Protesters march against PBC State Attorney Michael McAuliffe, calling for his resignation

Recent plea deal prompts demonstration

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - About a dozen or so protesters marched in front of the Palm Beach County State Attorney's Office Thursday morning.

They say they're fed up with the decisions made by Palm Beach County State Attorney Michael McAuliffe and want him to resign.

They claim McAuliffe is making poor prosecutorial choices and bad plea deals -- even alleging "good" prosecutors are leaving the office because of him.

They say the recent plea deal with convicted murderer Paul Michael Merhige was a bad decision.

On Thanksgiving night in 2009, Merhige shot and killed his 33-year-old twin sisters, Carla Merhige and Lisa Knight, his 76-year-old aunt Raymonde Joseph and 6-year-old Makayla Sitton, his cousin's daughter.

The murders happened at the home of Jim Sitton a WPTV photographer. His daughter Makayla and his wife's mother Raymonde Joseph were among the victims.

Merhige received seven life sentences. Some critics wanted the state attorney's office to try the case so Merhige could receive the death penalty if found guilty.

"The Merhige case was the straw that broke the camel's back, if you will, this is a culmination of plea deals, horrible prosecutorial record, one of the worst if not the worst in the state of Florida," said protester Rick Sessa.

Michael McAuliffe is not in town but his office released a statement from him that read, in part:

"I accept and respect the fundamental ability of individuals to voice their opinions regarding any public matter. However, the right to speak does not necessarily translate into being right or accurate in the message."

"The decision to accept the defendant's offer to plead guilty to all the charges was based on the unanimous recommendations of the investigators and prosecutors assigned to the case, the consensus recommendations of all the homicide prosecutors in the office (with a cumulative total of 190 years of prosecutorial experience) and the support of all the victims except two."

"As State Attorney, I have committed the office to vigorously pursuing offenders and seeking appropriate punishment. Life sentences of violent offenders have been imposed 357 times in the past three years. That is not meant as a comparison to any other time or office, but as a basic rebuttal to any notion that the office is anything other than vigorous and committed in protecting the community. "

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