Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Casey Anthony Murder Trial: Jury Selection Day 8

We started the day with 17 jurors selected. Judge Perry said last night that they would interview about three more jurors and the attorneys could then exercise their peremptory strikes. The question as we started was: How many jurors would be left standing at the end of the day? Perry also said he would add one peremptory strike for each alternate.

Judge Perry also indicated last night that they may not seat 8 alternates. I always thought that was a larger number than necessary, since this trial is supposed to last 6-8 weeks.

Casey Anthony entered the courtroom wearing a pastel pink sweater-blouse combination over gray slacks. She seemed very chipper as she prepared for Day 8 of jury selection.

The session was called to order at 8:32.

Judge Perry asked if the state wanted to strike any jurors. Jeff Ashton said the name of the juror in seat number 6. Ashton accidentally said the person’s name, but didn’t help us much by not using the four digit number!

The defense renewed their objection for cause for this juror, but Judge Perry refused. They struck juror number 1129.

Linda Drane asked for juror 1407 to be stricken.

Baez accidentally attempted to strike the judge which caused laughter. He struck juror 1232. Jeff Ashton challenged that he was the only Hispanic in the pool. Baez refused to stipulate that the last name indicated that the juror is Hispanic.

Judge Perry but sustained the challenge and the juror remained.

The state then challenged 1426. Baez challenged because of age. Perry asked Baez if Batson had been extended to age. Linda Burdick had a ruling that age was not so subject. Juror 1426 was stricken.

At that point, the judge said that the 12 would be called to the courthouse to be sworn. Then, the judge said that they would select alternates. He also said that while they can back strike until the jury is sworn, he would hate to see them called in and then be stricken.

The defense then struck juror 1119.

The last strike left the panel at a total of 11.

Juror 3054 was called to the courtroom and jury selection continued. (Once both sides agree on a juror, the judge will swear the jury in.)

She brought a letter from her employer which the judge read. She apparently is the only person who can treat a medical condition in her agency who can do the massage and wrapping. Right now, she currently has one patient, but can have three at a time. There would be no danger to the patient, but hers is a more effective treatment.

Jeff Ashton asked about her patient. She would go back to nursing and they would do compression wraps. Jose Baez had no questions.

The state challenged for cause and the defense agreed. She was excused for cause.

Juror 3038 had not arrived and juror 3206 was taken out of order.

This juror had heard about the case. She recalled when the little girl came up missing and the mother. She had heard what the judge said in the charges the first day she was there.

Outside of what she heard from the judge, she also knew that she hadn't reported the child missing for a month and only reported it because of her own mother. She would have been hysterical. She saw the "party" pictures and not acting distraught.

She said she pretty much watched everything that was on television. She watched whenever she could. She didn't see the televised hearings. She did see the parents on TV and heard about the odor of the car (dead body/pizza). She said that she could probably recall more later. She probably watched Nancy Grace.

She said she hadn't watched HLN commentary or Jane Velez-Mitchell. She said she probably saw the 48 Hours special that was on recently, but couldn’t remember anything about it.

As a result of what she heard, she had formed the opinion that Casey is guilty. She indicated that she didn't say she could picture her opinion changing. She didn't think she could be an impartial juror.

The juror left the courtroom and both sides agreed that this juror should be dismissed.

We next had juror 3038 called. This juror wasn't in the court, nor was juror 3069. (There seem to be traffic problems this morning.)

The judge called a brief recess and held a bench conference with the lawyers.

Judge Perry said that the second group is being called to come in early. The 11 who were struck were now on the way. Once one more juror is chosen, he will swear in the jury.

While awaiting the arrival of the jurors court was in recess until 10:15.

Judge Perry called court back to order at 10:12. The judge said that juror 3038 ignored the instructions she was given and went to work. She was on the way to the courthouse.

Juror 3069 took the stand next. She said that she has a hardship. She indicated that she had thought that she would be paid and was later informed that she would only be paid for five days.

She was excused for cause.

As there were no more jurors to call yet, Linda Burdick asked the judge to allow the defense to use their peremptory challenge. She was the juror who the defense successfully challenged the other day.

Burdick brought up the fact that the woman said that couldn't point her finger at someone else. It went against her religious belief. In terms of hardship, she said she would not feel comfortable sitting in judgement. The discussion then went back to her difficulty in judging people based on her religion.

Mr. George challenged based on her religion. Mr. Mason challenged that and she was allowed to remain.

Upon questioning another day, she again brought up her religion. However, she later made a conflicting statement that she could judge in this case.

