Monday, January 3, 2011

Perry Sanctions The Defense In The Casey Anthony Murder Case

Yesterday's hearing was for all of us who have been wondering when Chief Judge Belvin Perry, Jr. would bring down the Wrath of the Court on Jose Baez and his defense team for their blatant disregard of deadlines set by the judge. We were not disappointed!

Perry strode into the courtroom at 1:30 PM sharp and, after the usual formalities, called for the State's Motion for Sanctions.

Assistant State's Attorney Jeff Ashton rose to speak to his motion and essentially vented the State's frustration with the defense's total disregard of court ordered deadlines for discovery.

Ashton began his eighteen minute presentation by reviewing the guidelines the court follows in determining if there are reasons for sanctions: Was there a violation of a court order or rules of discovery? Was the violation willful or inadvertent? What an appropriate sanction should be.

As defense attorneys Cheney Mason, Jose Baez, and their client looked on, Jeff Ashton discussed the Order of December 10, which was very clear in what was expected to be provided by the defense. Ashton pointed out that, first of all, the response was provided to the court a day late. Ashton described the document as "woefully and deliberately" falling far short of the court's order. He then went through the list of experts and explained why he believed they were inadequate. For Dr. Lee, would "rebut any false claims" made by prosecution witnesses. Ashton then indicated that the defense had taken depositions from these people and should certainly know what "false claims" they had made. The same was true for a number of other witnesses on the defense list. He called the claim by the defense that there are no opinions from the various experts was "disingenuous" and "a deliberate violation of the court's order". Ashton pointed out that they had already deposed two of the experts (and therefore must know some of their opinions), yet Baez used the same old "rebut false claims".

Personally, the term "false claim" much used by Mr. Baez is disingenuous in itself. He is claiming that the testimony is going to be false as opposed to true. It makes it sound as though all the State's expert witnesses are going to get on the stand and tell a pack of lies. That's a far cry from an educated difference of opinion between experts. However, for Baez to have written that, he would to have heard real opinions from his experts, which is what the judge ordered.

With Drs. Furton and Logan, Ashton said that what Baez had written in his motion was far different from what he had originally been told. The current motion is vague and the prosecution has absolutely no idea as to what areas would be testified to.

Next, Ashton addressed the history of the defense in terms of meeting deadlines for court orders for discovery. He brought up the motion for discovery in October 2009 made after the statements by Todd Macaluso, who claimed there were 100 or so witnesses to the "fact" that Caylee's body was placed in it's final resting place in the swamp after Casey was in jail. The defense was ordered to provide the State with a list of witnesses or evidence to back up the claim. Not only did the defense miss the deadline, they never submitted the information ordered by the court. (I think their blitz of TES searchers means they still haven't found those 100!)

Ashton also brought up the March 2010 and September 2010 orders about the various discovery deadline. He reminded Judge Perry of the number of times he had reinforced the importance of the deadlines and the number of times the defense asked for extensions.

Then, there was the issue that Baez had said he had no reports and it turned out there was one by Dr. Jane Bock. (Okay, the defense keeps calling it an affidavit; Bock called it a report.)

The defense did complete the depositions of the experts on time, but only after much prodding by the State. Evidence reviews which were supposed to be completed by October 31 still aren't done. Dr. Huntington still hasn't finished looking at the bugs. The DNA isn't done yet. Motions concerning scientific evidence that were supposed to be filed by October 31 were filed late in the day on December 31st. For those, the defense gave no explanation or good cause. Also, he pointed out that there was a court order for witness lists to be provided prior to hearings and he has none for the 22 motions the defense wants to hear today. (There are more examples he gave, but I think you get the idea.)

By this time, Ashton was well wound up and told Judge Perry that they had let all these violations go, but, at this point, the State needed to take action. He indicated that although all the deadlines had passed, Baez was still planning on doing depositions, regardless of what Perry had ordered.

Ashton did have compliments for Ann Finnell for being on time with her discovery!

