On Day 45 of the Casey Anthony murder trial, the light at the end of the tunnel shone brightly, for it was time for the two sides to deliver their closing arguments to the jury. Before that could happen, Judge Perry and the lawyers had to hash out the charges against Ms. Anthony and how the jury would ultimately be instructed about them.
The judge, sporting a fresh haircut, quickly saw that the usual disagreements between the players would cause the charge conference to extend past the stated 9:00 am starting time when the jury would be brought in to hear the summations. He told the lawyers that they better have their people order a sandwich for them, because they would be spending their lunch hour working on the still unfinished business of charges and instructions.
When the jury returned, they were instructed to completely disregard the interrupted testimony of William Rodriguez, which occurred through no fault of the parties in this case. The story was that his employer had told him to not testify a second day. What-everrrrrrrr!
Jeff Ashton thanked the jury for their sacrifices in the interest of serving this trial. He then launched into his final arguments. The same methodical approach as was employed by co-counsel Linda Drane Burdick in the opening arguments could be seen once again. He began with a video of Casey happily playing with a giggling Caylee, as he described the responsibilities and sacrifices of being a parent, which meant 24/7 commitment and an end to the good times and parties of youth. Casey had to make a choice: either the hedonistic lifestyle or the mundane lifestyle of a parent. She chose to continue being a party girl.
Ashton proceeded to supply the jury with a history of Casey’s lies including all the mythical characters she invented to support her activities. While she was living with a couple different boyfriends, she invented Zanny the Nanny, who was supposedly taking care of Caylee, and she further invented a job that would require her to work late, so she could claim that she slept over at Zanny’s house with Caylee. The lies went on and on. Ashton described Casey as smart, quick, and quite capable as a liar. On one occasion, she was accompanied by Orange county detectives to her ostensible place of business at Universal Studios, where she marched in the employee entrance, confidently strode through two buildings, reaching the end of a long hall, turned around, put her hands in her back pockets and said, “I don’t really work here.” She was not at all shaken. Being a good liar, she knew that being caught once in a while was part of the game.
As Ashton developed the timeline, an interesting fact emerged that this Turkey had not heard come out in the evidentiary phase of the trial. It had been determined that Ms. Anthony’s password for both her MySpace and her Facebook account was “timer55”. Ashton theorized that this meant that the timer had started when Caylee died, which was 55 days from her birthday, a day on which the jig would be up for Casey unless she engaged in some extremely fancy, mendacious machinations to explain why Caylee wouldn’t be able to celebrate her birthday with the family. The countdown had begun. For the first 31 of those days, Casey managed to invent enough characters and situations that, while suspicions were certainly aroused, she assuaged most people’s fears. However, her mother, Cindy, smelled something fishy and pressed relentlessly to see Caylee. She called 911 to report her missing, even while Casey had been supposedly in Jacksonville with Caylee and a rich boyfriend she was really interested in. Once Casey had to show her face at home without the child, her story had to change to Zanny the Nanny kidnapping Caylee. And so it went on and on.
Ashton reminded the jury that the defense had accused two people of being complicit in the disappearance of Caylee, namely George Anthony and Roy Kronk. He explained why they couldn’t have been involved. If you are wondering when the sexual abuse theory advanced by the defense as the reason Casey turned into such a liar would come up, you’ll be wondering for a long time. Judge Perry ruled that this accusation could not be mentioned in either side’s closing arguments, as no evidence had been presented to support it.
Ashton took about an hour and fifteen minutes to deliver his summation. As each side was limited to four hours of closing arguments, this would leave Linda Drane Burdick two hours and forty-five minutes for her rebuttal.
First, though, we would hear from José Baez for the defense, but not before a couple of objections were hashed out. In one case, the objection was to a poster board Baez had produced that contained a picture of Casey surrounded by faceless caricatures of Casey’s imaginary friends. The problem seen by the prosecution was that the picture of Casey was of a much younger Casey than the woman who allegedly committed the crime. Cindy Anthony was asked when the particular picture was taken, which turned out to be 2001. Someone asked Baez how old she was in that picture, and he said, “17, 18, maybe?” Some new kind of math was at work in Baez’s mind. If Casey is 25 in 2011 and the picture was taken in 2001, she was 15 in the picture. When that was passed by Baez, he scoffed at the notion that she was 15 in that picture. Sorry, José! The judge ruled that the 2001 pictured would have to be covered and replaced by a 2008 photo. Once this was done, the jury could be brought back.