Burdick quoted from Ashton's questioning which showed those conflicts. She then went on to quote voluminous case law.

She said that her objection was about this juror's ability to sit on the guilt phase and is a race-neutral argument.

Judge Perry asked her, at the time of the peremptory challenge, what was her argument? Perry pointed out that the concern of a juror hanging a jury was not mentioned. Ms. Burdick indicated that the argument was implied at the time.

Jose Baez countered by saying that he objected procedurally because the court would not renew his objections this morning. He wanted transcripts of 1129, 1011, 3119, and 3397. So he could reiterate his areguments concerning equivocation as Ms. Burdick had just done.

Baez also read from the transcript. The phrase "judgement based on what people say" would mean gossip. He then read an appropriate Bible verse!

After Mr. Baez finished reading his best parts of the transcript, Judge Perry ruled that the state had not mentioned "hanging the jury." Nobody asked her what led her to change her response and the questioning was quite short. This will not be reopened. Rightfully or wrongfully, he stood by his prior ruling.

Then, juror 3052 was called in. He said he had no option at work about the television. He caught a piece of a blurb that said the jury was still being selected. He cannot control what the people who come into his Radio Shack would say. All that he heard was that it was taking the court a long time to choose a jury. He said that the conversation had no effect on him.

Before being called for jury duty, he had a customer who would talk about the case whenever she came in. She said she didn't know why it was taking so long since the information coming in was one sided. She told him plenty of times that Casey was guilty.

He mentioned a few vague facts about the case he heard from her a year-and-a-half ago. He said that he rarely catches the news.

He said that he had formed an opinion and that "certain things make sense." He said it was obvious that there was guilt.

When Perry asked him if he could presme innocence and put aside his current opinion, he said that he couldn't.

Neither the state nor the defense wanted to ask any questions and he was sent out.

He was excused for cause.

Court was then "at ease" until another juror arrived.

Judge Perry returned to the court at 11:38. Juror 3308 had arrived to take the stand. He had given his baseball tickets to his cousin and his wife was cancelling his flight. He told the judge he wanted his number so he could get the baseball tickets he promised. The judge handed it to him!

As far as the case was concerned, he stated that he knew the child was missing, that the mother was suspicious, and that the child was found dead in the woods near the grandparents house with tape on her mouth.

This person was another not-news junkie. He said he was sure he heard about some evidence about the odor in the trunk of the car. He knew that there was a foul oder and the excuse was that it was a pizza box.

He said that he had formed no opinion about the defendant's guilt. He said that he could put aside any information about the case that he had learned from news accounts.

Frank George spoke for the state. He said that he watches DVD's on his television and has no cable or antenna. He buys his favorite programs to watch.

He never saw any of the attorneys before and didn't know who George and Cindy Anthony were, although he could take a guess.

Most of the information he had, he learned a long time ago.

He stated he is more concerned about the "bubble around him" than Orlando.

He said that he may have seen the forum on the St. Pete paper online, but didn't pay attention to it. He said he reads blogs about motorcycles and guns.

He did say he had listed to Bubba The Love Sponge on the radio while driving around in a truck on a past job. He did hear some of the Casey Anthony material a long time ago. He mainly remembered the parody song about the case which was derogatory towards the defendant.

He had visited Disney and Universal in Orlando about 5 times since 2008. He didn't watch TV because they don't have one in their camper.

He stated he never read any discovery that stands out to him and never watched the hearings.

He stated he did find the parody song funny, but felt it would have no effect on his opinion since it wasn't factual.

Jose Baez asked some questions. (This guy is funny, when Baez asked if he could call him Mr. 3308, he replied, "That's what my mother calls me!").

Baez asked him what bits of information he got from the song. He said, "child's in the trunk."

Baez asked a few more questions and then Perry moved on to the death penalty factors.

This gentleman could presume innocence, but said that he was against the death penalty. His views would not prevent him to sentence her to death if the situation warranted. He could "live with it." He said he would not automatically vote against the death penalty. He could consider it.

Jeff Ashton asked for more of his thoughts. He mentioned people sentenced to death and later found to be innocent.

Ann Finnel had no questions and Frank George asked some general questions. He is 39 and married. He has no children. He has never been selected for a jury. He was in the Coast Guard for 12 years. He saw people committing crimes in the Coast Guard. He was involved in everything from drug smuggling to drunken boating. He'd done evidence collecting.

He said that he's a little bit suspicious of LE and he gets nervous when there are police cars behind him He then asked to speak privately.

