After yesterday’s closing arguments on two important Defense motions in the case against Casey Anthony, I got to thinking that I’d sure like to read the cases that were cited by the Judge, the Prosecutor, and the Defense. But then I realized that I have a life and a job and need to give this case a rest!
And so….being that I am a tad fickle, I said to my self, “well, what the heck – I’ll see if I can find these cases!” Well, I found all the cases cited in yesterday’s hearing, and now I want to try to figure out how Judge Perry will rule based on the case law cited.
Now, you know that I am not a lawyer, right? I love the law, however, and love to write about it…..
So, here goes my analysis of how these cases inform on the two motions argued yesterday:
1) State of Florida v. Parks
Judge Perry mentioned the State of Florida v. Parks case to Mr. Cheney Mason during his closing argument and said he would like Mr. Mason to look at that case and advise how it might support the Defense argument.
In this Appellate court decision, the suppression of statements to police was raised in appeal, and is one of the case items at issue. The court found that although the admission of statements (by the defendant and a co-defendant/witness) were a mistake, this mistake by the trial court was found to be harmless to the case itself and therefore not an issue at appeal.
This tells me that Judge Perry may see Casey’s Universal Studios interview to be harmless since a great deal of the information in her interview can be argued and proved elsewhere in the case, but more importantly, perhaps Judge Perry is saying if he allows the interview, it will not be questioned at appeal. Remember, this was a case that Judge Perry told Mr. Mason to review.
2) Rollings v. State
Rollins v. State is the horrible case of Danny Rollings. Rollings was sentenced to the death penalty for each of the five murders he committed. Of course, one can only die once, the jury sentenced him to death for each of the five murders. There were a few appeal issues, one of which involved Rollings statements to police. What is interesting here is there is also a charge of a jail inmate, Bobby Lewis, acting as “Agents of the State” in the information gathered by that inmate:
On appeal, Rolling challenges the trial court’s findings that (1) his statements to Lewis and law enforcement officers did not violate his right to counsel because Lewis was not acting as a de facto state agent and, (2) that the assistant state attorney’s involvement in the interrogations was not unethical and did not warrant suppression of Rolling’s statements. Specifically, Rolling maintains that law enforcement officers and prison officials knowingly exploited the relationship between himself and fellow inmate Bobby Lewis such that Lewis was acting as a de facto government agent when he elicited inculpatory statements from Rolling.
Bobby Lewis befriended Rollings for the specific purpose of hopefully getting his sentence reduced as a result of offering testimony for the state. The State of Florida refused to enter into any such agreement with Bobby Lewis. Regardless, Lewis became Rollings “confessor” and mouthpiece, but not at the behest of any State Official, though the Defense would have liked the court to believe otherwise.
…find that the record and relevant caselaw clearly support the trial court’s conclusion that Rolling’s right to counsel was not violated because Bobby Lewis was not acting as a government agent when he elicited incriminatory statements from Rolling or served as Rolling’s “mouthpiece” during the January 31 and February 4 interviews…
The appeals court did not find flaw with the trial court on this issue.
3) Ross v. State
Ross v. State has to do with a person who was fifteen days shy of his 16th birthday. He was found guilty of the murder of a 64 year old woman who was stomped to death. Ross was sentenced to death by the trial court. The issue on appeal had to do with the question of whether his confession was freely given or coerced by the police. The defense claimed that the defendant, although given the Miranda Warning numerous times, didn’t understand his rights due to his low IQ. Ross stated each time that he understood his rights and didn’t want a lawyer.
The appellate court found that low IQ or “mental weakness” did not mean a confession was not voluntary, therefore the appellate court found no issue with the trial courts decision to admit the confession. What ultimately occurred in this case on appeal was the death penalty was questioned and the case was sent back to the trial court. The appellate court stated:
The appellant was sixteen years of age and mentally retarded at the time of the crime. His prior criminal activity consists of petty offenses. Under the standards of our capital felony sentencing law, the mitigating factors outweigh the aggravating factors. Death is not an appropriate penalty. The sentence of death should be vacated and a sentence of life imprisonment without eligibility for parole for twenty-five years should be imposed.
4) Ramirez v. State
Ramirez v. State, a death penalty case for a 17 year old who killed a woman, Midred Boroski. The issue on appeal had to do with the defendant’s confession and the defense claim that Ramirez was not properly Mirandized.
Ramirez argues that the requirements of Miranda were violated because the warnings were not administered before the interrogation began, rendering his confession to the crime inadmissible. “Interrogation takes place … when a person is subjected to express questions, or other words or actions, by a state agent, that a reasonable person would conclude are designed to lead to an incriminating response.”
Linda D. Burdick argued that the situation in the Casey Anthony interview was unlike what occurred in Ramirez. In Ramirez, the defendant was at the police station, where a reasonable person would conclude that they were in custody. However, the Casey Anthony case, she was at Universal Studios, and free to go. In Ramirez, they found that a reasonable person would think they were in custody.
There is no question in this case that Ramirez was subjected to interrogation and was not initially informed of his Miranda rights. However, the State argues that Miranda warnings were not required because Ramirez was not in custody at the time that he was interrogated at the police station. We disagree. Custody for purposes of Miranda encompasses not only formal arrest, but any restraint on freedom of movement of the degree associated with formal arrest.
Ultimately, the appellate court found that to strike the confession would not be in the best interest of justice. They wrote:
Ramirez, for whatever undisclosed reason he had in his own mind, told the detective the truth of what occurred in the criminal episode. Excluding the instant confession is not in the interests of society or justice. On the other hand, the majority places the interest of society in having this abhorrent crime punished in substantial and unnecessary peril.
In the interest of justice, the appeals court did not reverse this case.
5) Henry v. State
Henry v. State, another death penalty case in which the defendant killed by binding, gagging and cutting the throat of his victim. A motion to suppress the confession of the defendant was denied and questioned at appeal. The appeals court upheld the verdict and agreed with the trial court that allowing the confession into the trial was not at issue.
6) Malone v. State
Malone v. State, related to an “Agents of the State” accusation, This citation, I believe, was raised by Mr. Mason. The circumstances of this case were the defendant, with a partner, viciously killed two people during the commission of a robbery. This is an “Agents of the State” issue is encapsulated as follows:
Malone argues that his convictions should be reversed and the cause remanded for a new trial because the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress certain incriminating statements made by him to one of his cellmates who, unknown to Malone, was an informer for the State. He concedes that these statements were not coerced and were voluntary, but argues that they may not be used against him because they were deliberately elicited by a State agent in the absence of his counsel and without his being informed of his Miranda rights by the informant.
The appeals court found that the trial court should have suppressed these statements since Malone’s 6th Amendment Rights (Right to Counsel present), were violated. Therefore, the case was sent back and retried.
In regards to the Casey Anthony case, it was NOT found that anyone was acting as an Agent of the State (although the defense would like to argue Robyn Adams was an Agent, she was not).
There is sufficient case law, in my humble opinion, that supports denying the Defense motions. Casey Anthony was not “in custody” while riding in the police cars! Casey Anthony was directing where the police cars would travel as they drove to check out places where “Zanny” may have lived.
The Anthony’s were not Agents, and the fact that the Detectives ordered the taping of the videos of the jail visits, is perfectly legal – there are signs placed around the jail that video taping is taking place!
I didn’t read the entire cases in the above links, I read the objections and the outcomes – the details were gruesome. I think I may have some bad dreams tonight!
Oh well, thank goodness, I’ll be Only Dreamin’!