Casey Anthony Trial—Strangeness

Strangeness is a quality of subatomic particles. It’s also a quality that I seem to suffer from whenever I watch TruTV’s broadcast of the Casey Anthony trial and hear their commentators’ take on the testimony and evidence.

Is Casey Believable?

This morning a former police officer-turned-TV-commentator questioned whether the jury would believe Casey Anthony’s claim that her daughter drowned in the backyard swimming pool on June 16, 2008, if they believed she was suffering from a severe mental disorder, such as either sociopathy or Post-Traumatic-Stress Disorder (PTSD).

He doesn’t seem to understand that the jury isn’t required to believe Casey Anthony’s claims—all they are required to do is decide whether the prosecution proved its claims beyond a reasonable doubt. Maybe he doesn’t believe that jurors are capable of making this distinction, because he can’t.

Well, I can tell him from personal experience as a juror on a criminal case that jurors can do that. Even when confronted with a defendant who is clearly not a model citizen, who clearly has committed some crime or crimes, whom his attorney has even thrown under the bus, jurors can still say that the prosecution did not prove its case.

In fact, of course, Casey hasn’t made any claims yet. Her attorney’s opening statement isn’t evidence.

Casey Didn’t Sleep at Home

Another strangeness about me is that I seem to have noticed a contradiction which commentators have not between George Anthony’s testimony that he was in the habit of spending time with Caylee every day before he went to work and the testimony of at least a dozen witnesses that Caylee spent the night with them and her mother during the month of May and the first two weeks of June 2008. This contradiction seems so blatant to me that I’m beginning to wonder about my own sanity. Did I really hear this?

I didn’t keep track of the dates or the number of nights Casey and Caylee spent with five or six different boyfriends and girlfriends, but I have the distinct impression that Casey didn’t want to spend the night at home for some reason.

But she did spend the night of June 15 at home. And that was the last time Caylee was seen alive.

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Casey Anthony’s friends

“When the character of a man is not clear to you, look at his friends.” –Japanese proverb

Yesterday, several former friends of Casey Anthony testified in her murder trial for the prosecution. These people described meeting Casey Anthony in late May and early June of 2008, meeting her daughter Caylee, observing her interactions with Caylee, and then also Casey’s demeanor following June 16 when the defense claims Caylee drowned in the backyard swimming pool.

These are the people with whom the media claimed Casey callously partied after murdering her daughter. We saw photo after photo of Casey in a bar grinning at the camera, dancing suggestively, and generally carousing.

So, I expected that her friends would be fairly vapid “party people” like her. I was shocked to discover that Casey Anthony’s friends are all intelligent, responsible citizens and that the reason Casey was in the bar is that her friends were paying their way through college by promoting special events at bars and that she was helping them. She attended these special events, encouraged her friends to attend, and advised bar workers on appropriate clothing for the events.

These friends said repeatedly that Casey’s personality was charming, a “fun” person who fit in well with their group. They also said that Casey was attentive and loving toward her daughter. None of them ever saw her mistreat Caylee. In essence, Casey Anthony was like her friends.

Before yesterday’s testimony, the press also implied that Casey Anthony was promiscuous, possibly even a sort of nymphomaniac (if that’s a politically correct and permissible term these days). They reported that she did not know who the father of her child was, that someone named Jesse was suspected at one time of having fathered Caylee, and that Casey was living with someone named Tony at the time Caylee “disappeared.”

I suppose you could say that “When the character of a woman is not clear to you, look at her lovers.”

Well, yesterday and today we learned that Casey and Tony were in love, and we learned that Tony is a very honorable man. We learned that Casey had long-term male friends who liked her and wanted to associate with her.

So what does this say about Casey Anthony’s character?

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Casey Anthony Trial

“How sharper than a serpent’s tooth is a thankless child,” said King Lear. Of course, King Lear was a narcissistic, senile monarch who had just abdicated the throne without any consideration for his country’s future. The old fool thought he was entitled to a long vacation after all he had done for his kingdom.

In fact, the truth is that there’s nothing to match an unloving parent for cruelty.

