Quiz: Are you a “highly sensitive person”?

If you answer “yes” to 8 or more of the following questions, then you are a “highly sensitive person,” as described in Elaine Aron’s book, The Highly Sensitive Person. If you answer “yes” to at least one of the questions, the odds are you have that affliction but have adapted pretty well:

1. Does the power indicator light on the TV at the foot of your bed keep you awake?

2. Do you always hear strange noises in a car when you’re driving or riding in it, even when the radio is on? Motor noises? Wheel and tire noises? Chassis creaks?

3. Do you smell things nobody else can smell? Smoke? Gas? Cinnamon? Hominy?

4. Do perfume and cologne irritate your nose? Even the scent of shampoo in your own hair?

5. Do you see things on the periphery of your vision that no one else can see? Lights? Shadows?

6. Are you unable to sleep in an airplane seat even in Business Class?

7. Is it always too hot for you in the upper balcony at the Chicago Civic Opera House or Chicago’s O’Hare Airport? (Chicago is often freezing cold, but neither of those establishments ever is.)

8. Does an Ikea store give you a panic attack?

9. Do you prefer ATMs to live bank tellers, because they don’t ask you for personal information (such as an ID picture) to cash a check?

10. Is one Godiva chocolate too many?

My condolences, if you answered “yes” to 8 or more of these very serious questions. On second thought, my condolences if you answered “yes” to 2 or more. Gagging at the smell of cinnamon is no laughing matter.

My congratulations if you did not.

And, if you’re highly sensitive, you should avoid jury duty!

“Presumed Guilty” by Jose Baez (Picking a Jury)

One of the most-striking revelations of attorney Jose Baez’s Presumed Guilty, Casey Anthony: The Inside Story is Chapter 23, “Picking a Jury.” At least it struck me, a former juror on a criminal trial, who was terrified during voir dire and who after the trial was so upset I wrote a novel about the jury experience (The Juror Hangs).

As most of you know, attorneys in high-profile criminal trials and high-stakes civil trials generally hire professional jury consultants to help them choose which jurors to challenge during voir dire. In my case, the trial was as far from high profile as you can get: although the trial was held in one of Cook County Criminal Courthouse’s largest courtrooms, with the judge elevated on a bench ten feet above the floor, during the three days of the trial, the only spectator was a man in a baggy suit whom I assumed to be a detective. Even the defendant wasn’t there, according to the judge because he “chose not to be present in the courtroom.” After the trial the jury learned he had also chosen not to be present in Chicago or Illinois: he had jumped bail. So, no one but the attorneys and the judge questioned me.

If any defendant needed the help of a good jury consultant, it was Casey Anthony, but, as Baez explains in chapter 23, Baez’s jury consultant, Richard Gabriel, resigned shortly before the trial. (While Baez gives no reason, I can’t help but wonder if he was getting out of the case while the getting was good, since he must have been concerned about the change of venue, which proved to be very problematic for jury selection.)

By the time it came to pick a jury, everyone in America had seen Casey’s narrow face and big eyes peering through a jailhouse window at her family, who did half the prosecution’s job for them by asking her incriminating, leading questions on video. They also helped make Casey America’s most-hated defendant since O.J. Simpson.

According to Baez, other people also helped to make the choice of objective jurors extremely difficult. Judge Belvin Perry granted Baez’s request for a change of venue to a locale other than Orlando, but he refused to move the trial and instead chose to select jurors from a nearby Florida jurisdiction, St. Petersburg/Clearwater, which is virtually a suburb of Orlando. The judge’s idea was to ensure that the jurors could easily be bused to Orlando, where the trial and voir dire took place.

Besides the proximity of the two cities, Judge Perry put another landmine in Baez’s path: he refused to tell either legal team where the prospective jurors would come from until a week before the trial—a week. That meant that neither the prosecution nor the defense would have time to review the jury questionnaires in consultation with jury consultants.

