Not so happy campers
May 3, 2011
May 3, 2011
The Orlando Sentinel has reported that "The Associated Press and a number of non-local news organizations have appealed Chief Judge Belvin Perry's order governing pre-notification of the jury selection venue in the Casey Anthony trial.The appeal is significant because it could lead to a delay in the start of the high-profile murder trial's jury selection, which is scheduled to commence Monday morning.
Let's hope the judges on the appellate court make a quick decision tomorrow!
Yesterday's hearing focused on one motion, and one motion only. It was the Emergency Motion To Intervene filed by the media, namely, WOFL FOX 35, WKMG, WPTV, WFTS, Scripps Treasure Coast Newspaper, CF News 13, and the AP.
The point of contention is the Confidentiality Agreement that media organizations must sign in order to find out the venue ahead of time.
Attorney Judith Mercier, representing the media, made her arguments to Judge Perry. She was citing the first amendment rights of the media to free and unfettered information available under the Florida "Sunshine" laws.
It was obvious from the get-go that Judge Perry was not in a good mood. He peppered her arguments against prior restraint with such questions as:
"How many capital cases have you tried?" (None)
"How many capital jury cases have you attempted to select a jury in?" (None)
He asked her to name any case with more media attention than this one? (Mercier couldn't, although she did remember they were in other cities.)
When asked by Perry if she could provide a way that the pre-trial publicity could be counter-acted, Mercier replied that extensive juror voir-dire would do the trick.
When asked for another remedy, Mercier mentioned a continuance of the trial. A six-month "cooling off period" would wipe the memories of the case from people's minds.
Judge Perry reminded her that memories don't age as well as fine wine and that Casey Anthony was indicted in October, 2008. In addition, should a witness die, their deposition would not be used at trial time.
When asked for a third remedy, Ms. Mercier went back to voire-dire.
This presentation by Ms. Mercier was very contentious and Judge Perry asked some terrific questions. It is something that has to be seen to be appreciated.
It is fascinating that an attorney representing the media can't answer what a legal analyst role is for the station she is representing!
When the argument for the motion ended, Judge Perry asked Jose Baez if he agreed with the motion. Baez said, "no." He then asked Baez to explain why he had asked for a change of venue and the research he had conducted.
The second part of the hearing was mainly an extensive speech by Perry prior to denying the motion. It is an eloquent explanation of the current media situation. There are no longer just newspapers and television stations. There is the internet, which spreads knowledge at lightning speed. Again, it is well worth listening to. It begins at approximately 19 minutes into Part 2 of the hearing.
If you didn't watch the hearing live, it is a complete summary of the problems he has faced in finding a fair and impartial jury so that Casey Anthony can have a fair trial. His key point was that he wanted to keep the location secret until the potential jurors were in the courthouse and had been instructed to not follow the media or go on the internet about the case.
He said that he was not denying the public the information that they craved. The jury selection will be televised live from moment one. InSession has agreed to sign the confidentiality agreement and will be set to broadcast. WFTV has also signed the agreement, so we know Kathi Belich will be there. The Orlando Sentinel has not signed the agreement but did not join in the motion. In my opinion, those stations that do not want to sign the agreement won't miss a moment of coverage. WFOL35 and WKMG will be streaming the trial live and their reporters can easily tune in on their laptops while making the one to one-and-a-half hour drive to the courthouse in question.
This judge, who has consistently ruled in favor of the media in their motions, as well as Judge Strickland (who only denied the release the jail video) have been fair. Now, Judge Perry had to balance out the situation. He had to weigh the first amendment rights of the media against Casey Anthony's sixth amendment rights to a fair trial. Today, the scales weighed in for Ms. Anthony.
In the judge's own words, "The news coverage of this case has been unprecedented in the history of Florida and maybe even dwarfs the coverage that was given to O.J. Simpson."
What I find interesting is that most talking heads and legal analysts in this case have agreed with the judge. I watched it on InSession on through the evening program. Here are two of the comments that appeared online.
Bill Sheaffer (WFTV): "I don’t believe an appeal would be successful."
Retired Judge O.H. Eaton, who is WESH’s legal analyst, said the conditions of Perry’s confidentiality agreement sound fair. Eaton predicted that Perry’s decision won’t be overturned and there won’t be a delay in the trial.
One of the most interesting aspects of the hearing was that nobody appeared to be happy. There were no smiles or smirks from Casey or Jose Baez. In fact, they listened to the back-and-forth between Judge Perry and Ms. Mercier with rather gloomy countenances. However, when the judge made his statement prior to denying the motion, Casey Anthony and her mother Cindy became visibly upset. Some people believe that Casey was crying real tears this time (I didn't see any.). It should be noted that Casey had a meltdown when the judge mentioned the difficulty of finding an unbiased jury.
I have no way to fathom what goes on in someone's mind, but there must have been something bothering everybody that day.
Perhaps I can understand Judge Perry's apparent short temper. He made it clear that he had more important issues, such as the LAST motion to deal with. He even tossed the offending motion and memorandum on the bench to prove his point.
I would love to hear your opinions as to why Casey had a meltdown and why Cindy looked very shaken up.
Also, what was Jose Baez thinking?
Watch The Hearing
Casey Brought To Tears As Judge Denies Media Motion
Casey Anthony: Is the coverage unprecedented? Judge says it is