A teenager who has been in the Leon County Jail for more than two years charged with cultivation of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia, two counts of 1st degree murder, possession of a firearm by a juvenile delinquent, and solicitation to commit murder—currently has no lawyer on his case.
On February 19, 2013, DeShon Thomas appeared before Judge James Hankinson for a Faretta Hearing. Thomas had decided to file Pro Se (represent himself) after having sat in jail for four months without having received a visit or discussed his case with court appointed Criminal Conflict Attorney, Samuel Olmstead. Thomas, who was a 17-year-old college student and part-time employee at the time of the murders, was informed by his mother several months ago that Mr. Olmstead had conflicted off of his case back in March 2011. Several attempts by Thomas and his mother to contact Mr. Olmstead in regards to the previous conflict were unsuccessful. It was during the Faretta Hearing when Thomas and his mother learned that Mr. Olmstead was resigning from the Office of Criminal Conflict and Civil Regional Counsel—effective March 1, 2013. This information was revealed by another criminal conflict attorney who was standing in for Mr. Olmstead. Previously, Mr. Olmstead had been absent from 3 of 4 of Thomas’ case management hearings. The criminal conflict attorney stated that a replacement attorney had been hired but was not working as of yet. The news of Thomas getting another attorney on his case was unexpected. Thomas decided to wait to speak with his new attorney before taking any further action on his case. Thomas’ fifth trial date was set for mid-April 2013.
One month to the date of Thomas’ Faretta Hearing, on March 19, 2013, Criminal Conflict Attorney, Daren Shippy, filed a Motion to Withdraw from Thomas’ case—citing “Conflict of Interest.” This was the same reason Mr. Olmstead cited in March 2011 when he withdrew from the case. In March 2011, Judge James Hankinson granted Mr. Olmstead’s Motion to Withdraw. Unbeknowest to Thomas and his mother, due to Mr. Olmstead’s conflict in 2011, Thomas was assigned a private attorney by the name of Baya Harrison. Mr. Harrison’s name would not appear on Thomas’ court docket until after Thomas’ mother paid to retain defense attorney Greg Cummings (March 12, 2011—in hindsight, Mr. Thomas’ mother does not see Mr. Harrison’s appointment and withdrawal from her son’s case as a coincidence).
In late July 2012, after having paid Greg Cummings nearly $30,000, Thomas’ mother finally decided to act on what family, friends, colleagues and complete strangers had been telling her for months—“You need to fire your son’s attorney.” Thomas’ mother also picked up on Cummings sinister behavior. She started paying more attention to what she was communicating to Cummings. She concluded that nothing State Prosecutor Jack Campbell did in regards to her son’s case was coincidental.
When Thomas’ mother had the discussion with her son to fire Cummings, she brought everything to the table. By then Thomas had already been in jail for well over a year. The firing of Cummings meant starting all over—something he (Thomas) did not want to do. And something that Thomas’ mother could not truly afford to do. Thomas did not immediately want to fire Cummings. Not because he had no issues with Cummings’ representation, but like any innocent, wrongfully accused person—Thomas wanted his freedom! During the sixteen months of Thomas’ incarceration, Cummings had not done anything to repudiate any of the charges, put on record/inform Thomas that the 2nd lead detective on the case had been fired for possibly being involved in criminal activity; produce or depose the state’s key witness, or present any type of legal defense.
Thomas told Cummings about his mother’s wish to have him fired. At which time Cummings emailed Thomas’ mother making all sorts of promises. Cummings promises infuriated Thomas’ mother even more because the promises were not special promises—they were promises of tasks that any moral, ethical and average attorney would’ve done—should do—for every client that they choose to represent-open up various ways to communicate and put your clients best interest first. Cummings completely ignored several phone calls from Thomas. In response to a Florida Bar complaint that Thomas’ mother filed, Cummings stated, “He didn’t have time to respond to Ms. Chambers’ lengthy emails.” Ms. Chambers’ emails were lengthy because she and Thomas would go months without hearing a peep from Cummings. There was a severe lack of communication between Cummings and Thomas. When Thomas told Cummings that he was not able to pay any money toward his defense, Cummings offered to continue on his case without money—for free. Shortly, thereafter, Thomas fired Cummings.
Almost simultaneously to Cummings filing a Motion to Withdraw from Thomas’ case, Leon County Sheriff’s Office and the State Attorney’s Office announced that they were charging Thomas with solicitation to commit murder—with the intended victim being the state’s key witness, Trentin Ross. (According to Cummings, Trentin Ross had been asked to give a deposition over 3 times—each time Trentin Ross, did not make himself available.) To Thomas’ mother, the solicitation to commit murder charge confirmed that Cummings and State Prosecutor Jack Campbell were engaged in misconduct. Leon County Sheriff’s detectives had prematurely ended their 3 to 4 week investigation of Thomas supposedly hiring a nearly 30-year-old inmate who was in jail for bank robbery as a “Hit man” to murder Trentin Ross. As an attempt to intimidate Thomas’ mother and her other children, Cummings sent Thomas’ mother an email saying that she and her older son were to play a role in the hit—but the State Attorney’s Office was not going to press charges against her.
On March 27, 2013, Judge James Hankinson denied Criminal Conflict Attorney Daren Shippy’s Motion to Withdraw.
On March 28, 2013, the Petition for Habeas Corpus, filed Pro Se, was added to Thomas’ court file. In the Petition for Habeas Corpus, Thomas cites: Wrongful Arrest; Denial of Counsel; Illegal Search and Seizure; Lack of Investigation; and Failure to Produce Witnesses.
As of March 29, 2013, there has not been any action in regards to the Petition for Habeas Corpus. Both Thomas and his mother are looking forward to his day in court.