Of course, by that time Baez had no jury consultant, so he had to come up with some clever means of vetting the Clearwater jury pool. For instance, his legal team went to Clearwater, where they convened at a local restaurant. Baez left his colleagues at the table and sat down at the bar, where he chatted with the locals gathered there. To his surprise, he discovered that Clearwater wasn’t as obsessed with Casey Anthony as Orlando was. One woman he spoke to didn’t even recognize him, although she claimed to watch the news avidly. “I was shocked,” Baez writes. “I’m not getting the dirty looks I get in Orlando.”

After that, with jury questionnaires in hand, attorney Dorothy Clay Sims and interns from the College of Law at Florida A&M turned to the web, where they investigated the backgrounds of the potential jurors through social media and even by reading book and product reviews the prospective jurors had written on Amazon.com. It turned out that one of the prospects had recently purchased a toy “action figure” seated in an electric chair.

I wrote about voir dire in the Casey Anthony trial at the time: incredibly, it was televised. While the TV cameras weren’t permitted to photograph the jurors’ faces, they did pick up their voices. They were clearly identifiable to their family, friends, and coworkers. However, the spectacle also gave us court-watchers a great deal to ponder. For example, Juror Number One said that a trial was “about solving a mystery.” I gasped. Jurors are expressly forbidden from conducting investigations on their own (hence the URL of this blog: http://cfc.309.myftpupload.com) or from interpreting the evidence in any novel way.

After she made the remark Baez said to the juror:

“’This is the prosecution’s show . . . and if we sat back and did nothing and if the prosecution failed to deliver the goods, you cannot convict.’ During my entire jury selection I wanted to educate the  jurors about the burden of proof and about what it meant to be certain of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. While questioning them, I wasn’t looking for answers as much as I was educating them about the fact that the defense didn’t have to prove anything.”

If I had been Baez, I wrote in this blog, I would have dismissed this woman ASAP, not only because of that remark but also because she was a nurse. Baez, however, believes that nurses make good jurors, because they are “nurturing.” That is true, but in my experience nurses are also know-it-alls who like to give medical advice that ought to come from a doctor and are never happier than when they’re telling other people what to do: “Roll up your sleeve.” It seemed to me that Juror Number One would listen to the testimony of the medical experts and then decide that she knew better (which, I suppose, was just as well, given the prosecution’s biased pathologist witnesses).

In the end, after the verdict Baez congratulated himself on how well he had educated the jury during voir dire. I don’t know whether other trial attorneys take this stance, but if they don’t they ought to. It clearly worked in Jose Baez’s defense of Casey Anthony.

The verdict was “Not Guilty,” not “innocent”: All of Baez’s detractors ought to take a step back. The state should not be permitted to take anybody’s life without proof beyond a reasonable doubt. And even then I believe America would be a better place without the death penalty.

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Drew Peterson Jury—What are they thinking?

Today the Drew Peterson jury is hearing closing arguments and soon will retire to the jury room to deliberate. Media analysts are at this very moment trying to read the jurors’ minds. As a former juror, I can tell you one thing about the juror’s minds for certain: most of the jurors made up their minds during the trial.

Sidebar: Lawyers like to think jurors make up their minds after the opening statements, but this is not true. After the opening statements, jurors make up their minds only about what the most important evidence should be. In the Peterson trial that was likely the evidence proving the death was homicide.

Closing arguments do not make or break a case for either side. All that closing arguments accomplish is to provide a vocabulary and set of phrases for jurors to use in their deliberations. One side or the other in the Peterson trial has already won, and their closing arguments will be repeated in the jury room to help convince any undecided juror to join the majority. I really can’t believe that more than one juror is entirely convinced Peterson is guilty. It’s more likely that most jurors don’t believe the prosecution met the burden of proof. They may suspect Peterson has done some “bad things,” but they can’t say with confidence that they know what they were.

Sidebar: Personally, the more I heard about Stacy Peterson during the trial, the more I wondered if she’s the only wife Drew did away with. It seems she wanted a divorce and began to spread rumors that Drew had killed his former wife. If so, Drew might have “snapped” and closed her rumor-spreading mouth permanently. However, that doesn’t mean that Stacy really believed or knew he killed Kathleen Savio.

