Why haven’t 15 PD Circuits in Fl. implemented an available database that safeguards against racial disparity in sentencing?

Today, 6/8/2020, public defenders in America marched in solidarity with black communities under the banner of “Black Lives Matter” This blogger resides in Florida’s 6th Circuit and the public defender’s office in this jurisdiction participated, a great act of solidarity. See story published today about the march, Live: Protests continue in Tampa, St. Pete on Monday. To be certain, marches are meaningful as a way to bring attention to issues that need to be addressed to effect substantial change in a systemic system of racism.

That is why I was curious in finding out, why hasn’t the Public Defender for Florida’s 6th Circuit (Pinellas/Pasco), Bob Dillinger, implemented ESAS (Equity in Sentencing Analysis System)? ESAS was created by A. Wellington Barlow after the series, “Bias from the Bench” was published by the Herald-Tribune. Please see, Florida Public Defender Blaise Trettis on Racial Disparity in Sentencing & ESAS Software.

This series concluded that black men receive more prison time in Florida than whites. In 2018 Florida legislator Chris Sprowls introduced legislation, which passed, that mandated the creation of a data gathering system in order for the state to be able to detect bias trends in our criminal justice system. Where is that database? I’ve not seen it. What I have seen and used is the ESAS database and interviewed its creator, Alvin Wellington Barlow Sr. (Mr. Barlow provided a demo of this ground breaking system during the interview). This is the only database in existence currently that addresses and attempts to detect racial disparity in sentencing in Florida.

Florida is composed of 20 Circuits and only 5 Public Defender Circuits have implemented this system in their offices in order to advocate for fairness in sentencing on behalf of their clients. (See below the 5 Public Defenders who have implemented this system and the 15 who have not).

Today Public Defender offices will be marching in solidarity with their black fellow citizens and proclaiming that “Black Lives Matter” If that is true then it is also true that it matters that they be treated fairly under the law as it relates to sentencing. I emailed Public Defender Bob Dillinger and inquired why the 6th Circuit, which he was elected to serve, has not yet implemented a database that can possibly prevent one of his office’s clients from receiving an unfair sentence. Mr. Dillinger initially indicated that “it was too expensive” When this blogger further inquired whether he availed himself of a 30 day free trial ESAS offers and/or whether he was offered an opportunity to discuss more affordable options based on what his budget allowed, Mr. Dillinger then advised that it was not an issue of expense but that Mr. Barlow “presented to our office as a CLE. He did not present as a racially motivated program and actually it was to the contrary. The lawyers had the opportunity to use the program. There was not a real interest in us getting this program from the lawyers.”

Were Mr. Dillinger’s lawyers disinterested in the ESAS program? Let’s take a look at the evaluations they submitted on November 30, 2018 to Mr. Barlow after attending a CLE on the program.

These are the 5 Public Defenders who have implemented ESAS

1. 4th Circuit Public Defender Charlie Cofer (Clay, Duval, and Nassau counties)

2. 11th Circuit Public Defender Carlos J. Martinez (Miami Dade County)

3. 13th Circuit Public Defender Julianne Holt – (Hillsborough County)

4. 18th Circuit Public Defender Blaise Trettis (Brevard and Seminole counties)

5. 20th Circuit Public Defender Kathleen A. Smith (Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry)

These 15 Public Defender Circuits below have not implemented ESAS

6. 1st Circuit Public Defender Bruce Miller (Escambia, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, Walton counties)

7. 2nd Circuit Public Defender Andy Thomas (Franklin, Gadsden, Jefferson, Leon, Liberty, Wakulla counties)

8. 3rd Circuit Public Defender Blair Payne (Columbia, Dixie, Hamilton, Lafayette, Madison, Suwanee, Taylor counties)

9. 5th Circuit Public Defender Mike Graves (Citrus, Hernando, Lake, Marion, Sumter counties)

10. 6th Circuit Public Defender Bob Dillinger (Pinellas and Pasco Counties)

11. 7th Circuit Public Defender James S. Purdy (Flagler, Putnam, St. Johns counties)

12. 8th Circuit Public Defender Stacy A. Scott (Alachua, Baker, Bradford, Gilchrist, Levy, Union counties)

13. 9th Circuit Public Defender Robert Wesley (Orange and Osceola counties)

14. 10th Circuit Public Defender H. Rex Dimming (Hardee, Highlands, Polk counties)

15. 12th Circuit Public Defender Larry L. Eger (DeSoto, Manatee, Sarasota counties) * this public defender has no website or ESAS

16. 14th Circuit Public Defender Mark Sims (Bay, Calhoun, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson, Washington counties)

17. 15th Circuit Public Defender Carey Haughwout (Palm Beach)

18. 16th Circuit Public Defender Robert Lockwood (Monroe)

19. 17th Circuit Public Defender Howard Finkelstein (Broward)

20. 19th Circuit Public Defender Diamond L. Litty (Indian River, Martin, Okeechobee, St. Lucie counties)

This blogger just realized that Florida does not have even one black elected public defender.


