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Apology heads off contempt hearing

A lawyer for Valessa Robinson is off the hook after telling a judge she's sorry for a remark she made during the trial.


© St. Petersburg Times, published April 29, 2000

TAMPA -- "Okay," Circuit Judge J. Rogers Padgett said as court began Friday. "Let's put this behind us."

They did, and fast.

Lawyer Lyann Goudie apologized for a comment she made during a tense moment in the Valessa Robinson murder trial. The judge accepted her apology. With that, the possibility that Goudie could be held in contempt of court disappeared.

The whole hearing took only a minute or so. Later, both judge and lawyer said it was a fitting resolution.

"I'm glad that it's over," said Goudie, an assistant public defender, "because I love Judge Padgett and have nothing but the utmost respect for him."

"This would not be the best case for making an example of a lawyer," Padgett said.

It happened April 21, in one of many contentious exchanges in the two-week trial.

Jurors were in the jury room for the third day, struggling to decide whether Robinson, 17, was guilty of murdering her mother. In court, Padgett told the lawyers he was planning to bring the jurors back in and answer a legal question they had asked days earlier.

He would tell them that someone who meant for a crime to be committed and helped or encouraged it was as guilty as the person who did it. That answer was key to the prosecution's argument that Robinson helped her boyfriend murder her mother.

Defense lawyers protested, but Padgett wasn't swayed. Goudie, one of three lawyers representing Robinson, turned away from him.

"At this point, we should all just go home," she said.

Friday, Padgett said her comment came on the heels of other comments made by attorneys during the trial.

At the time, he chided her for openly making the comment and scheduled a contempt of court hearing. Later, the jury found Robinson guilty of the lesser charge of third-degree murder. Her sentencing is scheduled for May 30.

But first, there was supposed to be a contempt hearing. Goudie would have to explain why she should not be found in criminal contempt of court. The charge is a second-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to six months of probation or 60 days in jail.

Goudie, a former prosecutor, has practiced often in front of Padgett.

"She and I have had good experiences together," the judge said Friday.

Defense attorney Barry Cohen represented her. This week, Cohen visited the judge in his chambers. By Thursday, an agreement was reached. There would be an apology.

Though the hearing was scheduled for Monday, they met in court Friday. Goudie stood before him. She told him that her remark had been intended for her boss in the audience. She said she never meant to show contempt.

"I apologize, and I'm truly sorry that what I said in open court was overheard by others," she said.

"Okay," Padgett said. "The court accepts that apology and finds that under the circumstances what you said was not in contempt of court."

"Thank you," said the lawyer.

"You're welcome," said the judge.

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