The Florida Bar

Florida Bar Journal

Death is Different: A Lawyer’s Story

Book Reviews

by F. Michael Mosca

Cover image of Death Is Different: A Lawyer's StoryDeath is Different: A Lawyer’s Story is a compelling book by Sarasota lawyer Felix Michael Mosca. The book looks back 25 years, upon being appointed to represent an indigent defendant in a first-degree murder case. Mosca, prior to the appointment, had never handled a death penalty case and, prior to this first-degree murder case, had only represented one felony defendant. He later learned that 10 other lawyers had turned down the appointment before the judge, who assigned him the case personally, called him about taking the appointment. The book examines in detail his dealings with a career prosecutor, who Mosca, as a nave lawyer, initially believed was out for justice, but found out withheld evidence and forged ahead no matter what the consequences or the rules. Mosca also recounts his experiences with the judge, who seemed anxious to impose the death penalty on the defendant for what he believed was his own political ambitions and discovered police officers who were manipulating evidence.

In his book, Mosca talks about how unprepared he was at that young stage of his career to face the financial burden of taking on a death penalty case at the rate of $35 per hour, along with the emotional, psychological, physical, and familial toll.

The conviction was eventually overturned by the Florida Supreme Court, and the defendant was granted a new trial. While preparing for the second trial, Mosca is provided with previously withheld evidence and he discovers, with the help of an expert witness, the identity of the real killer. However, the prosecution is not interested in anyone but the defendant.

This is a very interesting story “from the trenches” that is well worth the read. It is available on Kindle.

Roger L. Young of Sarasota is a member of The Florida Bar.