A blog by Miami Criminal Defense Lawyer Brian Tannebaum. Commenting on criminal law issues of local and national interest.

Monday, June 06, 2011

No One Would Like My Commentary On The Casey Anthony Case

This morning I began to write a post on the Casey Anthony trial. I started writing about my disgust over the media coverage. I stopped because I figured too many people would not be able to separate my thoughts about this case from what's currently going on in the Rakofsky circus.

People would ask how I could write about my opinions on the coverage of the Casey Anthony trial, my thoughts that the pounding on the defense is just disgusting, when I have been part of the commentary on the Rakofsky matter. I realized quickly that the difference is that I am a defendant in the Rakofsky case, and my commentary in his underlying case is post-trial. I'm not commenting from afar on an ongoing trial.

But I stopped. I went to work. Then, coincidentally, I got a call from the media, asking for an interview on the Casey Anthony trial. I called back too late. They found someone else. I had no doubt. Lawyers have been chomping at the bit to comment on this case. Lawyers have turned commentary into careers. I didn't want to give the interview. Was it because both defense counsel Jose Baez and Cheney Mason are friends of mine? Partially. I believe in friendship and loyalty, and I'm not going to exchange my mug on national TV for a friendship. There are those that don't believe in friendship over their own ego.

But the main reason I didn't want to give the interview? The case is ongoing. I believe in fair trials, and I believe in the sanctity of the system. I know the jury is sequestered, but leaks happen. In a society where just being a lawyer makes one a "legal expert," I choose to take a pass.

In the legal profession it has always been taboo to attack one of your own, especially in your backyard. Many an out of town lawyer has been retained to go after a local lawyer because "no one in town will take the case." In Orlando, they all hate Jose Baez - the lawyers, and the media.

Some of the "reporting" by the local Orlando media is disgraceful. No one cares about fair trials anymore, it's all about the opinions, the "bombshells," and the guessing about what a jury will believe. Few of the commentators have ever tried a death penalty case, but no one asks, nor cares.

Of course I have opinions about the case, about what I see going on in court. But this is not theatre, this is not a punching bag for the local defense bar to hit throughout the day. Have some damn dignity, let the trial go on - tell the media that you will not be a part of the frenzy. You walk the halls of the criminal justice system and using a life or death moment for your own fame is indefensible.

You want to educate the public - do that. Do not use the time or microphone and camera to play contrarian to your brother of the bar just to gain favor with the vultures of the media that have already decided that the defendant is guilty.

This is the interview I will give. Any takers?

Non-anonymous comments welcome.Brian Tannebaum is a criminal defense lawyer in Miami, Florida practicing in state and federal court, and the author of The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer.Share/Save/Bookmarkokdork.com rules Post to Twitter


  1. A little over 32 years ago, in a little burg called Newton, New Jersey, I was a young lawyer engrossed in my first ever felony jury trial. The local newspaper had a reporter covering the case. (At the time, Newton was a very little burg.) On the second or third day of the trial, I picked up the local rag and read about my trial. When I saw the reporter, I politely inquired if he and I had been in the same courtroom.

    The lesson was that the "Fourth Estate" has a very different agenda from that of the defense bar. They have their place in the overall scheme of things, and we have ours. When they start doing our job, or we start doing theirs, things get screwed up.

    Unfortunately, with the advent of cable news, and the "24 hour news cycle," more and more of our colleagues are appearing on TV, or other media, giving their opinions of what is happening in one courtroom or another. I know some of these folks. They are good lawyers. However, when they stand in front of a camera and pontificate about somebody else's trial, it is the high tech equivalent of a bull session in a college dorm.

    The bottom line is that it is not your case. You don't know the facts that the lawyer on trial knows. You don't even know what the evidence is; you are getting it as it has been distilled by the media. So, no matter how good a lawyer you might be, when you become a so called "legal expert," acting as a media commentator, you are nothing but another BS artist.

    Just my two cents worth.

  2. Alexandra Marcoux12:26 PM

    The media reports that Jose Baez has not tried a death penalty case before this one. I don't believe the media is to be trusted on everything they say, of course, but assuming this is true, wouldn't you normally say that this is not okay for an attorney to try a case like this without prior experience, judging from your previous posts?

    I certainly don't want to make a judgment about Jose Baez' skills as a lawyer or his competency to handle a death penalty case. I'm just pointing our that your opinion on the defense in the Casey Anthony trial seems inconsistent with your prior posts about other criminal defense lawyers. Perhaps this is because the trial is ongoing and you don't wish to make judgments now, or because Mr. Baez is your friend, or because he has a team with experienced death penalty lawyers, which would be understandable. Or could it be that few lawyers were willing to take the case, as you seem to have allured to in your post?

