Miami's Last Cocaine Cowboy

48 year old Sal Magluta was wronged last week when he was sentenced to 205 years in federal prison for murders a jury found he did not commit.

Criminal defense lawyers Milton Hirsch and David Marcus explain why in this op-ed article in today's Miami Herald.
Miami's last cocaine cowboy rode into the sunset last week.

Salvador Magluta, considered one of Miami's most notorious narcotics dealers, was prosecuted in federal court for having witnesses murdered and for laundering millions of dollars in drug proceeds. A federal judge then punished Magluta with a 205-year sentence. Magluta, 48, will live in prison till the day he dies.

But Magluta was never convicted of the homicides for which he was sentenced. A jury of his peers found Magluta not guilty of the murders, and guilty only of the nonviolent money-laundering charges -- crimes that carry a maximum sentence of 20 years. The jury's verdict notwithstanding, the judge decided that Magluta was responsible for the homicides and sentenced him accordingly.

In a watershed 1997 opinion, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that federal judges, in imposing sentence, may ignore jury verdicts of acquittal and determine whether defendants have done wrong. The Herald applauded the punishment, and the new U.S. attorney claimed that such a sentence sends a message about justice. It does indeed: The message is that prosecutors can lose and still win, that a jury no longer stands between an accused American and a life sentence.....
We couldn't have said it any better ourselves.

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