Paul L. Caron

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Will Donna Adelson Plead Guilty In Dan Markel's Murder To Save Wendi From Prosecution?

Following up on my previous posts:

David Lat (Original Jurisdiction), Judicial Notice (11.18.23):

Less than two weeks ago, I predicted that Donna Adelson would be arrested for the murder of her former son-in-law, Florida State University law professor Dan Markel. I just didn’t think that the 73-year-old grandmother would get taken into custody so soon. ...

What I had no way of knowing was that Donna Adelson and her husband Harvey would attempt to flee the country, buying one-way plane tickets to Vietnam—which, interestingly enough, has no extradition treaty with the United States. ...

Donna’s escape attempt was expected by the State Attorney’s Office for another reason: recorded jailhouse phone calls. As stated in the probable-cause affidavit for Donna, “Jail calls from after [her son] Charles Adelson’s guilty verdict include multiple calls in which Donna Sue Adelson is telling Charles Adelson that she is getting things in order, creating trusts, and making sure her grandchildren are taken care of. Donna discusses plans for a suicide, but also discusses plans to flee to a non-extradition country. Donna Sue Adelson has considerable financial resources to do this.” ...

I’m going to make a surprising prediction: at this point, I could actually see Donna pleading guilty.

First, there’s probably a big part of the anxiety-ridden Donna that just wants to “get it over with.”

Second, her recent actions have severely undermined her chances at trial. As a seasoned criminal-defense lawyer told me, “Unlike Charlie’s, Donna’s case was very triable before—now, not so much.” Why? The flight attempt and recorded jailhouse calls can be introduced as evidence of consciousness of guilt—and Jack Campbell has already promised to do just that.

Third—and I offer this with the caveat that I practiced federal criminal law in New Jersey, not state criminal law in Florida—I wonder whether Donna could reach some understanding with Jack Campbell’s office that if she pleads guilty, they won’t prosecute her daughter, Wendi Adelson. For reasons I have previously given—related mainly to the prosecutorial caution of Jack Campbell, who seems reluctant to bring cases unless they’re slam-dunks—I believe the chances of a Wendi prosecution are slim. So I don’t think Campbell would be giving up much to reassure Donna that they won’t go after Wendi. But giving her that reassurance, even informally, might make Donna, who I suspect has a martyr complex, more inclined to plead guilty.

Donna Adelson reminds me of two Yiddish sayings about mothers. First, “a mother’s love is blind”—maybe even blind to right and wrong. Second, “a mother must have a large apron to cover up her children’s faults”—and with Charlie and Wendi Adelson, there’s plenty to cover up.

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