Monday, June 21, 2010

Status Hearing for Casey Anthony Murder Trial

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
Casey's Attorney Talks To WFTV
Talks About Status Hearing
Motion To Hear 911 Call
Dead Body | Turn In Casey | Caylee Gone



donchais said...

Thanks for the internet was having fits today!

Is the defense really doing an about-face?

Can't wait til the July hearing! Hum-dinger is right!

katfish said...

Thanks Ritanita, I missed the hearing and forgot to set the DVR...have to catch it online.

Seems like someone said earlier getting a witness list from the defense was like tacking jello to the wall.....or does it just seem that way? LOL!

ritanita said...

LOL! Katfish, that hearing was only 30 minutes! Check out the link at the bottom to the interview with her lawyer (Mason).

I didn't have a chance to watch the videos until after I posted.

Mason seems to be dumping the whole Kronk thing. All the defense would have to do is not give the witnesses for that motion by the 12th of July.

Weird stuff with the TES stuff, too. It seems that he's saying that, after depositions with some of the searchers this week, the defense has come to the conclusion that the area was NEVER searched!

What the heck is going on? Is this the beginning of a Cheney Mason takeover?

Tezi said...

Excellent summary as usual ritanita!

I am beginning to think that we are seeing the beginning of the takeover by Mason from Baez! I can't wait for Bozo to become a glorified errand boy! LOL Was there any reason given as to why Bozo wasn't in court today?

Thanks again for the excellent summary ritanita!

FRG said...

Thank you so much for the article!
The hearing was so fast and so many things were discussed that I got lost. LOL
Do you believe defense is not producing their witness list because they want to hide names or simply because they just have the same Prosecution witness list? I would say they have nobody different and they expect to get their hands on the 4,000 TES searchers records as you said before it's a "fishing expedition".
I read that the 911 phone calls will be admissible, IIRC the third one will be... let's hope so.
Here is what CM said on December 12, 2008 to Tony Pipitone:
"Defense attorney Cheney Mason said claims made by Casey Anthony and Baez that Caylee was alive will now work against them at trial.
"Then all the talking, all the press interviews and the parents going on this show and that show and the lawyer going on different shows establishes they have no credibility whatsoever," Mason said.
The testing of the remains could be the key to the case.
"The most important thing is how did she die?" Mason said. "It could have been an accidental death -- and we've talked before -- an improper disposal, it could have been a brutal homicide. We don't know, and until the medical examiner is finished and renders a report, no one is going to know.""
Isn't that maddening to say the least that AL went on National TV to claim Mr. Kronk should be considered a suspect of killing Caylee and now they are taking it back. Is that what CM was saying yesterday? These lawyers make me sick.
I can't wait until the next hearing... that's what I call defense, it's a never changing "BS" process. I wonder what happened to Macaluso's statements. Who are they going pin Cayle's murder to now? Still fishing for a suspect???
Great article!!!
BTW, yesterday Kathi got CM good!!! He was getting red and upset, did you watch him talking to the Media? Priceless!!!

ritanita said...

Tezi, Baez had previously filed that he was unavailable that day. Don't know what he's doing, but it's no surprise he wasn't there.

I think that Mason took advantage to step up and change directions.

We'll see what happens on the 15th. Who will be arguing the motions? Who will be passing papers!

ritanita said...

FRG, Cheney Mason is in the same position Mark Geragos was in with the Scott Peterson trial. He'd been on the media talking up Scott's guilt. He was then hired by Scott's parents and he did a 180, saying Scott was innocent.

That didn't work out too well.

Every legal TH has said the third phone call is going to be admissible. I'm hoping the 2nd one gets in as well because of the difference in Cindy's demeanor.

When Linda Drane Burdick said yesterday that the defense didn't understand the arguments she made concerning her response, she was indicating that she wasn't just asking for the admission due to excited utterance. She also wants to use the calls to show how Casey developed her story of the Nanny over time.

As for the TES records. Now that Cheney is saying they DIDN'T search the area, the defense is taking a whole new tack. Whether they will still fight for the records is to be seen.

I have a feeling that their "witnesses" from out of state, Buchanan, Crystal and Brandon Sparks, are unwilling to do depositions because they were also "duped" by PI Mort Smith or were telling lies they don't want to swear to.

That means both the Kronk and TES motions have lost their support in the form of witnesses to testify.

As I've said before: "No witnesses, no motion." Judge Perry also indicated that yesterday.

That is probably why the defense is unwilling to list them as witnesses. Once they do so, it would be easier to get their depositions, which they clearly don't want to do.

I think they are scrambling to regroup now.

I can't wait for the 15th.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great summary! I always enjoy reading your take on things!

I remember watching the status hearing but reading and reviewing it is enlightening. In reading, I noticed that the defense has scheduled depositions in Tennesse with Oak Ridge Lab experts on the same day as the July 15th hearing. How is that going to work?

Your "legal eye" has caught things that less practiced viewers would not have noticed and that is much appreciated.

Keep up the great work and I look forwards to reading your next blog entry in this case.

Jomo :-)