Tuesday, April 24, 2012


Years ago I went through a shoot-don't shoot exercise in a primitive form of "virtual reality" simulator. I had a laser gun and stood before a life size movie screen in which scenarios were enacted in front of me. I confronted a bank robbery, a traffic stop gone bad, and a rape in progress. I felt that I would do just fine on the drill. After all, I was a prosecutor and I could recite the law on self defense almost verbatim.

In the bank robbery, the bad guys attacked me and I shot them without shooting any innocent bystanders. In the traffic stop, I was able to talk the irate driver into dropping his weapon and submitting to arrest. Then I found myself in a dark parking garage confronting a rapist who had a knife to his victim's throat. I drew my weapon and called on him to let the victim go. We stood frozen in time for what seemed like an hour, then the victim twisted around and broke free from her attacker.

I waited until the victim got out of the line of fire and then shot the rapist between the eyes. "Good shot!" I thought. Someone else was not impressed. The stage immediately went dark, and the referee informed me that I had just committed premeditated murder. If I had been thinking with the reasoning part of my brain, I would have realized that the rapist was threatening nobody when I shot him.

Even if you intellectually know what to do in a crisis, you may not do it when the adrenalin starts pumping and you begin to think with the primitive part of your brain. You may make a mistake and get yourself or somebody else killed unnecessarily. And the authorities who will be second guessing you may not see things your way. They will be a whole lot more likely to let you go home instead of putting you in jail if your first reaction is flight rather than fight.

Private citizens have no duty to confront the goblins in our society, but police officers do. This means that the police do not have a duty to retreat, they have a duty to stand their ground. The wall at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, DC, bears the names of many officers who gave their lives protecting the public by fulfilling the duty to stand their ground.

In Florida you, as a private citizen have a right to stand your ground outside your home. You also have a "right" to act irrationally. There is no wall honoring the myriads of people who died exercising their "right" to act irrationally. Most states impose a duty to retreat before using deadly force. I don't think of it as a duty, I think of it as a privilege. When confronted by danger, you can turn around and run--and spare not only your life, but the lives of your attacker and innocent bystanders.

A karate instructor whose name I forget (I'm doing that more often as I grow older) used to tell his pupils, "When threatened by another, walk away. If he follows you, run. If he chases you, run faster. If he catches you, kill him." I think I can word that last sentence a little better: "If he catches you, use sufficient force to neutralize the threat." It's not only the humane thing to do, it sounds better that way when you're testifying in court.

Monday, April 23, 2012


TOM TESTOSTERONE: I'm going to get a concealed carry permit. Then I won't have to take any crap off of anybody.
SAM SENSIBLE: No. If you're carrying a concealed firearm, you have to take MORE crap off of everyone.

A self-defense firearm is  not meant to be an argument equalizer. It is meant to be a life saver. Self defense is not retaliation, it is the administration of the minimum force necessary to ward off an attack by another. When you carry a concealed firearm, you have on your person a mechanism whereby you can end the life of another human being. Beyond the injury you will cause to that other human being, his friends, and his relatives, you will cause injury to yourself, your friends, and your relatives.

In action-adventure books and movies, it's all over when the bad guy gets killed. In real life, it is just beginning. Having investigated and prosecuted hundreds of homicides, felonious, excusable, justifiable, I have had the opportunity to watch the consequences men suffer after having taken another human being's life. In no particular order, they are: 

(1) The guilt. No matter how justified the killing may be, you will suffer guilt. 

(2) The interrogations. You will be questioned and re-questioned by various authority figures, and it won't be pleasant. You could always stonewall, take the Fifth, and avoid the interrogations, but you pay a heavy price when you do that. In a later blog I will discuss when you should talk and when you should stonewall.

(3) The prosecution(s). The authorities just might not agree with you about your need to kill. If they don't, get ready to spend some time in jail, some more money on a bondsman, and some more money on a lawyer. Get ready for an extended roller coaster ride and you experience the ups and downs of a criminal prosecution which could last for years. And if you get acquitted, you have not won. You have simply minimized your losses. 

(4) The lawsuit(s). Even if you are acquitted, you may very well get sued. Get ready to spend some more money on lawyers, and possibly more money in damages to the estate of the deceased.

