Judge Bars Critical Defense Argument in Casey Trial

As the lawyers prepared for final arguments in the capital murder trial of Casey Anthony, Orange County Chief Judge Belvin Perry Jr. hit the defense with a major ruling barring them from making a key argument to the jury: that Casey had been sexually abused. Perry ruled that there was no evidence to support the allegation and therefore defense counsel Jose Baez would be prevented from even mentioning it in his closing.

Baez has been criticized for some of his actions in the trial, including his suggestion that Casey was abused by her brother, Lee, and her father. This was the critical lynchpin in Baez’s explanation of Casey’s odd behavior after the disappearance of Caylee.

Baez said in his opening statement that Casey Anthony’s brother, Lee Anthony, abused her, but “it didn’t go as far” as the abuse by her father. However, Perry ruled that there are “no facts in evidence or reasonable inferences that can be drawn … that either Mr. George Anthony or Mr. Lee Anthony molested or attempted to molest Ms. Anthony.”

I agree with the view that Baez was unable to show any evidence of such abuse. Indeed, I thought the argument was pretty weak and counterproductive. However, there is a broader question of the increasing limitations imposed by judges on criminal defendants. The failure to show such evidence tends to destroy your credibility with the jury and the prosecutors are able to show the jury that the defense failed to deliver as promised. The concern with these rulings is that judges are increasingly tailoring cases to bar arguments that were once left to the jury to weigh. With the recent changes in states like Michigan to allow judges to summarize evidence, this trend raises serious concerns over the influence and bias of judges. When such arguments are barred, it is very difficult to deal with the issue on appeal since courts rule that the defense cannot show that the argument would have clearly produced a different outcome if allowed. In this case, the defense was allowed to raise the allegations in the opening statement but was then barred from directly discussing it in the closing, including an explanation of how the evidence supports the claim. Indeed, I would think that the prosecution would want to stomp on the issue in light of the failure to back up the allegations.

This is a trial for the life of Casey Anthony and the prior view was that she should be allowed to make her own case. I tend to favor this view, though I find this a difficult question in this case due to the lack of evidence and the failure of Anthony to take the stand. I think that there is a good-faith basis for the ruling in light of the utter failure to present evidence to support the claim. Yet, if this is her view, shouldn’t she be allowed to voice it to the jury? I can understand and support the court barring some arguments that are racist or discriminatory, but when does a court do too far in preventing a person from stating her case to a jury of her peers?

What do you think?

Source: CNN

Jonathan Turley

60 thoughts on “Judge Bars Critical Defense Argument in Casey Trial”

  1. OS,

    Yeah, that’s a pretty scary thought alright. If I get in trouble in Florida, there is only one person I’m going to call. Our very own Mike Appleton. The only reason I’d ever call Baez is to see if he had Prince Albert in a can.

  2. BiL, I used to work with an attorney who had a favorite expression in regard to people like Ms. Grace: “Her alligator mouth overloaded her hummingbird ass.”

  3. BiL, want to have a scary thought? Baez is now the “go to” guy if you are charged with murder. That is, if he is not disbarred first.

    Elaine, don’t do that. I had my mouth full. Now to go get the screen cleaner.

  4. Elaine,

    “I didn’t know she was pregnant.”

    Neither did I. I am not surprised, however, that the only creature that would have anything to do with her would have to be as both as mean and as dumb as a bull. Quite frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if she had a clutch of alligator hatchlings.

  5. OS,

    Having seen much of the prosecution’s and the defense’s presentation? I mark a failure to convict as a failure by the prosecution. It certainly wasn’t due to the brilliance of Baez.

  6. Not guilty on murder, child abuse or manslaughter charges, convicted of making false statements to law enforcement. Nancy Grace is going to have a cow.

  7. Jury has reached a verdict. The Court has announced it will be read at 2:15 PM EST. You can get a live feed from several of the news channels if you do not have access to a television at the moment.

    Here is a link to the CNN web page.


  8. Barbara,

    By that analogy…K-Street/Wall Street has should receive the death penalty…

  9. She is guilty! Didnt report her child missing untill 31 days and tha was only because of pressure from her parents. I believe she should get the death penality!

  10. FFLeo:

    “Mespo, I did not think it possible for an attorney (not all are long-winded, mind you) to posit such a brief brief (summation of the 3 No’s).”


    Brevity is (and always was — See, Lincoln, Abraham, “Gettysburg Address) the hallmark of good advocacy.

  11. Maybe I am missing the point where Cindy answered the question and it is still part of the defense…

    If I were the attorney, I’d place my objections on the record for appeal purposes and if the Prosecutor raises the issue in his closings then…well…I think the damage is apparent…

    I agree that the Defendants attorney should have never raised the issue…but that is just me…

  12. Mespo,

    Since the lies were always tied up with the whereabouts of the child, I won’t be surprised if the jury comes back with the felony murder count but votes against the death penalty.

  13. I agree with Bob, Esq. et al.

    Mespo, I did not think it possible for an attorney (not all are long-winded, mind you) to posit such a brief brief (summation of the 3 No’s).

  14. @Anonymously Yours: “Why is it that the Prosecutor can play it in the press and the Defense…is basically stuck….”

    In this case, the Prosecutors never “played it in the press”, but Baez did every time he possibly could. He remarked to reporters & cameras following him one day about how “great it was that anything he said, they all would follow him and listen to his every word.” He also had at least one lengthy program in the middle of trial with Geraldo Rivera on Telemundo discussing the case. Other reporters covering the trial verified that Baez spent many lunch hours with Rivera.

  15. “In this case, the defense was allowed to raise the allegations in the opening statement but was then barred from directly discussing it in the closing, including an explanation of how the evidence supports the claim….Yet, if this is her view, shouldn’t she be allowed to voice it to the jury?”

    No, not without actual evidence having been presented during the trial. What the attorneys say in opening or closing statements is not evidence, as we all know. Most importantly in this case: the allegations of sexual abuse as well as the “fact” that Caylee died by accidental drowning on the last day she was seen by anyone else, were only first ever alleged in Baez’ opening statement. IMO, these accusations were the lies manufactured on the eve of trial after all Casey’s lies during the previous three years awaiting trial were disproved and she knew she needed something else to explain her actions. I also fault Baez for causing this problem in the first place. His hubris was extreme, especially in the days just before trial when he crowed to anyone who would listen that “the truth will finally be revealed in the first 20 seconds of my opening statement.” IMO, Baez was too concerned with publicity for himself, turning himself into a “star”…

  16. Mark me in the Bob/OS/mespo column on this one. Or as mespo so succinctly put it, “No evidence; no argument; no brainer.”

  17. Murder is aleways messy business and untangling the knot of lies, conflicting evidence, and false trails is near impossible. To resolve the madness, most juries look to basic rules of human character: liars are not to be trusted; physical evidence doesn’t lie, those without reason to lie probably aren’t, and finally, acute perception of unfolding events is not a universal personality trait. These “rules” are fraught with problems and false assumptions but they are as reliable a tool box as we have. I think the case has not gone well for the defense and second degree murder is the likely outcome.

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