Baez also thanked the jury for their service and sacrifice. Then, he surprised this foul old fowl by delivering a fiery summation. As for reasonable doubt, Baez’s presentation might have swayed a juror or two away from a premeditated murder verdict. One of Baez’s central points was that the entire Anthony family was a collection of skilled liars. He reiterated George Anthony’s supposed affair with River Cruz as a case in point. But Baez said that his biggest fear in this case is that emotionality would reign over reason, and jurors would be swayed by it. He brought up the video presentation in which Caylee and Casey were playing, stating that it was one of many ways in which the prosecution wanted to appeal to the emotions of the jurors.
Mr. Baez, who was sporting a new grey suit, with a red necktie and a lavender pocket square, reinforced the constitutional guarantee that the burden of proof was on the prosecution, but the defense was not required to prove anything. Meanwhile, he said that the prosecution had indeed proved nothing. Then, he proceeded to attack the prosecution’s case, which was certainly thankable. Back after the lunch break, Baez asked the judge to tell Ashton to stop making faces and gestures, which the judge did. During the summation, though, Baez referred to Ashley as “that smiling guy over there” and Perry immediately called Ashton and Baez over to the bench for a tongue-lashing, followed by a lengthy recess so Perry could examine video recordings.
Upon resumption, Perry asked the parties to speak for themselves. Ashton said that he would defer to the judge’s opinion about what happened, saying that he had his hand over his face to hide his smile from the jury, having been admonished to stop making faces during the defense’s presentations. However, those of us who saw the video know that he was barely concealing a derisive laugh. Surprisingly, and rather uncharacteristically professionally, Baez told the judge that he would hope that the judge would not cite Ashton for contempt, stating that the trial has been emotional for all parties and that, although they haven’t always seen eye-to-eye, he’s found Ashton’s behavior to be professional in the three years they’ve worked on the case. Baez then apologized for his own behavior, referring to the “laughing guy over there.” Then, Perry put his stern face on and told them enough was enough. The next time any suggestion of disobedience of the rules of conduct arose, punishment would be stiff and onerous, including barring the affected lawyer from participation in the remainder of the trial and citing him or her with contempt. I think he made his point.
Whether Baez did or not remains to be seen. Juries are unpredictable. But I don’t think Baez did himself any good by his frequent stabs at the prosecution. I lost track of the number of times Burdick objected to barbs by Baez and moved to strike them from the recorded transcript; in each case her objection was sustained and the move to strike granted. Baez also might have hurt his case by painting George Anthony as a consummate liar and the real villain. In fact, Baez said that throughout the trial, no one should have been surprised by any of the Anthonys lying about anything, because he (Baez) had based his case on all the Anthonys being liars from a home where lying was the norm. One of the most vivid images that jurors might have etched indelibly on their brains is George breaking down and crying on the witness stand. This is probably why Baez’s biggest fear was that emotion would creep into the trial.
Baez went on and on in his quest to enlighten the jury about the prosecution having proven nothing. The harangue continued about the only thing that mattered to the prosecution was winning. He painted a picture of a collection of greedy bastards who were concerned only about making another notch in their belts. He impugned several prosecution witnesses whom he claimed had pecuniary interests at heart. For example, Dr. Arpad Vass was characterized as a guy with a sniffer device to sell.
Nevertheless, I won’t go all negative on Baez. His ability to organize a peroration surprised me. It might have gotten through to a juror or two.
After Baez, Cheney Mason delivered an interpretation of charges for the jury to digest before they would be formally instructed by the judge about the charges. Of course, the charge conference still had not been completed and the instructions were not yet set in concrete. Mason reiterated to the jury of what “beyond any reasonable doubt” meant. He told them to acquit Ms. Anthony because the state had not proven anything.
Burdick was supposed to be up next, but she would have to stay in the on-deck circle overnight, as Judge Perry made an executive decision to postpone her rebuttal until Monday morning. It was getting late, and they still had work to do without the jury in presence. Perry sent the jury back to their hotel for the night, and then reinitiated the charge conference, which is too boring to be described here. Court will resume at 8:30 Monday.
I’m not going to predict how long the jury will deliberate or what they will decide. What do you think?