Mistrial Denied for New Trial in 25 Year Old Murder Case of Police Officer

The Prosecution began to get their case prepared against Dennis Escobar, the strength of it being his confession to Miami homicide detectives from a California jail hospital bed, where he was wounded after a clash there with California highway patrol troopers.

Escobar got an unanticipated reprieve from the death penalty for the second time in 18 years in his first-degree murder case where he killed Miami police officer Victor Estefan in 1988. His brother, Douglas Escobar, 53, who was already wanted on robbery charges at the time, was the driver of a stolen car that he was driving, who allegedly told his brother to shoot the officer and was his codefendant in the original case.

Although jurors convicted the Escolars’ in 1991, the Florida Supreme Court threw out the convictions in 1997, stating that the original trial judge should have permitted the two brothers to be tried in separate court cases.

The original incident transpired when Victor Estefan, a Miami police officer was finishing a conversation in Little Havana after a traffic stop with a tow truck driver. Another vehicle without its headlights on drove past the two, catching Estefan’s attention.
The officer then left the scene, jumping into his police cruiser and following what he deemed to be a suspicious vehicle. It wasn’t long after those gunshots penetrated the night.

Dennis Escobar’s most recent reprieve arose when an unlabeled audiotape was found on February 17 by a retired City of Miami homicide detective who was preparing to testify in the case. As reported by the Miami Herald, the now retired officer was going through an evidence box where he found the tape that apparently exhibited that Escobar had asked for a lawyer in Spanish, before allegedly confessing as he was being interrogated nearly 20 years ago.

The Herald described the tape as a bombshell since it seemingly contradicts earlier testimony that Escobar voluntarily spoke with the detective without a lawyer. The tape was recently turned over to the defense. In lieu of this new evidence, the prosecution offered both brothers plea deals in exchange for pleading guilty which would have a term of 55-years in prison but with a minimum penalty of 18 years for each of them. Both brothers were facing potential death sentences if either was convicted of the capital murder.

On Wednesday both the prosecution and defense had agreed to request a mistrial in the case against Dennis Escobar, but Judge Leon Firtel made the decision not to grant it. He was quoted as saying “I don’t want to deny the defendant his rights but this judge has an obligation to the State of Florida to get this case to trial after 15 years.”

It was at that time that Douglas Escobar recoiled when it came time to agree to the deal due to the judges ruling. “I didn’t shoot no one,” he told the Miami-Dade Circuit Judge. “I don’t want to plead guilty.”
After the outburst, the judge reset the continuance of the hearing for Monday, telling the defendant’s lawyers to speak further with their clients about the deal over the weekend.

When the case resumed on Monday, it was a different atmosphere, as Douglas Escobar settled on the plea deal. Two court-appointed mental health experts granted that he was competent to stand trial, as written in a later Miami Herald article. Conversely, with the weekend to weigh his options, Dennis Escobar said he wishes to face a trial. He is again facing the death penalty if convicted.

Mr. Cohen is a board certified criminal trial lawyer rated AV by Martindale Hubbel (pre-eminent) and a “Super Lawyer” recognized as being in the top 5% of his specialized field (criminal trial law) among Florida lawyers. He is considered a specialist by the Florida Bar in his field. Mr. Cohen has tried scores of cases over his 35 year career and is a member of the Florida and New York Bars. He practices in Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Miami, among other counties. He is also admitted to practice in the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh and Second Circuit.

If you are being investigated for, and/or charged with first-degree murder and are looking for a criminal defense attorney in the Dade, Broward or Palm Beach County areas that specializes in this field Mr. Cohen’s office can provide you with the skilled representation you need.

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