failures in florida

There is a horrible stench emanating from the jury pool in Pinellas County, Florida, and it certainly isn’t coming from an “accidental drowning”.

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This man teaches “high school social studies, American History and Economics [sic]”.  He was also an alternate on the Casey Anthony jury who stated to the mainstream media* that he believes “Casey Anthony was a good mother”.

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Did you catch my previous post about “reasonable doubt”?  Good, because there was a point to me posting that, and I will get to it in a moment.

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I know that I said I couldn’t put together anything on the Casey Anthony trial, but the verdict and the fallout are extremely compelling.  I’m listening to the interviews with the jurors and alternates who have come forward speak, and the twisted logic of Russell Huekler and Jennifer Ford does not—and should not—compute within a reasonable, reasoning person’s mind.

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It’s not just an opinion or speculation.  It is fact, as it is written in the instructions that were given to the jury.  These instructions were also published on the web for the public on DocStoc in their original .pdf format.  They are available here.

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Jennifer Ford (Juror #3)**, in particular, said in interview after  interview on the ABC network that she “needed something more solid” because the prosecution “couldn’t prove” the cause of death.  She’s also said that evidence was lacking; that because it was a death penalty case, she did not want to be responsible for sending someone to their death;  and that “had there been a lesser charge [than first degree murder]” then the jury might’ve found Anthony guilty.  Here is the quote from the linked article:

"If they charged her with other things, we probably could have gotten a guilty verdict, absolutely," Ford said today on "Good Morning America." "But not for death, not for first-degree murder. That’s a very substantial charge."

Ford said the prosecution’s case left too many holes for her and the other 11 members of the jury to know for certain that Anthony killed her daughter.

"I can’t find her guilty of a crime if I’m not sure a crime was committed," said Ford, who was known only as juror #3 during the trial. "I’m not convinced that she didn’t do it, but I also couldn’t exclude the possibility that it was an accident."

Earlier she said that the jurors were crying and “sick to their stomachs” over the verdict.

There are several problems with this.

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First of all, Casey Marie Anthony was charged with:

  • Murder in the First Degree
  • Aggravated Child Abuse
  • Aggravated Manslaughter of a Child
  • and four counts of Providing False Information to a Law Enforcement Officer

There is absolutely no validity and no reality based on Ford’s assertion that there was nothing else that they could convict her of other than first degree murder.  I have seen only one small phrase in the mainstream media where Ford mentions “manslaughter”, but I cannot substantiate it with audio/video (but if I can in the future, I will issue corrections).  The main point is that the media has pushed Ford’s line about how there was not enough evidence for a murder conviction and “if only” there was something else they could’ve convicted her on (which you should know now is untrue).

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As for the “I’m not sure a crime was committed” and the “I need something more solid” stuff, this was obviously a woeful disregard for the evidence that was presented.  No one seemed to tell Ford—or the other jurors for that matter—that this is not C.S.I. or Law & Order;  that cases against the accused in our real-world judicial system are very often based on, brought to trial and decided on what is called “circumstantial evidence”.  It is a terrible mischaracterization of the forensics (particularly that of Dr. Jan Garavaglia’s sign-off on Caylee’s remains) when jurors speak as though there was “no cause of death proven”.

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Stating the obvious here, but obviously it needs to be stated:  When a body has no soft tissue left due to decomposition and exposure to the elements and there is no indication of blunt force trauma but there is evidence of foul play (in this case, it would be the duct tape found on Caylee’s skull, as well as where the body was found and what the body was found in), cause of death is ruled a homicide.  This means that it was reasonably deduced from the evidence scrutinized by the medical examiners that the victim was murdered.  It does not matter if Caylee was strangled, drugged or suffocated;  the fact of the matter is, because the soft tissue disintegrated and her remains were exposed for months on end to the harsh, Florida heat and wandering/non-human predators, one could likely never scientifically prove how Caylee died.  The absolute truth is that she died and somehow ended up in a laundry bag—the same type/brand of laundry bag found in her mother’s home—within a garbage bag, dumped in a swampy area;  and even if she didn’t die in a manner related to the duct tape, little Caylee was put in a situation (double-bagged and dumped) where she would have likely ended up dead anyway; if she was already dead when she was put into the bags, then that is also a crime.  I’m not the first one to say this, either;  Dr. Garavaglia’s own show profiled this particular case, and she testified at trial to these facts.

