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.