Leg shackles and an unruly dog in the courtroom may have prejudiced the jury in the case of a man convicted of cocaine trafficking, the 4th District Court of Appeal ruled Wednesday.
Philip Leigh appealed denial of post-conviction relief, arguing his attorney provided ineffective counsel because he allowed Leigh to appear with a leg restraint and did not object to Broward Circuit Judge Susan Lebow keeping a dog in the courtroom.
The leg restraint was supposed to be concealed, but that proved impossible because of its bulk. This marked Leigh as a “dangerous character, affecting his presumption of innocence,” the appellate panel ruled in a unanimous unsigned opinion.
The panel noted the jury was aware of Lebow’s dog.
“Lebow had to correct her dog, which was whining and barking, and on more than one occasion the dog put its front paws on the swing door that separated it from the courtroom where the judge was presiding,” the opinion states. “This suggested to the jury that the dog was present for the safety of the court, unnecessarily marking defendant as a dangerous character.”
Chief Judge Robert Gross and Judges W. Matthew Stevenson and Fred A. Hazouri reversed the conviction on the ineffective counsel issue and remanded the case “for the attachment of portions of the record conclusively refuting this ground or for an evidentiary hearing.”