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Ford also makes it known that she didn’t want to “be responsible” for killing someone;  she said it in a manner that makes those who listen to her believe that because the death penalty was involved, she was afraid to make the decision in case she was wrong.  However, no one seemed to tell her that no juror is responsible for the ultimate sentencing of any criminal;  the judge, Judge Belvin Perry in this case, is the one who gets to decide on what the sentence would be (emphasis mine):

(2) ADVISORY SENTENCE BY THE JURY.

After hearing all the evidence, the jury shall deliberate and render an advisory sentence to the court, based upon the following matters:

(a) Whether sufficient aggravating circumstances exist as enumerated in subsection (5);

(b) Whether sufficient mitigating circumstances exist which outweigh the aggravating circumstances found to exist; and

(c) Based on these considerations, whether the defendant should be sentenced to life imprisonment or death.

 (3) FINDINGS IN SUPPORT OF SENTENCE OF DEATH.

Notwithstanding the recommendation of a majority of the jury, the court, after weighing the aggravating and mitigating circumstances, shall enter a sentence of life imprisonment or death,  (Source, though a Federal judge recently declared Florida’s Death Penalty Law unconstitutional.)

Ford and her co-jurors*** could have found Anthony guilty of Felony Murder and advised the court against the death penalty, instead opting for “life imprisonment”;  it just would have taken more time, something that the jurors didn’t seem to want to spend on making sure that justice was served.

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Now let’s talk about that precious time, shall we?

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The jurors reviewed the case for about six hours after being sent into deliberations on July 4, 2011.  They “deliberated” for around four hours and forty minutes (give or take, likely less) the next day on July 5th.

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This timeframe unequivocally betrays Ford’s notion that it was so important for her and the jurors to “get it right”, and that the jury was so “conflicted” and “crying” over their decisions.  In such a high-profile case with many hundreds of pages of documents and pieces of evidence to pore over, was it truly so “simple” that twelve people—twelve supposedly cognizant people—could each go through all of the evidence presented in a mere ten/eleven hours spread over two days?

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Perhaps none of the jurors ever read their local papers anymore, though what I’m about to mention was on the national news (if only on tabloid TV for a blip).  Or perhaps they do, and they just simply (and unknowingly†) went along with the Floridian timeframe of a case involving First Degree Murder of a child by a caretaker.  Amanda Brumfield††, Billy Bob Thornton’s estranged daughter, was brought up on the same charges (minus the lying) that Anthony was charged with: 

  • Murder in the First Degree
  • Aggravated Child Abuse
  • Aggravated Manslaughter of a Child

In her case (which was also a death penalty case), Brumfield contends that while babysitting her one-year-old god daughter, the baby accidentally fell and hit her head on something hard when she was startled by Brumfield calling her name (the baby, Olivia, was straddling her playpen).  This is the story that Brumfield has committed to from beginning to the end, and she put forth an air of being truly remorseful for what happened (and she, unlike Anthony, did call 911, even though prosecutors and police seem to think that she should’ve called 911 soon after the baby allegedly fell, despite Brumfield’s contention that Olivia behaved normally afterwards).  For all intents and purposes, in Brumfield’s case, the accused appeared to have far more concern for the child in her charge than Anthony had for her own child.

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Brumfield’s trial began on Wednesday, May 25, 2011.  By Thursday, June 2, 2011, the media was reporting that Brumfield was convicted of Aggravated Manslaughter of a Child “last Friday”, which means that she was convicted just two days after her “capital murder” trial began.

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There you have it:  Apparently death penalty cases in Pinellas County are so important that jurors would seem to find it reasonable to deliberate over an average of two days, translating to much less than 24 hours.  The differences between the two cases:  In Florida v. Brumfield there is an overwhelming sense [in the general populus] of innocence of wrongdoing and that the jury seemed to believe the forensic “evidence” presented to them (well, those differences plus Brumfield didn’t have the insane media coverage that the Anthony case had).  In Florida v. Anthony it is the complete opposite, the sense in the general populus and the jury of her guilt and the jury dis-believed the science (partially because of Baez’s “Witch! Witch!” move with Dr. Arpad Vass’s air sample evidence).

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That’s not to say that there weren’t other errors in the judicial process [in either Brumfield or Anthony], however.  Let me close Brumfield and focus on Anthony.

