Judge Belvin Perry has spent seven long days trying to seat a panel in the Casey Anthony trial. Prior to the jury selection process starting he had explained to both the defense and state that his intention was to begin the process on Monday May/9 and hopefully have it completed by Thursday May/12. His lofty goal was to find the 12 Jurors and 8 alternates.
On paper this sounded an easy task, five jurors per day, or to view it a different way, allowing for breaks and other issues, approximately one every 60 minutes.
Judge Perry even built in some cushion, if need be, jury selection could even spill over into Friday, and if really needed, Saturday morning.
These goals came and went. By the end of Saturday Judge Perry had not even filled the basic requirement of 12, never mind the 8 alternates. Judge Perry had noted that if Jury Selection was not complete by Saturday then he would abandon Pinellas County and try in Orange County. However by the end of Saturday the qualified jury pool sat at 11. With the goal so close, he opted to extend the selection process for another day.
I think it is fair to say that both on and off the record Judge Perry expressed his extreme displeasure with the tactics being used by both the defense and prosecution. Pinellas County had been selected because of the relatively small amount of press coverage the Casey Anthony story had received. With this being such a high profile case, the longer the Jury Selection takes, the harder it becomes to find a group of people not familiar with the case.
By the end of Monday May/17 the potential pool had been increased to 15. The Judge explained that his plan was to start swearing in the 12 core jurors the following day.
It was clearly a grumpy Judge Perry this morning as the defense and prosecution started the long march of peremptory strikes. 15 was whittled down to 11 before you could eat your Egg McMuffin.
To make matters worse, the prosecution are still whining over a peremptory strike that the judge disallowed earlier this week.
To try and get some grasp of the dynamics at work here I talked to veteran Florida Defense Attorney John Contini. Judge Perry was clearly upset at both sides as a result of todays carnage. Is it time for Perry to abandon Pinellas County and try somewhere else? John had this to say:
This judge won’t move the venue yet again to yet another county, as that would only confirm what his early detractors had suggested earlier, ie, that he was moronic to have experimented with the typical change of venue process in the first place. Either you move the trial to another county entirely — and that means a new judge in the new county and then you lose the attention too, judge, or you deny a change of venue and preside over the trial yourself, your honor, in the county where it originated; but to move the jury selection to another county, stay on as the judge and try to have your cake and eat it too, why that’s an interesting experiment of sorts and certainly atypical at a minimum. His early detractors would have a field day with accusatory, “I told you so” type of remarks, if he moved the trial once more to yet another county.
So, here we sit, Day 8 of the root canal process has ground to a long an painful end. There is a good deal of confusion as to exactly where the Jury Pool count stands, some say 11 some say 12.
With the trial slated to last between six and eight weeks, one has to consider the possibility that due to illness or some other issue a juror may be forced to withdraw. He usual approach is to have some alternates, in Baseball terms a bull pen. John offered this nugget on the subject.
This judge will need almost half as many alternates as the panel itself, given the tendency for misbehavior in a big press case like this. Again, why hurry this process to much and risk trying the case twice. I mentioned the old adage once before — and it really does apply to anything in this life, and I will say it again, “Why is there never enough time to do it right, but always enough time to do it twice?”
I guess only time will tell. But one thing is becoming very clear, people who pegged Judge Perry as a Prosecutors Judge spoke a little too soon. He is a Judge’s Judge. No messing allowed by either side.
John Contini, es 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.