Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Judge Strickland has denied the gag order. Well, it seems the circus will continue on unabated until the trial.
More news today:
Someone using the Anthonys' home computer used Google to search for "neck breaking," "how to make chloraform [sic]" and "household weapons" in March, court documents show.
The search terms appear in documents obtained by the Orlando Sentinel from the State Attorney's Office. More than 700 pages of documents related to the Casey Anthony case were released. Excerpts from these documents are coming soon.
Orlando Sentinel 11/26/08
Today, Judge Stan Strickland heard motions in the Casey Anthony case. I'm no legal whiz, nor am I a court stenographer. I'll just give you the highlights of the session and how they appeared to me.
Before the proceedings began, Casey's attorney, Jose Baez presented the judge with a document of about 150 pages concerning the gag order. State's Attorney Jeffrey Ashton commented that he had just received them from Baez and Baez shot back, "like he just gave me papers." Ashton pointed out that he had handed Baez three pages.
The judge was surprised to hear that Baez had served subpoenas on four members of the press the night before. Baez pointed out that he was not calling them to reveal sources. He wanted them to possibly rebut what may be mentioned by the state. There were two attorneys present to ask that the subpoenas be quashed. Judge Strickland decided to hear arguments before moving on the motions to quash.
Ashton stated that extra-judicial comments made by Mr. Baez were meant to influence the jury pool. He cited the Florida Bar Association's rule that an attorney should not create a detrimental effect on court proceedings or taint the jury pool. He also sites defense experts who have commented in the media about the case.
He went on to cite examples for the judge.
8/18/08 Baez answered questions from callers on a CNN program. Among other things, he was asked about Casey and the use of drugs. He also expressed his personal belief that Caylee Anthony is ABSOLUTELY alive. He also made negative comments concerning LE and their arrest of Casey.
8/21/08 On The Verdict with Dan Abrams, Baez revealed information covered by attorney-client privilege. He said, "Casey has told me she doesn't know where Caylee is. On the same program, he stated that there was a reason for the five-week delay in reporting Caylee missing. He also admitted on the program that his client had lied to the police.
8/23 He made comments on Nancy Grace concerning the accuracy of police reports. He discussed the credibility of sightings of Caylee on the Atlanta Flight.
10/15 Nancy Grace spoke with defense witness Dr. Lawrence Kobelinski. She called him a liar for changing his opinion once he was hired on by the defense.
Ashton went on to excoriate the infamous press releases by the mysterious Todd Black.
There are other examples he gave. But you get the gist. He felt that this was an overt attempt to taint the jury pool.
Ashton's last point concerned the defense's request to provide additional facts to dissuade the prosecutors from seeking the death penalty. He stated that he had agreed to delay the decision pending this information. He received three copies of a 30 page document which he stated was full arguments, not the additional facts expected. Ashton stated that he was called by the Orlando Sentinel, to alert him to the fact that the documents had been leaked to them.
In defense of the prosecution, Ashton stated that the only time the prosecution spoke publicly about the case was when Lawson Lamar made a brief statement to the press shortly after the indictment. He asked the judge to impose the rules he has set for his side to apply to the defense side.
To begin his turn at bat, Jose Baez stated that, while he expected to be on the 11:00 news, he never expected that the case would be so big. He then went on to state that the State's Attorney's argument was "a whole lot of hot air and not a whole lot of law." He then went on to discuss Florida Supreme Court decisions he believed bolstered his case. The main idea I got from this was that an attorney could "use the court of public opinion to show why a person should not be tried."
He stated that Ashton had fallen short of proving his comments would affect potential jurors. He went on to say that his comments wouldn't sway a jury to believe his client is innocent.
Baez went on to point out that Orlando is a large place with many people who don't follow the news. He stated that through voir dire, change of venue, or sequestration of the jury would all be remedies for the situation.
To wrap up his argument, Baez asked the judge that if there were to be a gag order, it should be narrowly tailored and not as broad as the prosecution would like.
He also enumerated examples of how the prosecution has leaked evidence. He specifically mentioned the chloroform in the car, the computer searches for chloroform, the release of the evidence about the hair with the death banding, and the air tests done at the Body Farm.
He ended up by saying that LE has put the case out in the media and now wanted to gag the defense. I must say that Mr. Baez not only dismisses the Grand Jury as meaningless, he also ignores the fact that his state has some of the most open Sunshine Laws in the country.
Finally, a Mr. McGuire, representing the Sentinel argued the media case against the gag order. Following him, an attorney for Channel 6 also speaks on behalf of the media.
Apparently, Mr. Baez chose not to use his witnesses and Judge Strickland quashed their subpoenas.
At that point, Mr. Ashton asked the judge if George and Cindy Anthony should speak, even though they don't have counsel. The judge asked if they want to speak and they declined. Cindy did raise her hand later to ask a question. She was apparently not allowed to speak at that time since the judge stated that it wasn't necessary for them to speak since if there were a gag order, it would probably not extend to the Anthony's.
Jeffrey Ashton rebutted Mr. Baez and summarized his case for the gag order by pointing out that the judge has the right to impose a gag order at his discretion for good cause. He then closed by saying that he was only asking the judge to impose on the defense the same restrictions that they have imposed on themselves.
Judge Strickland told the lawyers to submit any more documents to him tomorrow and that he would rule on the gag motion then.
The motions were dealt with next. First up was the application for subpoena duces tecum (com and bring evidence, essentially) for Amscot. The prosecution did not object but pointed out that they weren't aware if they were served. The issue is settled and the session moves on to the motion to compel forensic evidence and future testing.
