Monday, June 21, 2010
Judge Belvin Perry, Jr. conducted a brief status hearing in Casey Anthony's murder trial. The courtroom was nearly empty. Cindy and George Anthony did not attend. Casey Anthony did not attend. Jose Baez wasn't at the defense table. It fell to the newest attorney on the case, Cheney Mason, to represent the defense. Linda Drane Burdick and Jeff Ashton were representing the State of Florida.
As is typical in Judge Perry's courtroom, the hearing began at 1:30 PM sharp. The judge immediately got down to the business at hand.
First on the agenda was the discovery of expert witnesses. Judge Perry asked defense where they were in that regard.
Mason replied that the defense has scheduled depositions July 13, 14, and 15 in Tennessee withe Oak Ridge Lab experts. He also indicated that the defense had taken more depositions since they last saw him and that here here haven't been any problems with expert witnesses showing up. He did ramble on a bit about some experts who had not been scheduled pending decisions on motions, names Baez had given him. It was very hard to follow, but it was clear that there were more that need to be scheduled. There was also some talk of a document the judge might have to sign, but the defense would know that soon.
As for the prosecution, Jeff Ashton stated that they had not had any problems with expert witnesses, but they had some that had not yet been scheduled, one in Indiana, three in Gainsville, and three in Orlando. He also said that there might be some FBI personnel who would be deposed, but was unsure at this time. He indicated that he would be away during a week in July, but that the Oak Ridge depositions were set for July. The rest would have to be scheduled. The State had hoped to do some of these depositions in May and June, but they just didn't happen.
The judge went on to ask Mason if there were any problems with law enforcement personnel depositions. Perry said, "none at all".
Judge Perry then asked Linda Drane Burdick if the prosecution had gone to the Sheriff's Office to review the records to assure that all of them had been turned over to the State. She replied that Yuri Melich had turned over all the material on disks, and that she had done so only in the situation with the tips. Judge Perry indicated to her that he did not want any problems with material in the Sheriff's Office not being complete. Drane Burdick indicated that she would do so.
Judge Perry is an extremely thorough judge and clearly shows his background as a former prosecutor. He mentioned another case in which this situation had occurred and documents had come out at the last moment.
As many of us who are avid trial watchers know, this can be the kiss of death if conviction occurs and previously "unknown" law enforcement documents are suddenly found and cause a serious delay in a trial or a conviction to be overturned. Kudos to Judge Perry who wants the outcome of this case to be based on complete discovery.
Judge Perry then moved on to the non-expert and non-law enforcement witnesses.
Cheney Mason simply stood up and said, "not yet".
For the prosecution, there were some problems. Linda Drane Burdick indicated that they had yet to receive a witness list from the defense. They had, however, spent the last six months attempting to depose witnesses listed in pleadings for deposition. She said that her assistants had spent the prior six months trying to get cooperation from out-of-state lawyers. Judge Perry reminded everyone that August 31 was the deadline for witness lists, with the exception of experts.
Think of it this way: no witness list, no deposition, NO WITNESS!
Judge Perry asked Mason if the defense planned to wait until the deadline to provide a witness list or if he would do it sooner. Mason gave his now-familiar chuckle and asked the judge if he was trying to "put him on the spot". Perry indicated that perhaps Mason was not prepared to discuss the issue at this point, and Mason took the easy way out and agreed. Perry again reminded him of the deadline.
At this point, I'd like to remind everyone that, in the two years this case has been going on, the defense has only provided a witness list with THREE names of experts (who at this time have not completed their work) and the entire prosecution witness list as their own. Anyone not on the State witness they intend to call must be submitted to the Court by August 31.
Judge Perry briefly mentioned that the defense had replied to the response by the State of the defense death penalty motions. At this point, all that is left is for the judge to rule on them. Mason replied, "the correct way". Perry chortled and told Mason that, "correct or incorrect, Mr. Mason, it's all in the eye of the beholder and ultimately the Florida Supreme Court."
I have to interject here that, absent the defendant and Jose Baez, I saw an easy banter between Judge Perry and Cheney Mason. This had not been apparent before, but obviously, the stress level in the courtroom was much lower than we have seen before.
