The Boulder Boys Must Die

When federal prosecutors seek the death penalty in drug-related murders, the defendants are almost always black. Why should Miami's first "kingpin" case be any exception?

The judge's admonishment appears to have prompted a bout of media-wary catatonia. Neither side will discuss any matters that have not been aired in open court (and, for that matter, pitifully few that have). Spokesmen for the U.S. Attorney's Office, moreover, refuse to comment about why this case was chosen as South Florida's first drug-kingpin murder prosecution.

Death-penalty specialist Kevin McNally sees no "rational reason" for bringing this case in federal court. "Frankly, it's a pretty run-of-the-mill drug-conspiracy case," says McNally. "A terrorist bombing case or an international drug conspiracy that involves law enforcement officers from different countries is the kind of case rationally brought in federal court. Not low-level, street-level drug dealers. That's not traditionally been the function of federal courts -- it's time-consuming and expensive." McNally suggests the decision is politically motivated: "Death-penalty prosecutions draw attention," he notes.

Although defense attorneys won't speculate about the matter, public defender Reuben Cahn told the Miami Daily Business Review on January 7, 1994, "The federal government, the U.S. Attorney in this district [Kendall Coffey], has specifically made clear his intention to go after street-level crime. It's a grandstand. It's really a political matter. It allows politicians to stand up and talk about how tough they are on crime."

One advantage to trying a case in federal, as opposed to state, court is that federal prosecutors can shelter their witnesses from defense scrutiny. While state prosecutors must turn over all incriminating evidence to the defense well in advance of the trial, their federal counterparts aren't obligated to release witness lists until 48 hours before the start of a trial. "I think there are substantial advantages for the government to prosecute in federal court," says the ACLU's Benjamin Waxman.

Five of the defendants are being held at the Federal Detention Center in downtown Miami; the sixth, Mike Riley, is free on bond. Neither the defendants contacted by New Times nor their family members were willing to be interviewed for this story. (A spokesman for the detention center says that Edward Mack and Chedrick Crummie initially agreed to a New Times request for an interview but changed their minds after consulting with their attorneys.)

The massive court file contains scant personal information. Court testimony indicates that Mack and Riley graduated from high school but pursued no further education. Crummie got only as far as the ninth grade and is illiterate. Most of the defendants had prior run-ins with the law, ranging from vehicle theft to drug possession. Prosecutors say Rozier, one of those facing the death penalty, has been convicted of carrying a concealed weapon, robbery, and violating probation.

An attorney representing Crummie, the accused gunman in both homicides, who prosecutor Perez has described as "the most dangerous defendant" and "Mack's most trusted hit man," says his client has no previous convictions of any kind. As for Mack himself -- the alleged kingpin of a $30 million crack-dealing enterprise, and the man accused of giving the order that resulted in at least two murders -- never in his 28 years before the Boulder Boys arrest had he been charged with anything more serious than a traffic violation.

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