It’s impossible to tell from outside the courtroom which of the sides has already won. Since I have a bias in favor of the Bill of Rights and in favor of Blackstone’s admonition that it’s better that ten guilty men go free than one innocent man suffer, from what little I know of what went on in the trial, if I were on the Peterson jury I would vote “not guilty because of a reasonable doubt.”

Reasonable doubts in the case seem to include whether Kathleen Savio’s scalp wound was sufficient to have knocked her out long enough to drown in the bathtub; just how much water was in the bathtub at the time she injured her scalp; when her death occurred and, consequently, whether Drew Peterson has an alibi for the time of death. Those are significant lacunae in the evidence and, therefore, produce significant and reasonable doubts in my mind as to whether it was an accidental death or a homicide. Even if the jury concludes on the basis of evidence about which I know nothing that it was homicide, they still have overcome the hurdle of knowing when she died and whether Drew Peterson had the opportunity to have killed her.

Much has been made of the Peterson jury’s “bonding.” They coordinated their outfits on a few days, once apparently dressing in the Chicago Bears’ colors, blue and orange. This is also a clue to me, a former juror. The more bonding a jury does, the easier it is for them all to agree on a verdict. Given that the Peterson jury demonstrated its cohesion in such a light-hearted way tells me they aren’t worried about having to send a former police officer to the slammer for life. Believe me, when you’re worried about having to convict somebody of a capital crime, you don’t dress up like your favorite sports team. You’re anxious, can’t sleep, and if you’re female you cry a lot at home.

For court-watchers curious about what goes through jurors’ heads I recommend Dr. Sunwolf’s Practical Jury Dynamics and Practical Jury Dynamics 2.  Or, for a less-intellectual insight into jurors, please download a copy of my The Juror Hangs from Amazon Kindle or B&N Nook (an ignore the lone disgruntled reader who gave me a bad review. I know who she is).


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The Fate of the Jury—Part III, The OJ Simpson Robbery Trial

Long ago I promised Mr. Paul Connelly, foreman of the 2008 jury in the trial of O. J. Simpson for robbery and kidnapping, that I would publicly apologize for my ignorant post about him. The time is long past for that, so I not only apologize profusely for mischaracterizing him in this blog but also for taking so long to correct my stupid mistake.

I hope Mr. Connelly knows that Google searches no longer turn up my uninformed post about him (and after I’m sure this blog article is posted, I will unpublish the earlier posts and comments). In fact, Google searches no longer turn up much at all about the O. J. Simpson trial except to list Simpson’s prison address and to state that in 2011 the Nevada Supreme Court denied Simpson’s appeal and all of his reasoning, including his complaint against the jury and jury foreman specifically. In addition, Google has recently redesigned YouTube so that it is impossible to find anything on it other than paid advertising, so none of the videos of the Nevada trial that YouTube once featured so prominently are easy to find.

I hope now Mr. Connelly is able to return to his private life. I know from personal experience how hard that is to do after serving on even an obscure jury. Serving on a jury is traumatic for anyone with integrity, a belief in the American system of justice, and a love of the Bill of Rights.

The Book

Mr. Connelly told me he had written a book about his experiences with O. J. Simpson’s lawyers, the press, and the judges. It still sits in a drawer somewhere, because he was wise enough not to make it public. I believe I told him I had once considered writing a true-crime book about a case involving a woman convicted of murder whom I believe to be innocent. I contacted the attorneys at the Author’s Guild (of which I am a member), and they kindly informed me that I would need not only liability insurance but also to find an attorney who specializes in vetting manuscripts before publication.

Naturally, I decided against writing the true crime book. Since that time, I have also decided not to blog about the case any further, because really I know very little about the people involved. Most of their behavior is more inexplicable than any fictional character I have ever dreamed up. I wish them all well, but it’s best for a juror or other bystander in these matters just to keep quiet and try to go on with their own lives.

The Fate of the O. J. Simpson Foreman

Mr. Connelly posted public comments on this blog. I have researched and confirmed what he told me. Here it is:

After the verdict was in, the foreman, Mr. Connelly, agreed to speak to the media in the courtroom. BIG MISTAKE. The reporters, cameramen, and sound crews were—as usual—unruly.