After a few minutes, Frank George asked him more questions about his Coast Guard experience.

In the middle of this, Jose Baez asked for a brief side bar to discuss an issue that might come up.

George completed his questioning asking if he had ever heard of Roy Kronk or Bradley Wright. He did not know someone named Brandon Sparks.

The rest of the questions were the usual and nothing special came out of them.

He said that he would not like to be on the jury and he'd rather not interrupt his good life.

Jose Baez questioned juror 3308 next. He asked two questions about the Coast Guard and was finished.

Frank George asked to speak privately with his team about the bench conference.

A five-minute recess was taken.

When the prosecution team returned, neither side challenged the juror and the prosecution did not use a peremptory challenge. The judge reminded them that he had flight plans he was going to change. The judge pushed the issue with the state, and George Frank said that the state just didn't know.

Juror 3038 was called next. Jose Baez said he wanted to use a peremptory challenge now, but the judge said they would take the juror first. Baez said that he recognized that she's a female. His gender neutral reason was that she has a daughter who has a two-year old, and that she could not consider mercy.

Linda Burdick said that the reason was a pretext as there are other jurors with young children and grandchildren and other jurors have also said that they would not consider mercy.

The judge allowed the defense peremptory challenge. Juror 1251 is off the jury.

The state decided they had nothing for now.

The judge was very annoyed at this point. He said that there are 6 jurors left and one could possible be excused for cause.

Ashton says there are 23 by their count, but Perry said that they had not done secondary questioning and that they should beware, they have no idea what may come out of their mouths.

At this point, the judge recessed for a 35 minute lunch.

Juror 3158 was the first called after lunch. He had heard about the case in 2008 and when the media announced that juror selection was coming to Pinellas County.

Of those he heard discuss the case, many thought that she was guilty. He never discussed his impressions of the case.

He stated he had formed an impression that she is guilty. He said that he thought he could set his opinions aside without any hesitation.

Linda Burdick questioned him about the media exposure. She asked if his information about the case was limited and he agreed. He based his opinion on the fact that the baby was killed and discarded without remorse. He didn't even remember how Caylee was discarded. He said he just formed an opinion not based on anything in particular.

He didn't pick up anything new when he learned the jury was coming to Pinellas. He said that he doesn't have a computer! He did learn that George and Cindy were Casey's parents. (I think he knows more than he's saying.)

Jose Baez questioned him next. He focused on the "I think I can" the gentleman said. He said that he didn't think someone could completely block it out.

Next came the death penalty phase of questioning. This juror stated that "he could presume her NOT innocent!" When asked again by the judge, he said he could not.

He was sent out and dismissed for cause.

Juror 3131 was up next, but was not present yet.

3015 was then called. She heard about the case a couple of years ago. She knew of the missing child and they did eventually find her.

She didn't know anything from the news on TV. But she did know that George and Cindy were relatives. She also hasn't discussed it with anyone either.

She said that she had not formed an opinion about Casey's guilt or innocence. What little she knew, she said she could put aside if chosen for the jury.

Jeff Ashton questioned her about her access to news. She stated that she usually works 1-9 at night and mostly sees TV on vacation. She also said that she had never gone on line to read about the case and says she doesn't know what a blog is.

Jose Baez asked a few questions and got no further as far as what she learned from the news.

She did say she heard about Casey Anthony being arrested in 2008 for her child. She mentioned that they did DNA testing to identify the child.

She made an interesting comment that there are so many missing children, that one gets hardened to it. She also said that one can't believe anything she hears on the news, that she has to apply her common sense.

She passed Judge Perry's presumption of innocence test and she said that she probably doesn't have any issues with the death penalty. She said she had two sons about the same age as Casey and would hope people would weigh the facts against them and make a fair decision.

She said she could sentence Casey, if found guilty, to death or life in prison based upon the mitigating factors.

Jeff Ashton questioned her about the family connection and she further explained it. He asked if she would emotionally place the defendant in the place of her own children. She said that it was more about the fairness.

Ann Finnel also went through her routine questions and this juror sailed through them smoothly.

Jeff Ashton went over her work history. Her husband is retired. She has sons 27 and 23. The older is in the Coast Guard and the younger lives at home and works part time. They have never had any difficulties with the law.

Her father was in law enforcement in New Jersey.

Cheney Mason also spoke with her briefly. She paid no special attention to the helicopters and just walked into the building. She served on criminal and civil case. She was an alternate in the criminal case.

Her father lives in Orlando. Her younger son graduated from Full Sail there. Fortunately, she never heard of Tony Lazzaro!

