I have to admit that I am impressed with Judge Perry, he is a man that does not easily get led down the proverbial ‘Garden path’. He runs by the rule of law. He has a stellar history in prior cases. He is careful to prevent some ‘accident’ becoming grounds for an appeal at a later date. If he had selected the field of medicine rather than the law, he would be the man I would want operating on me. Clean instruments and clinical precision. Sure, he may not have a great bedside manner, but he knows his stuff!
With this in mind, I am somewhat perplexed over his running of the Jury Selection phase of the Casey Anthony trial.
A loose translation of the legal term ‘voir dire’ is ‘To speak the truth’. The 12 men and women selected for jury duty must be found to meet a set of standards. In fact in many cases involving serious crime the voir dire is almost as significant as the trial itself. A silly, but simple example might be a DUI case. If the jury consists of 12 people with multiple DUI convictions each, they may not view DUI as a serious offense. In fact (as we saw today in the Casey Anthony voir dire) a juror might not even think that a DUI is even a crime!
Being accused of murder is far worse than getting pulled over for having a few beers. First Degree Murder with the threat of if found guilty might well also carry the Death Penalty, is a very, very serious proposition.
A persons life is at stake. It has nothing to do with if you like them, or hate them. The real question is can you put your preconceived ideas to one side, and base a conclusion solely on the evidence presented in court?
As I said, I have great respect for Judge Perry, but I do see a problem in his future. By trying to place time lines on aspects of voir dire, he may be opening the route to an appeal.
I decided to bounce this question off well known Florida Criminal Defense Attorney John Contini.
Simon Barrett: John you have a lot of experience in criminal trials. What is your view about trying to put a time limit on voir direâ€
John Contini:Â The Judge’s insistence on being a speed demon through the death penalty qualification or questioning phase of voir dire, reminds me of the old saying, “Hurry up and wait in line,” ie, the “line” referring to the line of cases being heard by the appellate courts, waiting to be sent back and retried by the trial courts; or perhaps more to the point, his impatience will simply and inevitably cause a reversal of any conviction on appeal.
SB: Is rushing voir dire the normal?
JC: Why would the average judge no doubt spend an inordinate amount of time shopping for cars on line or at local dealerships, but then want to hurry their way through a proceeding that could result in someone frying in the electric chair? Bottom line? “Why is there is never enough time to do it right, but interestingly enough, there’s always enough time to do it twice.”
SB: John, one last question. The Voir Dire rules change from state to state, in fact the rules can change for a single case. In Florida, what is the normal number of peremptory strikes permitted for each side?
JC: The normal number of strikes in a death penalty are usually 10 for each side, but there are an unlimited number of strikes for ’cause’.
SB: John thanks for spending time to talk to me today.
Well folks, you may not agree with this article, but it is the way that the legal system works.
John Contini, a highly experienced, veteran criminal defense attorney, has successfully represented thousands of criminal defendants in Florida and throughout the United States over the pastÂ 23 years. Contini, a former Broward County (South Florida) felony trial prosecutor, has defended the criminally accused since 1983. His practice expanded in the last several years to include the areas of personal injury and wrongful death, but Contini is best known for his success in the area of criminal defense, including murder, drug cases, juvenile cases, white collar crimes, sex crimes, and federal criminal defense. He can be found online at JohnContini.com and Danger Road is available at better bookstores everywhere or from Amazon.