Mis-speaking to the Media

Someone asked a question about what sentence was appropriate for Simpson.

Mr. Connelly replied: "That is up to the judge and the court to decide. It is not up to this panel of jurors."

The reporter pressed on, saying,"Many people are of the impression that OJ Simpson should have been found guilty and sentenced to life in prison 13 years ago and that surely every one has opinion on this case."

Mr. Connelly mistook the reference of the pronoun “this” as “opinion”, and replied, "and that was my opinion, that it is up to the court and the jury to decide."

I told Mr. Connelly that it was legitimate to interpret his statement to mean that he thought OJ Simpson was guilty and ought to have been sentenced to life (the former English teacher in me speaking, not the former juror). However, I do believe him when he says that was not what he meant. The Nevada Supreme Court also agree that was what he meant.

This is an object lesson for all future jurors: Never speak to the media. Jurors are not trained to address the media. It takes years of formal education to be competent to deal with the media.

False Rumor

The media reported that the foreman, Mr. Connelly, had pressed the jury to continue deliberating late into the night in order to deliver a verdict on the 13th anniversary of Simpson’s famous not-guilty verdict.

Mr. Connelly swears that no one on the jury, not even he, knew that the date was the anniversary. The reason they pressed on was that they had first deliberated over Mr. Simpson and had reached agreement on his guilt, but they had not deliberated on Mr. Stewart. If they had adjourned for the evening, they were worried that the Simpson guilty verdicts would leak out; so rather than risk that they pressed on.

To quote Mr. Connelly’s comments on this blog:

“As for the foreman deciding to press on into the night on the 13th anniversary, not a single juror had a clue as to the significance of the day. Certainly the defense attorneys did, and they could have postponed closing arguments another day. . . . We had no idea that it was the 13th day of the trial; we deliberated 13 hours; and it was the 13th anniversary of his [Simpson’s] famous trial. He also committed the latest crimes on the 13th of September the year prior. My original juror summons number was 32, which is his jersey number, [and] he was also once jailed here in Vegas in cell 32. Is this my fault?”

It’s an interesting observation, don’t you agree? And surely it is no coincidence that “the defense attorneys” later cited Mr. Connelly’s remarks and behavior as grounds for their appeal.

Mr. Connelly also wrote:

“As for no black jurors on this trial: 18 jurors sat through this trial. Juror #13 is an African American male, and juror#17 is an African American female. The judge wanted to do a lottery of sorts to decide the 12 deliberating jurors. This method would have certainly given one of the African American jurors a chance to deliberate. However, the defense lawyers did not want the lottery, as they asked the judge to have jurors 1 [through] 12 as the jury and 13 [through] 18 as alternates.”

In Mr. Connelly’s opinion, the defense attorneys did this in order to guarantee an all-white jury and, so, provide another grounds for appeal if the verdicts were guilty. I’m sure he is correct.

Media Are Destroying the Jury System

Mr. Connelly was forced to testify before the court about his alleged misconduct. Simpson’s lawyers tried to have him charged with perjury for his answers on the juror questionnaire. His family was harassed by the media. I can’t begin to imagine how horrible all this was for his family.

The State of Nevada owes him an apology, in my opinion.

You know this is true: in every high-profile trial, the only verdict the media will accept is “Guilty.” Any “Not Guilty” verdict is blamed on the jury system and the ignorance, stupidity, or corruption of the jurors.

Pray you are never the defendant in a high-profile trial of any kind. I say “pray,” because your fate is out of your control. Perfectly innocent people are arrested all the time.

But you can do something to help yourself from serving on a high-profile jury. If you don’t feel it’s ethical to ask to be excused from jury duty, then be very sure you don’t ever talk to the media.


