Yesterday, the State of Florida, namely Frank George and Linda Drane Burdick, responded to a number of defense motions in limine. These were the motions that Ms. Drane Burdick had indicated the State would argue in written form. These motions are now in the hands of Judge Belvin Perry to decide.
The State Of Florida's Response To Defendant's Motions In Limine is one of the most beautifully written document thus far presented to the court. It clearly discusses the nature of prejudicial vs. probative testimony in a way any person who has never followed a case can learn a great deal. Replete with legal references, this is a must read for anyone following the case.
Unlike the defense motions which are sometimes confusing and difficult to fathom, the State lays out a large part of it's case loud and clear. The motion also is an educational primer for those of us who are not attorneys.
In the legal analysis of the case, the motion begins by saying that,
Because Miss Anthony is facing the death penalty if convicted of the crime of Murder in the First Degree, a significant number of the defendant's motions urge this Court to make rulings on evidentiary motions "in light of these stringent Due Process Standards established by the Supreme Court."...
However, the State then points out that while, indeed, "death is different",
...there is no case, that the undersigned is aware of, that suggests that the Rules of Evidence in the guilt phase of a First Degree Murder trial be abrogated or applied any differently because of the sanction the defendant is facing. Relevant evidence is relevant evidence despite the crime or the penalty. Hearsay is hearsay despite the crime or the penalty. Improper character evidence is improper character evidence despite the crime or the penalty.
In the case of the relevance of testimony, Casey Anthony is no different from any other person accused of a crime.
Mr. George and Ms. Drane Burdick then discuss the nature of the evidence. Unlike the defense, which has said that certain evidence does not prove or disprove any element of a crime, they state that these pieces of evidence is a link in a chain of circumstantial evidence that they will tie together to prove the case.
In the actual arguments on the motions, the State focuses on Casey Anthony's actions and demeanor during the days from Caylee's supposed "kidnapping" until the arrest on July 16, 2008. As Tony Rusciano's affair with Casey ended prior to Caylee's disappearance, the State has no interest in using it at trial.
Her relationship with Tony Lazzaro is a different story. Their relationship is important because at no time did Casey ever tell Tony that Caylee had been kidnapped. Her actions and demeanor during that time were not those of a woman whose child had disappeared from her life all of a sudden.
There is nothing prejudicial in introducing evidence that the defendant was having sex with her boyfriend. The level of intimacy implied by that relationship would raise in the juror's minds an expectation of trust between them, making her withholding of information about the kidnapping all the more implausible. The probative value of the evidence is not outweighed by unfair prejudice.
When it comes to the exclusion of Casey's lying and stealing, the State points out that "prior bad acts" may not be introduced unless the defense opens the door in by putting such evidence into testimony first.
While they essentially agree that the defense's "vague language" in the motion may fall under the rule, they also argue that
Alternatively, getting caught lying and stealing by her relatives may have provided motivation to the defendant to rid herself of the financial and social burden of raising a young child.
The argument continues,
They also argued that
...many acts of lying and, to a lesser extent, stealing are inextricably intertwined with the evidence of Miss Anthony's activities during the time frame listed in the indictment--June 16, 2008 to July 15, 2008. To exclude other wrongs or acts occurring during the relevant time frame would miss the fundamental connection between the crime, the concealment of the crime and the flight after the crime.
The State argues that Casey's stay with Tony (with the exception of the time he was in New York) was a form of "flight" to escape detection of the crime. Instead of returning home to be supported by her parents, Casey played "house" with Tony and lived off the money she stole. There is even a "sort of" compliment to Cindy Anthony which also points to Casey's lying and evasiveness as a form of avoiding the consequences of her actions.
...Cindy Anthony pursued the truth about the welfare of her "little angel" with the dogged determination of a police detective. Casey Anthony's efforts to thwart her mother's investigations are just as relevant to consciousness of guilt as her later attempt to thwart the investigation by law enforcement.
There follows a number of legal citations to reinforce their argument.
The response then moved on to the shovel testimony. In their motion, the defense had indicated that
Evidence that Ms. Anthony borrowed a shovel from her neighbor does not tend to prove any element of the offenses for which she is charged...
The State then laid out the entirety of Brian Burner's testimony that could be expected at trial. He will testify that he saw Casey back her car into the Anthony garage while her parents were gone and Caylee was not with her. On the second visit, she asked to borrow the shovel and returned it without much sign of use. They argue that this testimony is another link in the chain of testimony which makes up this case.
This discussion is well summed up with the following question to the court:
...Does the evidence of borrowing a shovel from the neighbor within two days of the child being missing have a tendency to render a proposition in issue--that it was borrowed with the intent to conceal the remains--more or less probable?
Again, the obvious answer is "yes."
The evidence of the tattoo and people who were around Casey when she had it done is discussed next. The State points out that Casey's demeanor was normal according to these witnesses. The nature of the tattoo, "Bella Vita", can be viewed as Casey's view of her now childless life or as an epitaph for Caylee.
When the State discusses the "Diary of Days" entry on Casey's MySpace, it points out that the content reflects her state of mind at the time and that
...the State believes that every act of Miss Anthony's between June 16 and July 15, 2008 is relevant to rebut her statements that Caylee Anthony was taken from her against her will on (or about) June 16, 2008 and that she was conducting her won investigation into her daughter's whereabouts.
The final argument is about Cindy Anthony's "My Caylee Is Missing" entry on MySpace. The State indicates that this evidence must be explained on the stand by Cindy when she testifies. As to it's content, the State cites Cindy's deposition. The State dismisses the defense argument by stating:
The posting is an untarnished view of the relationship that existed between Casey Anthony and her mother at the time of Caylee's "disappearance" and evidence of a desperate attempt by a grandmother to learn the fate of her grandchild. The posting is also relevant to show what Casey Anthony did or did not do in response to her mother's attempts to see Caylee.
If the content of the State's reply seems familiar to you, it should be. So many of us have discussed each and every one of these bits of evidence over the past two and a half years. There is nothing new or startling.
What is new, is that this is the first time we are hearing it from the State's Attorneys themselves. Reading this motion is reading portions of what will happen at trial. We can rest assured that the State's team of experienced attorneys is on top of their case and will be more than ready to begin May 9, 2011. All we must wait for are Judge Perry's decisions on these defense motions. If I put on my psychic hat, all I can envision is the word "denied".