As most readers of this blog (both of them) probably know by now – Jose Baez recently filed a Motion in Limine to Introduce Prior Bad Acts and Other Circumstantial Evidence Pertaining to Roy M. Kronk (“the Motion”) – the blogosphere is buzzing.
And the fact Jose Baez filed this motion immediately after Mr. Kronk’s deposition concluded for the day raised some serious red flags about his motives (not to mention his pre-orchestrated appearances on every major news network the following morning).
But rather than jumping to conclusions, I instead read the motion and I have to tell you, from a legal perspective, it was sound, smart, and strategic.
The Motion was dead on about the law and it was a dead on strategic move from a criminal defense perspective. And I opined this same position on WESH-NBC when I said “This is the first significant and credible shot the defense has taken against the state. I think it has a high likelihood of success.”
So I was flabbergasted when WFTV-ABC “legal analyst” William “Bill” Sheaffer said: “I deem these tactics as despicable” and then “blasted” Mr. Baez on his blog (Does Casey’s Defense Have No Sense Of Decency?), local news, and web video footage for WFTV-ABC.
Well ladies and gentleman, only one of us can be right… (I am, but more on that later.)
Now as WFTV-ABC’s “legal analyst,” Mr. Sheaffer is supposed to educate the viewers on the law and give them an informed opinion about the likely outcome of the legal issue presented (i.e. legal analysis).
However, Mr. Sheaffer basically called this motion frivolous and went so far as to claim Mr. Baez could be sanctioned by the Florida Bar (Yawn…). He even wondered openly if Mr. Kronk could sue Baez and Co. for defamation, slander, and libel. (Double Yawn.)
The very conviction with which Mr. Sheaffer blasts the Anthony Defense on the Motion makes me question when he last opened up one of those law books he is always sitting in front of (Although the Giraffes in his most recent interview were a nice touch).
Importantly, this is the third time (I’ll detail the other two briefly at the end) that Mr. Sheaffer has provided “legal commentary” about the Casey Anthony defense that was completely cheap AND false. (It’s not like it is hard to take cheap shots at them – so why also resort to false ones?) And in my book, three strikes and you are out!
So I am posting this in direct response to Mr. Sheaffer’s comments regarding the Motion and openly questioning his knowledge of the law, his objectivity, and his own “sense of decency.”
I think it is time that someone puts WFTV-ABC reporter Kathi Belich and her sidekick Mr. Sheaffer to task for their Pro-Prosecution pandering to the anti-Anthony sentiment, rather than providing objective analysis of the legal issues in the case so that the Central Florida community can have an informed understanding of the legal issues in this case.
But rather than stoop to Mr. Sheaffer’s level and blast him for selling out his profession as a “criminal defense lawyer” to become a yes-man for Ms. Belich (I will do that at the end), I will instead provide you with an objective and informed explanation of why Mr. Baez’s newest motion is legally sound and likely to succeed. So without further ado, here goes:
Having authored an article on the Basics in Florida Criminal Pleadings, I know that every motion must contain four primary elements:
- The Grounds: What authority authorizes you to file the motion, i.e. statutory, constitutional, or procedural authority.
- The Relief Sought: What is it that you want the court to do?
- Supporting Facts: What are the facts of the case the warrant relief? There are two types of facts. Alleged facts and sworn facts. Alleged facts are nonbinding, sworn facts are binding on the person attesting to them.
- Argument and Law: Why do you think you are entitled to relief and why does the law authorize your relief.
So with that as a frame work, let us “analyze” Mr. Baez’s motion.
Mr. Baez seeks to introduce “Prior Bad Acts and Other Circumstantial Evidence Against” Mr. Kronk. So the first thing we must ask is whether there is any legal authority for the court to take such an action. Interestingly, Florida’s Evidence Code happens to have two statutes that fit the bill –
The first is Section 90.404, Florida Statutes, which states (irrelevant parts omitted by ellipses):
90.404 Character evidence; when admissible.–
(1) CHARACTER EVIDENCE GENERALLY.–Evidence of a person’s character or a trait of character is inadmissible to prove action in conformity with it on a particular occasion, except:
(c) Character of witness.–Evidence of the character of a witness, as provided in ss. 90.608-90.610.
