Judge Belvin Perry appears to believe that, as Oscar Wilde advised, “the only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it.” Perry decided to get his 15 minutes of fame by granting an interview on the Casey Anthony murder trial during which he attacked Anthony as “very manipulative.” I will remind you that Anthony was acquitted of the first-degree murder of her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee. There are also judicial ethical rules meant to bar such commentary by judges. The question is whether the state bar will take action after this grossly inappropriate interview. Perry is the chief judge on Florida’s Ninth Judicial Circuit.
Perry assumed the mantle of both legal commentator and armchair psychologist in dishing on Anthony. He explained on the Today show that “[t]here were two sides to Casey Anthony. There was the side that was before the jury, where she portrayed the role of a mother who had lost a child, someone who was wrongfully accused, and then you could notice the change and transformation in her when the jury went out. She was very commanding, she took charge of different things, and you could see her sometimes scolding her attorneys.”
He then proceeds to describe meeting with her counsel and non-public conversations with her and counsel. He relayed how Anthony reacted to an offer for a plea of aggravated manslaughter: “I will never forget that day,” he said. “All of a sudden, you heard shouting coming from the holding cell, some four-letter words coming from the holding cell, and she was quite upset. So upset that one counselor suggested that she was incompetent to proceed.”
Perry further tells the public of his “surprise,” “shock” and “disbelief” at reading Anthony’s acquittal and that “[t]here was sufficient evidence to sustain a verdict of murder in the first degree in this case.” In other words, despite her acquittal, Perry wants the public to know that he thinks she murdered her daughter.
He also described the prosecutors as “better lawyers” and, in a backhanded compliment, described the lead defense counsel as a used car salesman.
I view this interview as nothing short of a disgrace. His conduct in my view clearly violates Canon 2 of the state judicial rules that state: “A judge shall respect and comply with the law and shall act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.” The comments to the rule note:
Irresponsible or improper conduct by judges erodes public confidence in the judiciary. A judge must avoid all impropriety and appearance of impropriety. A judge must expect to be the subject of constant public scrutiny. A judge must therefore accept restrictions on the judge’s conduct that might be viewed as burdensome by the ordinary citizen and should do so freely and willingly.
There was no evidence of any concern about the erosion of public confidence in the judiciary as Perry decided to proclaim the guilt of an acquitted individual and dish on the lawyers.
Canon 5 states:
A Judge Shall Regulate Extrajudicial Activities to Minimize the Risk of Conflict With Judicial Duties
A. Extrajudicial Activities in General. A judge shall conduct all of the judge’s extra-judicial activities so that they do not:
(1) cast reasonable doubt on the judge’s capacity to act impartially as a judge;
(2) undermine the judge’s independence, integrity, or impartiality;
(3) demean the judicial office;
(4) interfere with the proper performance of judicial duties;
(5) lead to frequent disqualification of the judge; or
(6) appear to a reasonable person to be coercive.
The rules only expressly address public comments during a trial or appeal that can undermine a case. However, these other rules clearly state that a judge, let alone the Chief Judge, must conduct themselves in a way that does not undermine the court as an institution. It is hard to imagine a more harmful act than joining the mob in proclaiming the guilt of an acquitted person and mocking her and her lawyer. Perry should be required to answer for this abuse before the bar. Otherwise, his example is likely to be followed by other judges eager to throw off the yoke of impartiality and professionalism.
Kudos: Bert Geiseman
30 thoughts on “Judge In Casey Anthony Case Publicly Proclaims His Belief In Her Guilt and Dishes On Case”
It’s a horrible precedent and this behavior can only spiral out of control when Judges post-trial comments are public entertainment (of sorts). Too much like what has happened to the anchor people that call themselves journalists.
In the particular, however; (and exceptions make very bad law)…, I just viewed Stirling Hayden’s performance in the film adaptation of Billy Budd. Keeping the integrity of the law in appearance is a farce.
Doing a Justice System Research Report, wondering why Casey Anthony had two judges???
There is a rhyme and reason.. i just dont see it. and people please lets not act like juries have always been 100% right.
If that were so we wouldnt have need of such agencies as “The innocence project” and all agencies who have worked unpaid and tirelessely to free the wrongly convicted
Judge Perry is incorrect. There was not sufficient evidence to support a first degree murder conviction. How do I know that? Because the jury said so. As for the rest, if Judge Perry can’t resist publicly discussing his cases, he needs to resign and become a legal commentator. Until he does so, or reaches mandatory retirement age, my unsolicited advice to him is identical to my unsolicited advice to Justice Scalia: shut up and do your job.
Right On Ross!. You said it Bro.
There is a difference between a bumper sticker and a novel. Jurors sometimes spend weeks (full time job essentially) listening to testimony studying all details and weighing it against the admissable evidence of the case. What the rest of us see on TV is only the “bumper sticker” version, while we were working our jobs the jurors were studying the case at hand – that’s why we shouldn’t be playing arm-chair quarterbacks determining what the verdict should have been or trashing the jury. We should respect the verdict of the jury since they are the only ones that actually put in the time to know every detail of the case and the laws pertaining to the case.
The media and Press also sometimes distort the public perception. If a case lasts several weeks and the Defendant smiles or laughs for 2 seconds – that is the photo that ends up in the newspaper – the Defendant laughing during trial (misrepresenting the full context). It’s not a perfect system but juries are as close as it gets!
I didn’t follow the trial, which is why Mike Spindell’s comment resonates with me. My guess was the story that emerged in court was not the story reported by the media, which whipped up a frenzy in their forever-effort to grab more attention and make more money, and their too-frequent lapses of judgment not to mention ethics. In the face of all those headlines (which I did read), the jury has to be congratulated as the defense attorney bestowed with honors for doing what the justice system rarely does–mete out justice.
Isn’t the whole point of having life-time appointments so that judges would be insulated from politics and could interpret the letter & spirit of the law or Constitution weighed against the merits of the case (for non-jury trials)?
Frankly: “What the Hell was he thinking?”
Perhaps: “Now everybody thinks I was the judge who let the Casey Anthony case go to Hell so if I shoot off my mouth like a Fox News commentator, I’ll be able to ditch this damn stupid job and get myself a place in the sun where I can pontificate on everything and take home the big bucks. Yeah…”
Joy: The Founding Fathers didn’t think humans in general were angels to be trusted operating unilaterally – ever! The whole premise of constitutional “checks & balances” was to counter-balance the powerful groups with equally powerful offsets. Juries are a very unique “check” because regular citizens were supposed to have authority superseding the judge and prosecutor – only subordinate to the laws and U.S. Constitution.
It’s interesting that the United States is the world’s leader today in “prisoners” largely due to the near extinction of jury trials, abusive plea bargain system, mandatory minimums, starving public defenders and courts for funds – the least funded of the three branches of government. According to MotherJones.com in some parts of the United States a public defender has only 7 minutes to meet with a Defendant to the defend the accused in court while the Executive Branch police/prosecutors have wide lattitude as to how much money they spend and are rarely penalized for abuse or outright fraud.
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