Broward death row case moves closer to retrial----
A Broward death penalty case moved a step closer to a possible retrial when the state's highest court ordered the case back to Broward.
A convicted murderer who was sentenced to death appears close to getting a new trial, following accusations of improper conversations between the Broward County prosecutor and judge on his case.
The Florida Supreme Court said Tuesday that Omar Loureiro's murder conviction and death sentence should be sent back to Broward, where prosecutors intend to ask for a new trial and to vacate his death sentence.
In 2007, Loureiro was convicted of 1st-degree murder in the stabbing death of James Lentry, 57, and sentenced to death by Circuit Judge Ana Gardiner.
Assistant state attorney Howard Scheinberg prosecuted the case.
Last year, prosecutor and Sunrise City Commissioner Sheila Alu came
forward saying she had heard Gardiner and Scheinberg joking about the
murder trial over dinner while the trial was ongoing.
Alu also gave a sworn statement to Loureiro's former defense attorneyabout what she saw.
The Supreme Court ordered a hearing outside of Broward to determine whether the allegations were true. Lawyers for both sides interviewed those at the dinner when the alleged impropriety took place.
After 3 interviews -- with Gardiner, Scheinberg and a friend of Alu's, Lucianna Calegari -- Broward prosecutors said there was at least an appearance of impropriety. They asked the Supreme Court to return the case to Broward.
In the interviews, Calegari agreed with much of what Alu had said, saying she heard both Scheinberg and Gardiner call Loureiro guilty.
Scheinberg and Gardiner disputed that they discussed the case.
Despite the different accounts, there clearly was the appearance of impropriety, said Bruce Rogow, the lawyer hired by the Broward State Attorney's Office as counsel for the matter. That was enough to warrant a new trial, he said.'
'The state, based on the appearance of impropriety arising from undisclosed and ongoing conversations between the trial judge and prosecutor during the trial proceedings, and to preserve the integrity ofthe judicial process, will move to vacate the judgment in this case,''Rogow wrote in the motion.
The case has been reassigned to Chief Judge Victor Tobin. Rogow said he intends to file a motion to set aside the conviction.
Gardiner has since been transferred from the criminal to the civic section.
Scheinberg now is a private lawyer.
Loureiro, 46, remains in state custody in Raiford.
(source: Miami Herald)