When George Anthony took the witness stand yesterday right after the shocking defense opening statement, I honestly thought he would break down and cry, either because of his daughter’s betrayal of him or because he was guilty of much of what she accused him of. Foolish me, I even thought that if he was innocent he would take the blame in order to save his only daughter from being strapped to a gurney and lethally injected behind a bullet-proof glass window while he and his wife watched.

A decent man would do what ever it took to save his daughter from the death chamber, even if he thought she was guilty of neglecting her child, letting the child die, and then making up an elaborate lie to cover up the crime. If he knew for a fact that she intentionally suffocated her child and then discarded the body, he might want to see justice done, but surely life in prison would satisfy such a father.

But George Anthony didn’t do anything to save his daughter. He took the stand as the prosecution’s first witness. He said a number of completely incredible things, and then he got off the stand and let the bailiffs return his daughter to prison.

How did George Anthony condemn himself, let me count the ways:

  • He said he couldn’t tell his daughter was pregnant in her 7th month, despite her bulging belly, because throughout her life from time to time she had “retained water” and gained weight because of exercise or lack thereof, including in “her butt.” (An odd term to use when you’ve just been accused of sexual abuse.)
  • He said he traveled to attend a brother-in-law’s wedding, then did not go to the wedding (for unstated reasons). After the wedding, the brother-in-law confronted him with Casey’s pregnancy and they argued—because George could not believe she was pregnant.
  • He said he was “thrilled” to learn that Casey was pregnant, but he didn’t ask her who the father was at first. I wonder if that was because he was afraid she would say he was.
  • He said he went with Casey for a sonogram and learned the child was female; he would have been “thrilled” if it had been male, but he was thrilled it was female, anyway.
  • He said he was in the delivery room when Casey gave birth, and “of course it was embarrassing” but it was “thrilling,” too. Embarrassing? Why was he there? Could it be that he wanted to make sure Casey kept her mouth shut?
  • He said he spent time with Caylee every day of her life—except for that period of several months when she was a tiny infant and he moved out and left his wife and daughter and granddaughter.
  • At one point he claimed he had a right to keep certain facts about his marriage private—this, after he has just been accused of being unfaithful to his wife and to have abused his daughter in the privacy of his home.
  • He said he insisted that Casey should work in order to provide for Caylee’s “basic necessities,” but unfortunately he didn’t notice that she never had any money.
  • He said he thought for two years that Casey was employed at two or three places, but about six months before Caylee’s “disappearance” he went to one of the places of employment to see whether or not Casey really worked there—and if she did to “surprise” her with a lunch.
  • He said on the day he last saw her, Caylee told him she was going to see the nonexistent “Zannie” the nanny.  Odd that a child would have an imaginary nanny, isn’t it? Most kids just have imaginary playmates.
  • He said he could remember what Caylee was wearing the last time he saw her, but he didn’t wonder where she went to for about a month—even though, he said, Casey and Caylee lived in his house.
  • Forget about the duct tape, which he did or didn’t have, and the stolen gas cans, which he reported missing although apparently they often went missing because Casey never had gas money, and the the fact of a car being towed, which was either his or Casey’s (he said both), and had something smelly in the trunk when he recovered it from the tow yard and why he didn’t go looking for Casey and Caylee at that time.

When Jose Baez opened with the assertion that “Caylee Anthony drowned in the backyard pool on June 16,” I thought it was a brilliant tactic. By the time George Anthony got down from the stand, I thought—with horror—that it was true.

I wondered what Judge Perry would do. Surely, I thought, the State of Florida is going to end this tragic farce, save the taxpayers’ money, and spare the jury from two months of horror. But, I guess a judge has to sit there and let the prosecution torture everybody, because the circus continues today.

The camera in the courtroom showed the looks on the faces of the lawyers, Casey Anthony, and spectators throughout the opening statement and George’s “testimony.” I can imagine what the jurors looked like. I imagine some of them looked like death-penalty specialist Cheney Mason looked–shocked, as if he had no idea what Jose Baez was going to say. His face was red behind his white beard and his eyes were very sad. The prosecutors looked sarcastic and angry—which was not to their credit. Most of the spectators looked troubled. I saw Geraldo Rivera’s face as George Anthony testified; he looked very conflicted, as well he should since he has condemned Casey Anthony in public.

