I was surprised and disappointed with your June 21 editorial, Shootings of unarmed black men deserve answers, and the misleading June 19 story Miami Beach must pay attorneys’ fees in Urban Beach Week shooting, regarding the Memorial Day 2011 shootings on Miami Beach.
A lawyer representing the deceased driver’s family filed a public-records lawsuit concerning the incident. Since the state attorney’s office is still conducting a criminal investigation, the city objected to producing the records based on Florida Statute Chapter 119. Circuit Court Judge Victoria Sigler agreed with the city that the plaintiffs were not entitled to the criminal investigative files. However, she granted access to the driver’s autopsy records and audio and visual recordings, pursuant to Florida Statute Chapter 406, which the lawyer did not cite in the lawsuit.
After the judge issued her order, my office promptly asked the Miami Beach Police Department to provide the records. Six weeks later the lawyer called the city stating that he had not received all the records. We immediately contacted the Police Department and found that certain audio recordings were not sent. The Police Department then sent the recordings to the lawyer.
At the next hearing, the judge clarified that her order concerning “visual recordings” also meant the decedent’s photographs and issued an order that these also be provided to plaintiffs’ attorneys. They were provided the next day.
At the last hearing, the court was advised that there were no photographs of the decedent at the crime scene and that all photographs of the decedent were delivered to plaintiffs’ lawyer. The court requested and we provided an affidavit from the lead investigator. Finally, the court stated that while the city would have to pay the plaintiffs’ lawyer fees, she would not impose sanctions because the untimely delivery of the audio recordings was not intentional.
There has never been any effort to conceal or hide any document, or to violate any court order. There is no cover-up, stonewalling or conspiracy here. The city has nothing to hide. All legitimate claims against the city will be evaluated fairly and on their merits upon conclusion of the criminal investigation by the state attorney’s office.
Jose Smith, city attorney,