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In criminal cases, the judge has the power to override the jury’s verdict with a ruling of his own when the judge feels that the jury did not do their duty or were derelict in their comprehension of the case presented to them (or were otherwise impeded to make a “just” decision according to the law).  This happened in the infamous “British Nanny Case” in Boston, when Judge Hiller Zobel set aside the Second Degree Murder conviction of Louise Woodward, the British au pair employed by the parents of baby Matthew Eappen.  Zobel reduced Woodward’s conviction to Involuntary Manslaughter, which set off a firestorm of outrage and debate.

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Obviously, it’s not legally possible to set aside an acquittal.  But judges can declare a mistrials; Judge Perry could have declared a mistrial if the jury could not reach a unanimous decision (something else Jennifer Ford and her cohorts seem to’ve forgotten).  There is nothing wrong with a hung jury/mistrial, especially if the people were divided, as they were on the manslaughter charge—the vote was initially 6 to 6 (according to Juror #2, who seems like he was likely bullied/pressured to change his vote from guilty to not guilty).  Given that the evidence and the totality of the situation pointed directly towards Casey Anthony, and what is being said to the media by the jurors themselves, Judge Perry can assume that they did not read the instructions that he gave them (and that is what jury nullification is).  Here are the instructions for the jury on the charge of Aggravated Manslaughter of a Child according to the Florida Statutes:

To prove the crime of Aggravated Manslaughter of a Child, the State must prove the following two elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

1. Caylee Marie Anthony is dead.

2. Casey Marie Anthony’s act(s) caused the death of Caylee Marie Anthony.

Or

The death of Caylee Marie Anthony was caused by the culpable negligence of Casey Marie Anthony.

I will now define “culpable negligence” for you. Each of us has a duty to act reasonably toward others. If there is a violation of that duty, without any conscious intention to harm, that violation is negligence. But culpable negligence is more than a failure to use ordinary care toward others. In order for negligence to be culpable, it must be gross and flagrant. Culpable negligence is a course of conduct showing reckless disregard of human life, or of the safety of persons exposed to its dangerous effects, or such an entire want of care as to raise a presumption of a conscious indifference to consequences, or which shows wantonness or recklessness, or a grossly careless disregard of the safety and welfare of the public, or such an indifference to the rights of others as is equivalent to an intentional violation of such rights. The negligent act or omission must have been committed with an utter disregard for the safety of others. Culpable negligence is consciously doing an act or following a course of conduct that the defendant must have known, or reasonably should have known, was likely to cause death or great bodily injury.

If you find the defendant guilty of Aggravated Manslaughter of a Child, you must then determine whether the State has further proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Caylee Marie Anthony was a child whose death was caused by the neglect of Casey Marie Anthony, a caregiver. “Child” means any person under the age of 18 years.

“Caregiver” means a parent, adult household member, or other person responsible for a child’s welfare.

“Neglect of a child” means:

1. A caregiver’s failure or omission to provide a child with the care, supervision, and services necessary to maintain a child’s physical and mental health, including, but not limited to, food, nutrition, clothing, shelter, supervision, medicine, and medical services that a prudent person would consider essential for the well-being of the child. Repeated conduct or a single incident or omission by a caregiver that results in, or could reasonably be expected to result in, a substantial risk of death of a child may be considered in determining neglect.

One would think that a mother who behaved like she didn’t have a care in the world/who partied/got tattooed/didn’t report her toddler missing for 31 days would constitute “gross and flagrant”, with reckless disregard for Caylee’s health and safety.  A mother who does all that Anthony did is thus, under the law and the judge’s instructions above that define culpable negligence, guilty of the aggravated manslaughter charge.  Why Judge Perry accepted and reaffirmed the “not guilty” charges is beyond comprehension and only adds to the miscarriage of justice (that I had labelled an “abortion of justice” within minutes of finding out the verdict).

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The naysayers like Huekler, Ford and other commentators will persist in saying that the justice system “worked” in this case, and that the verdict is “just” and based on the law and Perry’s instructions.  But a careful examination of the instructions and evidence (which now includes the testimonial TV interviews of Jennifer Ford) has taken me far more than eleven hours.  Ford has ignorantly stated that 

If I’m wrong, and I kill someone else, I can’t live with that…If they [the prosecution] want me to kill someone else, they have to prove it.