If I were a juror, I wouldn’t yet believe the defense story. But I would definitely analyze the prosecution’s evidence very carefully. Baez presented a good deal of information that has previously been disputed (although the jurors claimed they had heard none of it in the news). He threw dates around without any anchors. He tried to question George Anthony about facts not yet in evidence.

But I wouldn’t believe a word that George Anthony said. I wouldn’t understand how a father could get on a witness stand in his daughter’s murder trial and not try to save her life. A man would have to know for a fact that his daughter was intentionally cruel to his granddaughter to want her to die by lethal injection. And, if he knew for a fact that his daughter was being cruel to his only granddaughter, wouldn’t he have saved the child long before she “disappeared”?

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Jury Selection in the Casey Anthony Trial—Part II

“Do jurors solve mysteries?”

Yikes! Only an idiot would say “Yes” to that question, especially someone who obviously wants to be chosen to serve on the Anthony jury (which in itself is proof of idiocy). And, yes, someone said “Yes.”

Jury selection in the Casey Anthony trial continues at a snail’s pace, even though opening arguments were scheduled to begin today. IMHO—and I am not a lawyer—this situation arises from a mistake on Judge Belvin Perry’s part: he should have conducted voir dire concerning hardship exemptions and death penalty “qualifications” on the entire group, rather than one at a time.

If he had conducted a group voir dire, a simple show of hands would have eliminated those jurors who genuinely could not serve for a two-month trial. Another show of hands would have eliminated those jurors who did not feel they could impose the death penalty in any case.

After that, a third show of hands would have indicated which jurors had heard a great deal about the case from the media and who felt they could not disregard the pre-trial publicity.

Another benefit of group voir dire would have been that the “tainting” of the jury pool, which occurred early last week, would not have happened. Apparently a prospective juror was also a prospective witness in the trial. Surely such a person would have raised his hand to admit he knew a great deal about the case.

Understanding of Civics

Much as I’m interested in juries and jury selection, even I can’t bear to listen to any more of this. What I’ve learned is that people in Florida don’t seem to have received a very good civics education. Even college-educated jurors seem confused by questions such as:

  • “Could you consider the age of a defendant in making a determination of life or death?” (One person responded, “I don’t know why you’re asking me this,” as if she had a right to be offended by it.)
  • “Do you think that anyone who’s on trial is probably guilty?” (One person said, “Yes. Somebody must have thought they were guilty at some point or they wouldn’t have been arrested in the first place.”)
  • “Can you set aside your religious beliefs” [concerning the death penalty] “and follow the law as the judge explains it to you?” (One person said, “Yes.” Hmmm. Having heard this interchange, I concluded this person wants to be on the jury for some reason; otherwise why would anybody state in public that they are willing to be hypocritical?)
  • “Do you understand why the defendant doesn’t have to present a case? In other words, do you think it’s possible to prove a negative?” (One person said, “I don’t know what you mean by that.”)

Jury Reform

In recent years, various legal organizations have studied the need for what they call “jury reform.” A 2005 article (The Verdict on Juries) in the ABA Journal summarizes what it is that most lawyers and judges would like to see change:

  • Better pay
  • Widening the pool of prospective jurors (including using unemployment roles, which actually makes sense because the unemployed would have no work-related conflicts and could use the pay, if it were at least a living wage)
  • Permitting jurors to ask question
  • Permitting jurors to take notes
  • Protection of juror privacy
  • Requiring 12 person juries in all cases, both civil and criminal
  • Requiring unanimous verdicts in all cases, both civil and criminal

I don’t quibble with any of these reforms, other than some of the ways in which to widen the jury pool, because I don’t believe that everyone has been taught the Bill of Rights, the Constitution, or even any history of the 20th century, without which they can never possibly understand why minorities should be tried by a jury of other minority people, among other things.

