MIAMI – Chief Art Acevedo developed a reputation in Houston for not being afraid to speak his mind. He has only been with the Miami Police Department for about a month, and he has already rattled Miami-Dade County judges.
Last week, Acevedo was at the scene of a fatal shooting in Allapattah. His hands-on leadership style was on display, as he quickly talked to reporters at the crime scene, and he got on one knee in an attempt to comfort a grieving woman.
As detectives investigated a murder on Thursday, Acevedo said there had been three murders in three weeks and that was unacceptable. He attributed crime nationwide to the coronavirus pandemic having imposed a setback to jury trials around the country.
“It’s time for the courts to open up and do their jobs,” Acevedo said, adding that “judges need to get back to work ... it’s time for the criminal justice system to open and operate at full capacity. It is time.”
Some judges and defense attorneys who have been working through the pandemic in Miami-Dade took offense to Acevedo’s public comments.
Miami-Dade Circuit Court Chief Judge Bertila Soto said the courts have been functioning at full capacity through Zoom since April 2020. Soto released a statement saying the courts have held more than 450,000 hearings and in-person jury trials are also taking place.
“Thanks to our very quick pivot in late March of 2020 to new remote appearance technologies, we remain open and ready to provide safe access to justice for any case that may be brought before the courts,” Soto said.
Miami-Dade Public Defender Carlos Martinez also released a statement in response saying defense attorneys have been preparing for trial throughout the pandemic. In the past 10 months, Martinez said the attorneys took over 17,000 depositions.
“I look forward to speaking with the Chief about eliminating Miami Police delays in providing timely reports and body-worn camera video, and to comply with subpoenas 100% of the time to reduce the case backlogs,” Martinez said.
Acevedo also said criminals need to be afraid of the local court system just as much as they are of the federal court system. He said that when the judicial system lets a “violent criminal in one door and out the other” there is a cycle of crime.
“I’m bringing that up because we’re all distracted by COVID but we need to start paying attention,” Acevedo said.
Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Nushin G. Sayfie is set to replace Soto as chief judge for a two-year term starting on July 1st.