Adelson was finally arrested and charged with murder. He now sits in jail in Tallahassee.

David Markus is one of the nation’s top criminal-defense attorneys, with a track record of winning acquittals at trial, and I see his leaving the case as yet more bad news for Charlie. I reached out to Markus for comment; he confirmed his withdrawal from the case but declined to comment further.

Charlie Adelson is now represented by another leading criminal defense attorney, former federal prosecutor Daniel Rashbaum of Marcus Neiman Rashbaum & Pineiro ("MNR"). As some of you might recall, Dan Rashbaum previously represented Charlie Adelson’s parents, Harvey and Donna Adelson. Presumably Harvey and Donna Adelson now have new counsel, since the conflict between Donna Adelson and Charlie Adelson, who could flip on each other (if the prosecution's allegations are true), is not really waivable—and some observers, such as Professor Nathan Richardson, question whether Rashbaum can represent Charlie even if Charlie’s parents have new lawyers. I’ve reached out to Rashbaum for comment, and I’ll update this post if and when I hear back from him.

Why did David Oscar Markus withdraw from representing Charlie Adelson? He declined to discuss this with me, and the notice of withdrawal filed by Markus and his law partner, Margot Moss, simply stated, “Although counsel entered temporary appearances on April 26, 2022, we have not been retained to represent Mr. Adelson for trial in this proceeding.” So in the absence of comment from Markus, here are three theories.

First, it’s possible that Markus wanted out of Charlie’s case—and if so, I can’t blame him. ...

Second, it’s possible that Charlie Adelson wanted Markus off the case. ...

Third, it’s possible that Charlie Adelson and Markus couldn’t reach an agreement as to legal fees.

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