The one reform that’s most needed is a way of educating prospective jurors about what they are supposed to do and not supposed to do in the jury room. Jurors need to be provided with guidance on the following:

  • Process of selecting a foreperson
  • Process of thoroughly reviewing evidence presented in the trial
  • Process of reaching consensus without compromising or bullying
  • What it means specifically that the jurors are to “use their common sense and life experiences” in reaching a decision
  • What they are forbidden by law to do, including conducting their own investigation (both in the jury room and outside the courthouse) and what the consequences may be if they do it anyway
  • What the consequences to them may be if they “hang,” by which I mean that the judge must assure them that it is not illegal for them to fail to reach a verdict or reach consensus
  • Why it is a bad idea to talk to the press after a trial

My guess is that:

  • One of the pushier women (a nurse, perhaps) on the Casey Anthony jury is going to volunteer to be foreperson, and she will be an awful foreperson.
  • The jury will fail to review all the evidence and instead focus only on one or two points taken from the prosecution’s closing argument.
  • No one on the jury will really understand what “reasonable doubt” is.
  • No one on the jury will know a good process for debating the facts.
  • Someone on the jury will say at some point, “The judge told us to use common sense and our life experiences. Well, I’m a [fill in the profession] and I know for a fact that what Mr. Witness said is false.”
  • Someone else on the jury will say at some point, “I don’t like the way the prosecution seemed to skip right over that fact, as if it were meaningless, but I think it’s very important.” And someone else will say, “If the prosecution didn’t mention it, then we can’t talk about it.”
  • Someone on the jury will take out an item of evidence and study it at length. And in the end he or she will say, “Look at this. Why didn’t they notice this in the trial? Look at it. Shake it. Smell it. This proves the defense was lying.”

Because apparently a lot of Florida jurors think the jury’s role is to “solve the mystery.”

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Context for Casey Anthony Murder Trial

In researching my current work-in-progress, a murder mystery set in 1929 (based on my award-winning novella, CHALK GHOST), I discovered some peculiar historical facts that provide an interesting context for the ongoing trial of Florida single-mom Casey Anthony.

American students no longer study Civics or American History in high school. I doubt that anyone under 55 has learned much about the Great Depression, so you may not know that 1929 was the year of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre (Chicago’s Al Capone Gang gunned down a rival gang by disguising themselves as cops and herding their victims into a garage) and the year of the Great Stock Market Crash on what became known as Black Tuesday (when brokers jumped from skyscrapers after losing their shirts).

I researched 1929 popular culture extensively for the book, which involves a baby-for-sale ring. I was surprised at how different the problem of child kidnapping and murder was in 1929.

Without knowing history, it may seem reasonable that the media is making a “big deal” out of the murder of little Calley Anthony. Knowing history, it makes no sense at all.

I’m not saying that her murder or any child’s murder is trivial; I’m saying—unfortunately—that it is too frequent to justify “wall-to-wall” media coverage. The murder trial of O. J. Simpson was a “trial of the century” because of Simpson’s fame and prominence. Casey Anthony is nobody.

The media is after advertising revenue from free content. TruTV is broadcasting the trial for no public purpose; the company is a for-profit enterprise. It’s banking on revenue from advertising it hopes to sell on the basis of a bump in ratings during the trial. The media in Florida are all out to boost their ratings and their readership—for profit—especially the Fox outlets in the state.

Historical Context

I think it might shed light on the Casey Anthony spectacle to see how child kidnapping and murder was handled in American law historically. In the past, parents were rarely subject to the death penalty for abusing, neglecting, and killing their children.

It didn’t always happen that missing children ended up dead (they were often kidnapped and held for long periods, even into adulthood and until eventual liberation); it didn’t always happen that their parents (such as JonBenet Ramsey’s) were suspected of or tried for their murders (as is Casey Anthony). If the cops couldn’t figure out who else could have “done it” they didn’t always fall back on the parents; they sometimes had the guts to say a crime was unsolved.

