Criminal Law

Casey Anthony: Any Defense Will Do

Related Item

Casey Anthony may have been acquitted of murdering her daughter, but her legal problems aren't over. A scuba diver who searched in alligator-infested waters for Caylee's body, has filed a lawsuit against Casey. He wants $15,000 in payment for his services, claiming Casey asked him to help find Caylee and promised to pay him for his services.

The diver claims Casey breached her contract. He's also asking to be paid for the value of his services regardless. He might be entitled to an award if a jury finds an implied contract between him and Casey. Her lawyer has filed a motion to dismiss the claims. 

Original Article

For good or for bad, and like it or not, many of us are fascinated with high-profile criminal cases, almost to the point of obsession. Many people remember the media frenzy surrounding the OJ Simpson trial - it was the topic of discussion for years because of the criminal and civil trials.

Casey Anthony is gathering much of the same frenzy as she faces the death penalty on charges she murdered her two-year-old daughter, Caylee.

The Latest from the Courtroom

On Saturday June 25, after about six weeks into it, the trial came to a screeching stop. We didn't find out why until Monday the 27th. That's when the judge declared that Casey was competent to stand trial. That means she understands what's happening in court and why she's on trial, and that she's able to assist her attorneys in her defense.

What Brought This Up?

Only Casey and her attorneys can answer that question, and they're staying mum on the topic. All we know for sure is that early Saturday morning, her attorneys asked the court to declare her mentally unable to go on with the trial. The motion stated that a privileged communication between Casey and her lawyers led her lawyers to believe Casey was incompetent to stand trial.

The judge immediately stopped the trial and ordered Casey to undergo psychiatric evaluations. On Monday, the judge reviewed the reports from three psychologists and ruled that Casey was competent to stand trial. The judge sealed the reports, so it's unlikely we'll ever know more details.

Was It a Defense Tactic?

Again, only Casey and her lawyers know why the motion was filed. Incompetency can be a defense tactic, though. Like in Jared Loughner's case, being declared incompetent could temporarily stop the case until the accused undergoes treatment and becomes competent to stand trial. That could be years, even decades.

Tactic or not, Casey's attorneys have a legal duty to raise such a motion only if they have a good-faith reason to question her mental capacity. But, they can raise the issue at any time during trial process, no matter if it's two days before the trial starts or 6 weeks into it.

Where Things Stand Now

In case you haven't been following the case in the newspapers, TV or online, here's a list of key items that have happened so far in the case:

  • In their opening statement, defense lawyers stunned the public by telling the jury that Caylee accidentally drowned in the family swimming pool - though Casey had said for months that Caylee had been kidnapped
  • The prosecution put on evidence to support their theory that Casey used chloroform on Casey and transported her body in the trunk of her car
  • After the prosecution rested, the defense filed a motion to dismiss the case, arguing the prosecution didn't offer enough proof that Casey committed a crime. The motion was denied
  • Testifying as a defense witness, Casey's mother said that it was she, not Casey, who researched chloroform on the family's computer
  • On the same day Casey was declared competent, the defense filed a motion for a mistrial based on a federal court's recent decision that Florida's death penalty laws are unconstitutional. The court hasn't ruled on the motion yet

Motions are standard in civil and criminal cases and usually take a few hours to research and be ruled upon. However, a claim that the Florida death penalty is unconstitutional – at the state or Supreme Court level – could take much longer.

While it's important for the defense attorney to make sure a client has the best defense, grasping at any defense or story could harm the case more than help it.

There are many reasons why millions of people are engaged in the trial - a need for the truth, to see justice done for Caylee or to see Casey. No matter the reason, it's important to keep in mind the seriousness of the case. A toddler is dead, and her mother's life is potentially in a jury's hands. 

Questions for Your Attorney

  • What factors determine if someone is competent to stand trial?
  • Can the jury find Casey guilty of anything other than murder, like manslaughter, for example?
  • How long will it take before the Casey is sentenced if she's convicted?

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