the nonpareil judge belvin perry
Before denying a motion on behalf of half a dozen media outlets, the Honorable Judge Belvin Perry, presiding over the State of Florida v. Casey Anthony, advised Media attorney Judith Mercier that the right to a fair trial, by a jury of one’s peers, is the most fundamental of all our freedoms as Americans.
He told Ms. Mercier that he has already robbed Casey Anthony of one of her freedoms: The right to a jury of her peers in the county where the crime occurred, and he refused to deny her the most fundamental of her rights: A fair trial.
The dilemma with this case, unlike other cases, the media and the public interest is unprecedented, Judge Perry observed. Judge Perry advised the attorneys and Casey Anthony, he believes this case could potentially outdo the popularity of the O.J. Simpson trial.
Judith Mercier, rabidly and persistently argued the absolute provision of a free press and the peoples right to know. Her argument, in my view, did not attempt to balance the rights of a defendant to a fair trial. Instead she argued that Voir Dire should take care of the question of bias in a juror.
“Have you ever tried a capital case, Ma’am, “ asked Judge Perry. “No,” answered Ms. Mercier.
“Have you ever picked a jury in a Capital Case, Ma’am,” asked Judge Perry. In answer, Ms. Mercier told Judge Perry, “No.”
There was no empathy or concern from this attorney for the Sixth Amendment Rights of Casey Anthony.
Ms. Mercier maintained in her argument that the harm to the right of the people to know (the location of the jury selection process), trumped everything, including the right to a fair trial.
Judge Perry advised his grave concerns. If he advised these media outlets the location of jury selection in advance, the explosion of media coverage in that location would taint that jury pool in unmeasurable ways. The goal is to get the pool of jurors in the jury room and begin questioning them before the media can infect them with news about the case.
In addition, Judge Perry argued that three news outlets have signed the confidentiality agreement – WFTV, In Session, and WBDO. As Perry advised, these three groups will report freely, thereby allowing the press and the people access to information from the media. But only AFTER the potential jurors have entered the jury room.
The Judge also advised Ms. Mercier that her clients may obtain the information they want independently, as they are wont to do in other situations every day.
Ms. Mercier accused the court of trying to hide from the media, and the public. (The arrogance of this attorney was surprising.)
Judge Perry peppered her with questions about other high-profile court cases which she did not recognize: What other cases have had webpages dedicated to a case, he asked. In what other case have television stations hired one or two legal analysts to cover a case? To both questions, Ms. Mercier had no answer.
Judge Perry went on to say, with some anger, what the media outlets really want is a feeding frenzy for ratings. The result of the press in the location would provide a serious and imminent threat to Casey Anthony’s right to a fair trial. Trying to balance that would be ludicrous.
If Casey Anthony is not promised a fair trial, justice for Caylee is likewise threatened.
Judge Perry spoke eloquently and passionately with regards to defendants rights.
Judge Perry advised that in denying this motion, and if it is appealed, it would result in a delay in the start of the trial. Additionally, it would create an opportunity for the defense to ask for a continuance. The defense has already succeeded in delaying this case, and would surely take every opportunity for a continuance. A delay in the trial would provide the defense a tremendous advantage as people’s memory will fade as the years pile up.
If this media motion were to go to the District Court of Appeals – and it probably will, my favorite attorney, Bill Sheaffer, observed that the Judge’s decision will be upheld.
The Sixth Amendment Promise
Our rights under the Constitution of the United States of America, afford us rights in criminal cases (Amendment V) and rights to a fair trial (Amendment VI).
Casey Anthony MUST have a fair trial, though it appears that her Sixth Amendment Right (to a fair trial) could be severely compromised, if certain media outlets have their way.
It is terribly important that Casey Anthony have a fair trial, especially since she is facing the ultimate penalty, death.
If this case is delayed, Judge Perry advised that a gag order would go into effect, and he would do his utmost to stop the release of documents to the public.
There would be a “cooling off” period with the gag order that could potentially last 6 months to a year, unfortunately delaying justice for the victim, Caylee Anthony. On the other hand, a gag order would would prevent Jose Baez from using the media to float theories about other suspects, other evidence, and different time frames to indicate that his client is, in his words, “innocent.” There is no denying that Jose Baez is not doing Casey Anthony any favors by his proclivity to grand-stand in front of the media about his case.
Whatever happens – a continuance, or if the case moves forward, I am all the more convinced that Judge Perry will ensure Casey Anthony, who probably rarely treated anyone fairly, can be assured she will receive a fair trial.
The U.S. Constitution is in good hands with Judge Belvin Perry – just as it was with Judge Stan Strickland – and we will be witness of a system at its best.