(2) OTHER CRIMES, WRONGS, OR ACTS.–
(a) Similar fact evidence of other crimes, wrongs, or acts is admissible when relevant to prove a material fact in issue, including, but not limited to, proof of motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity, or absence of mistake or accident, but it is inadmissible when the evidence is relevant solely to prove bad character or propensity.
(c) 1. When the state in a criminal action intends to offer evidence of other criminal offenses under paragraph (a) or paragraph (b), no fewer than 10 days before trial, the state shall furnish to the defendant or to the defendant’s counsel a written statement of the acts or offenses it intends to offer, describing them with the particularity required of an indictment or information. No notice is required for evidence of offenses used for impeachment or on rebuttal.
The second is Section 90.608, Florida Statutes, which states:
90.608 Who may impeach.–Any party, including the party calling the witness, may attack the credibility of a witness by:
(1) Introducing statements of the witness which are inconsistent with the witness’s present testimony.
(2) Showing that the witness is biased.
(3) Attacking the character of the witness in accordance with the provisions of s. 90.609 or s. 90.610.
(4) Showing a defect of capacity, ability, or opportunity in the witness to observe, remember, or recount the matters about which the witness testified.
(5) Proof by other witnesses that material facts are not as testified to by the witness being impeached.
Call me crazy, but it appears that Florida’s evidence code DOES allow a person to introduce evidence of other “crimes, wrongs, and acts to prove a material fact in issue” and a party may attack the credibility of a witness by using “other witnesses” to testify that “material facts are not as testified to by the witness being impeached.”
Now, from the motion, we know Mr. Baez wants the court to allow him to introduce evidence that Roy Kronk has:
- A history of inappropriate behavior with young girls;
- A history of abusing, restraining, and holding women against their will;
- Previously used “Duct Tape” to restrain a woman;
- Is involved in imaginary worlds of fantasy and violence (BDSM); and
- Made contradictory and conflicting statements from the ones he made to law enforcement.
Now is it me (picture me scratching head), or does it seem that at “first blush” (as Mr. Sheaffer likes to say) Mr. Baez is authorized by Sections 90.404 and 90.608, Florida Statutes, to introduce evidence that it was no coincidence i.e. “mistake or accident” that Caylee Anthony, a young girl, was found by a man who just happened to have previously used duct tape to restrain another woman. (I mean really, when was the last time your husband restrained you with duct taped just for fun?) And does it seem that Mr. Baez is authorized to introduce “prior inconsistent statements” that Mr. Kronk made regarding when he found her body?
Well, hold onto your suspenders and lets look at the supporting facts Mr. Baez proffered (meaning offered as proof) in support of his motion.
However, before we go there, I wanted to address a statement by Ms. Belich about the Motion. She is quoted on the Orlando Sentinel saying
“But they were not questioned under oath. And the defense did not provide any evidence to support any of the allegations.” – Kathi Belich
Well, since Mr. Sheaffer obviously hasn’t provided her with any legal analysis (no pun intended), I think everyone should know that there is no requirement that a lawyer have “sworn evidence” before filing a motion/request with the court.
Specifically, Florida Rule of Professional Conduct 4-3.4(e) only requires that a lawyer not “allude to any matter that the lawyer does not reasonably believe is relevant or that will not be supported by admissible evidence.” And the last time I checked, testimony from living, breathing human beings was considered admissible evidence. (But in case you do not believe me: See Section 90.601, Florida Statutes, “every person is competent to be a witness…”).
So considering Mr. Baez provided not just transcripts, but video of living breathing human beings who state exactly what is alleged in his motion – I think he is acting well within his means and in good faith.
But back to the evidence Mr. Baez has proffered (Please note that the following video links of living breathing human beings are from WFTV-ABC’s own website – not sure if Kathi saw them).
- First we have video of Mr. Kronk’s own flesh and blood, his son Brandon Sparks, telling us that Mr. Kronk has given what would be a prior inconsistent statement. (Video: KRONK’S SON: Also Answered Questions.)
