A Snail's Pace

    The jury selection process in Casey Anthony's trial is exasperatingly slow, to say the least, but it serves as a valuable lesson in how the legal process works in the United States, and Florida, in particular. The fact that we get to watch the challenges unfold right before our eyes, in real time, is a fascinating study in civic duty and our obligation as citizens to serve on trials. One of the reasons why this case will remain with us for many years to come has less to do with the defendant than it does with someone else. Whether she's convicted or not, Casey will be forgotten, but the one person who will, no doubt, leave an indelible impression on all of us is Chief Judge Belvin Perry, Jr. How many of us know more about rules and statutes because of him? His knowledge of law is impeccable, and he has a personality that shines. He grows on you, and it's not just because he is well versed. No one can pull the wool over his eyes, and if there was ever a judge who wasn't born yesterday, this is the one. Along with giving us an education, he's got a down home, folksy charm that makes him endearing. He's like that favorite teacher from grade school you never forgot, and I am not alone when I say that he has taught me a lot during the past year..
    Take jury duty, for example, since we're right in the thick of it. To be a juror in Florida, the qualifications are quite simple. You must be at least 18 years old, a U.S. citizen, and a legal resident of the state. Generally, you must reside in the county where the trial will take place, but not in this case due to the publicity. You must also possess a drivers license or a state issued ID card. When Judge Perry asked Jose Baez if he needed to go to a nearby homeless shelter to look for potential jurors, marginally, they would have had to possess at least an ID card.
    To be disqualified, the law is very straightforward. Aside from the obvious, such as a lack of any of the qualifications cited above, the grounds for challenging individual jurors for cause would be along the line of having an unsound mind or having a bodily defect that would render the person incapable of performing the duties of a juror. There are many others, including conscientious beliefs that would preclude the person from finding the defendant guilty, or a state of mind regarding the defendant, meaning that person “has formed or expressed any opinion or is sensible of any bias or prejudice concerning it.” There's plenty of that in this particular case. If the person is a convicted felon or convicted of bribery, forgery, perjury or larceny, forget it, unless their rights have been restored.
    As we've already seen, a potential juror could request to be excused because of hardships. Judge Perry has been quite liberal in this regard. Many of the prospects cited issues over money and family. While he could have told them to try to make arrangements, he didn't. He let them go. If you are an expectant mother or over 70-years-old, you can be excused if you don't wish to serve. Some of the people questioned were responsible for the well-being of someone who couldn't take care of themselves. If you are the parent of a child under 6 and not working full time, you can be excused. If you've reported for jury duty within the past year, you may be exempt. At the discretion of the judge, attorneys and physicians don't have to serve; lawyers because of possible conflicts of interest, and doctors because of the nature of their work - to save lives. Of utmost importance, everyone who will sit in judgment (or judgement; both are correct) of Casey must be death qualified, in which the death penalty is a prospective sentence. Life without parole is the other option. Or a not guilty verdict.
    Because this is a capital murder case, the judge is granting the prosecution and defense an abundance of time to question jurors in preliminary examinations and voir dire, where lawyers question potential jurors to see if their personal backgrounds might affect their ability to rule fairly. According to the law.com Website, "one of the unspoken purposes of the voir dire is for the attorneys to get a feel for the personalities and likely views of the people on the jury panel. In some courts the judge asks most of the questions, while in others the lawyers are given substantial latitude and time to ask questions."
    If you feel that this procedure is moving at a snail's pace, it is, and for good cause. In Carver v. Niedermayer, 920 So2d 123 (Fla 4th DCA 2006), the Fourth District Court of Appeal concluded from the record in this case that the trial judge abused his discretion in limiting voir dire examination as he did, and his ruling was reversed. Judge Perry knows case law, the likes of which I've never seen, and from watching him in the courtroom, he can roll off an abundance of examples at the drop of a hat. That's one of the things that makes him so endearing; his vast knowledge of the law. Consequently, with each new juror that comes into the courtroom, he apologizes for the amount of time this is taking, but of course, it's one of the reasons why he has never had a case overturned. He's methodical and he knows how to run a courtroom efficiently. As much as we know him to keep things running at a good clip, he's not about to throw caution to the wind, and at the rate jury selection is going, well, there's no doubt in my mind that this process is going to take a lot more time than originally expected. Despite limiting each side to one half hour, I should still have the opportunity to write about other issues related to the jury, such as learning the attitudes and characteristics of potential jurors through voir dire, and the difference between challenges for cause and peremptory challenges or strikes.






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May 12, 2011 07:40 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

Dave, I am so proud of you...You are expanding your education with the best of the best for an educator...Of course I am referring to Judge Perry...This is such a marvelous opportunity...You are doing a great job...I hope Orlando Magazine decides to keep you as their "official court reporter"...Yes, Judge Perry will be remembered for quite some time and I shall never forget you...I can say I knew you when....ST

May 12, 2011 07:56 pm
 Posted by  Mary Jo

I am so glad that JP is on this case. He is methodical and you are right that he can site case law just off the top of his head. I don't know how he manages to retain everything that he does. He is doing everything for the book, which is great because I don't want to see this over turned on appeal and either does he. I would rather see him be cautious than not. He seems to be limiting them to the questions now that they can ask, or only allowing each side the amount of time they think they need to do the voir dire so that thinks can go quicker. He isn't pushing them or restricting them so that they can use it against him later. I don't think that this will be done by Monday by any means. He is trying his best to get it done by his designated time, but with the couple of problems they have encountered it is understandable. I have never seen another judge who knows case law like him, is conscience of making sure things are done right, is very down to earth and is apologetic to the players in this case as well as the potential jurors. He is an all around gentlemen who knows his stuff. I know we have all learned a lot from him and will continue to until this trial is done. I can understand why he is the chief judge. Judge Perry will long be remembered for this case.