This issue was problematic since it had already been addressed at the hearing on October 10. While the motion had been granted (under the child neglect charges), it had been pointed out to the defense that the FBI, since it's a Federal organization and not subject to Florida courts. Today, it was pointed out to Baez that he hadn't "noticed" the FBI to the hearing. Mr. Ashton pointed out he can't control the FBI Lab rules concerning the observation of testing.
Next up was the order to compel K9 information. Again, this had been addressed before. Baez had requested a copy of the training manual and veterinary records. Apparently, the question seems to be if there even is such a manual! Baez made a comment that he was being charged $900 for a 46 page document. An attorney from Orange County got up to address these and other issues. She explained that there isn't really a manual, just a 46 page "guide" for training the trainers. She was more than willing to supply that to Mr. Baez for a charge of 10 cents a page, a bargain from the usual 15 cents! She explained that the $900 amount was in reference to a balance due for the tips that were previously provided. Apparently, he can't get more information until he pays up!
She also said that Orange County did not have the other information he requested (manners of alert, specifics of each type of alert, and the chemical composition of the training scents).
As for the veterinary records,Baez requested a note from the court. Baez was told to subpoena them and then depose the veterinarian.
Next came the motion to compel tips collected by law enforcement. This was quite the fun spot in the proceedings! Baez began by lambasting those who provided him with the first CD with tips. He claimed that the prosecution was playing games with him and only gave him the tips for psychics, not the tips that dealt with the sightings of Caylee Marie Anthony.
Well, the attorney from Orange County got up again to explain the situation. She stated that she had had her staff working feverishly 8 hours a day to put the tips together and copy them and reduce them to a CD. She explained that it is a very expensive proposition. She claimed she had not intentionally given Mr. Baez just psychic tips, but just the first disc that had been completed. She also stated that Mr. Baez had told her to stop. She said she had brought two more discs for Mr. Baez. All he would have to do is clear up his outstanding bill of $980.
At this point, Mr. Baez stated that this was a SCAM! That, needless to say, didn't please the judge. Baez went on to say that he had a staff of 40 ready to go through the tips and had been waiting. The attorney went on to say that all the tips were in the public record and he could feel free to come down and view and copy them for himself. She again pointed out that she had just gone by the court order, and didn't know that he wanted them to cull the results.
Judge Strickland intervened at that point to tell Mr. Baez that "these are sightings."
Jose then said that the CD he received was "nonconforming goods" and that it was nonsense. He also indicated that his client didn't have that kind of money to spend.
The county attorney then said that they "weren't playing games." They were just doing what the court order told them to do. The judge looked at the original motion and noted that the type of tips wasn't specified.
As I recall from the hearing on October 10, the judge ordered the county to turn over tips that had been closed out already. Seems that they were the psychic tips that closed out first. It seems to be the case of "be careful what you ask for."
The end result of all of this was that Baez decided he'd rather do it himself! Perhaps his staff of 40 could help him.
Next up was the motion to compel crime scene investigation reports and photos. At this point, the lady State's Attorney spoke for the prosecution. I didn't catch her name at this point. She told Baez that at this point she didn't have any of the reports in writing, they are still being prepared. She also said that Mr. Baez could provide a disc and they would give him the photos that they have.
At this time, Baez said that the discovery procedures were having a "slow dragging effect" on the defendant's right to a speedy trial.
Judge Strickland pointed out that "we have a lot to do." He referred to the large number of cases that the courts have to deal with.
The State's Attorney pointed out that this wasn't the pace that Baez is accustomed to in the "smaller" cases he is used to. She also pointed out the thousands of pages of discovery already provided to him.
There was a reference here to the fact that there are dozens of other homicides, this isn't the only one.
The judge ruled that all reports would be sent on to the defense withing 10 days of receipt.
Next is the motion to compel the time lines and calendar. This situation was explained to the judge. When the investigator interviewed Anthony Lazzaro and other friends of Casey, he kept a desk calendar where he kept notes. He used the calendar to write a 150 page report. Baez wanted to have the calendar xeroxed so he could have a copy. The judge ruled that the detective would preserve the calendar and bring it to the deposition so the dates could be corroborated.
The motion to compel notes, reports, photos, slides, inspection of hair raised issues that were addressed at the last hearing. The state has already turned over all reports they had received and will deliver future reports within 10 days of receipt.
As far as bench notes were concerned, they are considered work product and not discoverable. Mr. Baez could request them from the FBI and if the FBI were willing to send them to him, he could have them.
The chain of custody documents are with the sheriff's office and keep changing. Mr. Baez was told he should feel free to request a copy from the sheriff's office.
The slides and the hair are currently in the possession of the FBI and not under the jurisdiction of the Florida courts.
The famous hair is also in question. It is still in Quantico in the possession of the FBI. If the defense wishes to have an expert there, he will have to make arrangements with the FBI. It was pointed out that it would be risky to ship it back and forth between Virginia and Orlando. Eventually, this evidence will be returned to Orange County and provided to the defense within 10 days.
Finally, the Oakridge Lab reports were brought up. It seems the lab is part of the Department of Energy and is a Federal entity. Baez wants access to documents including all reports and communications between Oakridge and the prosecution. The judge ordered all statements which were not work product to be turned over to the defense.
As the hearing finished, Ashton asked for a temporary gag order fearing a press conference on the courthouse steps. The judge refused to do so. Then, Ashton asked that both sides agree to be quiet until the judge ruled. I don't recall any response from Baez.
I'm sure I missed a bit, but I hope this is helpful to those who couldn't watch the hearing.
CNN Find Caylee Blog