Florida Criminal Appeals and Post-Conviction
Former Prosecutor with 25 Years of Experience
Appeals Lawyer
Former Prosecutor with 25 Years of Experience
Appeals Lawyer

posted 2020 | State v. CP (Broward County)

This year has certainly been one most people want to forget, but not this client. He will be getting out in less than three years! Client was charged with multiple burglaries and was a prison release reoffender (PRR designated). After being convicted, he was sentenced to 30 years in prison. He lost his appeal and was beginning to lose hope. He was 25 years old with a mandatory 30 year sentence and desperate for help.

The client heard about Mr. Forman from a fellow inmate that Mr. Forman successfully assisted. The family hired Mr. Forman to file a motion for post-conviction relief under Florida Rule Criminal Procedure 3.850, often referred to a 3850 motion. After examining all of the records, Mr. Forman filed a seven claim motion, arguing that he was entitled to a new trial because his lawyer did not provide effective assistance of counsel.

The trial was plagued with numerous errors because his trial lawyer failed to object to the improper actions of a very aggressive prosecutor. The prosecutor improperly commented in closing argument, violated Giglio by knowingly presenting false testimony by a co-defendant, presented improper evidence, and even made improper arguments at sentencing. Although Mr. Forman believed his motion was strong, the prosecutor offered a reduction in sentence that was too good to pass up! Of course, the client and his family are ecstatic that he will be home in less than three years.

posted 2020 | State v. KJ

This was a tough burglary appeal that was won even though the trial lawyer failed to object at the most critical time of the trial. The client was charged with burglary and grand theft after being accused of entering her former boyfriend’s house, stealing 19 guitars and expensive watches. She was observed on a neighbor’s surveillance camera putting items in her car, but explained to law enforcement that she was only retrieving her personal items that she left at the residence.

After initially speaking to law enforcement, she invoked her Miranda rights and informed the detectives that she did not want to talk to them anymore without her lawyer. Despite numerous discussions before trial, the prosecutor informed the jury in opening and closing statements that the client invoked her right to remain silent. Unfortunately, her lawyer failed to object when the detective testified she asked for a lawyer and refused to answer any further questions.

When the trial lawyer fails to object at trial or fails to make a proper objection, it is much harder to win on appeal. Despite this major obstacle, Mr. Forman was able to convince the appellate court that the issue was sufficiently preserved and the court agreed. The three-judge appellate panel reversed the conviction and vacated her prison sentence! Client was thrilled with the positive outcome.

posted 2020 | State v. MR (Broward County)

Without a doubt, hiring the right lawyer can make the difference! This tragic case involved a DUI manslaughter where two victims were killed. The client was a bright, young man who made a terrible mistake. The client’s family hired a high-powered DUI lawyer to handle his case. A motion to suppress the evidence was filed, but it was denied. The client’s case was a very difficult case to win, but his lawyer advised him that he could get him a reasonable sentence by filing a motion for downward departure and entering a plea.

The client entered an open plea, which meant that the judge would decide what happened after the sentencing hearing. Normally when a client enters a plea, the sentence is negotiated with the state. The client wanted to make sure that things went well, so he hired a second DUI lawyer to assist. This also did not help. Unfortunately, the judge denied the departure motion and sentenced the client to 23 years in prison.

After an unsuccessful appeal, the client’s family hired Mr. Forman to file a motion for post-conviction relief in order to vacate the plea and try to start over. After multiple edits with his client, Mr. Forman filed a twelve-claim motion alleging that both attorneys were ineffective and that the client’s plea was not voluntary. Although the client and Mr. Forman were ready to go “all the way” with the motion, an opportunity arose for a possible resolution.

After reviewing the motion, and after many months of tough negotiations, Mr. Forman was able to get the client’s prison sentence reduced by 10 years! The client made the decision to forego the motion and took the significant sentence reduction. Success comes in many different forms when handling these difficult motions – especially when the case was initially resolved with by a plea. Of course, the client and his family were very appreciative and pleased with the result! Making wise decisions, especially when hiring a lawyer, is critical.

posted 2019 | State v. R.S. (Pasco County)

This is a great example of how an experienced and persistent post-conviction lawyer can change the game. Mr. Forman was hired by his client to see if he could remove the 10 years of probation that he was given in addition to his prison sentence. The client was charged with a sex offense and was represented by a public defender.

The client explained the situation to Mr. Forman. The client explained that he wanted to accept a plea offer that he thought was previously given, but when he went to court, his attorney was not present. Instead, a different public defender was there. When the client wanted to accept the plea offer in court, the state only offered a plea that included an additional 3 years of prison.

The public defender told the client that he should just wait and speak to his assigned lawyer at the next court date, which the client agreed to do. The prosecutor informed the judge that the new plea offer would remain open. Of course, when he showed up at the next court date, the prosecutor now added an additional 10 years of probation to the last offer.

