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Lawyer gets his verdict, his cash

By SUE CARLTON and KATHRYN WEXLER

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 27, 2000


A flare-up between incumbent State Attorney Harry Lee Coe and a local lawyer who wanted his campaign contribution back recently came to a swift end.

The finale took about 90 seconds.

You'll recall that several weeks ago, high-profile criminal defense attorney Rick Terrana asked Coe to return the $250 that Terrana had given to Coe's campaign.

At issue was a DUI case Terrana was handling. The lawyer thought the circumstances called for a lesser charge. Coe's office refused, citing the defendant's previous DUI. Terrana pointed out that the previous case was nearly two decades old.

Terrana, who said he was frustrated with the office, asked for and ultimately received his money back from Coe's campaign. (The incumbent state attorney is facing two Republican contenders in the upcoming election.)

Recently, Terrana's case went to trial.

The jury retired to deliberate. Terrana left the second-floor courtroom and got on the escalator. By the time he landed on the first floor, his cell phone was ringing.

It was the court clerk. There was a verdict.

Not guilty. The jury had been out for all of a minute and a half.

Afterward, Terrana would say only that he was happy with the outcome of the case.

For his part, Coe had no comment.

* * *

TRADING PEN FOR PAINTBRUSH: Familiar faces around the Hillsborough County Courthouse suddenly disappear for all sorts of reasons.

There are better jobs in high-rise offices with thick carpets, away from these dull terrazzo floors and grimy painted halls. People get fired. People get disillusioned. People get better offers.

Over the last few years, Tampa Tribune staff writer Ladale Lloyd has become one of the courthouse faithful, scribbling in his reporter's notebooks through countless trials and hearings and sentencings. But this week marks his last at the courthouse.

His reason for leaving? As trite as it sounds, to follow a dream.

Besides reporting on murders, rapes, robberies and drunken driving deaths, Lloyd, 39, is an artist. His specialty is painting portraits. He also works in landscapes and abstracts.

The time, he said, has finally come to do what he loves best, full-time. He will work from a studio in his Lake Magdalene home.

"This is something I've wanted to do, basically all my life," he said. "I think it's a great way to make a living, if you can do it."

* * *

SOME THINGS DON'T CHANGE: It was another Monday in Circuit Judge J. Rogers Padgett's courtroom. Like the week before, the bailiffs were busy putting 12 jurors in the box. Assistant State Attorney Shirley Williams sat at the state's table. The accused, represented by the Public Defender's Office, wore a conservative sweater.

In some ways, the scene was similar to that of the Valessa Robinson trial, which played out in this same courtroom over the two previous weeks. And yet it was a world away.

Gone were the TV and newspaper cameras vying for prime shooting space in the front rows.

The throng of reporters had disappeared, along with the dozens of grieving friends and relatives who carefully chose their seats behind the prosecution or the defense.

Gone were the curious who stood three-deep at the back of the courtroom once the seats had filled up.

For this trial, the gallery was nearly empty.

The victim in this case, Maria Elaina Martinez, had died as violently as any other victim. The defendant, William Montez, the man she lived with, faced the same life sentence that had loomed for Valessa, before her jury found her guilty of the lesser charge.

It was another Monday, another murder.

-- Sue Carlton can be reached at (813) 226-3346 or at carlton@sptimes.com. Kathryn Wexler can be reached at (813)226-3386 or wexler@sptimes.com.

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