Judge to Casey Anthony defense: Look at Records Before Requesting More Access
By Amy L. Edwards, Bianca Prieto and Sarah Lundy | Orlando Sentinel
Posted 5:28 p.m. EDT, April 5, 2010
If defense attorney Jose Baez wants details about the thousands of volunteers who helped search for Casey Anthony's 2-year-old daughter, he's just going to have to look at the records that have already been available to him for seven months, a judge decided Monday.
Orange County Circuit Court Judge Stan Strickland denied Baez's request for greater access to some 4,000 records belonging to Texas EquuSearch, the group that spearheaded volunteer searches for Caylee Marie Anthony before her remains were found in 2008.
During a hearing Monday morning, Baez argued the records are pertinent to Casey Anthony's first-degree murder case.
But Mark NeJame, EquuSearch's lawyer, said Baez has had plenty of time and access to view the volunteer search records. He called Baez's lack of doing so "either laziness or sloppiness."
Strickland wrote in his order that the files are still available for review at NeJame's downtown Orlando office, and so there is no reason to modify an earlier order, which is what Baez was asking for.
If the defense needs access to more records, it is free to request those, Strickland said in a three-page ruling.
Baez has complained that the search group did not turn over all of the names and records related to those who combed an east Orange County neighborhood in 2008 in a search for Anthony's 2-year-old daughter Caylee.
Thousands of people volunteered in the summer and fall of 2008 to look for Caylee, whose remains eventually were found in December of that year by Orange County meter reader Roy Kronk.
EquuSearch claims 32 people searched the woods around the location where the remains were found but that they did not go to the exact spot because the area was flooded at the time.
Attorney: Records are available for inspection
During the hearing, NeJame said Texas EquuSearch can't be responsible for what searches people did on their own time, separate from the organization.
He noted the defense hasn't tried to question EquuSearch President Tim Miller under oath.
"We remain available," NeJame said. "The documents remain available."
He also refuted Baez's suggestion that the volunteer information may contain a bombshell, since the defense hasn't even looked at the documents.
NeJame said Baez has been wasting court time and making false accusations, and asked for sanctions against Baez.
Meanwhile, Baez said it will be difficult to view the documents since they can't make their own independent copies.
"Why is everyone so afraid of uncovering the truth in this case?" Baez said.
At issue: The records
Last year, Circuit Court Judge Stan Strickland ordered EquuSearch to allow the defense team to review records of the 32 people.
The defense says it found other volunteers who searched the discovery area, which is less than a mile from the home Anthony and her daughter shared with her parents. At least one of their names was not included in the 32 that had been released.
These witnesses may be significant for defense attorneys, who may argue that someone other than Casey Anthony left the toddler's body in the woods.
"These documents are critical," Baez said in court.
Baez argued that a third party — Texas EquuSearch — is being allowed to determine what's relevant.
Baez said there's a lack of cooperation. He also said an attorney representing Casey Anthony's parents has already reviewed the volunteer group's materials.
"They are trying to kill Miss Anthony, and we are trying to save her," Baez argued. "How can we do it if we are handcuffed at every twist and turn?"
Prosecutors have seen documents
Prosecutor Linda Drane Burdick told Strickland she reviewed EquuSearch's documents. Her review took about six hours over two days.
She said if they found anything relevant they would have alerted Anthony's defense team.
Afterward, NeJame wouldn't say how much of a sanction he'd like Strickland to order against Casey Anthony's attorneys.
But he did say he doesn't want the state paying for any sanctions through Casey Anthony's indigency account.
Anthony, 24, is charged with first-degree murder in Caylee's death. Caylee's remains were found five months after the toddler was reported missing by her family.
The state is seeking the death penalty.
Casey Anthony attended the hearing, but said nothing as lawyers Baez and Cheney Mason made their arguments.
Illegal recording a topic
At the end of the 75-minute hearing, defense attorneys and two prosecutors discussed an illegal recording made by EquuSearch volunteer Joe Jordan.
Jordan illegally recorded a conversation between an investigator with Casey Anthony's defense team, himself and his lawyer.
In Florida, it's illegal to record someone without their knowledge.
Burdick told the court she has not listened to the recording because it's a third-degree felony to do so.
Shortly after an exchange between Burdick and Casey Anthony's attorneys, the group of lawyers approached the bench and then they, as well as Strickland, all left the courtroom.
It's unclear what the lawyers discussed or what they decided. The attorneys came back into the courtroom several minutes later suggesting they didn't need Strickland at the moment and left court.
Source: Orlando Sentinel