Donna Adelson formal arraignment and emergency motions hearing

Posted at 1:56 PM, December 11, 2023 and last updated 11:50 AM, December 11, 2023

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (COURT TV) — Donna Adelson was formally arraigned in Tallahassee on Monday evening after her defense filed an emergency motion over jail conditions.

Adelson, 73, is currently being held without bond on murder and conspiracy charges related to the death of her ex-son-in-law, Dan Markel. Her attorney entered a not guilty plea on her behalf.

Donna Adelson in court on Dec. 11, 2023. (Court TV)

Donna Adelson in court on Dec. 11, 2023. (Court TV)

The judge listened to the defense’s position that their client should be released on house arrest pending trial, or placed in a different unit within the jail, so that she may be permitted to contact her family and prepare for trial. The defense also requested that Adelson undergo a psychiatric evaluation.

The judge began proceedings by reviewing the emergency motion filed by Adelson’s Miami-based attorney, Marissel Descalzo. As a supplement to her motion that was filed last week Descalzo added that as of Day 22 of the direct observation of Adelson, the defendant is unable to participate in her own defense.

Descalzo stated that Adelson can’t have papers or get mail, and that she only had one brief call with Adelson last Friday which was on speakerphone. Greg Toomey from the sheriff’s office insisted that there is no impediment to attorney-client visitation. The judge agreed that Adelson is, in fact, able to speak in private with her attorney.

Adelson had a brief outburst when Toomey announced that the reason Adelson is on suicide watch is because when she was booked into the jail, she made a statement that she wanted to die. He also pointed out that while on a phone call with her son, Charlie Adelson before she was arrested, she “very clearly spoke about a plan to kill herself using sleeping pills” if she could not escape the U.S. before arrest. Adelson began shouting but the judge swiftly told her to allow her attorney to do her arguing on her behalf.

After the judge accepted Donna’s not guilty plea, the judge asked about upcoming court dates. When the judge suggested a March conference hearing, Descalzo conveyed her client’s interest in promptly moving ahead to trial, requesting a January status conference hearing. They settled on a tentative date of Jan. 9.

In documents obtained by Court TV, Adelson’s defense filed a motion last week alleging that she has been subjected to “cruel and inhumane conditions” since her Nov. 20 arrival at the Leon County Detention Facility.

Descalzo noted in her filing that her client has been sitting naked on a mattress on the floor in a single jail cell where she’s forced to eat with her hands. She said Adelson has been denied blood pressure medication, prevented from showering for days at a time, and has only been permitted one brief phone call with her husband.

According to Descalzo, Adelson felt uncomfortable when a mental health official at the jail began questioning her because they refused to verify that they were a healthcare professional, calling her “a fancy white lady who murdered her son and now thinks she has rights.” Descalzo went on to explain that the official joked with the other guards outside Adelson’s cell door, saying that Adelson will “learn that fancy white lady murderers have no rights here” and telling Adelson, “Do you see where you are and do you see where I am? I am out here because I am not a murderer.”

Charlie Adelson testifies in court

Charlie Adelson, a Fort Lauderdale periodontist, testifies during his trial, Thursday, Nov. 2, 2023, in Tallahassee, Fla. Adelson is charged with first-degree murder, conspiracy and solicitation in the killing of Dan Markel, a 41-year-old attorney and legal scholar at Florida State University. (Alicia Devine/Tallahassee Democrat via AP, Pool)

In related news, Adelson’s son, Charlie Adelson, is expected to be given life without parole Tuesday, when he’s sentenced for his role in Markel’s death. Charlie, a wealthy periodontist, was convicted of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder on Nov. 6. Donna was arrested one week later while attempting to board a one-way flight to Vietnam, a country that does not have an extradition treaty with the U.S.

READ MORE: FL v. Adelson: Dentist Mastermind Murder Trial

Markel, a law professor at Florida State University, was gunned down while pulling into his garage. At the time of his death, he was in a bitter custody battle with his ex-wife, Wendi Adelson. Wendi is Donna’s daughter and Charlie’s sister.

Prosecutors alleged Donna and Charlie paid hitmen to kill Markel so Wendi would be free to relocate from Tallahassee to the Miami area with the couple’s two preschool-aged sons. Charlie facilitated the murder by convincing his girlfriend to recruit Sigfredo Garcia & Luis Rivera to kill Markel. Garcia, the father of Magbanua’s two children, was the triggerman. The Adelsons paid off all three, who have since been tried and convicted.

It is not yet known if Wendi will face charges related to the death of her ex-husband. Prosecutors are still piecing together how much, if anything, she knew about the plot.