One interesting fact is that she sat on the trial of Bobby Manna, a member of the Genovese crime family!

Neither side had an objection to this juror and she became the new number 12.

Just as the judge was going to call the jury in to swear the jury in, Jose Baez made an objection to the procedure since they cannot see ahead. The judge asked when that ever happened and Baez couldn't answer that. He wanted to question all 22 remaining jurors prior to swearing in the jury. The judge denied Baez' request.

Baez then back struck juror 3397.

The next juror was called in. She is juror number 3042.

She said that she had heard about the case. She knew from the news that they were trying to figure out what happened to her daughter. They were going back and forth about where she was when the child was missing. She remembered her parents talking about the case as well as where the remains were found.

When asked if she had formed an opinion of guilt or innocence she said she hadn't.

Frank George questioned her briefly. Of note, she didn't recall the names Cindy and George Anthony and had a difficult time remembering what she remembered of what she saw of them.

She also mentioned that she heard friends and family who discussed the case and had opinions about it. She felt that they hadn't gotten all of the information that was needed to make a decision.

At that point, a severe thunderstorm approached and I had to shut down. When I was able to get back on, the juror was off the stand. Fortunately, my friend donchais was able to fill me in on what I missed.

At some point in her testimony, the juror said that she had prayed for mercy for Casey and couldn’t be on the jury to judge her. This juror was excused for cause.

Judge Perry then called a five minute recess and reminded the attorneys that there were still 11 prospective jurors being held in the back..

When Perry returned, the attorneys immediately went to a sidebar.

After the side bar broke up, Judge Perry left the courtroom.

The camera made the most of this dramatic time by showing shots of the judge's empty chair. We were left thinking about what would happen next.

Judge Perry returned and called the next juror in for questioning.

We were now on juror 3185. He heard information about the case on the news. He said that the case is still undecided and that there are a lot of factors still undecided that he doesn't know.

He mentioned a little girl being found in the trunk or a field, and that it had something to do with Disney! He said he didn't know much.

He had heard opinions from friends and family in the past. The opinions were that she was guilty. As for himself, he said he had not formed an opinion.

He indicated that he had no difficulty with presuming that Ms. Anthony was innocent until proven guilty.

He said that if you listen to the media, she would be guilty already. In his eyes, he said he has no opinion as to her guilt.

He said he could lay aside what he had heard about the case and judge the case on the evidence presented in court.

Linda Burdick questioned him further about the media. She merely reaffirmed what he had told the judge.

Oops, he said his name was "Jim" to Jose Baez.

He said he doesn't like reality programs and doesn't watch Dr. G. He's seen some forensic programs, but nothing related to this case.

He indicated that he uses his computer as little as possible.

He then went on to the penalty phase questioning.

He said that he thought the death penalty should be done in the proper situation.

This juror passed the Judge Perry test and the state did not ask any questions. Ann Finnel did her usual questioning. He rated himself a 6 on her ruler.

All in all, he also passed the Finnel Test.

Linda Burdick then asked some general questions.

He is 53 and single. He attended a vocational college for printing and is currently unemployed, semi retired and takes care of a friend who had a stroke. He said that he does odd jobs to keep from being bored.

His nephew just became a Manatee Deputy Sheriff. He is very pleased to have LE protecting us. He had no personal connections to a crime.

He doesn't seem to be a person who would want to write a book and did some public presentations at the mill where he worked, but didn't like it.

He’d been to Disney World and had driven through Orlando to get to the east coast.

He said that he's never been married and has no children. He has two sisters and two brothers as well as nephews and nieces. He is the favorite uncle and very proud of all of them.

He indicated that he knows some about computers and helped set up a network at the mill. He doesn't know about computer forensics.

He said that he was very lucky to have a good childhood.

Jose Baez was the last to question the juror. Once again, he went through jury instructions and whether he can follow them. One could say our prospective juror passed the Jose Baez Test!

The juror was asked to step outside. Neither side challenged this juror and he became the next number 12.

There were two more jurors left to question.

After a short break, the defense exercised a peremptory challenge for juror 1159 and we were back to 11 jurors. The defense now has 2 peremptory challenges left.

The next juror up was 3238. Judge Perry asked her about what she knew of the case. She knew that a little girl was missing. They suspected the mother but didn't read much about it or watch much on TV.

She said that she had never really talked to people about the case. The juror said she had no opinion on Ms. Anthony's guilt and that she could lay aside the information she knew.

Frank George inquired for the state. She said she only uses the computer to check her boyfriend's websites.

