I was talking with a friend of mine a few days ago about his latest book project. John P. Contini is an interesting character, by day he is a very well know Defense and Personal Injury Attorney and by night a writer.

My ‘baptism’ to his writing was with his first book Danger Road. It is a personal account of a crime that occurred in 1983. Three drug dealers are killed and the blame is placed on Gilbert Fernandez, a some time cop, gym owner, bodybuilder, and reputed mob enforcer. In other words, just the sort of guy you don’t want your daughter to date!  John led the defense team.

After talking to John Contini I fished out my copy of Danger Road and visited with it again. I began to see the book in a slightly different light. Although the 1983 events surrounding Gilbert Fernandez are vastly different to the current Casey Anthony trial. There are some interesting parallels.

Of paramount importance is the fact that both trials were over before they even started. The court of public opinion had declared a guilty verdict. The thirteenth juror, the press, had spoken long before the the judge had called the court to order.

In both cases the Death Penalty was on the menu. I am sure that John Contini will hotly disagree with me, but by his own hand in Danger Road it is clear that from the beginning the case was not about guilt or innocence, it was solely about the Death Penalty.

Is that what we have in the Casey Anthony trial? The more I think about it, the more convinced I become that indeed it is just about keeping the young lady off Death Row.

John Contini succeeded for Gilbert Fernandez. However it has been a case that has haunted John for years, so much so, that 15 years after the Judge had brought his gavel down for the final time in the trial John decided to revisit that entire part of his career.

I rather like this quote from him:

The lawyer has to keep all his clients’ secrets – but that doesn’t mean he has to keep his own

This simple statement is actually more complex than it seems. Yes, John was the ‘hired gun’, that’s what a Defense Attorney does. But there is a bigger question, is your client innocent or guilty? Is it better to mitigate the severity of the crime or try for the touchdown of a ‘not guilty’ result?

John Contini revisited the case, and the people involved. 15 years is a long time. People grow, people reflect, and people think.

The case of Gilbert Fernandez bothers John Contini to this day. Was Gilbert Fernandez really the killer? Did Gilbert Fernandez really get a fair trial? Or did the Thirteenth Juror, the Press have the casting vote?

This brings us back to the Casey Anthony trial, she has been found guilty in the court of public opinion. I am part of the Thirteenth Juror, and I find her guilty. I base my views on having slogged my way through mountains of evidence released through the discovery process, and the numerous court hearings so far.

In my mind the Guilty Verdict is merely a rubber stamp. The seemingly rookie mistakes by lead council Jose Baez and the abrasive approach that Cheney Mason have taken with both the court and maybe just as important the Press have created a somewhat hostile environment.

Will their actions come back to haunt them in this particular case?

I see two problems for the defense.  When it comes to Jose Baez I am always reminded of the fabulous movie Animal House. As I recall Dean Wormer lectures Kent (Flounder) Dorfman ‘Fat and stupid is no way to go through life son’.

As for Cheney Mason, I am surprised that he managed to squeeze his ego into a state the size of Florida! One can only assume that he left some at home! Either that or the airlines are now charging extra for ego’s that will not fit in the overhead bin. Well they charge for everything else, why not ego’s?

The cases of Gilbert Fernandez and Casey Anthony are very different. Yet I am drawn to the similarities.

Will either Jose Baez or Cheney Mason revisit this case 15 years from now? One can only speculate on what they might say.

I recently had a conversation with another Defense Attorney, and he said something that has stuck in my mind. The toughest cases to fight are the ones where you truly believe in the persons innocence.  Do Jose Baez and Cheney Mason truly believe in Casey Anthony? Or is she merely a stepping stone in their careers?

Simon Barrett

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 past 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.

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