Friday, October 16, 2009
It was not a smooth day in court today for those of us who watched it on InSession or live-streamed. The first part of the hearing was blacked out due to feed problems. Fortunately, I've been able to fill in the blanks from the media accounts and reporting by the wonderful Beth Karas. Prior to the hearing it was announced that the Motion To Dismiss Due To Spoliation Of Evidence would not be heard today since the defense had not provided a witness list.
On September 10, the State filed a Motion To Compel Reciprocal Discovery concerning defense attorney Todd Macaluso's claims at the August 21 hearing that the defense had "substantial evidence" that the body of Caylee Anthony had been placed in its final location while Casey Anthony was in jail. Macaluso added that the defense had "substantial evidence" that Casey Anthony was innocent. In their motion, the State requested a witness list of those who would testify to these facts. According to the Orlando Sentinel,
Strickland ordered the defense to provide a witness list to the state by Feb. 1 or else explain why it can't do so. Prosecutors want to interview the witnesses who can support the defense’s claim.
Based on the ongoing media presence of members of the defense team, it appears to me that they are making broad statements about the evidence, but are loathe to disclose any specific evidence to the State to back up their claims. More than once, Jose Baez has stated that what the defense has to support their claims will come out at the trial. Likewise, Baez has frequently stated that Casey Anthony had "compelling reasons" she had acted as she did and it would come out at the trial. Unfortunately, Baez and his defense team is required to provide reciprocal discovery prior to the trial. While I can respect that the defense wants to keep as much information as possible in their pocket, it is necessary to disclose information to support their motions.
Next, Judge Stan Strickland addressed the State’s Motion to Strike Defendant’s Legally Flawed Motion to Dismiss Counts I and II.
In their original motion, the defense had argued that the judge should dismiss Count I (murder charge) because,
Even viewed in the light most favorable to the prosecution, the undisputed facts of this case show that the prosecution cannot prove its prima facie case for first degree murder.
The defense, in support of dropping Count II (the child abuse charges) indicated that,
There is no evidence showing that Miss Anthony ever harmed Caylee Anthony. In fact, the facts show that Miss Anthony was a good mother and provided Caylee Anthony with a safe and secure living environment.
The prosecution came back with their motion to strike indicating that it was legally flawed for a number of reasons.
The defense's Addendum filed October 6, included the same vague language as the original motion and included a sworn statement by Casey Anthony which stated,
I, Casey Marie Anthony, do hereby swear and affirm that the matters contained in the (sic) her previously filed Motion to Dismiss Counts I and II of the Indictment, and this Addendum, are true to the best of my knowledge and belief.
I do hereby swear to the following:
1. I did not report my daughter missing until my mother called on July 15th 200.
2. I did tell law enforcement that I had dropped off my child with a person named Zenaida Fernandez Gonzalez when questioned by Law Enforcement.
In court, Linda Drane Burdick attacked both the original motion and the addendum. She told the court that the addendum was as flawed as the original motions. She stated that having beliefs or believing someone would testify to something wasn't appropriate in a motion. In addition, she pointed out that the motion and addendum contained no facts and use such terms as "allegedly" and "reportedly". She also indicated that the motion was essentially a farce and full of impermissible language. It's my opinion she totally slammed the defense in her presentation. If she was correct, there was nothing permissible in the entire motion and addendum.
Defense attorney Andrea Lyon spoke on behalf of the defense. She indicated that the Florida legislature never intended for a person to swear to something of which they had no knowledge. She also said that the motion contained sworn police reports and self-authenticating documents. She indicated that Casey Anthony could not swear to information in reports such as those of the medical examiner.
She also indicated that some of the arguments in the State's response were more appropriate to a demurrer. She asked the judge to dismiss the Motion to Strike and allow the State to come back with a demurrer if they chose and then set another hearing date. She indicated that it was a simple matter.
Judge Strickland added a slight bit of humor by wondering if the matter were so simple, why was he having a hard time with it. He indicated that since he had not had the opportunity to read all the defense material, he would rule on it later today.
Later, Strickland did rule, granting the State's motion. In his decision, Strickland stated that,
...While the lengthy motion is both thoughtful and interesting, it does not meet the requirements of Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.190(c)(4) which allows a defendant to move for dismissal alleging that there are no material disputed facts, and the undisputed facts do not establish a prima facia case of guilt against the defendant. While certain facts are undisputed, the bulk of the material facts are disputed.
The motion was granted without prejudice, so I would imagine the defense will be back when they have some facts to offer and Casey Anthony can swear to them. For the time being, Counts I and II remain firmly in place.
Next up was a motion I never got around to discussing. It was filed by the defense on October 12, and I thought I had some more time to read it and digest its content. However, the defense Motion To Modify Order Compeling(sic) Access To Crime Scene Photographs For Defense Experts ties directly to the motions on "spoliation" not discussed today. Apparently, the defense experts are having a difficult time working with the photographs of the remains. They are unable to have hard copies of them or to manipulate them as they need to conduct their investigations.
This is one motion I had mixed feelings about. As Drane Burdick indicated at the hearing, the main concern was that if the defense experts were out of state they would not be easily held liable for unexpected dissemination to the tabloid media. Once a disk was in the hands of the experts, there would be the possibility that someone could steal it or make unauthorized copies and make a small fortune. The thought of pictures of what little remained of Caylee Anthony after so many months in the elements getting out into the public is totally abhorrent to me.
On the other hand, I want Casey Anthony to have the best possible defense. I want the defense experts to have every opportunity to study the pictures for themselves under the best of circumstances. I want future defense motions to be based on solid, factual information that can be rationally discussed in the pre-trial hearings.
Judge Strickland did grant the motion. He will allow Baez and Lyon to have copies of the disk burned and personally delivered to the experts. With that decision, the defense team has taken on the mighty burden of protecting the privacy of Caylee Anthony. I hope that they do.
I would like to cite what to me was an electrifying moment in the discussion of the photographs.
Judge Strickland: State, your principle objection is just that the nature of the photos and to protect the family even though they're on the other side of the fence, right?
Linda Drane Burdick: No, I, actually my position is not to protect the family, my position is to protect the child who is deceased....
When she made that statement I am told by those who attended the hearing that Cindy Anthony began to say something and was restrained by her husband, George. Casey has a visible reaction to the comment and was comforted by Andrea Lyon.
I give kudos here to Ms. Drane Burdick. She made it clear to one and all that her one and only concern as a State's Assistant Attorney is to stand up for Caylee Anthony and getting justice for her.
Shortly after granting the motion, the hearing broke up. As people were milling around, it was amusing to hear Judge Strickland ask to see the man in the second row with the striped gray shirt. It turns out it was Marinade Dave! We should be hearing about his experiences soon, so do check out his blog for his take on the hearing and his meeting with Judge Strickland.
Video of the hearing
One additional note: Judge Strickland has set January 25, 2010 as the date for Casey's check fraud trial. He also set December 18 for a status hearing. I will post about this trial and the motions for it once I've had a chance to wade through them.