Florida Public Defender Blaise Trettis on Racial Disparity in Sentencing & ESAS Software

On June 4, 2020, the Public Defender for the 18th Circuit of Florida, Blaise Trettis, wrote the following email to A. Wellington Barlow, the founder and creator of ESAS, (Equity in Sentencing Analysis System).

Dear Mr. Barlow:

I don’t know if I’ve ever sent you this collection of materials pertaining to racial disparity in sentencing in Florida. Please feel free to forward these materials and this email as you see fit. There is significant, and disturbing, findings in the studies that have been done on racial disparity in sentencing in Florida. The 1992 study by the State of Florida ( first attachment) of the habitual offender statute found that the habitual offender statute was used by prosecutors and judges in a racially disparate way against blacks. The Sarasota Herald Tribune series “Bias on the Bench” found significant racial disparity in sentencing throughout Florida (except in the 11th Circuit for Dade County if my memory is correct). Though it’s been many months since I read the Bias on the Bench series, my recollection is that the study concluded that statewide blacks are sentenced to 60% more prison time under the Florida Criminal Punishment Code than are whites when convicted of the same charges with the same criminal record of the defendant. The Bias on the Bench series even studies sentencing by race of the judge. My recollection is that black women judges sentence to more prison time than any other race and gender of judge in Florida, but that there was no racial disparity in the black women judges’ sentences. The esteemed panelists of the June 9, 2020 forum “George Floyd, Where do we go from HERE?” might be interested in having these materials. I wish you continued success with your ground-breaking sentencing computer software Equity in Sentencing Analysis System (ESAS).

Please check out my interview of Barlow on Florida You Judge about a year ago about ESAS (video below)

Articles cited by Trettis in his email:

Bias on the bench – first story “Florida’s broken sentencing system”
Bias on the bench – second story “Tough on Crime”
Bias on the bench – third story “Gainesville’s war on drugs”
Bias on the bench – fourth story “Race and politics influence judicial decisions”

Bias on the bench – “How We Did It”
Bias on the bench – data – “Explore each county’s racial disparities in sentencing”
Bias on the bench – Judges Fight Back – “Judges defend role in sentencing with flawed study”
Bias on the bench – Fact Checking The 12th Circuit – “Fact Checking the 12th Circuit’s “final response”
Influence & Injustice “An investigation into the power of prosecutors”
The Palm Beach Post “Influence & Injustice – Public Defenders”
The Florida Bar News “Software to compare sentences expanding statewide”
Study on racial disparity effects of habitual felony offenders in Florida
Rebutting the New College Study
An Empirical Examination of the Application of Florida’s Habitual Offender Statute Aug. 1992 (attached)
The Florida Senate: Review The Criminal Punishment Code and Sentencing Judges’ Assessment Nov. 2005 (attached)
The Impact of the 1994 and 1995 Structured Sentencing Policies in Florida Mar. 1997 (attached)

Bias on the Bench Series Awards
Florida Public Defender Association: L. Clayton Nance Award: https://www.heraldtribune.com/news/20170728/bias-earns-state-award
The Society of Professional Journalism Florida Chapter: Gene Miller Award for Investigative Reporting https://spjflorida.com/sunshine-state-awards/2017-winners/
First Amendment Foundation Freedom of Information Award from the Society of Professional Journalists’: http://floridafaf.org/spj-first-amendment-foundation-award/
Florida Bar Top Media Award: https://www.heraldtribune.com/news/20171004/bias-series-earns-h-t-reporters-top-florida-bar-award
Robert F. Kennedy Award: https://www.heraldtribune.com/news/20170505/bias-on-bench-wins-robert-f-kennedy-award
Associated Press Media Editors National Public Service Award: https://www.heraldtribune.com/news/20170404/herald-tribunes-sentencing-series-wins-national-public-service-award
Society of Professional Journalists’ national Sigma Delta Chi Award: https://www.heraldtribune.com/news/20170504/herald-tribunes-bias-series-wins-another-national-journalism-award
GateHouse Media Newspaper of the Year: https://www.heraldtribune.com/news/20170426/h-t-wins-top-award-from-parent-gatehouse-media
Society of Professional Journalist Sunshine State Awards: https://www.heraldtribune.com/news/20170723/herald-tribune-brings-home-22-spj-journalism-awards



George Floyd: Where do we go from Here?


Florida You Judge Endorses Chad Chronister for Hillsborough County Sheriff 2020

In 2016, I collaborated with community members in organizing a police / community forum in Hillsborough County to give the community and law enforcement the opportunity to discuss important issues.  When I reached out to Chad, I had never spoken to him prior to that moment, he was immediately responsive to my request in helping coordinate the event and I found my initial impression of him was that of a humble, professional, and dedicated public servant. My initial gut instinct proved to be right.  That is why Florida You Judge endorsed Chad in 2018  and since that time, Chad has continued to display the same leadership qualities Florida You Judge highlighted in that endorsement, a “fair-minded, humble, professional, and committed leader who is fully dedicated to the protection and betterment of the community he serves.”  The community in Hillsborough will be well served in voting for Chad Chronister in 2020.

Hillsborough Sheriff Chad Chronister


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