  3. Alexandra, thanks for your comment.

    I believe this is Baez' first death penalty trial. You ask "wouldn't you normally say that this is not okay for an attorney to try a case like this without prior experience, judging from your previous posts?"

    Think about that - a lawyer must get experience at some point, and the way it happens in death cases is two ways - sit as "second chair" first, or take the case and assemble a team, like Baez did.

    I dont think I insinuated that few lawyers were willing to take the case, as I believe plenty of lawyers would have loved to have this case - and maybe that's where the criticism of Baez partially comes from.

  4. Alexandra3:24 PM

    I see. I'm not a criminal defense lawyer (I practice immigration law, and I'm still new having become a lawyer in 2008) but I find a lot of parallels between the two fields and I learn a lot from your blogs, especially My Law License.

    I also thought that plenty of Florida lawyers must have loved to take a case that receives this level of media attention. The media is "trying" Baez himself right now -even digging up his past personal problems and many defense lawyers are saying they are surprised that he was hired with little experience and reputation.

    I would be interested in knowing your opinion on this case once the trial is over. I'll keep reading.

  5. I found your blog through Richard Hornsby's blog. And I'm not a lawyer. I have, however, read every document available to the public on this case and watched every (legal) interview available on tape.

    If Baez and Mason are your friends, then I can understand your reluctance to talk about the case. Surely you must realize that those following the case are interested to hear what the professionals have to say about it. So saying that you don't want to talk about it is.... disappointing.

    A few weeks ago, I went to the website of Baez to look for his background and credentials, and they weren't on it. In fact, none of the links worked. I hope he's putting more into this case than he is into his website....just sayin'.

    Email me, if you decide to blog in more detail about the case....otherwise I'll continue on my reading journey.

  6. To those of you leaving anonymous comments - I don't allow them. It's written on the bottom of the post.

  7. "Some of the "reporting" by the local Orlando media is disgraceful. No one cares about fair trials anymore, it's all about the opinions, the "bombshells," and the guessing about what a jury will believe. Few of the commentators have ever tried a death penalty case, but no one asks, nor cares."

    I would have to agree that the reporting in high profile cases is horrible, but some of that blame is going to have to lay at the doorstep of defense attorneys who will concoct outlandish stories in attempts to get their clients off. In my opinion, this does not constitute a responsible approach to the checks and balances of the justice system. It only makes it a contest between them and the justice department. Who wins? Not us normal citizens. You can say better 100 guilty men go free than 1 innocent man be falsely convicted, but we know that is not what is going on in these high profile cases. It is never about the truth. jmo

  8. If "us normal citizens" don't win, we must be pretty stupid. We pick the outcomes, after all. Do the mean old criminal defense attorneys use their mind control powers to make us act against our best interests?

    If an "outlandish story" convinces a jury to acquit after the state throws all of their resources against an individual, then that person deserves to get off because the state hasn't proved their case.

  9. Just a reply to the comment that some of the blame is on defense attorneys who concoct outlandish stories just to get their clients off. I continually tell my wife and kids to not make judgments on cases when they have not seen the trial. For example, what is reported does not convey the power or lack thereof of a cross examination, an argument or whether something reported in the press ever truly comes into evidence to be considered by a jury.

    As criminal defense lawyers we do not pick our facts, but are left to argue whether reasonable doubt remains after the prosecution's case. If I do a good job of demonstrating the weakness of the State's case and/or they do a poor job proving their case, why am I to blame for fulfilling my oath as a lawyer and my duty as criminal defense lawyer? Wouldn't the "blame" be at the feet of an inept investigation, an inept case presented by the prosecutor, simply not enough facts to convict, or maybe that the general public has read so much speculation, innuendo, outright lies, and misrepresentations they can't separate truth from fiction by the end of the case? This would apply to any case, not just Casey Anthony's.

  10. i am with u all the way on your opinion anyone commenting on any of this is so media driven and cannot see any other side except the main steam popular opinion....sad that no one seems to have the courage to stand on their on feet.

    i support biaz and chaney and think they are doing a good job given the judge and ashtons attitude that they are stuck with THIS IS NOT A FAIR TRIAL.

  11. I am in the UK. We don't -as yet- see the theatre -or should I really say, pantomime?- that I have witnessed in this trial. There seems to be very little about justice in this case, but more about point scoring. I am concerned that the young woman in this case appears to be not getting the best defence-even though I am veering towards believing she had 'something' to do with her child's murder and disposal of her body. This trial behaviour shocks me: the fighting to get seats in the trial puts me in mind of the 'stocks' we had here in the middle ages. My daughter is currently a Law student and I have discussed my dismay at this case with her, and the hope that she never indulges in any of the self-indulgent aggrandizement I have witnessed. God Bless Caylee Anthony, may she rest in peace!

