Onlookers packed Florida's Dade County Courthouse's historic sixth-floor courtroom Tuesday as public enemy number one dressed in a vintage black suit and donning a fedora took the witness stand.
Throughout the morning, two attorneys re-enacting the role of Al Capone defense lawyers fought off prosecutors who pressed a perjury case against the notorious Prohibition-era gangster for claiming police had secretly arrested him and mistreated him in jail.
Capone would now respond to the forces that had tried to push him out of South Florida.
Leaning into the microphone, GrayRobinson real estate attorney Juan C. Martinez delivered the famous line with cosmetic scars stretching across his left cheek.
"I have as much of a right as any to live here," Martinez said.
It was the first time in 80 years those words were spoken aloud during a trial in that courtroom -- although the affair was much less serious this time around.
Several Miami attorneys, journalists and others -- all in snappy suspenders and fedoras, slick shoes and even slicker hair -- took part in a re-enactment of the gangster's 1930 trial, one of many events being held in celebration of the 100th year of Miami-Dade Circuit Court.
The retrial was organized by Circuit Judge Scott J. Silverman, the court historian who researched the case for more than a year and grabbed the spotlight as Circuit Judge E.C. Collins.
Silverman said the original case was the product of an angry South Florida community eager to rid itself of the nation's biggest mobster -- and willing to illegally arrest him to do it.
After spending 10 months in a Pennsylvania prison for carrying a loaded pistol, Capone headed to his Palm Island mansion for a two-week vacation. But Miami had unofficially declared war on the part-time resident, pestering his friends and family, arresting Capone four times and charging him with two counts of perjury for claiming he was falsely imprisoned. The judge ruled from the bench and acquitted Capone.
With the nation closely watching the travails of its most notorious gangster, the trial was a blockbuster in the 19-year-old circuit. But Silverman notes it wasn't the last time Miami-Dade courts drew attention.
One case involved the attempted assassination of President-elect Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1933 by Italian anarchist Guiseppe Zangara, who killed Chicago Mayor Anton Cermak by mistake using a .38-caliber pistol he bought at a Miami Avenue pawn shop. Reporters delivered news around the world of Zangara's guilty plea five days later in a Miami courtroom as well as his electric chair execution the next month.
It was inside a Miami-Dade courtroom that Doors frontman Jim Morrison was sentenced in 1970 to six months in prison and fined $500 for indecent exposure at Dinner Key Auditorium. He died in Paris while his misdemeanor conviction was on appeal.
The 1979 trial of serial killer Ted Bundy was moved to Miami because of worries he'd receive an unfair trial in Tallahassee, where he raped and murdered women at a Florida State University sorority house. He was sentenced to death and executed in the electric chair in 1989.
At other times, Muhammad Ali and famed Boston Red Sox hitter Ted Williams got divorced, and tennis star Anna Kournikova and actress Kelly Preston took their stalkers to court in Miami.
To celebrate the circuit's centennial, there will be four symposia held on its history, several partnerships with public schools, a five-kilometer run around the Dade County Courthouse and the release of a book about the court's 100-year history by Miami Dade College professor Paul George.
But few happenings equaled the spectacle of Capone's trial with hundreds of spectators vying for space in the courtroom when it began July 10, 1930.
Silverman arranged for a jury in the retrial, a chance for the public to hear evidence and decide for themselves.
A packed courtroom watched as defense attorneys Bruce Lehr and Roberto Pertierra acted as Capone's trusted two-man team, originally former Broward Circuit Judge Vincent C. Giblin and J. Fritz Gordon.
On the other side were Miami-Dade prosecutors Charlie Johnson and Howard Rosen, acting as County Solicitor G.E. McCaskill and Special Assistant County Solicitor Richard H. Hunt.
The jury, which included Miami Herald columnist Glenn Garvin and Daily Business Review executive editor Eddie Dominguez, listened as the attorneys presented their cases, mostly improvised.
"Mr. Capone thinks he can do down here, where we raise our children and families, as he has up in Chicago. And we're here to ask to you to not let him do that," Johnson told jurors in a thick Southern drawl while sporting a bright white pinstripe suit.
Lehr responded, "The only issue here is whether Mr. Capone was falsely arrested, not the hoopla and the malarkey the state's trying to give y'all."
Johnson took some time to get rid of his real-life jitters.
"I've never been videotaped before," he said. "Until after the opening statements were over, it was more nerve-racking than an actual trial with all my friends watching me instead of anonymous jurors."
Lehr was nonplussed. "Thirty years and 365 jury trials. That's my practice."
To play Capone, Martinez said he heavily researched the man and read the script three times in his first acting experience since "Hamlet" in literature class at Christopher Columbus High School.
"I've heard it said that Capone was a fairly soft-spoken guy," he said. Playing the role gave him a better understanding of what Miami was like at the time.
"The most interesting things is that everyone thinks of Capone as public enemy number one. But here in Florida, there's no suggestion of him ever violating any law," Martinez said. "From all accounts, while he was in Miami he was a law-abiding citizen, but he was being run out by the police and the director of public safety. Nobody in Miami wanted him here."
That was most evident in the performance by public corruption prosecutor William Altfield, who embraced the stern and colorful character of Dade Public Safety Director S.D. McCreary, a Southern hardliner with his sights set on Capone.
"Mr. Capone has a notorious reputation of being public enemy number one. Certainly the citizens of Miami do not want to have such a menace in our city," he exclaimed, his face twitching as he spoke in a crisp accent.
Altfield, who does some community theater, stole the show with his interpretation of McCreary, remaining in character throughout the mock trial.
One of the funniest moments though came during closing arguments, when Pertierra said, "It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure it out," referring to the shabby case against Capone.
Rosen objected asking, "What is a rocket scientist?"
The onlookers and participants burst out in laughter, realizing there were no rockets in 1930, and Pertierra rephrased, dropping the word "rocket" from his sentence.
The jury came back after brief deliberations, siding with the man of ill repute. After Silverman slammed the gavel and proclaimed Capone not guilty, the real life judge congratulated all who took part in the mock trial.
"We have a rich history in this city, and Capone was part of our history whether we like it or not," he said, adding children in the audience would walk away with a better understanding of the constitution.
Miami-Dade Chief Circuit Judge Joel Brown heralded Silverman's efforts.
"It's important to mark these occasions, which show that the court system really is the foundation of our country," he said. "Everybody was in costume and having fun, but people can see how the court system and jury function because it separates us from the rest of the world."