[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]
25060: Hermantin(News)Jailed witness is in legal vise (fwd)
From: leonie hermantin <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Posted on Tue, May. 10, 2005
Jailed witness is in legal vise
A Tamarac man is facing deportation to Haiti after being held in the Broward
County Jail for 18 months as a material witness in a murder trial.
By WANDA J. DeMARZO AND JAY WEAVER
Elicene Miguel was arrested on two minor drug charges but served no jail
Yet he's been in detention for more than three years -- half that time in
the Broward County Jail.
His crime? The Tamarac cab driver picked up a murder suspect in his Yellow
''This is crazy, absolutely crazy,'' said Perdida Parris, the mother of
Miguel's two oldest children, Eligna, 16, and Jermeka, 15.
Miguel, 39, a Haitian national who is a lawful permanent resident of the
United States, has been locked in a tight legal vise: Immigration
authorities wanted to send him back to Haiti for violating a probationary
sentence on the drug charges, while Broward prosecutors used him as a
material witness in a Weston murder case but never had him testify at trial.
With his detention nearly over, he is likely to end up back in his homeland
unless the federal government gives him a special witness visa to remain in
the United States.
Miguel's legal dilemma began with two drug arrests months before he picked
up murder defendant Maxwell McCord at The Broward Mall.
He was twice arrested in the summer of 2001 for possessing a small amount of
cocaine. He got probationary sentences but no state conviction record as
part of a plea deal.
On Aug. 2, 2001, shortly after 8 p.m., Miguel drove McCord and his
3-year-old daughter from the mall to McCord's Weston home in the gated
McCord later told police he left his daughter in Miguel's cab while he went
inside. Police found his wife's bludgeoned body with a cord wrapped around
her neck. He later was arrested and charged with her murder.
Meanwhile, Miguel made a big mistake: He returned to Haiti in December 2001
for his grandmother's funeral, violating his probation on the earlier drug
charges. When he returned to Miami on Dec. 18, 2001, immigration officials
detained him under a federal law that allows arriving aliens with a criminal
record to be deported.
Miguel, who also has a 4-year-old son with his current wife, Sharon, fought
his detention, saying it was a hardship on his family because he was the
An immigration judge considered him a flight risk.
For two years, Miguel, who has lived in the United States for 23 years,
fought his removal by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
An immigration board rejected his appeal.
With his deportation imminent, the Broward state attorney's office issued a
subpoena for Miguel as a material witness in McCord's murder case.
Prosecutors said Miguel could provide crucial testimony about McCord's state
of mind the night of the murder.
On Nov. 13, 2003, authorities transported Miguel to the Broward County Jail.
But Broward prosecutors never called him to testify.
With the trial scheduled to go to the jury today, Miguel now will be heading
back to the Krome Avenue detention center and possible deportation to Haiti.
After spending months behind bars, Miguel has spiraled into depression and
is now on a suicide watch.
He tried to hang himself with bed sheets. He went on a hunger strike.
On Sunday, Miguel spoke to The Herald at the North Broward Detention
''I wanted to go home and see my children and they wouldn't let me,'' Miguel
But because he faced a federal removal order, Miguel stood no chance of
being released by a state judge while waiting to testify in the McCord
Broward Circuit Judge Peter Weinstein has signed paperwork to release him
from the Broward County jail.
Now, he may have one last chance to stay in the United States.
Broward prosecutor Brian Cavanagh wrote to U.S. Rep. E. Clay Shaw of Fort
Lauderdale in December, saying that Miguel provided ''critical and reliable
information'' about murder defendant McCord's behavior.
''We believe that Mr. Miguel may qualify for an S-5 Visa or similar status
on account of his being an essential witness,'' Cavanagh wrote. So far,
Shaw's office has not responded.
But legal experts said Miguel's request for such a document -- known as a
''snitch visa'' -- would be a monumental challenge.