  12. Debra McCallum12:28 PM

    " . . . then that person deserves to get off because the state hasn't proved their case."

    What the . . . ??????? What the hell kind of an opinion is that?

  13. If the state can't prove that someone's guilty, they should not be convicted. It's pretty simple.

  14. I'm a retired police officer and expert in K9 and scent transfer. It upsets me as a professional officer for years to see how media convicts everyone ahead of time. I would be glad to comment on areas regarding my expertise. Just ask the questions. I upset my friends by this. I've told them it is about truth and relevance. To me its not about her guilt or innocence its about experts being honest to all involved. I have always said liars can figure and figures can lie. Thanks James

  15. Hello people, casey anthony started the media frenzy when she had everyone looking for caylee evil

  16. "Hello people, casey anthony started the media frenzy when she had everyone looking for caylee evil"

    We can't help ourselves! She started it!

  17. I agree with you completely. Watching defense attorney's berate, insult, and criticize every move Baez makes is disgusting.

    I am not an attorney, but it seems to me, that our justice system has lost sight of the "scales" of justice. People seem to view prosecutors as hero's and defense attorneys as the evil trying to undermine lady justice.

    The reality is far from this misconception. Being an advocate for obvious victims is far easier than being the one to fight for the rights of those believed guilty.

    Sometimes prosecutors are hero's, but more often it is the hard work and skill of a creative defense attorney who takes of the challenge of ensure that the state does not take away the rights of all people.

    People can say what they want, but if I am ever in need, I want to have the right to call an attorney that scares the sh!t out of the state & LE. That is when you know you have a defense attorney who knows the law and insists that it be followed to the "T". Give me Baez of Schaffer any day of the week.

  18. Glad I stumbled across this blog entry. I agree completely. I'm interested in this trial along with thousands of others. Everywhere I go to watch the coverage I have to put up with scrolling chat of a few thousands idiots bumping into each other, or commentary from news anchors. I just want to watch the Trial without everyone sticking there "I know whodunit" (or how she did it) opinion out there. I honestly don't even understand how she can get a jury without any previous knowledge of the case or a biased opinion because of the media saturation up to this point. Most people I come across are 'certain she killed her' but I don't think it's that clear cut, nor do I think we will ever really know what happened to that child. At any rate, I look forward to watching the rest of the trial and seeing the conclusion. I am not a lawyer, just an interested observer. Thanks for you're insight and a refreshingly different opinion that I agree with! :0)

  19. YES.I agree everyone deserves a fair trial and so does Casey.She has set herself up by lieing and lieing to the cops.Waiting 31 days and her Mom was the one calling to report Caylee missing.I Would like to hear the truth come out of this woman's mouth about whT REally happen to Caylee but that will never happen.IF a person is innocent as they say they will cooperate with the police and do everything they can to find their daughter and not go out and party unless they have something to hide and Casey is guilty of something involved with her little innocent Girl here Caylee Marie.I wish she would go on the stand and tell the truth once but I can't see that happening.This is about an innocent child here who derserves Justice!

  20. Anonymous2:36 PM

    I can't wait until the verdict, I truly believe that casey is a compulsive liar and deserves to go to jail the rest of her life. What is so disturbing is that no one really knows exactly what happened to cailey. I think jose baez is always with a smirk on his face as well as casey, this is not a game, I'm just furious about everything especially the beautiful cailey who didn't deserve this.

  21. Wow, I'm stunned by your honesty and your moral stance Brian. It's rare to find someone who's willing to stand actually stand on principle anymore.

    Refusing to do an interview for the simple reason that you believed it was the right thing to do? Man, if I ever need a lawyer in Florida, I know I'll bee looking for your name in the yellow pages.

  22. Anonymous2:18 AM

    I know by saying the following that I am not probably going to be a very popular person on any blog, but I have watched this case as if I were a jury from the beginning, and I do not believe that Casey killed her child by smothering her with duct tape. I have a lot of opinion on the case and they do not favor well with the State or the Court. Maybe my opinions are naive because I find it hard to believe that ANY mother could cold heartedly murder their own child in such a manner, but I do know that there is a brotherhood in law enforcement and they CYA for themselves and each other. The media has tried and convicted this woman. What happened to innocent until prove guilty? I know she is guilty of something that is morally wrong, but all the suspicious incidences, lead me to believe that someone (probably more than just one person) are hiding something important to this case.