Jose Baez went next and asked some more questions. There wasn't anything major she had to say. She had been working two jobs and had only recently retired.

Judge Perry then discuss the death penalty with her. She said that it would not be the first choice if it were up to her. She did agree that it was the right thing is some cases.

Jeff Ashton also questioned her. He asked a very powerful question. He asked her if she had ever had to make a decision that had an effect on someone else's life. She responded that she had, when she had to make the decision to end life-support for her husband. Then, he asked if she could raise her hand and say that person (Casey Anthony) should die, and she said yes.

Ann Finnell and then asked her usual questions which the prospective juror answered correctly. She was a 4 or 5 on Finnel's ruler.

She was next interviewed by Frank George. We learned that she is a widow. When she asked when he passed away, she laughed and said she had been married three times and widowed three times. She said she's getting married in September! The expression on Casey's face was priceless!

She stated her family lives in Florida. Her boyfriend has two websites for his boat lift manufacturing business which she monitors for e-mails.

She said she'd like to be on the jury because it would be interesting, although her boyfriend would miss her.

Cheney Mason inquired for the defense. He sort of joked about the reaction of her boyfriend and then asked her hobbies. She reminded him she has no grandchildren. For the most part, Mason asked her questions about the TV she watched and she gave witty answers.

If this lady makes it onto the jury, she could be very helpful in keeping the other jurors smiling. She could give craft lessons to pass the time.

With the questioning over, juror 3238 was asked to leave the courtroom. The state decided to strike her.

We still had eleven jurors.

The final juror, 3190 said that she knew little about the case and said she had overheard people say she absolutely did do it. She said she had no opinion about the case and would be able to lay aside the opinions of others.

The state had no questions and Jose Baez had some. They were the usual and nothing much came of it. She was not a computer person at all.

Next were the questions from Judge Perry about the death penalty. She said that she was for the death penalty and seemed to feel that if someone takes someone's life, and then stopped to say she needed to know the facts first.

Jeff Ashton questioned her about the death penalty next. He was very passionate in his questioning. He is also taking a page from Ann Finnel and using a lot of her material. (I have to wonder if he want her to be the FINAL juror #12.)

Ann Finnel came next. She went through her usual questioning. This juror wouldn't put herself on the ruler. She pretty much passed Finnel's questioning.

Next, came the general questions. Jeff Ashton asked the questions for the state. She said she had been married for 15 years and had two grown daughters.

She found a career in the upholstery business as well as one of her daughters who lives in Rochester, New York.

She stated she was 62 and said that her cousin's son was murdered in an execution murder in Ohio. It was about 20 years ago and the murderer wasn't caught. She said it took place in Ohio, but she had left Ohio when that took place.

Cheney Mason again asked the general questions. She said that she only realized it was "something" when she was ushered in and saw what was going on. She saw the defendant, and sort of recognized her and realized what was going on.

She said a calmness took over her and she knew where she where she was supposed to be.

When asked the most difficult decision she ever had to make, she responded that she had problems with one of her children and had to make a difficult decision to make to bring her home or not. They approached the bench to finish her answer.

She mentioned that she played and runs her own business. Her husband is a dentist in Rochester NY and they have a commuter marriage.

She told Mason that she watches Dancing With The Stars and CSI as well as a lot on channel 11. She also indicated she liked to read mystery books.

Finally, Mason asked if she wanted to change any of her answers and she said no.

Then he asked if she believed "Where there's smoke, there's fire." He then asked if she thought his client was guilty of something. It was a very awkward question. Mason then made the statement that there may not have been a crime at all. He wanted that she understand that just because Casey was indicted, that does not mean that she is guilty.

For some reason, Mason wanted to stress that there is a good chance Casey is not guilty.

She said that it would be hard to be on the jury but that she could be honest and do the job she has to do.

She was asked to step outside. The state had no challenge and the defense asked for a moment to think. He requested to take Casey somewhere else to ask her about it.

The judge informed the juror she could leave and they would call her.

Casey and her team left the courtroom.

(I was left here, sitting and wondering what was so different about this juror. The only thing would possibly what she said at the bench about her daughter.)

When the defense team and Casey returned to the courtroom and the judge resumed the bench, Jose Baez announced that the defense they struck her and exercised a peremptory challenge.

As court closed for the day, the jury was still at 11. The state had 5 and the defense 1 peremptory challenge left.

Baez asked if there was a "magic number" and the judge said he had five jurors coming in in the morning and more coming in for the afternoon.

Court will again be in session tomorrow at 8:30 AM.