There was a judge I knew in whose courtroom we used to joke that the “rules of evidence” were very simple: evidence tending to show the defendant was guilty was admissible; evidence tending to dispute that evidence, or show that the defendant was not guilty was inadmissible.
And, lo, it works the same in Judge Perry’s courtroom. The prosecution presents a mini university course on the particulars of duct tape, complete with photos and heavily dramatized (fictionalized?) home movies of how the duct tape was positioned on the victim’s body, complete with faces of the dead superimposed. Judge Perry characterized all this as “highly relevant” for the jury to see.
Not just relevant. No. “Highly” relevant.
Then the defense tries to offer some evidence – from FBI agents no less – that seems to indicate that the prosecution’s drive for multi-media dramatic effect came at the expense of accuracy and truth.
According to Judge Perry, however, this evidence, even though specifically addressing other evidence the judge had already admitted and therefore relevant by definition, was nevertheless “irrelevant”.
Ipse dixit. That’s a judge’s way around the reductio ad absurdum he brings upon himself and the rest of us.
See, the problem was that Baez was unprepared again. If he wanted to get his evidence admitted past Judge Perry the gatekeeper, he should have had a video producer superimpose the visage of Jeff Ashton, or maybe Judge Perry, over some duct tape found in the woods, showing the “exact positioning” of the duct tape and how it would cover the eyes, mouth and ears – see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil – the exact positioning, that is, in the vivid imagination of Baez and the video producer.
After all, what’s a little poetic license between friends in a capital murder trial?
But then I don’t think that would have worked either, because the prosecution might have objected – “Takes one to know one, your honor, but video presentations are for the prosecution, not the defense, so I object.” “Sustained. Do you have any other witnesses or evidence you’d like me to exclude, Mr. Baez?”
Those prosecution objections are very tough to overcome, because Jeff Ashton is an accomplished and brilliant lawyer-prosecutor and Jose Baez is inexperienced and unprepared. Sagaciously recognizing this extreme disparity in gravitas between the attorneys, and determined to control his court proceedings with the towering wisdom and firm but fair hand for which he is so well known to prosecutors, police, legal scholars and media people alike, Judge Perry is virtually forced to sustain every prosecution objection and exclude all the meaningful defense evidence, lest the jury become confused about the “issues” in the case.
The “issues” in the case are: did Casey Anthony giggle with glee when she placed the duct tape over the mouth and nose of her daughter, suffocating her and murdering her? Or was she more sober and reflective when she did it?
In order to “maintain control” of the courtroom in this high profile case which has attracted the attention of the world and which is for that reason in constant danger of “spiraling out of control”, the horrifying results of which could even include “not guilty” verdicts like the OJ Simpson case, Judge Perry will struggle to keep all the evidence focused strictly on only these relevant issues. With the brilliant assistance of the brilliant Jeff Asthon, it is hoped that he will overcome Jose Baez’s inexperience and incompetence to give the defendant the fair trial she deserves before she is convicted.
Because after all, Judge Perry cares about convictions, and doesn’t like to do them twice.