Prominent Akerman partner is found dead; death investigation is under way

Colleagues were shocked on Tuesday to learn of the death of criminal defense lawyer Richard Sharpstein, a partner at Akerman Senterfitt who was recognized last week as one of the Miami area’s most effective lawyers.

The death is being investigated as a possible suicide, according to the Miami Herald and CBS Miami. A police spokesman told Daily Business Review, however, that police are awaiting toxicology tests and gathering evidence before drawing any conclusions. “We are not investigating for suicide,” said spokesman Bobby Hernandez. “This is a death investigation.”

The Miami Herald described Sharpstein, 63, as “a quick-witted showman who represented everyone from cocaine cowboys to troubled cops during a long and colorful career.” The Daily Business Review, which held the awards ceremony that honored Sharpstein, described his “dramatic flair” and “insightful cross-examination” that once led a government witness to admit he was lying.

“Richard Sharpstein is the only defense lawyer I’ve seen in my career pull off a true Perry Mason moment,” said one of the prosecutors in the case, Curtis Miner.

According to the Herald, Sharpstein “moved around the courtroom like an accomplished actor, often with comedic flair. Defense attorneys, prosecutors and judges alike relished his performances. So did jurors.” Retired Judge Jonathan Colby said he was “a joy to watch in the courtroom. … Richard Sharpstein was one of the good guys in this world. He really cared about protecting the innocent.”

Sharpstein’s housekeeper arrived at his Miami Beach condo on Tuesday and found his body submerged in about a foot of water in his bathtub, according to police reports cited by the articles. She later looked at her cellphone and found a message telling her not to come to work that day.

Colleagues told the Miami Herald that Sharpstein had been communicating in emails until 11 p.m. on Monday. Early Tuesday he told an Akerman associate that he was not feeling well and would not be coming in to work.

Sharpstein’s divorce from his wife of 35 years, Janice, was finalized last month. They had previously practiced law together.

Janice Sharpstein sobbed in an interview with the Daily Business Review. She said her ex-husband appeared healthy and she was unaware of any heart problems. “I loved him more than half of my life, and I always will,” she said. “I’m so sorry this happened to him.”

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Subsequent coverage: “Akerman partner’s death is ruled a suicide”

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