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Defense Comments on Brazill's Second-Degree Conviction

Aired May 16, 2001 - 14:36   ET


NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: We're now hearing from the attorney for Nathaniel Brazill. This is Robert Udell speaking.

ROBERT UDELL, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: ... There has to a specific finding by the jury that Nathaniel not only possessed and fired the weapon. They must specifically find, in an interrogatory verdict form, that he struck and hurt somebody. It doesn't contain that language. That's not applying. This case is all right on point.

QUESTION: Do you think that the jury made a compromise? What do you think is going on in there? What is your thinking about that?

UDELL: My best guess is it's a compromise. But you'd have to speak to them to see what they say. Maybe they think the definition was second degree. Those definitions are close. We think the correct defense was manslaughter.

Do you consider this a victory (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

UDELL: There's no victors in this case. Come on, everybody knows that.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think that it should have been. I mean, this is a 13 -- have a 13-year-old kid who's charged as an adult. He's being judged by a jury of adults. He's a 13-year-old kid. It should have been in the juvenile system. I don't know why for this case we just took the juvenile justice system and chucked it out the window.

QUESTION: What message do you think Florida is (UNINTELLIGIBLE) adult court?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean it's apparent from the people that we send to the adult courts in the first place. We're leading the nation in children being tried as adults.

UDELL: As Bob Dylan said, "It don't take a weatherman to know which way the wind's blowing."

QUESTION: Do you regret you didn't take the plea, considering how everything worked out, and now you're client stands to serve much more time than the 25 years that you got in the plea before the trial? UDELL: I don't know. I guess we'll have to see what the appellate court does first. I guess, first, we'll have to see what Judge Wennet does. We don't think he will pound on Nathaniel. After he imposes a sentence and after the appellate rules, then ask me that question. I am not second-my guessing myself on that now, I promise you that.


UDELL: Yeah, he said, "not too bad." That was the only comment he made. Those were the words that he used. "Not too bad." He didn't say anything else; we went back in there, he cried. He was very upset.


UDELL: The funny thing, at first I wasn't sure what I heard. I just didn't catch the word.


UDELL: Literally, we think, when you cut through all of the arguments about what statutes apply, we think the judge can do anything from zero to life.

QUESTION: And what are you going to ask for?

UDELL: I don't know yet. There are legal reasons why a judge can depart under from a sentencing guideline. And we intend to argue which ones apply, because at least one does. I don't know.

QUESTION: Mr. Udell, he said, "not too bad," knowing -- I assume that you had informed him about the range under second-degree murder right?

UDELL: Yes, sir.

RICHARD: Obviously, he was concerned about the first-degree murder -- the first-degree charge and, you know, we got over that hump.

UDELL: I tell you that he obviously does not understand the significance of the number of years he is facing. It speaks for it on his face, doesn't it?

QUESTION: Was he crying because he was happy or because he was disappointed?

UDELL: I don't know. We think they were tears of remorse, relief, those who think that he is a cold blooded killer will say it's tears because he's going to jail. Everybody will believe what they want on this case, regardless of this verdict.


UDELL: I guess you will have to ask them. QUESTION: Is this a fair verdict?

UDELL: Is it is a fair verdict? Let's see if we can get a fair sentence. I agree it's a fair verdict. Let's see we can get a fair sentence. I don't know. I believe everything Nathaniel says. I don't think this kid had any intention of harming or killing his favorite teacher. You'll never convince me otherwise. You can not ask me what a fair sentence is.


UDELL: I don't think that he'll punish us for invoking our right to a jury trial. It's his constitutional right. I don't think that Judge Wennet would punish us for that.


UDELL: I don't know. We don't practice down here a lot. Judge Wennet will whack the bad guy, no doubt about it. You rape a couple of people, you go to prison for life. It's not Nathaniel.

RICHARD: There are great reasons for a downward departure in this case. Isolated incident.

UDELL: Isolated incident. Carried out in an unsophisticated manner. Remorse. Age. You have to look at the statute. There's a number of that that could have arguably applied.


RICHARD: There will be witnesses for the victim, witnesses for the defendant in this case. A lot of witnesses.

UDELL: They will present the mental health testimony that we did not present in the trial.

You asked, did we win? Did we win the intellectual argument? Yes, we didn't win. Nobody won here.


UDELL: I don't know. That's what we've been asked. You'll have to ask the jury that. I don't know. We thought it was manslaughter.


UDELL: No, I will say it is a hundred times, no. This is not New York, Boston or L.A. Nobody believes in the presumption of innocence down here. Nobody believes that an innocent person will not take the stand. I have tried cases here for 20 years. That's the bottom line, it's true. Do we wish Nathaniel was more emotive? Certainly. I don't think this jury went back there and said, you know, we don't think that he is guilty, but he made a lousy witness, so we will find him guilty. That's ludicrous.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) UDELL: Sure, 10 things. You want to guess? I would have put Polly on for longer. I would have made sure Nathaniel came off a little more emotive. We tried to. We tried to have him come off the way he did every time we spoke to him. You know, be surprised. This kid is in front of look, all of you. Are you surprised he was a little cold? They locked him up for a year.


