Orlando, FL- As most of you following the murder trial of Casey Anthony for her 34 month old daughter, Caylee Marie, Saturday brought the most shocking day of NON-testimony yet.
I am referring to the bombshell dropped on the court by lead defense attorney, J. Cheney Mason. For reasons that may very well stay sealed until the conclusion of the trial, amongst rumors of photoshopping evidence pictures and witness tampering, Mason iniatied an off the record sidebar followed by an incamera meeting someone decided the defendant would not attend.
The dissention in the ranks seemed to stem from Friday’s rookie error, made by Mason, a criminal defense attorney with nearly 40 years of experience and considered one of the “super lawyers” in the State of Florida. Mason asked first responder deputy Ryan Eberlin, of the OCSO if he placed Casey Anthony in handcuffs at the Anthony home , opening the door to the prosecution to allow the deputy to explain, in front of the jury, that he did so at the request of Cindy Anthony after providing proof her daughter fraudulently used her credit cards.
(Editor’s Note: I was so stunned by this ginormous snafu I considered the possibility Mason did so to get fired on purpose. Given Saturday’s events, my jury is still out on that one.)
With Tru Tv’s Insession and other various local affiliates geared up for all day Saturday coverage, this presented the unique problem of having a day of rampant legal speculation as to what could have caused Judge Perry, who already scheduled an extended Saturday as a sanction to the defense for it’s third contempt of an order regarding expert witness testimony, ran through every option.
Based on the fact that immediately after court was recessed until 8:30 AM this morning, Jose Baez informed Dot Simms she would need to accompany State Attorney Jeff Ashton for the afternoon deposition of Dr. Kenneth Furton, that he could not, so she “just had to”, and the immediate seal of both the sidebar and incamera session, it is clear there are very limited reasons for the kerfeffel under Florida Law.
Jury related issue: Impossible as the court reporter left immediately after the recess. If that were the case, Judge Perry would have been required to address the issue immediately on the record, and with counsel present.
Pending Witness testimony Issue: Would not require recess, would not allow for closed proceedings and sealed transcripts, and there were 7 defense witnesses at the court house waiting to be called.
Plea Deal: Again, would not require in camera session without the defendant.
Misconduct: ding ding ding.. We have a winner.
Health Issue: Possible, but highly unlikely given we are looking at only about another week of testimony.
Rule 4-1.16 Declining or Terminating Representation
(a) When Lawyer Must Decline or Terminate Representation.
Except as stated in subdivision (c), a lawyer shall not represent a client or, where representation has commenced, shall withdraw from the representation of a client if:
(1) the representation will result in violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct or law;
(2) the lawyer’s physical or mental condition materially impairs the lawyer’s ability to represent the client; or
(3) the lawyer is discharged.
(b) When Withdrawal Is Allowed.
Except as stated in subdivision (c), a lawyer may withdraw from representing a client if withdrawal can be accomplished without material adverse effect on the interests of the client, or if:
(1) the client persists in a course of action involving the lawyer’s services that the lawyer reasonably believes is criminal or fraudulent;
(2) the client has used the lawyer’s services to perpetrate a crime or fraud;
(3) a client insists upon pursuing an objective that the lawyer considers repugnant or imprudent;
(4) the client fails substantially to fulfill an obligation to the lawyer regarding the lawyer’s services and has been given reasonable warning that the lawyer will withdraw unless the obligation is fulfilled;
(5) the representation will result in an unreasonable financial burden on the lawyer or has been rendered unreasonably difficult by the client; or
(6) other good cause for withdrawal exists.
An attorney withdrawl in the middle of trial is not unheard of, and it is not automatic grounds for a mistrial. That said, given the fact this is a death penalty case, and Jose Baez does not meet the requirements as lead counsel in a capital case, it increases the chances significantly.
Rule 3.112 of the Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure (2000) outline the minimum standards for attorneys in capital cases: Lead trial counsel assignments should be given to attorneys who: are members of the bar admitted to practice in the jurisdiction or admitted to practice pro hac vice; are experienced and active trial practitioners with at least five years of litigation experience in the field of criminal law; have prior experience as lead counsel in no fewer than nine jury trials of serious and complex cases which were tried to completion, as well as prior experience as lead defense counsel or co-counsel in at least two cases tried to completion in which the death penalty was sought. In addition, of the nine jury trials which were tried to completion, the attorney should have been lead counsel in at least three cases in which the charge was murder; or alternatively, of the nine jury trials, at least one was a murder trial and an additional five were felony jury trials; and are familiar with the practice and procedure of the criminal courts of the jurisdiction; and are familiar with and experienced in the utilization of expert witnesses and evidence, including but not limited to psychiatric and forensic evidence, and have demonstrated the necessary proficiency and commitment which exemplify the quality of representation appropriate to capital cases. Trial co-counsel assignments should be given to attorneys who: are members of the bar admitted to practice in the jurisdiction or admitted to practice pro hac vice; who qualify as lead counsel under paragraph (c) of these standards or meet the following requirements: are experienced and active trial practitioners with at least three years of litigation experience in the field of criminal law; and have prior experience as lead counsel or co-counsel in no fewer than three jury trials of serious and complex cases which were tried to completion, at least two of which were trials in which the charge was murder; or alternatively, of the three jury trials, at least one was a murder trial and one was a felony jury trial; and are familiar with the practice and procedure of the criminal courts of the jurisdiction and have demonstrated the necessary proficiency and commitment which exemplify the quality of representation appropriate to capital cases.
Ann Finnell, Casey Anthony penalty phase attorney, is the only remaining lawyer on her team that meets the criteria- will Judge Perry order her to resume the defense?
Will whoever shows up at the “table against the wall” request a mistrial or simply a curative instruction? I have a couple of submissions I would like to offer, if that is the case.
Tune in at 8:30AM.