Duane Weeks Trial – The Importance of Courtroom Etiquette
June 1, 2022 Don Pumphrey, Jr. Criminal Defense Social Share
The son of the former Elections Supervisor—Duane Weeks Jr., 41, has been adjudicated by Judge Perkins, guilty on grand theft, battery, and introduction of contraband at the county jail. In addition, there were also three misdemeanor charges, including threatening serious bodily harm on a police officer.
Weeks could have been facing over 15 years in prison, along with getting marked as a habitual offender with aggravated sentences. However, Weeks and his defense team came up with a plea deal with the prosecution, which would only sentence him to 15 months in prison instead. This would be seven months less than the typical minimum of the state guidelines. Considering that Weeks had already served 290 days in jail, he already would receive a lengthy amount of time credited to his sentence.
Although most defendants would consider this great news given the circumstances, Weeks has consistently acted in a combative manner towards the judge and even his own defense team. This case brings up the important topic of etiquette in the courtroom. We will cover the details of Weeks’ case, along with the proper manners a defendant should carry in the courtroom.
What was the Criminal Case?
The case in which Weeks is currently facing charges is a grand theft charge for stealing his neighbor’s tractor. Weeks claimed he was given permission by his neighbor to borrow the tractor—police found that at a certain point there had been such an agreement, but it was over five years old and no longer applied.
Weeks cut his neighbor’s lock to get onto their property and hot-wired the tractor before driving off. Another neighbor reached out to the owner, who then called the police. Now one of the reasons that Weeks is putting up an argument in court is because of the no-contact rule to the victim in the case. Weeks argued that there was no victim, and that his neighbor could purposely force contact between the two, which would cause Weeks to violate his probation.
However, the judge tried to make it clear that Weeks still had the right to remain on his own property. A violation of the no-contact rule would only apply if there was a direct form of contact, like verbal, written, or a phone call or text message.
Still, Weeks continued to argue. The defendant became angry and claimed that his neighbor would now have the “run of his property,” with the neighbor throwing parties and trespassing.
Weeks’ third-appointed lawyer addressed him at this point: “That sounds more like a civil action,” Raven Sword said to him, however, Weeks dismissed the comment.
Weeks’ Responses in the Courtroom
Weeks seems to have an ongoing issue with combativeness in the courtroom. It should also be addressed that Weeks is the son of the state’s former Elections Supervisor Kim Weeks—who has faced her own civil cases. Regardless of the reasoning behind Weeks’ behavior, it is clear that it hasn’t always fallen under the proper courtroom etiquette.
After getting sentenced to his second state prison term, Weeks decided to start arguing over the plea deal he made with Circuit Judge Terence Perkins. Although he had just signed the plea deal, Weeks argued that the no-contact order with his neighbor should be removed. Weeks claimed that the county jail was “corrupt” and giving him a “fake” charge, to instead give the victim leverage to gain a “hostile takeover of his property.”
Weeks addressed Judge Perkins in the courtroom: “I don’t know what we’re going to do there but I don’t think that’s going to work for me. It’s a theft case. I don’t understand, there was no victim like as far as violence or anything. I don’t understand why there’s a no-contact.”
Again, this is not the first time Weeks has fallen out of the realm of property courtroom etiquette. When originally going over the details of his plea deal, Weeks interrupted the judge to say, “I’ll just take the deal, I don’t need the speech, I appreciate it, your honor.”
When Weeks was arrested, he threw out several threats to the arresting officer, which included him saying, “You don’t wanna do this,” and “I will tear your god damn a** up.” Weeks continued to threaten the officers and even said that he did not want to live, and that police would have to shoot him. The full statement from the arresting officers can be found here.
Courtroom Etiquette in Florida
When dealing with a criminal case in the courtroom, it is ideal to be on your best behavior. It is already stressful enough to attend court, especially when dealing with a criminal charge against you. The following is a list of some helpful tips for how to maintain the correct courtroom etiquette:
- Arrive before the stated time of your hearing (around 20 or 30 minutes early);
- Stand when you are addressed in the courtroom, and address the judge as “Your Honor”;
- Speak in a clear and loud voice when addressed by the judge or attorneys;
- Do not interrupt when the other party is speaking;
- Be patient, there will be a chance for you to present your side;
- Keep your emotions in check, remain polite and nice;
- Make sure to turn your cell phone off.
It is important to note that each courthouse, even within the same county, may have different rules to adhere by. If a judge is particularly strict on courtroom etiquette, they may have a sign posted up in the courtroom to remind defendants. The main thing to keep in mind is to never talk over the judge, and to stay calm and respectful during the duration of trial.
To find out about the various questions you may have regarding criminal defense, you can find our informative FAQ page here.
Contempt of Court
In Florida contempt is defined as “any act which is calculated to embarrass, hinder, or obstruct the court in the administration of justice, or which is calculated to lessen its authority or its dignity” (See Ex Parte Crews). In the criminal context, the Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure codify the contempt of court factors and the authority of the court. Criminal contempt can either be direct or indirect. The court is given the power to punish contempt in Florida Statute Section 38.22.
Direct contempt means that act is done in the presence of the court. The judge has the authority to decide at their decision whether or not to punish the party with contempt of court. Prior to punishing a party with contempt, the court must:
- Inform the defendant that the court will find them guilty of contempt
- Provide the defendant the opportunity to offer an explanation as to why they should not be found guilty of contempt
- The judge shall include a recital of the facts on which the contempt is based on
- The judge shall sign the judgment and enter it on the record
- The judge shall pronounce the sentence in open court.
The court may have the bailiffs remove the defendant. The court has the authority to levy a fine against the defendant or sentence the defendant to jail for contempt. Florida Statute Section 775.02 permits the court to punish a party with a fine of up to $500 and a jail term of up to 12 months.
Indirect Criminal Contempt means that the offense occurred outside of the presence of the court. The procedure for finding a defendant guilty of indirect criminal contempt is different than direct contempt. The following procedures must be followed to find a defendant guilty of indirect criminal contempt.
- There must be an order to show cause. This is done through formal motions with the court. The judge may move on their own, or another person with knowledge of the facts may issue an order stating all the facts of the contempt. The order must include a date for a hearing so that the defendant has an opportunity to be heard and explain.
- The defendant may move the court to dismiss the show cause order.
- The judge may issue an order for the arrest of the defendant.
- The defendant is entitled to representation at the first arraignment.
- If the contempt charged involves disrespect or criticism of a judge, then the judge shall recuse themselves from presiding over the hearing. Another judge shall preside over the hearing.
Finding a Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida
It is obvious that being involved in a criminal case is extremely stressful. Along with paying expensive fines and trying to navigate through the legal processes, attending the courtroom may seem very intimidating. Even if your nerves and emotions are running high, it is important to remember that the best way to handle the courtroom is to maintain courtroom etiquette at all times. You want to ensure you are giving the judge and prosecution the same respect as you would want for yourself.
If you or a loved one have been accused of a crime, make it your top priority to reach out to a skilled defense attorney in your area. Don Pumphrey and his legal team at Pumphrey Law Firm have experience representing clients all across Florida for various crimes. We understand the importance of strategizing a strong defense, and will be there with you every step of the legal process. For a free consultation, call (850) 681-7777 or leave an online message today.
Written by Karissa Key