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December 20, 2010


today’s hearing asks: what’s in a name?

by Andrea O'Connell

Very recently the Casey Anthony defense filed a motion requesting its list of penalty phase witness names be sealed.  The reason for this request is simply the fear that these witnesses have of reprisal, stalking, harassment, etc., should their names be made public.

In today’s status hearing, the Orlando Sentinel argued before Judge Belvin Perry for release of the Casey Anthony Penalty Phase witness list.  Basically, the Orlando Sentinel is asserting that the rights of the people to know (who the defense will call in penalty phase), trumps the rights of the Defendant in this case.

The Judge reserved ruling on this matter today.  It is not known when Judge Perry will issue his ruling as he is out of the courtroom next week.  Presumably he will release his ruling sometime this week.

The primary issue at stake here is the fact that the death penalty is the death penalty – it is different because of the presence of death as the final outcome. Therefore, the Judge has the power (I believe) to grant the defense motion.

The people who would testify to save Casey Anthony’s life would be her family.  However, WFTV is reporting that the out of town relatives are not anxious to get involved, not anxious to be before the cameras.  They are stating that if Casey is found guilty of murdering Caylee, they don’t want to be in front of the media.

I don’t understand their reasoning and I don’t want to stand in judgment of their decision, certainly, but I am perplexed by it.  I would hope the relatives will, after all is said and done, change their minds and agree to do whatever it takes to save Casey from the ultimate penalty.

The specter of death in this case looms large.  If Casey is found guilty, and I believe she will be, the penalty phase will commence.  In this phase, the defense will have to argue against the five (5) aggravating factors that the State of Florida is charging.

The defense will have to find mitigating (justification) factors that would help to explain why Casey killed Caylee while attempting to engender sympathy for Casey.

I believe it is safe to assume that the defense will want to use people from Casey’s past who despite everything, still support her.  Perhaps they will call people from her past that are against the death penalty, or people who are sympathetic to the family, and so on.  The difficult aspect here, however, is the question of how the defense will posit George and Cindy Anthony.

Will the family’s dysfunction be part of the picture in the penalty phase?  Will the defense want to expose these dysfunctional familial elements given the fact that George and Cindy would be testifying to save Casey?  That would be a tough call.

Perhaps a safer alternative for the defense is to approach Casey’s history from the standpoint of mental illness.   There are all kinds of discovery topics that chronicle Casey’s need for professional help.  There are instances when friends urged Casey to get help, and Casey herself reportedly sought help, but she was allegedly dissuaded from doing so by her mother, Cindy.

When the death penalty is charged, there are also aggravating factors that pinpoint the specifics of the death penalty charge.  The list below provides the five (5) aggravating factors that Casey Anthony is charged with.

Florida Statute 921.141(5) D, H I, L, and M.

D) The capital felony was committed while the defendant was engaged, or was an accomplice, in the commission of, or an attempt to commit, or flight after committing or attempting to commit, any: robbery; sexual battery; aggravated child abuse; abuse of an elderly person or disabled adult resulting in great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement; arson; burglary; kidnapping; aircraft piracy; or unlawful throwing, placing, or discharging of a destructive device or bomb.

H) The capital felony was especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel.

I) The capital felony was a homicide and was committed in a cold, calculated, and premeditated manner without any pretense of moral or legal justification.

L) The victim of the capital felony was a person less than 12 years of age.

M) The victim of the capital felony was particularly vulnerable due to advanced age or disability, or because the defendant stood in a position of familial or custodial authority over the victim.

So, what’s in a name in this case?  Merely the ability to save a life.

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Sherry
    Dec 20 2010

    I can understand why the family does not want to go befiore the media-this is an embarassment to the family. I would be adamantly against it, too, if it were me. Plus, I’m sure they fear any harassment from the public since Casey is so utterly despised.

    I hope the judge will seal the list of witnesses-for their sakes.

    • Dec 20 2010

      Hey Sherry,
      I’m with you on that, but if it comes down to it, I hope they will change their minds, but I do understand how they’d feel. And, yeap, they’d be hounded and their private lives would no longer be private. Tis the reality if the situation.

      I hope Judge Perry seals the records too. I think he may do it…. Let us hope.


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