On Wednesday, March 6, 2024, Local10 reported that a Miami-Dade Circuit Court judge disqualified two veteran prosecutors from a high-profile gang case due to allegations of misconduct.

Judge Andrea Wolfson removed Miami-Dade State Attorneys Michael Von Zamft and Stephen Mitchell from the resentencing trial of Corey Smith, an alleged leader of a notorious Liberty City’s John Doe gang. In a written order, Wolfson cited instances of alleged “witness manipulation tactics” by Von Zamft, who has over 20 years of prior misconduct allegations against him. Wolfson described Von Zamft as a “highly trained lawyer” but one who employs a “prosecutorial philosophy of winning at all costs.”

Wolfson found a particular issue with a phone call Von Zamft had with a convicted murderer serving time in prison. In the jailhouse call from August 2023, Von Zamft reportedly told the inmate he was working to get him access to witnesses in the recreation yard. Wolfson said she discovered “two glaring instances of misconduct” in this one call alone and believed many other issues would have surfaced if the defense had more time to investigate.

The judge also took issue with Mitchell for essentially falling in line with Von Zamft’s strategies without regard for the consequences. Wolfson ruled their disqualification was necessary to ensure a fair resentencing for the gang leader and not as a punishment for past actions.

Wolfson’s order cited testimony from multiple witnesses supporting the allegations of misconduct against the prosecutors. A former Miami-Dade prosecutor who now serves as a judge said she had filed an evidentiary document that was seemingly unknown to the State Attorney’s Office until the hearing. The judge also cited five letters that the State Attorney’s Office sent to the U.S. Attorney’s Office from 2000 to 2002 including two signed by Von Zamft.

Smith received multiple life and death sentences in 2004 for a string of gang-related murders from 1994-1999. Changes to death penalty laws two decades later necessitated the new resentencing trial. However, with the removal of Von Zamft and Mitchell due to the judge’s documented concerns over fairness, it remains unclear how the high-profile case will proceed.

 

 

Source: Local10