- Second we have video of Crystal Sparks, Mr. Kronk’s ex-wife (and a Chief in the United States Coast Guard), who states (1) he was interested in fantasies, (2) Mr. Kronk’s father asked her to bond Roy out for kidnapping someone and the father had found duct tape, (3) She relates second hand “concerns” about Mr. Kronk with young girls, and (4) corroborating the timeline statements of her son. (Video: Kronk’s Ex-Wife)
- Third we have April Hensley, the daughter of Mr. Kronk’s ex-girlfriend who says implies Mr. Kronk may have “walked in on her” a few times and that he played “World of Warcraft.“
- Fourth we have Jill Kerley, another ex-wife of Mr. Kronk (who Mr. Kronk apparently told others had passed away). She claims he (1) restrained her with duct tape two times, (2) beat her several times, (3) was consumed with Dungeons and Dragons online, and (4) apparently had a reputation for dishonesty (stealing credit cards) and would not know the truth “if it hit him upside the head.”
Now that we know the applicable law and have the substance of the proposed evidence, we need to apply the law to the evidence and see what we get. And rather the opine on the admissibility of the proposed evidence collectively, I will instead analyze each portion separately (like any good lawyer would).
First we have Brandon Spark’s who would testify that his father had called him a week before Thanksgiving and said he found the skull of a little girl. This is obviously important because this is about three weeks before Mr. Kronk “found the body.” Mr. Kronk gave his son very specific details about what he saw, when he discovered the remains, and how he would be on television “tomorrow.”
Importantly, this evidence would be “impeachment evidence,” not “Similar Fact Evidence” because it deals with facts in the instant case, rather than a similar but collateral factual scenario that occurred in the past.
This evidence would be “impeachment evidence,” not “Similar Fact Evidence” because it deals with facts in the instant case, rather than a similar but collateral factual scenario that occurred in the past.
So if, on cross-examination, Mr. Kronk denied discovering the body earlier, the skull rolling out, or calling his son before Thanksgiving – Mr. Baez could then call Brandon Sparks as a witness to offer evidence that Mr. Kronk has previously made inconsistent statements. See Section 90.608, Florida Statutes.
Now before I leave Mr. Sparks, I should point out that a party calls a witness at his or her own peril. And after listening to Mr. Sparks interview, it seems likely he has his own time line confused.
So if the State were smart, they would subpoena his phone records to see if Mr. Kronk actually did call him a week before Thanksgiving. If his records reflect otherwise, they could impeach him at trial (or provide them to him before trial – or at trial – to refresh his memory so he testifies “accurately” for Mr. Baez).
Second we have Ms. Crystal Sparks, the first three points of her testimony is basically second-hand information received from others and thus is considered hearsay. And as most of you probably know, hearsay is inadmissible. See Florida’s Hearsay Rule: Section 90.802, Florida Statutes.
Now, if Mr. Kronk’s (apparently deceased) father were alive, the father (if willing) could testify to what he found and saw – and that evidence could possibly be admissible as “Similar Fact Evidence.” (More on that later).
However, Ms. Spark’s does have specific recollection of speaking to her son, Brandon Sparks, about his conversations with Mr. Kronk. And her memory of when the conversations occurred would be corroborating evidence of her son – this by definition further serves to impeach, or contradict, Mr. Kronk’s timeline. Thus this portion of her testimony should be admissible. (This could be considered collateral-contradiction impeachment evidence; if so, the State could object to her testimony on that ground.)
Third we have Ms. Hensley, who implies – but does not assert – that Mr. Kronk may have purposely walked in on her and that he was interested in “World of Warcraft.” Well the first question we must ask is whether this “evidence” is relevant; i.e. “does it tend to prove or disprove a material fact” in the trial. (See Section 90.401, Florida Statutes: Definition of relevant evidence) And if this evidence is “relevant” than it is “admissible, except as provided by law.” (See Section 90.402, Florida Statutes: Admissibility of Relevant Evidence)
We must ask … is this “evidence” relevant… “does it tend to prove or disprove a material fact” in the trial.
From the defense perspective, this evidence would tend to prove that Mr. Kronk was interested in young girls as well as fantasy role playing. Putting two and two together, it would advance a theory that Mr. Kronk was some type of deranged person who prayed on girls.
However, the State would argue that the implied inferences of this evidence is too speculative and intended only to embarrass Mr. Kronk.
They would likely also argue that even Mr. T. plays World of Warcraft – so there is nothing abnormal about that (joking). (Video: Mr. T on the World of Warcraft!)
On this particular point I think the State would be correct and the court would likely prohibit Mr. Baez from introducing this information (or calling Mr. T as a character witness). See Section 90.403, Florida Statutes, which states:
90.403 Exclusion on grounds of prejudice or confusion.
Relevant evidence is inadmissible if its probative value is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice, confusion of issues, misleading the jury, or needless presentation of cumulative evidence.
