The Eleventh Circuit tossed a Miami woman's life sentence in a high-profile witness-tampering case last week, finding that the woman had received ineffective counsel a decade ago during the plea bargaining process for her case.
Yuby Ramirez, Edward Lezcano, and Jairo Castro were involved in a conspiracy to murder various witnesses who were scheduled to testify against Salvador Magluta and Augusto Falcon, alleged drug kingpins in South Florida. As a result of that conspiracy, three potential witnesses were murdered, and various attempts were made to kill others.
Prosecutors offered Ramirez a 5-year plea deal, but Ramirez's lawyers advised her not to take it. The lawyers mistakenly believed that the "tampering" charge did not amount to premeditated murder, a capital crime. Ramirez's lawyers thought that the statute of limitations for non-capital crimes had expired, since the murder in Ramirez's case occurred in 1993, and she was being tried in 2001.
Her lawyers, however, were wrong. Ramirez was sentenced to life, reports The Miami Herald.
In Frye and Lafler, the Supreme Court held that a defendant is entitled to effective counsel during plea bargaining, and that a harsher sentence can be overturned when a lawyer's mistake leads to a defendant rejecting the plea or missing the plea bargain deadline.
Here, Ramirez would have taken the deal if her lawyers had explained that she was facing a life sentence, reports The Miami Herald.
Last Thursday, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals directed prosecutors to re-offer Ramirez the plea deal, and ordered the district court to re-sentence her based on her guilty plea. Since Ramirez has already served more than 10 years -- the longer of the two plea offers -- she will be released, The Wall Street Journal reports.