A judge has refused to declare a mistrial in the case of a South Florida woman accused of killing a young foster child even though a prosecutor's law license had been suspended for months before the trial began.
Circuit Judge Marisa Tinkler-Mendez ruled Tuesday against the mistrial motion made by defense lawyers for 66-year-old Geralyn Graham.
Officials said the problem involved prosecutor Joshua Weintraub's failure to record legal education course numbers properly with the state bar. Weintraub's license was reinstated Tuesday.
Weintraub, the prosecutor who gave the opening statement in the trial of 66-year-old Geralyn Graham, was notified in August by the Florida Bar that his license to practice law was suspended due to failure to meet continuing legal education requirements. But Weintraub participated anyway in numerous hearings, depositions, jury selection and the trial's opening this week.
"Mr. Weintraub, as of August of this year, has individually participated in depositions, motions to suppress, and conducted other business representing himself to be, not only an assistant state attorney in this circuit, but as well as a member of the Florida Bar," said Graham's attorney Michael Matters.
Matters said the issue was much more than an oversight.
"This is absolutely inappropriate, unethical and wrong," Matters said. "If I were suspended, I sure as hell wouldn't be here. And, I bet I'd get in a lot of trouble."
The office of Miami-Dade County State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said Tuesday the problem was technical in nature and involved a failure to record legal education course numbers with the Bar. Don Horn, a chief assistant in Rundle's office, said the issue was quickly remedied and Weintraub was reinstated as a licensed lawyer — which the Bar confirmed.
"He is in fact eligible to practice law in Florida," Horn said, adding that Weintraub had actually exceeded the education requirements. "He had thought he had taken care of this with the Florida Bar back in August and, to his knowledge, he was in good standing with the Florida Bar. So, yes, he completed the required number of hours. It's just that because they didn't have the course numbers, the Florida Bar didn't have the technical recording."
Horn said the issue only came to light after a Miami Herald reader — who self-identified as "Bambi" — posted a comment about Weintraub's law license status on the newspaper's web site. Horn said he immediately took Weintraub off the case temporarily until the matter was cleared up Tuesday morning.
Testimony continued Tuesday
When testimony resumed Tuesday, Lily Mae Tuff, a family friend of Graham, talk about Graham's desire to take Wilson into her home.
"She said Rilya had a behavior problem, that she had a anger problem. She would scratch her skin up or hit head her on the wall," said Tuff.
A co-worker of Graham's partner and another foster parent said Wilson wasn't around when they visited the home in Christmas.
"She said they had met some lady at the park who said she wanted to take Rilya to NYC for the holidays," said Karen Throckmorton, a foster mother.
Wilson was never seen again after that trip.
Graham faces a potential life sentence if convicted of first-degree murder and other charges in the case of 4-year-old Rilya Wilson, whose body has never been found.
The defense's opening statement focused on the lack of a body and suggested that Rilya, who would be 16 now, might still be alive.
The state's case hinges largely on the testimony of jailhouse snitches who claim that Graham confessed to killing Rilya in conversations with them. Graham insists she is innocent.