BY BUDDY NEVINS
Few judicial candidates understand the victims of crime like Melanie Golden.
Golden’s father was murdered in one of the most-highly publicized Broward crimes in the 1980s.
“I know very personally how crime affects a person and a family,” Golden says.
She is running against County Judge Terri-Ann-Miller in the August primary.
Miller has surprisingly little support from the legal establishment, maybe because challenged two incumbent judges before winning a seat on the bench. And Golden has surprisingly a lot of courthouse support for someone running against an incumbent.
Golden’s father was Eric Golden, a combative divorce lawyer shot to death Feb. 19, 1987 outside his sixth-floor office in the Cumberland Building on East Broward Boulevard.
It was one of my top 10 murders I ever covered,” says Larry Keller, an award-winning veteran court reporter working for the Sun-Sentinel at the time.
The Eric Golden case was in the papers and on TV for years through two trials—the first thrown out.
“I remember having reporters camped out in front of our house,” Melanie Golden says.
It had all the elements of saucy great story – sex, murder and money.
Add to that mix was the nature of the victim. Eric Golden was not loved by some ex-spouses of his clients, who leaked sex and drug allegations about the victim.
“I compared the case to the old Perry Mason TV show,” Keller recalls. “The show always had four or five people who had a motive to do the killing. A lot of people had a motive to kill Eric Golden. Lots and lots of people hated his guts.”
In fact, the killer clearly was out for revenge.
“Golden was hit and fell. Then (the shooter) came up – talk about a personal statement—and point blank shot him in the ass,” Keller says.
Keller “doesn’t know” if he ever got that salient fact in the newspaper in those more restrained pre-Internet 1980s.
Detectives quickly winnowed down the list to Morris Kleinfeld, a 72-year-old millionaire retiree. Golden had represented Kleinfeld’s fourth wife in a recent divorce.
Kleinfeld hated Eric Golden. He had sent a threatening letter to Eric Golden’s wife and had stalked the lawyer.
The case turned the courthouse into a circus. A judge was put under around-the-clock security for months because of threats stemming from the Eric Golden murder. Arrogant, belligerent and bombastic, Kleinfeld had a habit of yelling and screaming in court.
“He was uncontrollable,” Fields says.
Kleinfeld got convicted – twice—and died in prison a few years later.
The scars still remain for Golden’s daughter, then 7-years-old and now running for judge.
The Real Victim
Branded into Melanie Golden’s soul was an understanding that what goes on the in courthouse has a real human element. And the justice must go a long way to right wrongs.
“The names of Chuck Morton and Kelly Hancock were revered in my house, “ says Melanie Golden, naming the two prosecutors of her father’s killer.
When she got out of the University of Florida Law School in 2004, she went to the Public Defender’s Office. She represented those accused of crime despite her history.
“I’m sure I could have gotten a job with a prosecutor,” she says. “I wanted to learn both sides.”
Melanie Golden spent five years as an assistant public defender. She now works litigating civil cases across the state for clients who are mostly banks.
“I’ve been in court almost every day for seven years,” Melanie Golden says.
She believes she is ready to be a county court judge.
For many people, being in court is the worst moment of their lives. Judges need to have understanding along with experience and legal knowledge. This is especially true of County Court, which deals with minor matters.
This is a court which deals with many caught in the court system for the first time. Some are charged with victimless crimes. Some are involved in disputes with their neighbors or had arguments that turn into shoving matches.
County Court is the real People’s Court.
Melanie Golden is prepared by her unique personal history to be on the bench.
She understands what its like on all sides in the courthouse – as a lawyer and as a victim who lost her father to a terrible crime.
A sampling of some of the headlines from the sensational case:
Divorce Lawyer Shot To Death Entering Office
February 20, 1987|By United Press International
LAWYER SHOT DEAD AT OFFICE
Sun-Sentinel – Friday, February 20, 1987
Author: By JONATHON KING, Staff Writer
Judge Under Protection Takes Leave Of Absence
March 13, 1987|By PETER ARONSON, Staff Writer
Victim`s Life A Focus Of Trial Defense Points To Lawyer`s Enemies As Suspects In His Murder
July 17, 1988|By LARRY KELLER, Staff Writer
`Let Them Give Me … Death` Kleinfeld Gets Life In Slaying Of Lawyer
July 30, 1988|By LARRY KELLER, Staff Writer
Retiree Murder Convict To Get Retrial
September 6, 1990|By LARRY KELLER, Staff Writer