Women in the Law
Storied prosecutor retiring at 85
Posted Jun 17, 2014 5:05 PM CDT
By Martha Neil
Sally Weintraub was in her fifties when she began working for then-Dade County State Attorney Janet Reno.
The 1953 University of Wisconsin law graduate was a rarity, as a female attorney, when she came to Florida with her husband, who was also a lawyer and had been offered a job there. After joining the Florida bar in 1962, she initially worked for a law firm, but found her progress stymied. She tried working as a legal aid lawyer, then opened her own law firm, but tired of handling divorce cases.
Working as a county prosecutor wasn't a bed of roses, either. Weintraub learned the basics from helpful secretaries when her colleagues, "just a bunch of out-of-school kids," proved cool to her, she tells the Miami Herald (sub. req.). Now, 35 years later, she is nearing retirement at age 85.
Weintraub never sought the limelight, but was asked to try bigger cases as she grew experienced. Eventually, she became a renowned, highly skilled trial veteran who wasn't afraid to try tough cases and did what she thought was right, the newspaper recounts.
She also served as a mentor to younger attorneys in the office, including her own son, with whom she tried a number of cases.
"She commands the jury’s attention and they totally believe her,” said one of her mentees, Sandra Miller-Batiste. “She exudes wisdom.”
Weintraub's son, Joshua, joined the prosecutor's office in 1990. He remembers his mom as "always so calm, collected and in complete control as she stood up there questioning witnesses or cross-examining defendants."
One of her last big trials concluded in 2013, when a caretaker was convicted of kidnapping and aggravated child abuse in the death of a 4-year-old foster child, Rilya Wilson, whose disappearance in 2000 went unnoticed for over a year. The jury deadlocked 11-1 on whether to convict Geralyn Graham of first-degree murder. However, after being sentenced to 55 years, the defendant, who is 68, will likely spend the rest of her life in prison, and the state decided not to retry Graham on the murder count.
An earlier Miami Herald (sub. req.) article provides additional details about the case.
Graham insisted at trial that she had not harmed Wilson, whose body was never found. Fellow inmates testified Graham had either confessed or implied she was responsible.
In recent months, as Weintraub anticipates her retirement at the end of June, she has been focusing her efforts on investigating a backlog of cases.
“Trial work is really tough, physically and mentally,” she told the Herald, explaining that it's time for her to relax and play some tennis. "I can’t work at that level anymore. It’s not fair to the case. It’s not fair to the detectives.”