The Fate of the Jury—Part II, Genetically Inferior Classes of Jurors

When recently, after the Casey Anthony acquittal, legal pundits called for “professional jurors,” they probably didn’t know it, because they probably aren’t well-enough educated to know it, but the idea of a superior class of American individuals who are more-capable than the average American is a concept first articulated in the early 1900s (I won’t say ‘early 20th century,’ because legal pundits think the latter era is right now) by Social Darwinists, and ‘ “[e]litists, utopians and so-called ‘progressives,’”as Edwin Black explains in “Horrifying Roots of Nazi Eugenics,” a chapter from his War against the Weak.


Until very recently I naively believed that eugenics had been thoroughly debunked as quackery decades ago. Then someone very close to me made this chilling statement about a little girl we know:

“You have to understand: some people are just worthless; nothing can save them; nothing can even help them. They’re born that way.”

The person who said this claims to be a scientist, to understand Darwinism and genetics—thus giving him the right to make such statements. (As I have asserted before, many people who claim to be scientists are nothing but very superstitious—their superstitions involve bogus statistics rather than mysticism.)

If you have any doubts that the U.S. has long been a hotbed of eugenics, please read Wikipedia’s article on the topic, which correctly notes that one “darling” of contemporary progressives, Margaret Sanger (promoter of the birth control pill and abortion and founder of Planned Parenthood, which is now a government-funded NGO), was a eugenicist.

Sidebar: I am a proponent of “a woman’s right to choose” as a privacy issue. I’m not arguing against the right to abortion. Nor am I disparaging religious opposition to abortion on moral grounds. What I’m saying is that there have always been a large number of people who favor abortion as a means of genetic engineering. Is it a mere coincidence that, according to the Center for Disease Control in 2000, the ratio of abortions-to-live-births for African-American women is 3 times that of white women?

Eugenics in Law and Literature

Margery Allingham (1904-1966), British author of the Albert Campion mysteries, was also a eugenicist. As late as 1963, she wrote a mystery novel about a series of crimes committed by a genetically flawed child born during the Nazi bombing of London in 1940-1941. The novel is The China Governess.

In The China Governess, the mystery kicks off with a young man’s search for his genetic roots. An orphan (adopted by a gentleman of the landed-gentry, whose roots extend back to the Norman Conquest) learns just before his marriage to a wealthy heiress that he was born in the worst slum in London. Until then, he had thought he was the wealthy adoptive father’s “bastard,” as he puts it. It  panics him to think he might have inherited “tendencies, weaknesses” from an unwed, poverty-stricken mother.

Of course, in the end we learn the hero isn’t a defective after all. His mother and father were married, middle-class, and educated. His mother died in child-birth, and his father was separated from the infant during the London evacuation. The criminal in the mystery is revealed as the true child of the slums, “a poor type. . . not necessarily an imbecile. . . ,” though barely human, more “reptilian” than anything.

Now, since many modern murderers seem barely human to me, too, you might think I would find this attitude acceptable. But, saying that someone doesn’t behave up to the standards of humanity is very different from saying there are classes of humanity, some of which are inherently, grossly inferior to others. No, I would not have thought this villain was genetically inferior just because he was born in a slum or that he was destined for a life of crime.

Worse yet, Allingham also extended her class of genetic inferiors to the working classes. Here’s how the heiress fiancée of the hero describes her unexpected encounter with the masses in a tobacconist’s shop:

“Many of the women were factory workers. . . . They were . . . all hot, and laughing aloud. The brutal noise, meaningless as a bird call, reached an intensity which stunned her. . . . The uniformed factory women were imitating their men folk and swearing as they never did in the normal way when each was as it were a private person. The trickle of dirty fantasy threading through the crackle produced a shocking sound which she had not met before, and which gave her the illusion that there were no individuals present, only a single merciless personality. As the queue fed her relentlessly into the dark shop the stale, sweaty smell of leather and newsprint met her in a wave . . . .”

That’s right. She had never been inside a shop that sold tobacco and magazines before. I repeat: this was written in 1963. John F. Kennedy was President until November of that year—the heyday of liberalism, one would have thought.

Another eugenicist was poet Edgar Lee Masters (1868-1950) (The Spoon River Anthology), a lawyer and Clarence Darrow’s law partner in Chicago, when Darrow was accused of jury-tampering (a Los Angeles jury hearing a case of union violence against a newspaper).