Finally we have Ms. Kerley and her testimony is the real prize for the defense – and the real battleground in this motion. (Listen: Richard Hornsby on 540 WFLA Radio.)
Specifically, she provides testimony that Mr. Kronk has used duct tape to restrain her. I think everyone would agree that such evidence is highly relevant to a defense theory that Mr. Kronk may have been involved in Caylee’s death because she was found with duct tape around her head.
And since all relevant evidence is admissible, except as provide by law; we must then ask what law prohibits its introduction. The State will raise two primary arguments:
First they will argue under Section 90.403 that the evidence’s “probative value is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice, confusion of issues, and misleading of the jury.”
They will also argue under Section 90.404 that the evidence is character evidence being offered solely to prove Mr. Kronk’s ‘general’ bad character. And they are obviously right on both counts – however, even though evidence may be inadmissible for one reason, it can still be offered for other reasons. See Williamson v. State, 961 So. 2d 229, 235 (Fla. 2007).
So, in turn, the Defense will argue that while this evidence is collateral, it is also Similar Fact Evidence that tends to prove Mr. Kronk has previously engaged in a conduct that is so similar to an issue in this case that it would be relevant for the jury to consider. (Relevant as to his credibility if he denies having used duct tape to restrain women and relevant to the possibility that he is the perpetrator.)
The question boils down to whether the evidence’s probative value in advancing Casey Anthony’s defense theory outweighs the prejudicial effect it will have on the State’s case.
In Florida, this type of evidence is called Williams Rule Evidence after the Florida Supreme Court decision authorizing such evidence’s admissibility in Williams v. State, 110 So. 2d 654 (Fla. 1959). This case was later codified as Section 90.404(2)(a), Florida Statutes.
Usually this type of evidence is offered by the State to introduce similar facts of past collateral crimes or acts against a defendant to show modus operandi or absence of mistake among other things. Thus most of the caselaw interprets it from the prosecution’s perspective.
However, there is nothing that limits the use of such evidence to the State. A defendant can also introduce Williams Rule (or similar fact) evidence and it is commonly referred to as Reverse Williams rule evidence.
“Reverse Williams rule” is evidence of a crime committed by another person that a defendant offers to show his or her innocence of the instant crime. See Rivera v. State, 561 So.2d 536, 539 (Fla. 1990). To be admissible, the defendant must demonstrate a “close similarity of facts, a unique or `fingerprint’ type of information.” See White v. State, 817 So.2d 799, 806 (Fla.2002). And “if a defendant’s purpose is to shift suspicion from himself to another person, evidence of past criminal conduct of that other person should be of such nature that it would be admissible if that person were on trial for the present offense.” See State v. Savino, 567 So. 2d 892, 894 (Fla.1990).
So with the legality of Reverse Williams rule evidence established, the admissibility of Ms. Kerley’s claims boils down to this question:
If Roy Kronk was on trial for Caylee Anthony’s murder, would evidence that he has used strikingly similar duct tape to subdue a women be admissible against him as similar fact evidence?
I am a criminal defense attorney by profession – and my immediate answer would be without a doubt – YES. However, I am sure any prosecutor you meet would say absolutely not – it is not similar enough, the facts are different, etc. And that is why this will be the true battle ground of the Motion.
I would note that University of Florida law professor Michael Seigel was quoted by the Orlando Sentinel as saying “I wouldn’t be shocked that he allows it, but it’s a long shot.” Professor Siegel – HAVE YOU NO DECENCY!
But ultimately, the decision will be made by one person – the Honorable Stan Strickland. And really, that is why my legal analysis and commentary is nothing more than opinion – because the ultimate decision on who is right and who is wrong boils down to the judge of the case.
Having analyzed the Motion from beginning to end, I think I have more than proven my point regarding the Motion’s merits – but only Judge Strickland knows how this will play out.