(5) The Mark of Cain. Some people will never look at you the same again. They will point you out behind your back. They will whisper about you behind their hands. They will cast disapproving glances at you

I could probably extend the list a little further, but you get the point. If you have a chip on your shoulder, don't put a gun in your pocket. It's a recipe for disaster. If you wind up shooting someone, that chip on your shoulder, those harsh words you spoke, those confrontational actions you took will all be interpreted as mens rea (criminal intent) sufficient to support a charge of unlawful homicide.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


I believe I have previously mentioned that I sometimes present guest speakers in my law school classes with a copy of one of my books. Bernie Mortenson, a retired FDLE agent, spoke to my class a few weeks ago on a subject at which he is an expert--complex criminal investigations. I gave him a copy of The Last Murder and got the following email back from him:

Just finished your book last night...............................great writing!! It was even better for me since I knew almost all of the folks involved.
You did a fine job putting all that together.............................that in itself must have been a monster job.
I really enjoyed the group of students last week................they were certainly more engaged than the 1st class (at least I felt that way). Hope I covered all you  wanted me too.
I'm going to get in touch with some of the folks in the book and recommend they get it and read it........................no charge:)
talk to you later
PS: I noticed while reading the book I covered some of the procedures you used in putting the case together.........................glad I made the talk before reading it!!

My response: 

Thanks for the kind comments. I'm not sure what you meant about being glad you made the talk before reading the book. I think what you said dovetailed nicely with what I wrote in the book.
Would you mind if I posted your remarks about the book on my blog?

To which he replied:

would be happy to have them posted.......................the ref to speaking to the class before reading the book, was that if I had read the book first, it would seem as tho I was simply parroting what you had written. It was most pleasing to see that "great minds do run together"!
Thanks again for the book and the opportunity to pass on a few thoughts to future prosecutors.

I take this exchange as further confirmation that I hit the mark with the audience I primarily intended to reach--lawyers and law enforcement officers in the criminal justice system. I had intended the book to also speak to a larger audience of non-professionals who might be interested in criminal investigations and criminal procedure, Florida history, and historical trials, and I have received some positive feedback from that sort of reader. There are other audiences which might be interested in the subject matter of the book but disappointed with its presentation. Hopefully those belonging to such audiences will be mollified by the knowledge that the work was intended more as a textbook than a tell-all.


The criminal law faculty at UF is getting swamped with requests for comment on the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman case. Hyperlinks to all comments by all professors can be found at


Tuesday, April 17, 2012


I sometimes get asked about various tactics used by defense attorneys. In the following interview, I express views on what defense attorneys sometimes have to do in seemingly hopeless cases:


In this interview I talk about DUI defense tactics:


Thursday, April 12, 2012


Howard Blue, whom I met on an internet forum dedicated to the Lindbergh Kidnapping Case, has recently posted a review of "The Last Murder" on a true crime internet forum. I think the remarks he made tend to validate my belief that "The Last Murder" speaks to the audience I primarily targeted (criminal trial lawyers and law enforcement officers). In his review, which he graciously gave me permission to repost, he said:

"I'm just about to finish reading another book that will interest many (but not all) subscribers to this forum. Robert Dekle, Sr. is the author of The Last Murder: The Investigation, Prosecution and Execution of Ted Bundy (Praeger 2011).

"In the interest of full disclosure, he has been answering some of my questions about the legal aspects of a 1956 kidnapping that I've been writing a book about. I got my copy of The Last Murder after Dekle and I exchanged books (his for my book, WORDS AT WAR, about American radio during World War II).

"The Last Murder could be a classic on the trials and tribulations of dealing with a serial killer who decides to be his own lawyer (for at least a part of the time). The book provides interesting insight into Bundy's psyche and behavior during the trial. It also gives a great deal of information about the legal and other nuances of a prosecutor's dealing with competing jurisdictions while involved in both the investigation and the prosecution of a capital crime. For some, the legal technicalities may be too much. However, I've been fascinated with the author's explanation of how the law deals with such a crime.

"The Last Murder is a page turner, but not in the sense that one might experience with a more sensationalized book. In high school I ran the mile, but occasionally I fooled around running hurdles. I would liken the experience of prosecuting Ted Bundy to running hurdles. No sooner did the prosecution dispense of a bunch of motions that the defense threw their way, then a bunch of new ones came on their radar."


I continue to get inquiries concerning the Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman case. Here are the latest ones to make the web:

NOTE: This is a repost. The previously posted hyperlinks malfunctioned.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


My phone rang off the hook this afternoon with calls from various media representatives seeking my comments on the recent developments in the Trayvon Martin case. Although trial lawyers are seldom at a loss for words, one question that I was asked left me almost speechless. How did I feel about the indictment? Although I am not a Vulcan, I try to banish my feelings when approaching a murder case. Prosecutors  learn to suppress their feelings when evaluating a case. Emotion clouds judgment, and judgment should be crystal clear when making decisions in matters of life and death.