In fact, many kidnappers committed their crimes for the value of a living child—as a hostage for ransom, as a product for sale, as the child they always wanted but for some reason didn’t have.

Children have been murder victims since before the advent of written history. Kidnapping has been a fact of American life since the Colonial Period. Parents have always been suspected of committing crimes against their children. Before World War I, for example, an 8 year old named Catherine Winter disappeared and was never found. Her parents were suspected, even though her father was a prominent dentist who spent his life searching for her kidnappers, whom he believed to be Gypsies.

In some periods, in pre-industrial societies, for instance, children had a great deal of value—so much so that abortions were forbidden or were so abhorrent to most women that they rarely willingly aborted a fetus. Children were valuable because they worked in the family business, on the farm, and could support elderly parents. (Even in China today, where there is an official one-child policy, young Chinese only-children often complain that they are worried that when the time comes they won’t be able to provide financial support to elderly parents, along with themselves and their own immediate families.)

But sometimes children in the past were not even viewed as fully human. As a result, in the past (in the 20th century, for instance) the murderers of children were not often punished severely; suspected murderers were often not tried, especially when there was no direct evidence either that the crime was committed (body never found) or when there was nothing but circumstantial evidence that the suspect was the perpetrator.

My point: Our current “advanced” society doesn’t necessarily value children as much as children have been valued at some past periods. Nor is our current self-righteous and vindictive attitude toward parents of kidnapped and murdered children necessarily evidence of contemporary high esteem for children. After all, the birth rate in industrialized countries is declining rapidly; if we really valued children we would have more of them.

Baby Farms

Abortion was essentially prohibited in the United States beginning in about 1820, although some self-induced miscarriages were permitted until the late 1800s. As a result, women who became pregnant “out of wedlock” or as a result of rape, for instance, often retreated to “homes for unwed mother” to give birth and then gave their children up for adoption.

While adoption services were generally humane sources of children for childless couples, occasionally these services were corrupt. Some such services were what was referred to as “a baby farm.” In one case, a former German World War I nurse named Helene Geisen-Volk took in unwanted babies from unmarried single mothers and boarded some babies on a temporary basis and then abused and neglected them so severely that over 50 died in her “care.” Even so, there was found to be insufficient evidence to try her for anything but assisting in one illegal abortion, for which she was given parole, and attempting to substitute a living baby for a baby left in her care who disappeared, for which she was sentenced to less than 3 years in prison. Why? Her baby farm was licensed by New York City; it was a legal business. And yet everyone knew she was responsible for the disappearance of over 50 infants.

In light of Geisen-Volk’s crimes and punishment, Casey Anthony’s “losing” a child whose body was later discovered after an extensive hunt and nationwide publicity seems comparatively trivial—yet she is on trial for her life, and the State of Florida is spending millions on her prosecution and if convicted even more on her punishment.

Infanticide Factories

Infanticide is the term generally used to refer to parental murder of children. The Spartans as a matter of public policy abandoned puny or deformed newborns in the wilderness. Partial-birth abortion is essentially the same sort of practice (even I, a staunch supporter of a woman’s right to choose what to do with her own body, can’t justify it; it seems to be partial-birth abortion is one indication of how little our society values children).

“Baby snuffing” factories operated in this country for decades: An article in Foster’s Daily Democrat (June 1, 2008) lists a number of doctors and “adoption rings” that operated in the last half of the 20th century.

Just last year an abortion doctor in Philadelphia was charged as a serial baby murderer and with running an “abortarium” (Kermit Gosnell). He allegedly murdered infants delivered entirely alive.

When Casey Anthony’s alleged crime is compared to these wide-spread and often condoned forms of infanticide, it’s difficult to understand why she should be charged with capital murder—other than that she is beautiful and presents an exotic image on TV news cameras.

I am not a lawyer—merely a former juror (who suspects her name has been stricken from the jury rolls because the judge in the case didn’t like the jury’s decision).

I pity everyone who ends up on the Casey Anthony jury. It isn’t going to be easy—and the trial isn’t even necessary. Don’t you wish the prosecution had charged her with lesser crimes to which she could have pled guilty and taken the punishment that’s due to her?