UDELL: We are not happy with the verdict. There is no victory here. You'll see what Judge Wennet does. We don't think he will pound on Nathaniel. We think he'll impose a reasonable sentence.

QUESTION: What is reasonable?

UDELL: As I said, I can't tell you that.


UDELL: He wasn't saying yes. He said, "not too bad." So, I guess that arm movement was consistent with that of being better than it could have been.

QUESTION: Did he ask you what the sentencing meant, or did he ask you any questions after that?

UDELL: No, we have gone over that from day one. He has none the possible alternatives, conflicting statutes, various arguments we are going to make. He knows that it's technically zero to life.

QUESTION: Is it fair to say the best thing that could come out of today for you is, it's not over today, that you get to come back and still argue some more?

UDELL: Certainly. This war is not over yet. We won a little battle today. We'll get through sentencing. An appellate court will take a look at this. It's not over.


UDELL: Well, I'd be directed to file a notice of appeal, of course.


UDELL: I had only one other case where I got as close to my client as I did with Nathaniel. Hopefully I learned from that one about not getting too close and letting you affect you, but I assure you, I won't sleep tonight.

QUESTION: Do you think the judge has much leeway in this?

UDELL: I think the judge's leeway from zero term of imprisonment to life. We will make that argument to him.

QUESTION (OFF-MIKE) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, Polly is still hopeful. She's still vigilant, and at a later time, will you get a direct comment from the mother and the father. But as far as the Citizen's Coalition For Justice, we will continue to press our plea that (UNINTELLIGIBLE) this was an unjust try to take a juvenile and place him in an adult setting. We are not going to run away and being quiet about that.

As a matter of fact, we would like to take this whole situation to the United Nations, because you have two countries in the world that have not ratified the declaration of the rights for a child, and that's the United States and Somalia. 197 countries have this right. Something is wrong in America when we start trying children as adults. It's not over. I tell it's not over.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two more minutes, we would like to go home. If no one has any questions, we will go home now.


UDELL: Comment on that himself. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody have a good day. We appreciate it.

ALLEN: The attorneys represented Nathaniel Brazill speaking out. We heard the quote, "we don't think the judge will pound on Nathaniel Brazill." As stipulated, the second-degree murder charge carries 25 years to life. But there are some parameters, according to these attorneys, whereas the judge has the leeway from zero days in prison to life.

We will find out in June when the sentencing takes place in late June.

Let's go back to CNN's Mark Potter who is outside the courtroom who has more -- Mark.

POTTER: Well, shortly we're expecting to hear from the prosecutor. I looked over to my right, for Marc Shiner. We expect he will coming up to the podium in a few moments and hear the prosecutor's version of this development today, this second-degree murder conviction.

There will be an argument over the sentencing. And we heard the defense side there a moment ago from Robert Udell and Lance Richard, talking about their view, that the judge has full latitude from zero to life in determining the sentence for Nathaniel Brazill, now that this second-degree murder conviction has been rendered by the jury.

The prosecutor's office has a different position. A spokesman for the office right before the verdict came down was, talking with the reporters, making the point that that office's position is that the judge has a lot less wiggle room, somewhere in the range between 25 years and life. And the spokesman for the office was saying, in the office's view, that's a 25 year minimum mandatory up to life. Now, again, that will be litigated before Judge Richard Wennet in the days and weeks to come. So, that is not by any means a subtle matter. The defense attorneys have gone away. Attorney Robert Udell said he got very close to client, that he will not be sleeping tonight. He said he thought he learned from a previous client not to do that, but he did it again this time. He said that -- he quoted Nathaniel. His reaction was to say "Not too bad," but then he cried as he went back into the custody of the sheriff's deputies.

One thing that I would like to tell you is that one of our affiliate stations, WSVN in Miami, a reporter there spoke with one of the jurors leaving the building and quoted her as saying that this was the -- I'm looking for the exact quote, but I'll paraphrase. This was the toughest thing she ever had to do in her life, speaking of rendering this verdict involving a 14-year-old boy who was tried in adult court.

Robert Udell making a comment that "Nobody won here," and he said at the outset that maybe this is one of those case where it was a just verdict because nobody is happy. Certainly, the prosecutors were looking for a first-degree murder conviction. The defense said it should have been manslaughter, and indeed, it turned out to be second- degree.

Natalie, back to you.

ALLEN: Mark Potter, we thank you. And while we wait to hear from the prosecutors in this case, we'll take a quick break.



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