I can, however, express my feelings about how State Attorney Angela Corey has performed her duties so far. Governor Scott threw her a political hot potato when he assigned her to this case, and she has managed it with grace and dignity. Listening to her at the press conference this afternoon, it was clear that she has scrupulously adhered to the ethical and professional requirements of the office of prosecutor. Having known her as a colleague for over a quarter of a century, I expected no less from her.

I did not see the entire conference, but from what I saw she handled the sniping, confrontational questions of some of the media representatives extremely well. She said what had to be said and refused to divulge information which was better left unsaid, and she maintained her composure in the face of questions that seemed to be designed to ignite controversy.

One question which particularly irritated me was the oft-repeated "Why did the investigation take so long?" The short answer is, it didn't. Not arresting Zimmerman on the night of the shooting was probably the best thing that happened for the building of a case against him. Had he been arrested that evening, the prosecution would have been scrambling to hastily put together the case ahead of certain very short procedural deadlines set out in the Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure. With Zimmerman unarrested, the only deadline which the prosecution had to work against was the statute of limitations--and there is no statute of limitations for second degree murder. The prosecution had an opportunity to move slowly and deliberately and put together the best possible case before making an arrest.

In my 29 years and 10 months as a prosecutor, I never had a homicide case suffer because the defendant wasn't immediately arrested, but I had several crash and burn because the defendant was arrested too soon.

Angela Corey has done an excellent job so far, and I expect that she will continue to do an excellent job.

Friday, April 6, 2012


This past Tuesday evening as I was leaving my prosecution clinic class at UF, I ran into an old friend whom I hadn't seen in a while. The Hon. William R. Slaughter, Jr., who recently retired as County Court Judge in Suwannee County, was at UF acting as a volunteer judge for Appellate Advocacy oral arguments.

I have tried many cases before Judge Slaughter and I have also tried many cases against him when he was in private practice, and I have always had the highest regard for his skill, integrity, and collegiality. It was always a pleasure to try a case against him, even when he was beating my head in.

Judge Slaughter expressed interest in purchasing my book, "The Last Murder," and by the strangest coincidence I happened to have several copies in the back seat of my vehicle. I autographed a copy for him and we parted ways.

Today I received an email from Judge Slaughter, and he has given me permission to reproduce it on my blog. Judge Slaughter wrote:

"Just a short note to tell you that I thoroughly enjoyed The Last Murder.  It was well-written, easy to read, and laced with you trademark humor.  I never read a book in one sitting….until now.  About 5 hours straight.  It was that interesting."

When I wrote the book, I tried very hard to make it accessible to anyone who might be interested in the prosecution of Bundy, but my target audience was criminal trial lawyers and law enforcement officers. Judge Slaughter's comments, coupled with feedback from other lawyers and officers, indicates to me that the book reaches its target. 

Thursday, April 5, 2012


Often when someone says "I was misquoted," they really mean "I wish I hadn't said that." Getting misquoted can be painful, but getting quoted correctly when you said something that sounds dumb can be even more painful. A couple of days ago I got quoted correctly, but I'm afraid I sounded less than intelligent. I was being asked about the sounds of someone calling for help on the Zimmerman/Martin 911 tape, and the reporter quoted me as saying "It would be nice to know who was doing the calling for help, but identifying the caller is not necessarily going to definitively identify the wrongdoer, [but s]ituations sometimes arise where it is the wrongdoer calling for help." I started to elaborate on my comment, but decided I didn't need to further confuse the issue with additional comments.

The point I was trying to make was this: Sometimes the wrongdoer gets himself/herself into a pickle that he/she didn't anticipate and consequently starts calling for help. The incident I had in mind when I made the comment was the arrest of Ted Bundy in Pensacola. When David Lee attempted to handcuff Bundy, Bundy resisted violently and wound up getting pummelled. Bundy's cries for help did not exonerate him, and to decide the propriety of his arrest based on who was calling for help would have badly skewed the truth seeking process. Another example of this sort of thing comes from  Genesis 39:6-20. When Potiphar's wife attempted to seduce Joseph, he ran away and she cried for help claiming that Joseph had tried to rape her.

You can read my comments in context here: (http://www.usnews.com/news/us/articles/2012/04/02/media-take-on-police-like-role-in-martin-case).