However, I am not done with Mr. Shaeffer’s attack on the Motion. He seems to get his suspenders tangled in a knot over the fact the defense team filed this as a “Motion in Limine,” he goes on to state:
Before we proceed further however, I think it important to address this so-called “Motion in Limine” for what it is. A proper motion in limine, as the title suggests, is a request to the court made pretrial to exclude certain matters from being introduced, or even referred to, at trial. What a motion in limine is NOT is a request to INCLUDE certain matters at trial, which is exactly what the defense has done here. Now, either these lawyers don’t know proper pleading mechanics, the Florida Rules of Evidence, the Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure, do not possess a Black’s Law Dictionary, or they have another agenda in filing this. – Bill “I have my Suspenders Tangled” Sheaffer
Well, for those of you that are unfamiliar with Black’s Law Dictionary – it obtains its definitions first from common legal usage and then from definitions given by specific cases. But Mr. Sheaffer’s definition is the second of the TWO definitions provided in Black’s Law Dictionary. The first reads as follows:
“In Limine: On or at the threshold; at the very beginning; preliminary.” – Black’s Law Dictionary
But no, I am not done with Mr. Suspenders, you see In Limine is actually a latin term and if you plug the Latin term into Google (And Google does not lie), you will likely get the Wikipedia entry which states:
Motion in limine (Latin: “at the threshold”) is a motion made before the start of a trial requesting that the judge rule that certain evidence may, or may not, be introduced to the jury in a trial.
Hold your suspenders tight, because I could swear that says that a Motion in Limine asks that “certain evidence may, or may not, be introduced.” So either Google is lying or Mr. Sheaffer is dead wrong – you make the call.
But wait, Mr. Suspenders, on his video at 4:28 seconds, says “I have just in 30 years not seen this type of pleading and it is an inappropriate pleading.” Really, well apparently other “real” criminal defense attorneys have heard of such a pleading and – HOLD YOUR BREATH – filed them.
As a matter of fact, the Florida Supreme Court just issued an opinion in a Death Penalty case where the defense attorney filed just such a motion:
Simpson filed a motion seeking a pretrial ruling on the admissibility of alleged “reverse Williams rule” evidence. Simpson v. State, 3 So. 3d 1135 (Fla. 2009)
Now I realize Mr. Suspenders is ancient and probably hasn’t tried a case in years; but filing such a motion is good trial strategy for several reasons. The primary reason being judicial economy.
You see, prior to 2003, there was little incentive for an attorney to ask the court to make pretrial evidentiary rulings because the law required the proponent of the evidence to raise the issue during trial – or it was waived. So even if you thought you had questionable evidence, you were still required to proffer the evidence during trial to preserve the issue in the event of an appeal.
However, in 2003 the Florida legislature amended Section 90.104, Florida Statutes, to read as follows:
90.104 Rulings on evidence.–
(1) A court may predicate error, set aside or reverse a judgment, or grant a new trial on the basis of admitted or excluded evidence when a substantial right of the party is adversely affected and:
(a) When the ruling is one admitting evidence, a timely objection or motion to strike appears on the record, stating the specific ground of objection if the specific ground was not apparent from the context; or
(b) When the ruling is one excluding evidence, the substance of the evidence was made known to the court by offer of proof or was apparent from the context within which the questions were asked.
If the court has made a definitive ruling on the record admitting or excluding evidence, either at or before trial, a party need not renew an objection or offer of proof to preserve a claim of error for appeal.
(2) In cases tried by a jury, a court shall conduct proceedings, to the maximum extent practicable, in such a manner as to prevent inadmissible evidence from being suggested to the jury by any means.
(3) Nothing in this section shall preclude a court from taking notice of fundamental errors affecting substantial rights, even though such errors were not brought to the attention of the trial judge.
In layman’s terms, this means that if Judge Strickland rules against the defense before trial, they do not have to fly their witnesses here and offer the evidence a second time to preserve the issue for appeal as was required pre-2003 (probably the last time Mr. Sheaffer tried a case).
Also it allows the parties to plan for the trial based upon the evidence that will be admitted and it insures that the jury does not receive insinuation about evidence that never materializes.
Also, Mr. Sheaffer makes a big deal about the possibility that Mr. Kronk could sue Jose Baez for slander, libel, or defamation. Well, I could have heard wrong, but it was Mr. Kronk’s ex-wives (one was a Coast Guard Chief no less) calling Mr. Kronk a dirt bag.
But since they are the ones who made the accusations, they are the only ones who could be sued. Which also makes me wonder, if Mr. Kronk doesn’t sue them for defamation, slander, or libel – does that mean their accusations are true? Well, Bill does it???????