At this point you should know how ridiculous that statement is, given how the system really works.  One can’t help but wonder if any of the other jurors had read the instructions carefully (perhaps Juror #2 did, since he was the last holdout on the manslaughter charge).  We won’t know until one of the other dumb jurors speaks out (though there is a 5-figure fee for Juror #6’s story).  It’s hard to gauge peoples’ contrition after they’ve made such a universally derided decision, so we can only hope that one day they do look back and recognize this as a failure of themselves rather than a failure of the prosecution to paint a cohesive picture for them.

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And because he spoke on nationwide television, he has made himself a limited purpose public figure.  Jennifer Ford is worse, seeing that she is an actual juror who seems to be giving more interviews than Huekler.

** Ford’s mom blabbed to the press that while Disney/ABC didn’t pay her daughter for the interviews, they still “treated her and four others to a trip to Disney World”.

*** Ford and her fellows either had an inflated sense of self-importance because they were selected for this high-profile case or they were completely and utterly ignorant of the judicial process regarding the penalty phase.  I would like to believe it was the latter, but I suspect that it’s a bit of both:  Ford’s “OMG, her life is in MY hands” bit is parroted from TV and from defense attorneys in their closing arguments across the United States.  Sorry, jurors, but even in Florida you don’t get that much power over whether someone lives or dies.  You can only suggest death to the judge if you believe mitigating circumstances surrounding the situation warrant such a harsh punishment.

Or “knowingly”—we don’t (and won’t, unless someone spills the beans) know whether there was juror misconduct via telecommunications devices that might’ve been snuck in.

†† The Brumfield case has suffered under the shadow of the Anthony case, even though they were both heard and tried in the same building and jurisdiction (Dr. Garavaglia was also the M.E. in this case, too).  A search on Google News [as of the publication of this writing] for “amanda brumfield trial” brought up two results.

†† I’ll admit it:  I like Dr. G.  I watch her show.  But it seems to me that no one seems to comprehend the concept of a “hard fall”, i.e. a fall that happens from a relatively short distance but causes a much higher level of damage than normally reasoned.  They are falls that happen because a body is completely taken off guard without any chance of self-preserving action;  e.g. when a person trips on an edge in the sidewalk and smacks their head very hard on a utility pole (but still has time to put out their hands and fall on them instead of breaking their heads/face further).  A baby definitely has not had the experience or time to hone their self-preserving actions, and a fall from a short distance without any means of bracing can sometimes mean that the head—already too big for its body—slams hard on whatever surface it lands on.   My most recent health problems are explained by a “hard fall”:  On a small set of stairs that would normally cause no injury if I had jumped voluntarily from (height about two and a half feet/slightly less), I quickly and unexpectedly—hard, but I still landed on my feet. The pain from the fall was excruciating and still is to this day (I will likely have to port myself off to the ER some day soon).  Anecdotal “evidence” is always crap, but you can’t tell me that hard falls do not exist or do not yield [sometimes serious] results that mimic that of falls from higher altitudes or higher velocity impacts.

 Are you kidding me?  The chair-rocking, the crossed eyes & bottle glasses, the slow, labored speech…how did this guy become a judge?

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Random but relevant items to the Casey Anthony case/trial:

—— BONUS:  Interesting theory that would make this case if true (though I don’t think Casey Anthony is that clever).

—— BONUS:  Read brother Lee Anthony’s initial statement to the cops about how Cindy Anthony first found out that Caylee had “been missing” for 31 days.

—— BONUS:  Read Cindy Anthony’s exchange with her brother on the topic of Caylee’s disappearance (and find out what we already know about the Mom of the Year).  Double the dysfunctional family fun with Plesea’s interview with the cops.

—— BONUS:  Read the forensic entymology report from Anthony’s car trunk.

—— BONUS:  Dr. Arpad Vass’s report on the smell from the trunk [that Ford and other jurors did not understand/excluded].

—— BONUS:  The defense tried everything in the book, including attempting to get the death penalty off the table (fail result here) because the prosecutors were bent on “financially ruining” Anthony and trying to get her declared incompetant.  It’s all par for the course, but still amusing to see the flail that happened behind the scenes.

—— BONUS:  Check out the jury forms for the verdict.  There were two “special finding” addenda to Count 3 (the Aggravated Manslaughter charge):  Whether Casey was a caregiver [of Caylee] at the time of the offense and whether Caylee was under the age of 18 at the time of the offense.

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And finally, I have to give you props if you made it through all of that, especially with my funky Vertigo theme.  It reads and writes fine in drafting, but once published I understand that it looks radically different and might be tough on the eyes after a while.  

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