The client correctly assessed the situation and still accepted the plea offer because he was fearful he was going to get a life sentence if he went to trial on his unwinnable case. He informed Mr. Forman that he took plea knowing that he would simply try to remove the probation later.

After hearing what happened, Mr. Forman immediately formulated a strategy to present in the motion for post-conviction relief. Four claims were presented and focused on the fact that the lawyer who appeared in court never informed the client that the prosecutor could increase the plea offer once the prosecutor agreed to keep it open. Mr. Forman argued that the client would have accepted the plea offer had he been given this simple advice. Case law supported this argument.

In addition to knowing the law, a good attorney also never quits fighting for his client. This is best illustrated in this case, where the trial court initially entered an order denying some of the claims and while also requiring the state to respond. Because he was well-versed in the law regarding this type of claim, Mr. Forman recognized that the judge relied on incorrect case law and logic when she denied the claims.

As a result, Mr. Forman filed a motion asking the judge to change her mind due to this reason. Naturally, trial judges rarely change their mind after making a ruling. However, the judge agreed with Mr. Forman and re-opened those claims. After several weeks, Mr. Forman was able to convince the prosecutor drop 8 of the 10 years of probation that was imposed. Naturally, the client was extremely happy with reduction and gladly agreed to be re-sentenced! Persistence and knowledge of the law paved the way for this outcome.

posted 2019 | State v. M.F. (Hernando)

This case was a long fought battle which resulted in a fair resolution. The Client was charged with Aggravated Battery and was placed on probation for 3 years. The client quickly violated probation several times and was ultimately arrested for new drug charges. She was represented by a public defender and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

The client filed a pro-se motion to withdraw her plea, but the motion was denied.  She then filed a motion for post-conviction relief and later contacted Mr. Forman. Mr. Forman told the client to wait and see if a hearing was going to be granted. The client and Mr. Forman stayed in touch for over a year until something happened on the case. Although the client’s motion was technically deficient in many ways, the trial court granted an evidentiary hearing.

However, the client really had no chance of prevailing on the motion as presented. Mr. Forman was hired and decided to focus on a single claim – that counsel was ineffective for failing to use an expert at the client’s sentencing hearing. The Client was hesitant to focus only on one claim, but Mr. Forman explained to her the reason for his recommendation and the pros and cons of doing so.

The client trusted Mr. Forman’s advice and Mr. Forman hired a local respected clinical psychologist to evaluate the client. The doctor’s report and evaluation were beneficial to the client so Mr. Forman filed an amended motion for post-conviction relief. The doctor appeared at the evidentiary hearing and was ready to testify at the hearing. Mr. Forman and his client were also present.

After many discussions, the prosecutor conceded that the claim had merit and agreed to re-sentence the client to 5 years in prison and the remainder on supervision with residential treatment. The client quickly agreed to be re-sentenced and was released from prison a week later! Client was very happy.


posted 2019 | G.M. v. State (Broward)

This is another reason why the appeals lawyer that you hire can make all the difference! Some appeals lawyers are simply better then others. Most lawyers who claim that they are appeals lawyers are simply lawyers who handle all type of criminal cases – “a jack of all trades…a master of none!” A little research will show that they are simply criminal trial lawyers.

This small, but important case demonstrates why there is simply no substitute for a criminal appeals specialist like Mr. Forman. This appeal was won solely based on his vast knowledge of the law involving improper comments in closing argument by the prosecutor. These comments were not objected to by defense counsel who was obviously unaware that they were improper.

The client was arrested for DUI after he refused to provide a breath test. The facts of the case are unimportant, except that the prosecutor made several arguments to the jury that commented on the client’s failure to provide a breath sample. Although these comments are permissible to show a consciousness of guilt, the prosecutor argued in a manner that shifted the burden of proof to the client.

A defendant is presumed innocent and these type of comments are highly improper. Unfortunately, a well-respected trial lawyer who has been practicing for 31 years, did not realize that these clever comments were improper. Luckily, Mr. Forman immediately recognized that these were improper. However, since the trial lawyer did not object, the issue had to be raised under an exception known as “fundamental error”, which is rarely granted.

Despite the trial lawyer’s failure to preserve the issue for appeal, Mr. Forman was able to convince the three-judge appellate panel that these comments denied the client of a fair trial. A new trial was granted! Naturally, the client was thrilled with the result. Remember, the good lawyers know the rules – the great lawyers know the exceptions!

posted 2019 | State v. R.A. (Lake County)

Victory comes in many forms when handling a motion for post-conviction relief. Some clients want a full exoneration and a new trial, while others simply realize their case is unwinnable and want a sentence reduction. Mr. Forman always tries to create options for his clients so that they are not limited to one possible outcome. However, prosecutors will usually not agree to anything unless you have strong claims and invoke a fear that they will lose.