And to finally put the nail in the coffin – I need to point out those two other times that Mr. Suspenders has been dead wrong on the law and just taken cheap AND false shots at the Anthony defense.
On April 22, 2009 he faults Jose Baez for seeking the Court’s permission to seek telephone records. (WFTV-ABC: Legal Analyst: Casey’s Attorney Made Blunder) Mr. Sheaffer is quoted as follows:
Sheaffer said Baez filed an unnecessary court motion that will bring unwanted attention. “Asking the court’s permission to do something you have permission to do to begin with,” Sheaffer explained (watch interview).
Sheaffer said Baez could’ve identified the witnesses’ cell phone providers during depositions and then subpoenaed the companies’ records directly. Instead, he’s asked the judge’s permission.
There is only one itty bitty problem with Mr. Sheaffer’s legal opinion – he is dead wrong.
In fact, the Florida Supreme Court ruled as far back as 1976 (coincidentally two years before Mr. Sheaffer started practicing law) that you have to ask the judge’s permission to subpoena records.
Don’t believe me, well might I suggest you read Heath v. Becktell, 327 So. 2d 3 (1976), in which the Supreme Court of Florida stated subpoenas duces tecum are not permitted in a criminal matter without leave of court (i.e permission). See also State v. D.R., 701 So. 2d 120 (Fla 3d DCA 1997); Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.220(h)(1).
And finally, I must point out that Mr. Sheaffer is not even current with Florida sentencing law. On April 10, 2009 WFTV-ABC did a piece on how Cindy Anthony acted during her deposition in the civil case (Legal Analyst On Anthonys: “Like Mother, Like Daughter”). WFTV-ABC then turned to Mr. Sheaffer for commentary on how Cindy Anthony might help Casey Anthony. This is a quote from the online article:
“Sheaffer said it might actually help Casey during the sentencing phase if she’s convicted. The jury might feel sorry for her and take her upbringing into consideration. – Bill Sheaffer (April 10, 2009)
There is only one problem with that statement – Casey Anthony was not facing the death penalty on April 10, 2009 and juries do not make sentencing recommendations in any case except for Death Penalty cases.
On April 10, 2009 – Casey Anthony was not facing the death penalty.
So there would be no sentencing phase that the jury would participate in. See Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.720 “Sentencing Hearing”; Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.780 “Sentencing Hearing for Capital Cases;” and Section 921.141, Florida Statutes, “Sentence of Death or Life Imprisonment for Capital Felonies; further proceedings to determine sentence.”
However, it does not escape me that less than four days later – on April 14, 2009 – the State filed a Notice of Intention to Seek the Death Penalty (WFTV: State To Seek Death Penalty In Casey Anthony Case).
On April 14, 2009 – the State filed a Notice of Intention to Seek the Death Penalty
So this leaves me with the inescapable conclusion that Mr. Sheaffer either (1) has no understanding of Florida Sentencing Law or (2) he had advance knowledge of the State’s intention to file a notice to seek the death penalty.
While I suspect the former (Mr. Sheaffer is clueless), I doubt the conspiracy theorists in Casey Anthony’s camp believe the latter. The only real question would be who does Mr. Sheaffer know that might have a cozy relationship with someone at the State Attorney’s Office? Oh, wait a minute, Ms. Belich dated Assistant State Attorney Jeff Ashton at one time, didn’t she?
But nah, their is no way Ye Old Suspenders had a senile moment and referred to something that wasn’t supposed to be publicly known yet. Or maybe, just maybe, Jose Baez’s conspiracy theories about the State leaking evidence are true….. very interesting….
Now I am about done with my tirade about Mr. Suspenders – I mean Sheaffer. I know that the anti-Casey Anthony element will think I am some liberal criminal defense attorney who just wants to see Casey Anthony go free . So let me at least provide some anticipatory rebuttal to your forthcoming comments on my piece. (Interesting Sidenote: My Brother was one of Georgia’s Most Successful Death Penalty Prosecutors.)
I do all of my legal commentary for free (Mr. Sheaffer is on retainer with WFTV-ABC) and approach the interviews the same way I approached a consultation with a potential client: I take the facts that are presented to me (by the reporters) and gave my honest “legal” opinion about the particular legal issue.
I take the facts that are presented to me (by the reporters) and gave my honest “legal” opinion about the particular legal issue.