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Jury Selection in the Casey Anthony Trial—Part I

Yesterday, jury selection began for the Casey Anthony murder trial. Every minute of the voir dire is being broadcast nationwide on the unbelievably sleazy TruTV cable network.

Yesterday, between commercials for “Hard Core Pawn” and shysters who handle mesothelioma tort suits, TruTV exposed unnamed (but, no doubt, identifiable by their voices ) prospective jurors to public scrutiny—most of whom wished to be excused from duty due to hardships, some of which were very great hardships, indeed.

The only good that can come from such commercial exploitation of a murder trial jury is that—possibly—a potential juror somewhere in this country will learn from the spectacle that jury duty is hazardous. Better yet, maybe some legislators will learn why jury selection should not be televised.

The circuit court trial judge, Belvin Perry, Jr., did his best to prevent jury selection from being televised, but over the weekend an appeals court overturned his decision to make the location of the selection process secret.

It looks as if Florida state law prohibits any and all restrictions on the press, which suggests to this former juror that the Florida State Supreme Court or the U. S. Supreme Court needs to step in and end the ghastly practice of broadcasting jury selection.

Where in the Bill of Rights does it say that freedom of the press includes the right to expose the private affairs of non-public figures? It isn’t as if a prospective juror applies for a position on a high-profile jury like the Casey Anthony jury.

What possible benefit can be derived from the public knowing that some employers do not pay employees for time serving on jury duty? Or that a person who has been selected at random does not feel she speaks English well? Or that another person has a family that could not drive to Orlando because the family automobile is over twenty years old? Or that another person who can’t claim hardship and might be able to serve on a jury has diabetes?

A few of the questions asked of the prospective jurors surprised me. Most significantly, the judge asked some jurors what opinion they had formed in the case—not just whether they had formed an opinion. Several people were forced to say they had already decided that the defendant is guilty. Each of them seemed highly distressed by having to admit this, as if it was a character flaw—when it is really evidence of strength of character.  I really think it’s very unfair to force an honest citizen to do this in public.

The Voir Dire Experience

Voir dire is the process of questioning prospective jurors. Its purpose is to reveal possible biases that might incline a juror to vote for or against one of the sides, regardless of the courtroom presentations. But what really happens in voir dire is that the attorneys try to get rid of potential jurors based on a stereotypical classification system, called “Scientific Jury Selection,” in other words superstition.

I have been involved in voir dire twice.  Neither was a pleasant experience—even though neither was broadcast or observed by the press. I can’t imagine having to endure it on the air.

I was chosen to serve on a criminal court jury in the Cook County Criminal Courthouse. Voir dire was conducted in a courtroom behind bulletproof glass. That alone was enough to terrify every prospective juror.

Inexplicably, the heat was turned up, even though it was summer. A court reporter sat at a computer in front of the jury box, where jurors could read what was being typed on the screen. When the attorneys, defendant, and judge retreated into chambers, we could read what they were saying about us behind closed doors, because the reporter followed them with a portable keyboard.

The judge conducted the voir dire; the lawyers asked no questions. Frankly, I don’t think they cared: the prosecutors thought it was an open-and-shut case; the public defender was planning to argue that his client was guilty of two charges, regardless of the fact that he had pled not guilty.

Every prospective juror was nervous. Most of us responded to questions with a bit of a quiver in our voices. Some could barely speak—they literally choked up.

The defendant glared at us. A translator reiterated every one of our words in loud Spanish (not whispered in the defendant’s ear), so that it was impossible to think. Oddly, all Hispanic prospective jurors were excused. Because they didn’t ask any of the rest of us if we spoke any Spanish, not even “un poco,” at least one of the selected jurors turned out to be fluent in Spanish and had been able to understand the translator. Once we were in the jury room, she said she didn’t know how she would be able to concentrate during the trial, because she couldn’t help but listen to what the translator was saying.