Essentially, Ashton doesn't want Casey's case harmed and feels that in order for her to receive a fair trial, the court needs to take the most drastic step: Civil Contempt. For the same reason, he did not want to exclude witnesses. (I hope Casey got a twinge of an idea that her "boys" have not always worked for her benefit with all of this nonsense.)

Ashton summarized the defense as showing "deliberate, willful, contemptuous behavior", that they will do discovery their way and ignore the court orders. Therefore, sanctions are appropriate.

He urged Judge Perry to fine Baez, as he is the responsible party, $500/day until they comply with the order. If the judge feels others are responsible, fine them too. (Funny, I had the exact same idea, down to the amount per day!) Further he asked that none of the motions involving the discovery in question be held until the order is complied with, and if never complied with, the motions should never be heard.

I was surprised to see Cheney Mason stand to represent the defense. What followed was a defense of the defense worthy of Jose Baez himself.

Mason started out by saying he took "great umbrage" at Ashton's presentation. Then, waving a paper and a CD, saying that they had just received 1000 pages of discovery from the State! (Later on, Ashton pointed out that there had been no additional scientific discovery from the prosecution since last May.) He also said that since the order was in place, the defense had received, on three occasions thousands and thousands of pages of discovery.

Judge Perry steered him back to the topic at hand.

He then started talking about the 130 depositions they have taken (and which Baez and others on the team could have done in the previous two years). According to Mason, there just aren't enough hours in a day to do it all. He rambled on about talking to his wife about it, checking his calendar, 600 hours.

Next, he was talking about a motion they filed to get money for the Tennessee transcripts which hasn't been heard yet. He then goes on a rant about how he had to pay his own way to Knoxville while the prosecution attorneys had their expenses paid by the State. (We've heard this before, haven't we?)

Judge Perry steered him back to the topic at hand, again.

When the judge said that it had nothing to do with the matter at hand, Mason argued that it did.

Judge Perry then asked Mason about the information about Dr. Fairgrieve and Dr. Bock that had been ordered to be turned over by noon, December 14 and wasn't turned over until 10:05 AM, December 15. Did he know why that was? Mason said he didn't know the reason and argued Dr. Bock's report was really an affidavit and he knows it didn't get there before closing time but got there the next morning. Mason then hesitated and said that there could not be any prejudice because of that.

Judge Perry then asked, "Why did he miss the deadline?".

Mason answered that he didn't know the reason.

Judge Perry (now sounding a bit annoyed) said that they should ask him at a later point.

With that, Jose Baez was heard to say, "I'll answer that, judge.".

Baez then said that he had to get all the proper CV's from the experts, he didn't have all the documentation at that time, but he filed it ALL, the very next day. (Reminder, that's why we were having this motion heard. ALL he had was woefully inadequate, according to Mr. Ashton.)

Judge Perry then asked, "Did you ask for or request or ask for an extension of time?"

Baez responded, "No, I didn't because I didn't expect that it wouldn't arrive on time. I diligently went ahead and got every single expert even though...."

Judge Perry asked Baez if, when he realized he wasn't going to get the material in time, "did it occur to you that you should seek an extension of time?".

Baez answered, "No, I thought that there would be no prejudice so I went ahead and...".

At this point, Judge Perry interrupted Baez with a, "No, no, no." . He continued on, pointing out that the order had stated the paperwork was due by 12 PM, "did that not mean anything to you?".

Baez answered, "Absolutely, it meant something.".

Having finally got the message across to Baez that deadlines mean something, Perry turned off the heat and returned to Mr. Mason.

Mason then went on and on again about the Knoxville experience and the problem with the court reporter.

By now, I thought I was in a parallel universe. Where Cheney Mason should have been trying to extricate Mr. Baez from the quagmire he had just created by his responses to the judge, which showed how little he was concerned about court ordered deadlines, he went on about matters having absolutely nothing to do with the Motion for Sanctions.

I suppose, out of sheer desperation to get back on track, the judge had a discussion with Mr. Mason about the tape recording, and so on. Mason came back with the fact that the tape recording wasn't "official" and so on.

Perry again steered Mason back to the Motion for Sanctions.

