I usually enjoy reading motions and picking them apart. The latest one, impressively titled DEFENDANT, CASEY MARIE ANTHONY'S MOTION TO DISQUALIFY TRIAL JUDGE, has knocked me for a loop. It has to be one of the craziest motions I have ever read.
Why do I think that? Well, for one thing, I have watched every hearing for the case and reported back here at T&T since August 12, 2008. I have watched Judge Stan Strickland work through so many motions with the patience of Job. He has tried to steer Jose Baez through the process at the same time. As far as I can tell, as a layman, the judge has been more than generous with the defense. He has ruled to the letter of the law and when a motion hasn't met it, he has often advised Baez on how to get what he wants in an appropriate manner.
Now, the defense doesn't want him on the case and has come up with some interesting reasons. From what I've read across the Internet since this motion saw light of day at the close of court, the defense must file such a motion within 10 days of becoming aware of the situation.
The main reason given in this motion has to do with a fellow-blogger, Marinade Dave.
The precipitating grounds for disqualification is the revelation that the judge has apparently developed a personal relationship with journalist/blogger known fictitiously as "Marinade Dave", who has historically presented numerous stories of severe bias and prejudice against the defendant.
This so-called "relationship" consists of a brief chat at the bench at the end of a hearing and a phone call to wish him well after a medical procedure. Apparently, the judge had seen the blog and declared it one of the most balanced.
I read over at Dave's and find him to be quite balanced. He's been one who tells people not to be so judgmental and shows a great deal of compassion for the Anthony family. In terms of his blog, the terms "severe" and "prejudice" against Ms. Anthony are laughable. They even include three examples for the judge to consider. It's too bad the motion only includes them at the end and fails to discuss the content of the articles, only the titles. Had they read them, they would know that "Casey Anthony must die!" compares many people in the Internet world who are full of blood-lust, much as the Romans at the Colosseum calling for the blood of the Christians.
That chat at the bench occurred last October. Isn't that more than 10 days ago? Oh! It was less than 10 days ago that Dave agreed to be interviewed by defense investigator Jeremiah Lyons. The phone call to Dave occurred in February, more than 10 days ago. All right, somebody must have tipped the defense off that Dave had received the call.
What does this prove? Well, I read all sorts of blogs while following the case. I read the Casey-lovers blogs, I read the Casey-hater blogs, I read a few message boards as well. I'm intelligent enough to figure out which is which and I'm certainly intelligent enough to know the biases of each-and-every one of them. Just because I read them, my personal perception of the case is not changed. I want to know all the information that is "out there" and where various people and groups stand on the case.
I'm sure that Judge Strickland is a whole lot smarter than I am. He knows the law and rules by law. No journalist/blogger is going to sway his legal judgement. In this sense, this motion is an attack on Judge Strickland's professionalism and his intelligence
While discussing blogs, we all know how the defense feels about the vast majority of them. They believe that the vast Internet is a good reason for a change of venue. In that motion and others, the defense has included copies of websites and website references. In order to read the entire motion, the judge is literally forced to go to the Internet to read the cited references! In fact, the defense, in the Memorandum attached to the motion, has the following:
...By January of 2009, eleven out of Marinade Dave's fifteen posts during the month were about Miss Anthony's case. See Dave Knechel, "entries from January, 2009", Marinade Dave's Mindblogging, "Available at http://marinadedave.worldpress.com/2009/01/"
That sends Strickland back to the blog!
There are also accusations in the Memorandum which were not mentioned in the motion proper. One cites the comment Strickland made at the bond hearing on July 22, 2008.
"...the truth and Miss Anthony are strangers.
What is omitted from this quote is the key information, the beginning of the quote. At that point in time, Strickland had to set her bond. He indicated that his decision had been based on the fact that Casey had provided no truthful information to LE to help find her missing child. There was the trip to Sawgrass Apartments and Universal studios. Casey herself, in the interview she did with Detectives Allen and Melich, admitted that she had lied about everything, well, according to her, ALMOST everything. In my opinion, the judge was just stating what the defendant herself had told LE.
The Memorandum also mentions Strickland's complaint to the bar about Baez and that he was completely cleared of the charges. As I recall, the decision was that there wasn't enough evidence to prove the allegations.
The defense also accuses the judge of making:
... off the record comments to both the prosecution and Miss Anthony's defense lawyers that he (the judge would like to wait until after his re-election is over to set the trial in Miss Anthony's case...
If what is alleged in the memorandum is true, I have to wonder why Baez didn't file a motion in July, 2008, after the bond hearing.
If what is alleged in the memorandum is true, I have to wonder why Baez didn't file a motion within 10 days of hearing the judge make the statement about waiting until re-election to hold the trial. According to the accusation, both the defense attorneys and the State's attorney's heard it and, as officers of the court, they would have had to testify truthfully to what they heard.
If any lawyer is out there reading this, please tell me: Does the judge have to consider these two allegations which are NOT in the actual motion?
THE WAITING GAME
Judge Strickland now has 30 days to make the decision to stay or withdraw from the case. If he leaves, the defense will have a new judge. If he stays, they can cite every decision he makes from now through the trial as a reason for appeal. He's really stuck between a rock and a hard place.
Regardless of his decision, I believe the main issue here is not the judge's impartiality, but the reason for the motion.
Does the defense really want Strickland off the case? Two local attorneys who have provided legal opinions to the media have stated that it is a bad move by the defense.
WFTV cites legal analyst Bill Sheaffer agrees, saying the motion is a mistake because Knechel is not directly involved in the case. Sheaffer said the defense could not ask for a more impartial, patient or fair judge.
WESH led off with the headline:
Attorney: Anthony Judge Recusal Defense's Worst Move
The article went on to cite legal analyst Richard Hornsby.
There is little doubt that one day the defense will look back on the motion (as) the worst move they've made," Hornsby said. "Judge Strickland has previously shown a fairness to Casey in the way he sentenced her in the check case, and now they don't know who their judge will be.
Hornsby said the No. 1 rule in criminal defense is to know the judge presiding over the trial.
Why change judges this late in the case? I've been wracking my brain for a good reason and have come up with a couple.
1. With J. Cheney Mason now on the team as "for all intents and purposes", lead attorney, he wants a do-over on motions that have been filed and denied by Strickland.
2. Mason wants Strickland to stay on the case, but hold the decision over his head in the hopes of better rulings in the future.
If you have any ideas, I would like to hear them. Please, though, no bashing!