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Jurist, 72, Angrily Recuses After Defense Questions Ability, Stamina

September 23, 1987

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) _ A 72-year-old judge angrily removed himself from a drug-smuggling case after the defense attorney questioned his stamina and his ability to understand racketeering laws.

″I didn’t retire to get this kind of conduct in the courtroom,″ said Acting Circuit Judge Harold Vann, bristling at the comments made by defense lawyer Craig Boda in his request for the judge to step down.

″I don’t have to take that,″ the judge said, adding that he nevertheless would withdraw from the case.

Vann and other retired judges are occasionally called to hear cases in Dade County.

Prosecutors said Boda’s complaints about the judge were ″totally groundless″ and noted that Boda had gotten another judge to withdraw from the case.

Boda is ″forum-shopping at the expense of the integrity of a long-honored judge,″ said Assistant State Attorney Robert McLeod.

In his motion, the defense lawyer said that at hearings Vann appeared inattentive, aggravated, confused and incapable of understanding the complex legal issues involved. Sometimes Vann appeared to be sleeping, Boda said.

Boda is defending Michael Howard, 31, a Daytona Beach dog and horse breeder who police say was the local kingpin of a ring that smuggled 400 to 1,000 pounds of marijuana into Volusia County each month from 1981 to 1985.

Howard is charged with 20 crimes, including violating the state’s racketeering laws against organized criminal activity.

Earlier, defense attorneys were successful in getting Circuit Judge McFerrin Smith to disqualify himself from the case after arguing that he would be prejudiced because he signed a search warrant in the case.

Boda also is defending Glenn Kirk, 35, of North Palm Beach, and Joseph McBride, 30, of Edgewater, both charged with five drug offenses. Four other Volusia County defendants are charged with being part of the drug smuggling ring.

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