Apparently, Mason believes that the lack of that transcript was one of the causes of their problem. The defense couldn't supply information on ALL the experts that the court had ordered because they didn't have that transcript which pertains to two of their witnesses!

Mason then went off on a tangent about the unfairness of the finances, that the State has no budged and doesn't have to go to the JAC for their money and Mr. Ashton could bring a law professor with him... and so on and so on and again.

I could see that Judge Perry was getting restless with all of this, he started fiddling with his hands and looking in every direction but at Mason.

Then, Mason went on to discuss the motions that were filed late. He told the judge that he wasn't there (and appropriately so) the last week of December and that his JA had told him to set the hearing for January 3.

At this point, Mason is trying to put the blame on Judge Perry! Mind you, this is a hearing about a Motion for Sanctions and the defense knew full well that in order for a motion to be heard by December 31, (courts are closed that day, they should know that, too) they would to have been filed no later than the beginning of December. The State needs time to reply, a hearing date needs to be set. Even I, who am not an attorney can figure that out! At this point, Mason is digging the hole a lot deeper.

Judge Perry was clearly peeved by this. He said, "You were not here, Mr. Mason, but when we had the hearing at 5 o'clock... and I told Mr. Baez, on several occasions during that hearing, that I was NOT going to be here that last week..." Perry went on to tell Mason that he even offered two days the prior week to hear motions at 5 o'clock because he was in two different civil hearings.

Once again, the defense never responded to the offer, just as the court heard nothing about the tape recording transcripts the judge had previously offered. Perry then told Mason to go on... he seemed resigned to having to listen to more of Mr. Mason's non-defense of the motion at hand.

Instead, Mason responded rather snottily that HE had been in trial that week in THIS courthouse.

Finally, Mason got to his defense saying that they knew about the motions and had done the best they could. He went on about the heavy burden of the depositions again. He whined about the thousands and thousands of pages of discovery (and would have whined even more if he hadn't received them).

Then, I do believe that Mr. Mason hammered in the last nail of the defense team's coffin. He didn't feel there was a need for sanctions. He said they should ALL calm down and get to the business of the case. He said, "I only want to try this case ONE time." He was indicating to the Judge that the sanctions, or the inability of the defense to have all their motions heard could force a mistrial or an overturn of a guilty verdict due to judicial error. He also tossed a mention of Texas Equusearch in when he said that the State had some depositions to do now that they had INVESTIGATED the searchers! He also said he felt that even with the untimely depositions the defense had yet to do and untimely motions to be heard that they were on track and that the trial would take place on time. Mason babbled on, repeating things he had said earlier and even tried to convince the judge that the defense had indeed met all the criteria for the order. He felt they did not need to turn over the details of the expert testimony since the experts wouldn't know what they would say until the heard what the State's experts heard.

Mason finally finished up his ramblings and Judge Perry made his ruling.

There will be no trial by ambush, Rule 3.220 Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure precludes that. The judge pointed out that it is the right of the defense not to file reports. However, the defense never provided the information which would make them be in compliance with that rule. He found the defense filing did not meet the requirements of the order.

The Court found that there was willful violation of the Court's Order. It is highly unlikely that the defense does not know what their experts will be testifying to.

The judge deemed there would be sanctions.

1. The defense has 7 days to turn over reports from their experts which contain the opinions
they will testify to and their reasons for them.
2. They will include any data or information the experts used in forming the conclusions.
3. Opinions not expressed in the reports or depositions will not be allowed in at trial
4. Jose Baez, as lead attorney will pay all State costs incurred including time and reasonable
attorneys' fees.

For me, this was the most important hearing to date. Finally, it has been made clear to the defense that there will be no more disregarding rules. They will meet deadlines. Judge Perry gave them every chance to comply and they ignored every opportunity.

I look forward to hearing your opinions about the sanctions portion of the hearing. For me, Mr. Ashton was organized and focused on a goal. The defense was rambling and whining when they should be concentrating on defending Ms. Anthony with a cogent defense.

