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Search results for "sarasota" ...

  • Influence & Injustice: An investigation into the power of prosecutors

    When it comes to racial bias in Florida's criminal justice system, there's plenty of blame to go around. Judges say prosecutors are the most responsible because they control the plea negotiation process where 95 percent of cases are resolved, But while prosecutors are the most powerful people in the system, that power varies based on where they practice and the relative influence of other actors – judges, public defenders, private attorneys, law enforcement officers and even juries.
  • GateHouse Media: Failure to Deliver

    More women are choosing to deliver their babies outside the hospital as a part of a growing national trend, but a nine-month investigation by GateHouse Media and the Sarasota Herald-Tribune found that it’s a deadlier practice than hospital deliveries and leaves families little recourse when something goes wrong.
  • Destroying the Center for Building Hope

    Members of the board of directors of a Sarasota cancer charity went out of their way to hire a businessman with a history of self dealing, bankruptcy and failed business ventures to head up their organization and find novel ways of raising money during the Great Recession. The results were predictable. Carl Ritter put his interests ahead of cancer patients and their families and the Center of Building Hope was forced to shut down three months after Jessica Floum’s initial story.
  • The Kindness of Strangers: Inside Elder Guardianship in Florida

    With an estimated 50 percent of Americans 85 and older experiencing cognitive impairment, the longevity boom has generated an increase in the number of elders who are deemed too frail or mentally compromised to handle their affairs. Most states, including Florida, have cobbled together an efficient way to identify and care for helpless elders, using the probate court system to place them under guardianship. But critics say this system – easily set in motion, notoriously difficult to stop – often ignores basic civil rights. They describe a ruthless determination to take elders from their homes and make them conform to a process by which their belongings can be sold, and their family and friends shut out—until eventually they are locked away in institutions to decline and die. The critics call this process “liquidate, isolate, medicate.” Through case studies, examining court documents and talking to those working for elder justice reform, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune found consistent patterns of a lack of due process, an unwillingness to inform and involve family members, a one-size-fits-all approach to elders with diverse levels of capacity, substandard care for wards who lack assets, and high legal and professional fees for wards who have considerable assets. Fundamentally, the system treats elders as second-class citizens, before stripping them of citizenship altogether and rendering them as non-persons.
  • Paying out millions, and playing favorites

    The series explored favoritism and ethical lapses in the way Sarasota County government awarded lucrative contracts to private vendors. We found that the county relied too much on "piggybacking," a purchasing shortcut that allowed low and middle-level employees to essentially award contracts to whoever they wanted without bids.
  • FBI found direct ties between 9/11 hijackers and Saudis living in Florida; Congress kept in dark

    Disclosing the existence of a decade-old FBI investigation into the abrupt departure of a Saudi family from the luxury home in a gated community near Sarasota, FL. two weeks before the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Law enforcement later used gatehouse security records to determine the home was visited by vehicles used by the hijackers. Despite FBI claims that Congress has been briefed, no documentation proving that statement has been provided.
  • Bennie's Deal

    In this story, the reporters discover how a former Tampa police chief violated a Law Enforcement ethics code written by a committee of which he was the member. The violation took place when he appeared in a series of ads for a company that supplied the department with millions of dollars of equipment. It did not end there. Not only were there problems with this equipment, but the company also received a soul source provider contract from the department.
  • Sacrificial Lamb

    Carolyn Mason, the black mayor of Sarasota, had a problem. She was up for re-election in less than a month, and her constituents, mostly low income African-Americans, were angry with her. Within a few days, Jody Hudgins, who by all accounts was one of the compassionate, ethical, and honorable men in town, was not reappointed to his position on the Housing Authority. The reporter followed his news sense to find the story of how one man lost his position in order to quell the attacks against the mayor.
  • Pretrial Release: Has the system gone awry?

    The Herald-Tribune uses a computer analysis to reveal "laws on pretrial release are ripe for abuse." A defendant awaiting trial can be "Released on Recognizance" (ROR) under Florida law -- allowed to remain free without having to post any type of bond. But an analysis of 2,430 people granted ROR in Sarasota County over a period of one year found nearly 200 people were released without bail "were arrested on new charges and given ROR again," that hundreds were granted ROR despite "a history of serious crimes or of failing to appear for trial," and that "some judges routinely bend the rules when it comes to releasing longtime or violent crooks." The investigation also revealed that "blacks stand a much worse chance of being granted ROR because the conditions are skewed in favor of middle-class whites."
  • BENCH: Trial judges often keep their seats without facing election. So when a Florida lawyer challenged an incumbent, he rocked the de facto merit selection system.

    In Manatee County, Florida (a town near Tampa Bay), the judicial system has come under fire. According to the article, "Until recently, a judge hadn't been knocked off the bench in an election for 30 years." The article describes how difficult it is for a lawyer to compete for a bench position that's already occupied.