The jury summons in Illinois includes an intrusive questionnaire, which prospective jurors are required to fill out before they arrive at court. These questions are yes/no. If you answer in the affirmative, then you must fill in a free-form explanation. The questions primarily relate to previous experience with the justice system—including the experiences of one’s extended family. When I was asked about my prior court experience, including the experiences of my family members as noted on the questionnaire, I had to reveal a very embarrassing situation involving a member of my family. It wasn’t until I had revealed this information to the whole court that the judge said we could ask to be interviewed  privately in her chambers. Another prospective juror revealed he had been sexually assaulted as a teen.

Some Small Rays of Light on the Process

Yesterday, most of the prospective jurors demonstrated that they did not want to serve on this jury. That speaks volumes about the good character of these people. No one should want to serve on the Casey Anthony jury. Justice cannot be served in this trial. Not only can nothing bring back the little girl who died, but there is no justification for the taxpayers of Florida to spend millions in order to execute a young woman who clearly has a personality disorder. Casey Anthony is over-charged. If she had been charged with neglect, abuse, and second-degree murder two years ago, she would be serving a long prison sentence right now.

And if the press had not sensationalized the Anthony family tragedy, most of us would never have heard her name—and we wouldn’t be any the worse for it.

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Judge Belvin Perry—a juror’s best friend

The judge in the upcoming murder trial of Casey Anthony, Belvin Perry, Jr.,  is refusing to reveal the location where jury selection will take place on Monday, May 9. This is a brilliant decision. If the press had access to the voir dire proceedings, it would serve no purpose other than to expose prospective jurors to public ridicule. It would also guarantee that the press would hound the jurors after the trial and that the losing attorneys would use press reports to find ways to accuse the jurors of misconduct.

Sidebar: If you have any doubt that jurors in a high-profile trial televised nationwide are subject to hounding by the press, you should hear what happened to the foreman of the jury in O. J. Simpson’s recent Nevada trial. I will be blogging about his story soon.

Naturally, a number of media outlets have appealed Judge Perry’s ruling, and if the appeals court can’t rule before Monday, the press will have managed to delay the trial. Clearly the media haven’t heard that justice delayed is justice denied.

Judge Perry has also restricted public demonstrations around the courthouse to specific areas.

Both these issues are being labeled First Amendment issues in the press. They point out that Florida also has “sunshine” laws, which permit the press and public extensive access to courtroom proceedings.

Maybe, its time for the Supreme Court to revisit the issues raised by the murder trial of Sam Sheppard. In 1966 the Supreme Court reversed Sheppard’s conviction because of the circus atmosphere in which the trial was conducted:

From the cases coming here we note that unfair and prejudicial news comment on pending trials has become increasingly prevalent. Due process requires that the accused receive a trial by an impartial jury free from outside influences. Given the pervasiveness of modern communications and the difficulty of effacing prejudicial publicity from the minds of the jurors, the trial courts must take strong measures to ensure that the balance is never weighed against the accused. And appellate tribunals have the duty to make an independent evaluation of the circumstances. Of course, there is nothing that proscribes the press from reporting events that transpire in the courtroom. But where there is a reasonable likelihood that prejudicial news prior to trial will prevent a fair trial, the judge should continue the case until the threat abates, or transfer it to another county not so permeated with publicity. In addition, sequestration of the jury was something the judge should have raised sua sponte with counsel. If publicity during the proceedings threatens the fairness of the trial, a new trial should be ordered. But we must remember that reversals are but palliatives; the cure lies in those remedial measures that will prevent the prejudice at its inception. The courts must take such steps by rule and regulation that will protect their processes from prejudicial outside interferences. Neither prosecutors, counsel for defense, the accused, witnesses, court staff nor enforcement officers coming under the jurisdiction of the court should be permitted to frustrate its function. Collaboration between counsel and the press as to information affecting the fairness of a criminal trial is not only subject to regulation, but is highly censurable and worthy of disciplinary measures.

Of course, a change of venue in Casey Anthony’s trial now can’t fix the problem. And even less-noteworthy crimes and trials than Casey Anthony’s are covered nation-wide.

Maybe its time to remove cameras and microphones from courtrooms when notorious defendants are being tried.

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