Eight is enough: Judge rules Sarah Boone forfeits right to attorney

Posted at 11:28 AM, July 1, 2024

ORLANDO, Fla. (Court TV) — A Florida judge ruled that a woman’s conduct is so outrageous that she has forfeited her right to an attorney, meaning she will have to represent herself at her upcoming murder trial.

Sarah Boone is charged with second-degree murder and faces a potential sentence of life in prison if she’s found guilty of killing her boyfriend, Jorge Torres, who was found zipped inside a suitcase in Feb. 2020. Boone has admitted to zipping Torres in the bag but has maintained that his death was an accident and the result of a game of “hide-and-seek” gone wrong.

Sarah Boone close up in court

Sarah Boone appears at an April 12 status hearing. (Court TV)

Boone’s case has been pending for more than four years because she has gone through a string of court-appointed attorneys, each of whom has withdrawn from her case citing “irreconcilable differences.” On Friday, Judge Michael Kraynick issued a ruling in response to Boone’s eighth attorney’s motion to withdraw, granting the request and ruling that Boone “has through WAIVED BY HER CONDUCT her right to court-appointed counsel.”

READ MORE | ‘I AM NOT THE PROBLEM’: Sarah Boone submits 58-page letter to court

In his ruling, Kraynick noted that each of the previous attorneys on Boone’s case had similar complaints. Mauricio Padilla, who represented Boone for more than 2 years from 2020-2022, said he could not offer many details on the “irreconcilable differences,” noting he was “under the belief that the specifics of the adversarial relationship may disclose information that may prejudice his client and as such will stand mute on the specifics.” Frank Bankowitz, who represented Boone from July 11, 2022, to Sept. 8, 2023, said that Boone would call him 5-10 times per day and reported that she would refer to him as a “dud” and a “buffoon.”

When Padilla withdrew from the case on May 10, 2022, “The Court advised defendant of the state’s concern regarding a strategy of Defendant being unhappy with every attorney and advised Defendant about the dangers of self-representation.” Similarly, Boone was warned again when Bankowitz withdrew from the case — with Bankowitz noting in his own motion, “The Defendant will not be satisfied with any attorney unless said attorney does not have a case load and can dedicate his or her time solely to Ms. Boone’s case. The best possible avenue is to have the Defendant represent herself as no attorney can satisfy her.”

When Winston Hobson, appointed to replace Berkowitz, opted to withdraw in Feb. 2024, “The Court advised Defendant that although Defendant has a right to court appointed counsel that right is not unlimited. The Court twice advised Defendant that Defendant may not be provided another court appointed attorney and that Defendant would have to represent herself if circumstances similar to Hobson’s Motion To Withdraw occur. The Court further advised Defendant about the dangers of self-representation due Defendant’s lack of legal training and knowledge.”

WATCH | Sarah Boone’s Letters from Jail

Kraynick noted that Boone’s most recent (and final) attorney, Patricia Cashman, has “extensive experience representing criminal defendants as both an Assistant Public Defender and in private practice, including representing defendants accused of murder and is widely-known to be able and willing to deal with and manage difficult clients.” Nonetheless, in a 58-page letter submitted to the court, Boone complained that Cashman was impossible to work with and had a “unwarranted, uninformative, unprofessional snotty attitude.”

Now Boone will be forced to represent herself at a trial that Kraynick has pledged will move forward. Friday’s order confirmed her trial will begin on Oct. 7, “and will not be continued for any reason, except by extraordinarily good cause and such extraordinarily good cause shall not include retention of counsel by the defendant.”