Eighteen months ago Thomas Lafoe pled guilty to the First Degree Murder of Jeffery Norton but today he tried to withdraw his plea. Three of us were there as visual reminders that Jeff was loved and remembered. Lafoe kept his gaze away from the prosecution side of the courtroom the entire time but surely he knew we were there.
How could he not? The three of us were the only spectators present when the hearing started. Absent the normal rustling of papers and people coming and going, the courtroom was so quiet you could hear murmured speech from the courtroom next door and the muffled sound of doors shutting way down the hall.
The hearing started promptly at 10 am after the arrival of the court reporter. Lafoe’s attorney called him to the stand where he said he was treated for PTSD after serving in Vietnam 30 years ago and “given medication” although he had no idea what medication he received. Lafoe thought there “might or might not be records of his treatment” which this writer thought might or might not have actually been given. But I digress.
Even Lafoe’s attorney indicated that although the records might not exist and Judge Ley pointed out that he’d had months to prepare and look for records that might or might not exist, he’d set the stage to ask for a continuance.
Lafoe testified he currently takes Vistaril* for anxiety and another drug for “depression/PTSD” and complained that he doesn’t always get his medications at the Pinellas County Jail where he’d spent the night adding he didn’t get any this morning. [He was transported to Pinellas County from Monticello, Florida where he is serving his sentence at Jefferson Correctional Institution specifically for this hearing.]
The ever meticulous Judge Ley reminded him that during the trial when he complained he wasn’t given his medication, she brought nurses over from the jail who stated under oath that he’d refused to take his medication the times he missed it. Today she ascertained that he was thinking clearly and was well rested. Gotta love her!
Asking questions of Lafoe on the stand, the defense attorney brought out Lafoe’s claim that his attorney during the trial had told him that he would be crucified if cross-examined and he would get the death penalty. He further stated that he suffered from panic attacks and took the plea to get out of his situation planning to “work it our later” by getting a new trial.
I have to agree with Lafoe on the crucifixion part because with three recorded confessions, he simply had no defense for his actions. Judge Ley questioned him on that and all agreed that no “freak-outs” had occurred. Lafoe says that his type of panic attack makes him do whatever it takes to get out of a situation.
Regarding the death penalty, during jury selection and many times during the trial, the fact that the death penalty was not on the table was brought out. His trial attorney was a death penalty certified lawyer with many years of experience and I simply don’t think he would have told Lafoe that even by mistake.
After testifying for his attorney, Lafoe was cross-examined by State Attorney Bill Loughery. At this point Lafoe began to ramble and give circuitous answers to simple questions. After several non-answers, Loughery held his hands up in surrender and indicated to the judge that there was no point in continuing his line of questioning.
After more legal wrangling about the death penalty , Lafoe’s attorney offered to stipulate that Lafoe was not threatened with the death penalty but during a colloquy with the judge, Lafoe indicated that the stipulation was untrue [shake head here.] Judge Ley then refused to accept the stipulation.
In law, a colloquy is a routine, highly formalized conversation. Conversations among the judge and lawyers (as opposed to testimony under oath) are colloquies. In criminal court, a colloquy is an investigation within a defendant’s plea to reassure that the plea was given knowingly, voluntarily, and intelligently.
And so it went with the Loughtery pointing out inconsistencies of Lafoe’s statements with the trial transcript. After one of her signature friendly tongue-lashings directed at the defense [she lashes both ways mind you] Judge Ley granted a continuance of the hearing until January 10, 2014. Each side will come back with specific page references from the nearly 1,000 page transcript bolstering their arguments. [Loughery anticipated this and already had many pages tabbed with post-it notes. Yay!]
Next the attorneys argued over whether Lafoe should have to attend the continued hearing which he doesn’t want to do. Judge Ley would have none of that and said that Lafoe’s main attorney and Lafoe MUST attend the hearing but Loughery could send a particular attorney who works with him instead.
The attorneys disputed where Lafoe should be housed for the next three weeks. He wants to go back to Jefferson Corrrectional Institution and Loughery thought he should stay in the Pinellas County Jail. The defense held firm on getting Lafoe back to Monticello and eager to get the circus over with, Loughery said he would arrange transport to and from Jefferson C.I., but that Lafoe would get Sheriff Department transport and could be brought down 3-4 days before the hearing depending on the Sheriff’s Department’s schedules. So Lafoe got his way on this one. [Somehow I think this bickering had to do with which side would pay for transport.]
And so the world turns…
*Vistaril (hydroxyzine) reduces activity in the central nervous system. It also acts as an antihistamine that reduces the natural chemical histamine in the body. Histamine can produce symptoms of sneezing and runny nose, or hives on the skin.
Vistaril is used as a sedative to treat anxiety and tension. It is also used together with other medications given for anesthesia. Vistaril may also be used to control nausea and vomiting. Vistaril is also used to treat allergic skin reactions such as hives or contact dermatitis.