Jose Baez, the attorney representing Casey Anthony at her murder trial, has a number of big problems that are very difficult (did I say very difficult? Words fail to describe the difficulties one encounters in trials like this when you represent a defendant) to overcome.
One such problem is that the individual he has to paint as a villain – his client’s father – is a retired cop. Cops are experienced and practiced witnesses, and almost always effective at convincing a jury they are telling the truth. Even when they are not.
Take a look at this video from CNN (you might have to wade through Nancy Grace’s blather, first). Baez is cross examining George Anthony and on the surface it appears that George Anthony is shining and Baez is faltering. That may not be how it appears later, but for now the point is that cross-examining a cop is hard work because they know what they’re doing on a witness stand. (By the way, there is a lot going on in that questioning. A LOT. Probably more on that later.)
One other very big problem has to do with representing a criminal defendant who is also a pretty girl. Because of the jury dynamics, this is a nightmare.
The overwhelming majority of the time, criminal defendants are men. As a general rule, when you represent a criminal defendant you want women on the jury, for a number of reasons, such as that women work better in groups, which is what a jury is; with men, group work tends to degenerate into a power game to determine which male is the “Alpha”, and then the other males line up behind him. Then in turn the jury lines up behind the more powerful litigant, which in criminal trials is the government, and it’s game over for the criminal defendant.
Women are less inclined to play that game and more inclined to look at evidence even-handedly in those circumstances.
But what if the criminal defendant is a pretty girl?
In the contested situations that are criminal trials, women are extremely hard on pretty girls, particularly pretty girls that can be painted as being promiscuous. It’s one of the reasons rape convictions can be very difficult to get, as we just saw again in NYC.
I’m sure I could describe a few theories about why this is the case, but that’s not important at the moment. The fact of it is. It’s also a primal, visceral thing with women, difficult to talk about effectively when you’re picking a jury.
So who do you want on a jury when your criminal defendant is a pretty girl that will be painted as promiscuous by the prosecution? Not women. And not men, either. They might find the defendant attractive, but the chances that that would overcome their inclination to side with the powerful against the weak are very slim.
That doesn’t leave a lot of people you’ll be happy about seeing in that jury box.
Update: Another thing I’ll mention in passing:
First, remember that two days ago the former b/f was asked by attorney Baez whether the defendant had ever told him she had been abused by her father, then the b/f said “yes” and it was stricken as hearsay? (See the “update” part of this post).
Look what happened yesterday:
On Thursday, the day ended with one witness testifying outside the jury’s presence about whether Casey ever mentioned sexual abuse by George Anthony.”It definitely wasn’t sexual,” said Tony Lazzaro, one of Casey’s ex-boyfriends.
Now unfortunately this is sinister. The question Baez had asked was whether the defendant had ever told the witness a “secret” about being abused by her father. Apparently Baez did not use the term “sexually” abused, but this was fairly implied when he described it as a “secret”.
The witness answered “yes” before the objection squelched him, and the jury heard it. So now, even though it’s been ruled out of evidence the prosecution has to live with the “yes”; the only possible damage control is to thread the needle, use the fact that Baez didn’t specifically say “sexual” abuse in his question and contend it was some other kind of abuse, preferably something most people wouldn’t even believe was abuse at all – like corporal punishment. Which after all, Casey Anthony really needed anyway, being a promiscuous child murderer and all.
And somehow, as if by magic, the witness gives them exactly that. A day later, of course. This occurred after the prosecution had a chance to “confer” with their witness. You see, they didn’t know Baez was going to ask that question the day before so they weren’t prepared for it. No matter, though. Object and the judge will rule it out of bounds. Then “talk” to the witness. Make it clear how “serious” this all is, and don’t forget to remind him that you have the power to prosecute people who displease you. Let it sink in for a day or so and then put him back on – outside the presence of the jury so they don’t hear anything untoward in case the witness didn’t “get it” the first time. And if he’s a smart boy and says the “right thing” you’ll have him locked in for future testimony, in case the defense tries to pull that stunt again.
In other words, the prosecution tampered with that witness. No doubt about it. And of course the judge is very obliging.
How do you counter that kind of thing if you’re Baez? Move for a mistrial? Lots of luck.
Like I said, it’s a tough business.