HOW IT WORKS: A CASE OF PIGGYBACKING A FLORIDA HIGHWAY PATROL TROOPER OBSERVES A DRIVER CLOCKING 128 MILES PER HOUR AT STATE ROAD 836 WEST OF NORTHWEST 87TH AVE. ON FEB. 11, 1995. THE CASE IS FAR OUTSIDE MIAMI JURISDICTION, BUT FOUR MIAMI OFFICERS END UP AS WITNESSES IN THE CASE. THE STOP Midnight 1) Trooper Nelvys Hernandez stops the driver and says she smells marijuana smoke coming from the car. THE ARREST 12:30 a.m. Trooper Hernandez gives the driver a "field sobriety test, " also known as a roadside test. The driver fails and is arrested. The trooper then drives the defendant to the Miami Police South Substation for a breath test, bypassing two closer testing stations. BREATH TEST 12:55 a.m. At the Miami substation, Trooper Hernandez turns the driver over for testing to front desk Officer Sandra Blanco, even though Hernandez is DUI-certified and could have done the test herself. 1:06 a.m. The defendant refuses to take the breath alcohol test. Hernandez and Blanco sign the DUI paperwork, completing the case work. Hernandez and Blanco are the only two witnesses essential to prosecuting the case. THE TRANSPORT After the Miranda Rights warning, two Miami Police officers, Barbara Shaffner and Jackie Jesurum, transport the defendant to jail. They become witnesses and are automatically subpoenaed to court even though their testimony is not essential to the case. THE FIFTH WITNESS A fifth Miami officer, Luis Taborda, is also listed as a witness in the case. He said later in a sworn deposition he did not recall the defendant. "I just got a feeling I just happened to be there and observed and witnessed I think what went on.'" THE TALLY 1) Blanco, an essential witness, earned $97.72 in overtime for doing the breath-alcohol test.2) Jesurum earned $141.64 in overtime for transporting the defendant even though her testimony was not necessary for a conviction.3) Shaffner earned $187.67 in overtime for transporting the defendant even though her testimony was not necessary for a conviction.4) Taborda earned $132.36 in overtime even though his testimony was not necessary for a conviction. THE RESULT The case, which lasts about an hour and a half from stop to Miranda warning, ends up costing taxpayers $559.39. Because troopers don't get overtime, the cost of the essential witness was only $97.72. The cost of the non-essential witnesses: $461.67. THE POLICY Officers who transport witnesses are not supposed to be listed as witnesses on the back of the arrest form. They are supposed to be listed on a separate form that prevents them from getting an automatic subpoena to court. But Assistant Police Chief Raul Martinez said transport officers can be listed on the back of the arrest form if they write down what their role was so prosecutors will know who is necessary. Neither Shaffner nor Jesurum listed their role as transport officers.Shaffner told The Herald she was never informed of the policy, which was specified in a 1994 memo by the State Attorney's Office.Assistant Chief Martinez said he was surprised that the policy wasn't being enforced. Officer Shaffner said that she and Trooper Hernandez and Officer Jesurum often appeared in cases together because they were friends who "hung out together" on the midnight shift.
A lengthy Miami Herald investigation reveals that Dade Circuit Judge John Galardi Gale -- a judge since 1972, head of the bustling civil division since 1977 -- has doled out lucrative court appointments to friends, issued favorable rulings to select attorneys and declined to remove himself when his impartiality could be questioned. He enjoys a life style well beyond his public salary.