Edward Anthony Carhart, a well-known Miami trial lawyer and former chief assistant state attorney, died Friday at South Miami Hospital after a brief illness.
Carhart, 78, was known for his devotion to public service. He prosecuted a number of memorable cases for the Dade State Attorney’s Office, and is well-known for being a part of the defense team that won the acquittal of four white police officers charged with beating black motorcyclist Arthur McDuffie to death. The 1980 acquittal, from an all-white jury, led to riots that rocked the city.
“I remember Ed for his wonderful sense of humor, sensitivity to the human part of what the criminal justice system was about, and to his incredible integrity,” said Tom Peterson, a retired circuit judge and longtime friend.
Carhart was a civil trial lawyer in Miami before serving as chief assistant state attorney to longtime State Attorney Richard Gerstein from 1963 to 1977. He rose up the ranks, supervising the office of trial prosecutors and personally conducting a series of notable trials, including the 1970s Cedars of Lebanon Hospital fraud case. The total embezzled from the hospital was $862,750, making it one of the largest economic crimes in Dade at the time.
“I tried two cases against him, saw him try two other cases, and he was the best prosecutor I ever saw in my life,” said Phil Hubbart, former chief Miami public defender and retired Third District Court of Appeals judge.
After leaving the State Attorney’s Office, he became one of Miami’s most distinguished defense attorneys before retiring a few months ago.
In the 1980s, Carhart defended former Miami City Attorney George Knox, who was found not guilty in the Johnny Jones witness tampering case. Then-Dade County School Superintendent, Jones was found guilty of witness tampering after he was convicted in the “Gold Plumbing Caper” case, but the tampering decision was later invalidated. Knox was acquitted of trying to dissuade an education consultant from cooperating with prosecutors on the investigation against Jones.
Carhart also defended Rafael Villaverde, the jovial, blunt-spoken anti-Castro activist who ran a popular community center in Little Havana. Villaverde was later presumed dead after disappearing on a fishing trip after being indicted, arrested and released on bond on charges of running a multimillion-dollar cocaine smuggling operation dubbed “Operation Tick-Talks.”
Most recently, in 2013 Carhart defended the suspects in the case of a wounded Miami-Dade police detective who was shot three times as he investigated a marijuana growhouse.
“Ed was a fabulous lawyer and always so nice to those of us coming up behind him,” said Miami attorney and longtime friend Pamela Perry. “His ability to live with adversity was nothing short of heroic.”
Toward the end of his life, Carhart suffered from a physical disability that gradually required him to need assistance to walk, eat and even turn the pages of a book. Nonetheless, he continued to practice law.
“His mind and his mouth remained sharp as ever,” commented a friend.
Carhart was born in Brooklyn, New York, on Feb. 20, 1938. He graduated from high school in St. Petersburg, Florida. He briefly attended Florida State University, before leaving to earn an undergraduate degree at a university in Mexico City. After that, he graduated from law school at the University of Florida.
He is survived by partner Maureen (Maggie) Magee; daughter, Tracy Carhart; son, Sean Carhart; granddaughter Brenda Carhart; and former wife Anais Carhart.
Funeral and memorial service arrangements are pending.