I will deal with the rest of the motions after a good day's rest. One thing is for sure, they are a lot easier to follow and report on!


donchais said...

The sanctions part of the hearing was by far, the best! 'bout time!

Anonymous said...

I thoroughly enjoyed watching this hearing, aka the Baez slap down! What arrogance! I also applaud JPs handling of Mason's other whinings: turn off your microphone...change desks if you're worried about cameras in the courtroom. Geez, Mason! You really have to be told to turn off your mic? Can only speculate what might have been said during the confidential discussion with JP, CM, JB, and the court reporter (a trained one at that!).
Now let's see if yesterday woke up the defense team or whether those $500/day fines are forthcoming. What was that "heads up" from JP about other attornies out there making a living recovering state costs? I'm foggy about this but even I got the message.

FRG said...


What a wonderful article! You are the best!

You gotta love Mr. Ashton! He was, as usual, very straight to the point and he knows what he is doing. Kudos to him!

Well, when CM accepted the case, KC was indigent, wasn't she? Then, what's he talking about? He accepted to work pro-bono, didn't he?

I have learned a lot about defense's antics... when you have no defense, you whine or say:

We have gotten more than 6,000 pages of discovery to sort out,
Complain about the money you spent from your own pocket,
You were not at that hearing,
Play deaf,
Play dumb,
Take umbrage for you colleague,
Talk about your wife,
You say we are working diligently (insert rolling eyes here),
Change the subject and say it's TES's fault,
Take offense of a lowlife blogger wrote on some blog and challenge the person so we will keep talking about it a little bit more,
Play deaf once more,
Blame the court's photographer,
Blame the Judge for being on vacation,
Say you don't know,
Admit you are really mad the Prosecutors are being paid and you are not,
And at last resort, you make a bigger fool of yourself and answer to Your Honor "absolutely, it meant something" and ask for 30 days more to do what you had to be done, didn't do it and has been sanctioned for that. Geesh!!


I am sure I missed something! LOL

BTW, why was JB hiding behind his desk and didn't argue the Motion for Sanctions? I think I do know, he was not brave enough to take responsibility of his actions, or inactions for that matter.

KC still seems oblivious to her situation, if she didn't get it by now JB is not working in her best interest then she is a really a big dumb! She got what she deserves, didn't she?

Ritanita, I am lost as far as the fines go, did you figure that out?

Did you notice that JP reminded the defense of Curtis Jackson's letter? Do you think that Your Honor did that to be on the record so KC would have grounds for an appeal, if this is indeed grounds for an appeal.

FRG said...


I was trying to figure out who JB was looking alike... You know he had a new haircut... It is a Kewpie doll! I couldn't help myself sorry! *wink wink*

Anonymous said...

I haven't seen any of Mr. Mason's his previous work, but comments here seem to imply that his current actions are not in line with a level of professionalism he has shown in the past. If that is the case, I wonder if Mr. Mason is beginning to suffer from some form of early dementia?

ritanita said...

FRG, great analysis! As far as the fine goes, Mr. Baez will have to pay that with his own money. The amount will be decided after the prosecution adds up the cost of the motion in terms of time it took to prepare and present in court. I have no idea what that amount could be. Once they submit it to the court, Baez will have a chance to get it changed. After that, he owes the State of Florida some money.

Anonymous, I've only seen Mr. Mason in action in one trial. I wouldn't fathom a guess as to his physical/mental health.

I've just finished sorting out the motions and am getting ready to write a new article about all the motions. I hope to have it up tonight or early tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

I always wait for your articles after a hearing. You cut to the chase & make it easier for me to understand exactly what happened. Finally, a Judge made more than empty threats against the defense.

But will Baez be sanctioned & pay fines? I t seems the $500.00 a day propsal by Jeff ashton will not go into affect from what I could gather yesterday...thanks.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for this explicit, insightful synopsis, as I unfortunately missed the hearing.

Also, thank you for keeping us up-to-date and sorting this out for us (if that's even possible with this circus!).

I still can't understand why Bozo is handling this case this way. Is it sheer incompetence or a planned, maneuvered strategy?