I explained not just the “black letter law,” but also how the particular demeanor of the assigned judge or the skills of the prosecutor would play into the ultimate outcome – whether it be by plea or trial.
I have tried several cases in front of Judge Strickland – so I am very familiar with his legal disposition. As recently as October of last year I tried a week long Second Degree Felony case in front of him (See Richard Hornsby Trial Verdicts) as well as litigating in a separate case at the same time a very complex legal evidentiary issue in front of him – and won (See Defendant’s Motion and Order Finding in Favor of Defendant).
As for the prosecutors on the case. I have tried cases with two of the three. In 2008 I lost a Robbery with a Firearm trial to Assistant State Attorney Jeff Ashton; but in 2007 I won two different Attempted Murder Cases against Assistant State Attorney Frank George. (See original Orlando Sentinel Articles on each client’s arrest: “Suspect Pursued to Hospital Door” and “Suspect Hunt Disrupts Residents“)
So when I speak about the issues in the case – I speak not just from my legal education, but from actual experience.
More importantly though, my critique of Mr. Sheaffer is something I would give of any criminal defense attorney who I thought was misstating the law – or pandering to the media as Mr. Sheaffer has decided to do.
Frankly, it is exactly why I don’t hold any punches when speaking about Mr. Baez’s representation of Ms. Anthony. However, I never fault him when he does something right and even when I disagree with him, I sure as hell don’t misinform the public about the legality of what he has done.
Take one of my earliest (and worst) interviews for example. It was a live broadcast on August 18, 2008 at CF News 13 (Video: Revoking Casey Anthony’s Bond) where I was paired up with Cheney Mason (arguably one of Orlando’s best known Criminal Defense Attorneys).
What is important about that interview is not the amount of times I said “Um” but my response to the question of whether Leonard Padilla could revoke Casey Anthony’s bond. Mr. Mason said that Leonard Padilla “could not just revoked Casey Anthony’s bond” because they had a contractual agreement (And Mr. Mason should know about contractual agreements). However, I disagreed with Mr. Mason and explained what the law on that issue was – specifically that Mr. Padilla was within his legal rights to surrender (i.e. Revoke) Ms. Anthony at any time he deemed fit (See Section 903.20, Florida Statutes: “Surrender of Defendant”).
But probably more interesting to whomever reads this, would be the fact that I have leveled my criticism of Mr. Baez directly to him.
But probably more interesting to whomever reads this, would be the fact that I have leveled my criticism of Mr. Baez directly to him.
Take my January 14, 2009 interview with WESH-NBC reporter Amanda Ober where I provided commentary on how Mr. Baez is handling Ms. Anthony’s case. (Video: Is Casey Anthony being Properly Defended?). I had previously said the exact same things to Mr. Baez in response to an email he sent out on a Defense Attorney Listserve seeking any input or assistance in response to a lively thread on the fairness of the original $500K bond.
Being no hypocrite, I obliged and told him exactly what I thought. (See July 31, 2008 Email exchange between Jose Baez and Richard Hornsby). And yes, you are welcome to start calling me Richard “Nostradamus” Hornsby at this point.
At that brings me to the point of this post (or possibly rant) – that I am a fan of good lawyering, I am a critic of bad lawyering; but I am nobody’s hypocrite. My father had a saying: “Money Talks and Bullshit Walks,” which translates into Talk is Cheap.
And, while I am extremely critical of the manner in which Mr. Baez has handled Ms. Anthony’s case, I have nonetheless always been objective about the legal issues I am asked about: acknowledging when he does something right and (more often) when he does something wrong. Doing otherwise is simply cheap talk.
And, importantly, when criticizing Mr. Baez, I think it is important that we “not lose sight of what all of this is about, which is defending Casey Anthony on the charges of murder.”
“It’s not a staged production. Again, let’s not lose sight of what all of this is about, which is defending Casey Anthony on the charges of murder.” – William “Bill” Sheaffer
So when someone like Mr. Shaeffer – an attorney who reeks of elitism – not only criticizes another criminal defense attorney, but hypocritically and falsely criticizes another criminal defense attorney; I think it is my duty to call him out for his cheap talk. Because he is no more credible that the person he criticizes.
And Mr. Sheaffer, in my humble legal opinion, you are both cheap and a sell-out to your profession.
HAVE YOU NO SENSE OF DECENCY? – Richard Hornsby on William Sheaffer