EdgarLeeMasters Edgar Lee Masters wrote two epic-length, blank-verse works on the subject of eugenics, crime, and juries: Domesday Book (1920) and The Fate of the Jury (1929). In my quest for literature about juries and jurors, several years ago I found copies of these (first and only editions) at an online antiquarian bookseller’s website. Inside the front cover of the Domesday Book was the slip of paper reproduced to the left: it is Masters’ autograph. It reads: “For Alice Woodward’s copy of Domesday Book. Edgar Lee Masters  September 25-1933.” (If I were a graphologist I think I would call his handwriting rigid and say that the cross on his T looks like a whiplash.)

Sidebar: I don’t know why he called it the Domesday Book, rather than the Doomsday Book, but he did. Frankly, my guess is he pompously thought the spelling was more authentic and medieval.

The Domesday Book is a murder mystery in blank verse, which, as far as I know, makes it unique in literary history. A young woman is found dead in Illinois’ Starved Rock State Park (which has had its share of notorious murders, including “The Starved Rock Murders” of 1960.) The detective in the story, so to speak, is a coroner who calls together a jury of the leading professional men of the community to determine whether she died accidentally or as a result of homicide. In the end, it turns out that the young woman was genetically inferior and promiscuous. Her behavior had so horrified her father that the thought she might bear him a genetically inferior grandchild out of wedlock drove him to kill her. In Masters’ mind, the tragedy seems to be what the father was driven to do to save the bloodline from contamination. (Hmm, maybe that’s what George Anthony was trying to do by testifying against his daughter.)

In The Fate of the Jury, Masters follows up on how the jurors were impacted by their experience on the coroner’s jury (something that more writers ought to pay attention to). The coroner himself, unfortunately, ultimately falls in love with a “neurotic” young woman who ought not to have children for fear she would produce equally defective children.

Professional Jurors

The idea of professional jurors is an abomination. Everyone who signed the Declaration of Independence and everyone who wrote the Constitution and the Bill of Rights would roll in their graves if we permitted a class of professional jurors to decide guilt or innocence. As a consequence, I imagine there would be another earthquake on the East Coast where, as far as I know, all the Founding Fathers are buried.

Just imagine what such a class of people would be like: They would be well-educated in the law and little else, like lawyers. Paid by the state, they would be obliged to side with the state. They would feel duty-bound to make sure justice was meted out to every guilty person, and they would be able to recognize a guilty person from a mile away.

I’ve always thought lawyers were people who chose their profession so they could tell other people what to do. I’ve never been to law school, but I’m beginning to think that Law 101 must be a course in the inborn superiority of people who can tell other people what to do.

What the Casey Anthony Jurors Are Enduring

I imagine that this weekend the Casey Anthony jurors badly needed to talk to somebody. Since they’re forbidden to do so, the religious individuals among them probably prayed a lot and the others started talking to themselves in the privacy of their hotel rooms.

At some point in a trial, I believe all jurors must be hit with reality. In most trials, that probably occurs during the defense case when they realize how flimsy the defense is. But not in this case. I bet that realization hit the jurors this weekend. At least it did for me.

In the Casey Anthony trial, defense attorney Jose Baez took a risk and provided an opening argument that the defendant had concealed the accidental death of her child and then lied to investigators because of a mental disorder caused by her father’s sexual abuse. It sounds plausible to me, even now. I believe that tactic made it possible for jurors to mentally counter-argue along with Baez during the prosecution’s case—until this weekend.

Being able to see the flaws in a State’s case is very reassuring to a  jury, who would usually prefer not to vote guilty in a serious felony trial. Most jurors understand that the State’s powers are almost limitless, and jury trials are among the few situations in which citizens are empowered to dispense justice.

I was a juror in such a case: the defendant was charged with sexual assault and kidnapping of a 13-year-old girl. From the very beginning I was frightened by these charges. I assumed the State must have solid evidence, but I hoped the defense would put up a good fight showing that the crime had not, in fact, been rape and kidnapping.

