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Santeria, Voodoo Employed at Criminal Courthouse

April 10, 1995 GMT

MIAMI (AP) _ A dead chicken here, some goat’s blood there. And maybe some ashes sprinkled on the judge’s or the prosecutor’s chair.

Voodoo is at work at Miami’s Metro Justice Building.

Miami has sizable populations of people of Cuban and Haitian extraction. Some Cubans believe in Santeria, a religion whose gods respond favorably to rituals and sacrifices of food and animals. Some Haitians believe in voodoo, which also employs ritual sacrifice.

The use of sorcery to try to sway the outcome of judicial proceedings is becoming so common that courthouse managers have named a voodoo squad of janitors.

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They mostly look for sacrificed animals.

``Sometimes we find one chicken. Sometimes we find three or four,″ said Raul Guasp, a courthouse maintenance man. ``It depends on who is on trial.″

Dead chickens and dead goats are sometimes found on the courthouse steps, especially those along one street which courthouse employees have renamed Chicken Lane.

Rigoberto Zamora, a Santeria priest, says the road separating the courthouse from the Dade County Jail is a strategic spot, since putting a hex there asks spirits to protect people in jail and as they cross the street to court.

Spirits of the dead animals are offered to the gods, who are then supposed to enter the minds of judges or prosecutors and persuade them to drop charges.

Weird things go on inside the courthouse, too.

A bailiff once found two dead lizards, their mouths wrapped shut with twine during a break in a cocaine trial. The trussed up lizards are meant to silence a snitch.

Relatives of defendants sometimes sneak into an empty courtroom and spread voodoo power on the judge’s chair or prosecutor’s desk.

Names of the judge, prosecutor, defendant and others are written on pieces of paper and burned. The ashes are mixed with ground-up twigs, and the powder is supposed to sway the jury, judge or prosecutor.

Attorney Louis Casuso recalls that he and Dade Assistant State Attorney David Waksman were prosecuting a Santeria priestess charged with cocaine trafficking. They returned from lunch to find their seats covered with white dust.

``All of a sudden I get this nose bleed,″ Casuso said.

Waksman finished the trial and won a conviction while Casuso stuffed toilet paper up his nose. Casuso says he thinks the nose bleed was a coincidence.

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