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Veteran Miami Prosecutor Quits After Rebuke From Judge

A veteran Miami prosecutor resigned after a judge found that state investigators manipulated witnesses, including possibly providing conjugal visits to jailhouse informants in exchange for their testimony, in a high-profile death penalty case against a notorious gang leader, the Associated Press reports. Michael Von Zamft has led some of the biggest murder, conspiracy and racketeering cases in the Florida state attorney’s office in Miami and served as a trainer and supervisor to younger prosecutors. He resigned after a rebuke by a judge, who disqualified him and another prosecutor, Stephen Mitchell, from the resentencing trial of gang leader and convicted murderer Corey Smith. Judge Andrea Ricker Wolfson said she found evidence of “witness testimony manipulation” and “severe recklessness” by prosecutors stretching back to the case’s origins 24 years ago and continuing to the present. “The allegations in this claim are like a rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland,” the judge wrote. “The prosecutors in this case have lost sight of their responsibility, and justice demands their disqualification.”


State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle accepted the resignation of Von Zamft, her colleague of almost 30 years, and reaffirmed her commitment that all prosecutors seek “truth and justice” lawfully and with “honesty, integrity and professionalism.” Among the irregularities the judge found was testimony from inmates who said they were granted favors including conjugal visits when they were brought to the Miami Police Department’s Homicide Unit to coordinate their testimony against Smith as state witnesses. The most damaging allegations against Von Zamft came from recordings of his conversations with an inmate in which, in anticipation of the resentencing trial, he discussed arranging jailhouse meetings among several witnesses so they could coordinate their testimony, something Smith’s lawyers were never told, as is required in criminal prosecutions. Despite her admonishment of the prosecutors, Wolfson rejected Smith’s argument that there is a broader culture of misconduct that should bar Rundle’s office from pressing forward on the case. “We cannot help but remain concerned that given the tenure of these attorneys, the issues raised were not unique to them or this case,” said Craig Whisenhunt and Allison Miller, attorneys for Smith.

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