Here, the client had multiple burglary cases in Lake County. He was offered a 4 year global plea offer to resolve all of the cases, but based on the advice of his trial lawyer, he rejected the plea offer. He went to trial on one burglary case and was given 10 years in prison. He then subsequently took a 5 year plea offer on the remaining two cases.

Mr. Forman was hired and filed a motion for post-conviction alleging eight grounds of ineffective representation. After a lengthy period of time, the trial judge granted an evidentiary hearing for each ground. Because the client accepted the 5 year plea offers, the client was trying to lower the 10 year sentence to 5 years. Unfortunately, the prosecutor was the same tough prosecutor who handled the trial, but the judge was even tougher.

After many months of negotiations, the prosecutor agreed to reduce the client’s sentence by a few years if he agreed to drop the motion. The client talked to his family and decided to take the sure thing and reduce his sentence. The client was re-sentenced and eagerly waits his release.

posted 2018 | JW v. State (Polk County)

This complicated case is another example of the importance of hiring an experienced appellate lawyer! Two life sentences were reversed and the client’s confession was excluded. The client was originally arrested in 2006 and charged with capital sexual battery on a minor. Despite the fact that the client had an intellectual disability, he was questioned by law enforcement and eventually admitted to the crime. Due to his disability, his case was dismissed by the court per Florida Statute.

However, in 2014, the state decided to refile the charges against the client. His interrogation was somewhat unusual and defense counsel believed that the client was unable to understand his Miranda warnings. Defense counsel filed a motion to exclude his confession at trial, but it was denied by the trial court. Defense counsel presented an expert at the hearing that talked about the client’s inability to understand Miranda warnings, but the court still believed that the client understood the rights that he gave up.

The client proceeded to trial and he was convicted. The judge sentenced him to the mandatory life sentence for each count. His father then hired Mr. Forman to represent the client on appeal. While reviewing the documents, Mr. Forman realized that the trial court did not give much weight to the client’s intellectual disability when considering whether to allow his confession at trial. This was primarily due to his trial lawyer’s failure to aggressively and properly present the court with the multiple competency evaluations that were done after his arrest. In fact, these critical evaluations were not contained in the record on appeal because they were part of the 2006 case, not the refiled 2014 case.

After a lengthy process, Mr. Forman was able to find these critical documents and requested that the attorney general allow Mr. Forman to use these documents by adding them to the record on appeal. The state agreed, which allowed Mr. Forman to make this his primary basis for appeal. Without the discovery of these documents, Mr. Forman would not have prevailed on appeal. These documents were so critical that the three judge appellate panel unanimously relied on them when they reversed the client’s two life sentences! Without a doubt, most lawyers would have overlooked these critical evaluations from the old 2006 case in defending the re-filed case 2014 case. Needless to say, the client and his father are thrilled with the results!

posted 2018 | J.B. v. State (Broward)

This case is still pending in the Florida Supreme Court, but it took a hard fought battle simply to have the opportunity to seek appellate review. It took a clever argument by Mr. Forman to persuade the Court that they should allow the client to seek review in these unusual circumstances.

Client was convicted of over 100 pornography related charges and was sentenced to over 500 years in prison. On appeal, the appellate court vacated the 100 convictions, but found that the issue regarding the search warrant did not require reversal. His appellate attorney filed a motion for rehearing in the appellate court, but it was denied.

Surprisingly, the client’s appellate attorney told the client’s family that there was nothing else to do and that the appeal was over. However, they could have sought review in the Florida Supreme Court. After the time to seek review had expired, Mr. Forman was hired to file a petition to seek belated discretionary review asking the Florida Supreme Court to make an exception in his case due to the misadvise of appellate counsel.

The attorney general’s office, as well as the client’s former appellate attorney, fought the client’s request and urged the court to deny the petition because the client never asked to appeal the matter further. Technically, they were correct under the rules. However, Mr. Forman came up with a clever argument that was normally used in the context of the denial of a motion for post-conviction relief. Despite the resistance from the state, Mr. Forman won and the court granted the petition! The case is now pending and the client is waiting to see if the court will agree to hear his case.

posted 2018 State v. R.S.

After successfully reversing his client’s burglary conviction and sentence on appeal, Mr. Forman was hired to represent his client at the trial court level. Because the burglary was based upon a battery offense, Mr. Forman decided to file a Stand Your Ground Motion seeking to place the burden on the state to prove that his client did not act in self-defense.  The new standard changed while the case was on appeal. After months of hard work, Mr. Forman was able to convince the prosecutor to drop the felony charge and allow his client to plead no contest to one count of misdemeanor battery with credit for time served.  The client simply walked into court and left without any probation or additional jail time.  The client and his family were extremely grateful for the excellent result!

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