The defense attorney’s opening statement, like Jose Baez’s, claimed that something a bit less heinous had occurred: he said the defendant had gotten drunk celebrating an important life event, had spotted a girl who looked older than 13 whom he wanted to grab and kiss, and had pulled her aside, off a sidewalk, in broad daylight. It sounded plausible. It gave me hope I might be able to vote guilty to the lesser charges, but not the kidnapping charge.

It was a three-day trial. I went home the first night very unhappy to have been forced to serve on a criminal jury in the infamous Cook County Courthouse, once the busiest criminal courthouse in America. But by the second night, after I had heard most of the State’s case, I was what you might call “highly conflicted,” and I needed to talk to somebody about it.

Since I couldn’t tell my husband anything, I just cried. It was pretty clear by then that I was going to be put in a position of voting guilty on the sexual assault charges and—worst of all—I was going to have to vote not guilty on the kidnapping charges, which I believed meant I would need to have the courage of my convictions and be the lone holdout.

The second day of the trial was a turning point. The little girl testified, and even a year and a half after the incident she barely looked thirteen. The defense’s opening argument was obviously flawed.

On Saturday morning I listened to Anthony trial testimony live on my CNN iPhone app while I took care of chores. I had been disturbed by Medical Examiner Dr. G’s testimony on Friday (and not for the reasons you might suppose; I wondered why Baez had failed to ask her more questions about the meaning of “homicide” as a “manner of death”).  That was not the turning point in my thinking about the appropriate penalty for Casey Anthony’s crimes.

At that point, on Friday afternoon, I still thought Baez had a chance of convincing the jury during the defense case that Caylee Anthony drowned in the family pool, that George Anthony was responsible for the duct tape found on the remains, and that a utility meter reader had somehow obtained the remains and eventually dumped them in a wooded area near the Anthony home in order to claim a reward.

But everything had changed for me by Saturday morning when the criminalists testified about collecting evidence from the Anthony home in December, 2008. A photograph of heart-shaped stickers was introduced into evidence, stickers shaped like the heart-shaped imprint on the duct tape.

Before that, a forensic entomologist Dr. Neal Haskell had testified about the flies found in the white “trash” bag, in the trunk of the car, and associated with the remains in the woods. While I think his work may have been a bit flawed (opening a few doors for the defense to contradict it), one thing he said made sense to me, namely, that the remains had to have been in the woods for many weeks, if not months. In other words, if a meter reader did leave the remains in the woods, he had to have done so many weeks, if not months, before December 11, 2008.

I don’t believe that any juror at this point can imagine a narrative in which Casey Anthony isn’t responsible for disposing of her daughter’s remains callously. The jurors this weekend had to have been wanting desperately to talk to somebody and praying they weren’t going to have to convict her of capital murder.

I can, however, envision a narrative in which Casey Anthony disposed of the body in this way in order to shift the blame for what happened to her child (even accidental death) to the phantom nanny, “Zanny.” Technically, I suppose, this would be the crime of lying to investigators (with which she is charged).

Unfortunately, I don’t think the punishment for that charge is adequate for a person who lies about a complete stranger and does so with the intention of sending her to Death Row for kidnapping and child-murder. And I must admit that I now feel as if the only reason Casey would have concocted a lie about murder is that she was trying to avoid being found guilty of murder herself—not merely being afraid of neglect charges.

False accusations are a horror. In the Judeo-Christian tradition it is a sin: Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor. (I should point out that lying per se is not a sin. What’s a sin is calumny, lying in order to libel an innocent person.)

For the remainder of the State’s case in the Casey Anthony trial, I suspect there will be few jurors who are willing to give her the benefit of the doubt. When the defense case begins, Jose Baez will be in an untenable position, even worse than his current position. He will need to address his client’s staging of a brutal murder and blaming someone else—before he tries to rehabilitate her in the jury’s eyes, as the victim of a heinous crime, not the perpetrator. Maybe he’ll even need to get his client to tell him the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth at last.

But I am not a lawyer.

