Known for her encyclopedic command of the law, Florida Senior Assistant Attorney General Sandra Jaggard helped keep some of Miami’s most notorious killers on Death Row. She died unexpectedly Oct. 11, 2016, at age 51.
Jaggard was a unique person with a unique job. A one-time engineer who worked on the space station, she forged a niche as the prosecutorial authority on capital litigation in South Florida, writing complex briefs, making concise arguments before judges, and earning the trust of people whose loved ones had been murdered, sometimes decades before.
Jaggard was a fixture at Miami’s criminal courthouse, not only in arguing appeals but in helping prosecutors. “I always marveled at her legal talents,” said Associate Deputy Attorney General Carolyn Snurkowski, a colleague of more than two decades. “Sandy was the go-to person if you needed a case on point or wanted a sounding board to explore legal arguments.”
After graduating from Vanderbilt in 1987 with a degree in biomedical engineering, Jaggard worked at Boeing, focused on the life-support module for the space station. She then completed law school at the University of Miami and in 1994 went to work at the Florida attorney general’s office. There she built her reputation in the complex field of capital litigation, working to keep intact convictions and death sentences. She could recite minute details from transcripts of a decades-old trial, every sort of criminal-court rule, and arcane and complex case law.
Jaggard spearheaded the appeals of virtually every major death-penalty case in Miami–Dade. At the time of her death, she was handling 27 capital cases. She was honored for “outstanding appellate advocacy” by the Association of Government Attorneys in Capital Litigation in 2010.
In court she had a tough exterior with a wry sense of humor, her colleagues remembered—but she never failed to mentor young lawyers. “Her heart of gold was always just below the surface,” Snurkoswki said. “She prided herself as being tough, but in fact was a very warm and caring person.”
Outside court Jaggard loved cooking, baking and traveling. Despite an often-punishing work schedule, she rarely missed a holiday gathering with her siblings and eight nieces and nephews. “She was a pretty doting aunt—exceptionally so,” said her brother John.
Jaggard was predeceased in April 2015 by her sister, Dr. Sally Ann Jaggard Killian, a former staff member of Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s General Internal Medicine division and a former instructor of nurse practitioners and fourth-year medical students at Vanderbilt. She is survived by four siblings, nieces and nephews.
—THE MIAMI HERALD