May 12, 2011 07:58 pm
 Posted by  Beast

Yes I'll agree he has the law in his back pocket and wields it like a symphony. However I have a question, about something that has been puzzling me. I have been hearing the lawyers talk about victim statements. They are telling the jurors that they will be hearing these but are instructed to ignore them. So why are they hearing them at all, that is possible tainting for no reason. Here, listen to this. Now, forget it!

May 12, 2011 09:40 pm
 Posted by  Waterfall

Vicim statements? Are they consideration of Caylee, someone speaking for her, in her behalf?
I agree Beast, what is the purpose of hearing them at all. I should think they would be hard to ignore entirely.

May 12, 2011 09:46 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

debwagstongue- Oh my gosh Dave! I was just telling another lady today about how I have switched from being engrossed over Casey's situation to one of fascination about the whole system of justice. She agreed. Watching the wheels of justice turn is so interesting (albiet slowly), but well worth the knowledge gained. I have learned so much from Judge Perry and am in awe of his extensive knowledge of case law. He is perfect for this trial. I have hope in our system of justice working where I had lost it with the OJ verdict. None of us know how this trial will end yet, but I have faith that the system will work to restore it fully when the verdict is read. The smoke and mirrors worked with OJ, but with Judge Perry in charge I am hopeful justice will be served. He is so diligent, careful and mindfull of both sides rights, while being compassionate and caring to people (jurors and attorneys on both sides)without showing favoritism. How hard is that? It is amazing he is able to run both sides of the fence with minimal critisism. It is hard to find anything to disagree with regarding Judge Perry's rulings, don't you agree?I always told my children " you be fair with me and I will be fair with you" and it worked as I raised two wonderful children who have common sense, compassion, and fairness,and when confronted with adversity, weigh all sides to any given situation, before making hasty decisions. It's the right thing to do.I especially like the way Judge Perry anticipates the Defense & State's team's strategy and prepare's himself with case law. This is wisdom from many years of residing as a Judge and nothing less in my opinion.

May 12, 2011 10:40 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

On the contrary, the one person who will leave the most indelible impression on those people who care, is precious little Caylee Marie Anthony; while I strongly admire Judge Perry and his dedicated effort to ensure justice for CAYLEE, it is she who will forever be remembered.

May 12, 2011 10:58 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

Beast, I may be wrong here and apologize if I am. I believe the victim statements are separate from the aggrevating circumstances that the state will present. The statements will not be weighed in as evidence in the penalty phase so they should be ignored. I am not sure who will be presenting the victim statements but it would be someone who loved Caylee very much, possibly Jesse or Richard Grund comes to mind. Guardianangel.

May 12, 2011 11:01 pm
 Posted by  KarenC

Well, the way I figure it, is when this is in Penalty phase the Grandparents will be asked to make a Victim Impact Statement- and if Casey and her attorneys head in the abuse-excuse direction they certainly appear to be heading in, those statements could be doozies! Just try to imagine this- George explaining his feelings after Jose has taken razors to him for a number of weeks...

May 12, 2011 11:10 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

I totally agree, Anonymous@ 11:40 PM. Caylee is the one that should leave the biggest impression...what a waste, Mother of the Year.

May 13, 2011 02:30 am
 Posted by  Anonymous

With the internet not only are the people in the US but also world wide are seeing how an american court is run. I was watching on one tv station's video/blog and someone from Sweden remarked on how different it was. So, it's a horrible reason to do so, but this case is giving the world an education in US jury selection.

I think I mentioned when this was starting that I would be out watching grass grow as it's just as interesting and slow as jury selection. This has had some surprises each day but for the most part is pretty much what I expected. What I didn't expect was the amount of time spent on the first 2 jury selections. I've been on juries for insurance cases so was familiar with questioning but ours was done as a group. The single questioning and how deeply it's going is surprising me. So the grass is out there growing on it's own and I'm in here. It's also not surprising to me that those interviewed so far haven't paid attention to the news etc.. Up here in Jacksonville it hasn't had the coverage it has in Orlando and maybe other places. I imagine selection will go more quickly once we get to the batch that do follow the case.

Loving Judge Perry. He's doing a fantastic job. I know you liked Strickland but he was a lot more lenient than Perry is with the lawyers. I think this group needed a stern taskmaster.

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About This Blog

'Marinade Dave' Knechel

Dave Knechel has been blogging about the Casey Anthony case since late 2008, drawing readers from all over the world. Best known as “Marinade Dave,” a nickname he got when he made marinades and also blogged about marinade recipes, Knechel is on assignment to blog about the case exclusively for orlandomagazine.com as Anthony goes to trial for first-degree murder. His posts will appear regularly on this site.

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