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The mob “demands justice for Caylee Anthony”

Or so says an In Session commentator about the lines of restless public citizens waiting to be given a seat in the Casey Anthony trial courtroom.

Mobs are always blood-thirsty. There’s an endless supply of Madam Defarges knitting in the gallery and shouting their verdict of “Guillotine!”

Apparently lawyers and police officers are as heartless as the common mob, if the In Session commentators are representative of them. According to lawyer Casey Jordan on In Session, Casey Anthony’s tears are unbelievable. Viewers of the show are supposedly making remarks about the amazing, eternally dry tissue Casey Anthony holds and the indelible mascara she supposedly wears.

Well , I watched portions of the trial yesterday and this morning on a 50-inch, plasma, HD monitor, and I have no doubt Casey Anthony’s tears are real. She doesn’t seem to need mascara to look good. Her nose is bright red, her eyes are red, she has red splotches on her face and neck. She often quivers. This is a woman on the edge.

Saying that, I don’t pretend to know what is going through Casey Anthony’s mind to cause this near-panic state. She could be terrified that the medical examiners’ testimony is condemning her to death, but it’s absurd for anyone to claim her tears are not genuine.

I’m also disgusted by the suggestion that the jurors will think Casey Anthony’s behavior in court is fake. I suppose lawyers and police officers always believe a defendant’s behavior is suspect; I guess they would prefer that the defendant not be present in the courtroom where he or she can deceive the jury.

But having been a juror on a criminal jury—a jury of 12 people who were neither lawyers nor police officers—jurors do not care how the defendant behaves. They don’t even care if the defendant “decides not to be present in court,” as was the case in “my” trial. They may care during a penalty-phase trial, but all a juror worries about during a criminal trial is whether or not the prosecution has proved its case so she can vote guilty in good conscience.

Jurors know they must not decide whether or not the defendant proves her innocence or—as in the Anthony trial—whether or not she proves her father molested her. If, by the end of the prosecution’s case the jury isn’t entirely convinced of Casey Anthony’s guilt they may hope to hear testimony and see evidence that actually contradicts the prosecution’s case so that they can feel more certain, but they won’t expect Casey Anthony to prove she did not murder her child in cold blood. At most they will find her guilty of manslaughter.

Mobs are cruel and blood-thirsty. Jurors are not. Especially jurors in a courtroom over which presides a perspicacious, real-worldly judge, such as Judge Belvin Perry, Jr.

  • Sidebar: Unbelievable! Somebody has bought the URL belvinperry.com. This is why everybody should own their own .com.


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Advice to Casey’s Defense—Don’t force jury to smell the smell

Once I was in the parking garage at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport and passed a car that obviously had a body in the trunk. I’m no P.I., no forensic pathologist—but  there had to be a body in the trunk. (The cops often find bodies in cars in that garage.)

My advice to the Casey Anthony defense team is:

Do everything you can to prevent the prosecution from making the jury sniff the ‘boxes’ filled with the stench of Caylee’s decomposition—even if it means conceding (stipulating, I suppose) that the trunk indeed exuded the odor of decomposition.

If you have to, admit that Casey’s car trunk at one time contained the remains of little Caylee and that Casey knew it. You’re already laying the foundation (not a legal term, but a rhetorical one) for claiming that Casey is not the only person who could have stuffed the body-filled bag into the trunk.

By now, it’s clear that Casey attempted to conceal the fact of her daughter’s death. If, as you claim, the child died at the Anthony home, then it’s also clear that somebody took the body away from there.

The jury isn’t stupid—they know Casey had at least some part in the cover-up and transportation of the remains. I believe in the opening statement you even conceded this by saying the idea of the duct tape was George Anthony’s and that the whole idea of concealment was his, too.

So what do you have to lose in credibility now if you admit that Casey knew the body was in the trunk—and that’s what made the smell, not the garbage that she threw in the trunk to cover up that smell?

Do not force the jury to endure sniffing death. They may blame you just for having to endure the smell.

The smell is clear, distinctive, and unbearable. At least one juror will vomit. Don’t force the jury to sniff 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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