Next under discussion was the status of the motions which are "ripe" for hearing. The first discussed was the one concerning the 911 calls. For more information on those motions, read HERE. Last Friday, the defense filed an addition to their motion to exclude the calls. It has apparently cited Cindy Anthony's statement on Good Morning America as well as depositions taken on Thursday.
Judge Perry indicated that both sides had submitted their memorandums for the 911 tape motion. He mentioned the pleading by the defense that was submitted on Friday. Apparently, the defense mentioned in that pleading that they wanted a hearing on the motion. Mason indicated that the reason the motion was filed on Friday was due to the depositions on Thursday and believed that there would be disagreement with the prosecution about the facts cited. He suggested that the motion could be heard along with the TES motion on the 15th of July.
Linda Drane Burdick responded that the facts of the motion had not changed due to the depositions. She indicated that the statement Cindy Anthony made on Friday was not new, that she had made a similar statement in her deposition. She also said that there was nothing new in the depositions of her co-workers in their depositions. The argument, she stated, was not as to the facts of what was said, but the interpretation of her statements and how they apply to the law, "where there is little dispute".
The judge then asked Mason if he wanted to present hearings and Mason said that they were the witnesses who had given statements and had now been deposed. He also indicated that if the state stipulated to those statements, there was no excited utterance! He mentions that Cindy got the car, went back to work, spoke to others about it...
Mason told the judge his arguments would be based on Crawford vs. Washington and other case law.
Drane Burdick responded to that by saying that it was obvious that the defense hadn't understood her reply to their motion. She was willing to approach the issue by either pleadings or an open court hearing. She added that the defense had filed a blanket motion to exclude the calls and had not allowed for the possibility of allowing in only portions of the tapes. She asked if that were so, the defense would need to file a separate motion concerning the redaction of the tapes.
Judge Perry indicated to Mason, as he argued his point, that it seemed that Mr. Baez felt that none of the content was admissible. Jeff Ashton said, "not even Casey's part?" which would clearly be admissible!
In the end, Perry added the motion to the agenda for the 15th of July.
Next up was the issue of the motion to admit prior bad acts by Roy Kronk. That one has been out there since November 19th, 2009. Of the people mentioned in that motion, only Jill Kerley has been deposed, due to her ill health. Brandon and Crystal Sparks, who are Roy's ex-wife and son are two of the out-of state witnesses mentioned earlier by Linda Drane Burdick whose lawyers are helping them dodge the depositions.
Cheney Mason indicated that this motion was "before his involvement" and he wasn't prepared to argue it. Linda Drane Burdick stated that the July 15 hearing date wouldn't be appropriate for the motion because the people involved were not on the witness list. She again pointed out that her staff had spent six months trying to pin down these witnesses for deposition and that their lawyers were fighting it based on the laws of their state.
Again, the state needed these people to be officially on the witness list so that the prosecution could procure an out-of-state subpoena.
Judge Perry then announce that by July 6, noon, the "defense will hereby file a witness list of the witnesses to prove up the motion or it will be stricken without prejudice. Cheney Mason then asked for a sidebar and all parties approached the bench. When it concluded, the judge extended the date to July 12, at noon.
Drane Burdick indicated that she wanted to have the witnesses subpoenaed in August and have a hearing on the motion heard in September.
The judge took a bit of time here to say that he wanted all the non-expert issues to be dealt with prior to the fall, when he expects to hold hearings on the scientific issues. He wants both sides to have adequate time for trial preparation and to deal with "unexpected things that pop up".
The final motion discussed was the one concerning spoliation of evidence which was originally filed September 17, 2009. Jeff Ashton indicated that the problem was that the defense had yet to supply a witness list for this issue and the prosecution had not been able to depose them.
That was it for today. There was a great deal discussed in those 30 minutes!
I have to say, this hearing provided a great deal of information that will help us all focus on the case throughout the summer and fall. For sure, the hearing on July 15 will be another hum-dinger. We will be hearing both the TES motion and the 911 call arguments.
As I finish this article, WFTV has posted some terrific links. I haven't had a chance to check them out yet. Let's see how much I got right!
RAW VIDEO: Status Hearing
RAW INTERVIEW: Casey's Attorney Talks To WFTV
BILL SHEAFFER: Talks About Status Hearing
DOCUMENT: Motion To Hear 911 Call
CINDY'S 911 CALLS: Dead Body | Turn In Casey | Caylee Gone