  23. blind justice4:17 PM

    I agree with Mr. Tannebaum's post. However, I am just a lay person with little experience of the law. I did not know of this case until shortly before trial. What upset me was that the press had already condemned Casey to death. They rabble roused the public and the public condemned her prior to trial also. But I thought there would be fairness in the trial. But everytime I think now we will find the truth, Ashton jumps up and quashes it. Then the judge oks that. That is how it seems. I wish someone would give an unbiased explanation of rules of evidence, I guess it would be. Also, it seems that it is not enough just to allow depositions and a summary report, now the prosecutor wants a detailed report of all the grounds for what the defense witnesses say. It seems like no one can expand on any theme, or do much of anything without informing the prosecutor first. This I never saw in the few cases I have watched. If this is the way it is, why have the expense of a trial? Why not just make out all the reports and depositions and give those to the jury to read, as I don't see how a debate can be done under these circumstances. As well, something called a proffer is now needed for everything. It doesn't seem to me to be a fair proceeding.

  24. andrea10:16 PM

    Yay! Casey has been found 'not guilty'! And much of the public is outraged; well, when you get your news from Nancy Grace and the other rabble rousers at HLN tv it can seem strange when a jury decides based on actual evidence, I guess. Not everyone is outraged; I have seen alot of comments to Yahoo articles in which alot of people express their disgust with Nancy Grace and conviction by media. I thought Baez did a wonderful closing. Mr. Mason's explaining charges and reasonable doubt I am sure helped the jurors, and the case. He certainly schooled me as I was trying to solve the mysteries of Ashton's version, and Mr.Mason pointed out that if you are trying to solve mysteries, you have doubt.I had other reasonable doubts I didn't even knowI had as I was unsure of the concept and its application; and I am not naive, being a senior citizen. So this was definitely needed, esp. as Ashton got up and confused the issue with Florida's weird law that it is first degree even tho each person may be speaking of a different first degree offense. That seems to totally defeat the purpose of a unanimous decision; how can it be unanimous if everyone is talking about a different offense, albeit 1st degree ones? Maybe I have this wrong? Poor Ashton's closing had me thinking he was breaking down. Drane Burdick's closing was also very good if you followed her time lines and other things. Ultimately, the evidence just was not there. After Ashton's closing; the commentator on HLN raved that it was brilliant, and an instant later a commentator on MSNBC [might have been cnn] said it was "a flop".

  25. Anonymous6:40 PM

    I blame Nancy grace for the guilty verdict!!! By sensationalizing the case and making it SO high profile. You caused her to get a special trial with special instructions and special defense attorneys. If it wasn't for you she would be like any other homeless, jobless, child killing mother and found GUILTY!!! She would have a public defender, a non sequestered jury of her peers, a judge that didn't have to write all those rules, and a jury that wasn't so emotional because of your coverage that they would have used their common sense and found her guilty instead of being worried about their emotional biases. Thanks Nancy. You got justice for Caylee by boosting your ratings! Well done!!

  26. style-wilkinson6:23 PM


    Mr Baez is a defense attorney, he defended his client and he did it well. people are rewarded for jobs well done and he deserves positive recognition for a job well done.Any offers Mr Baez receives will be because of a job well done and not because of the death of a child . Mr . Baze is the vessel which proved to all that rule of law works Mr Baez brought rule of law to shore in spite of Mr Ashton throwing a case together which had no merit and trying to win on media hype.... Mr Baez proved to all that RULE OF LAW WORKS AND TO SOME HE PROVED THAT RULE OF LAW EXISTS and that there is an order offered to us in our constitution.. Our judicial -justice system can not survive nor function well and fair with only prosecutors there must also be defense attorneys and we must respect both, We are suppose to be a civilize nation, please Think about the horrible things you are advocating. if you are truly upset about the death of Caylee Anthony please dedicate some of your time in a positive way, to children centers , and children in your families.. There are a group of out of control media people out there please don't become their puppets , don't allow them to tell you how to think what to think , and who to hate (HATE IS WRONG)
    There is an out of control media group who are constantly spitting out hate and their personal opinions. Most of what I am reading on post's are the hateful echo's of an out of the control media group. please form your own opinions Ashton did not prove murder nor was accidental death proved but certainly Mr Baez showed and proved there was reasonable doubt! Mr Ashton felt as if he had to do nothing after all he had been given favorite son status by the media.If you have the full trial recorded please replay it and cut out the media's spin of a commentary. Please do some research on Rule Of Law and Reasonable Doubt and please don't get your definitions from the media. You can think for yourself

  27. Is this funny or what? Think peeps. Mr. Tannebaum never gave his opinion, yet you sit and agree or disagree with his opinion! What opinion?

    You must be either siding or disputing about his friendship with Mr. Baez and Mr. Mason since that's the only thing he ever really said..... Duh.

    To the poster who actaully had the nerve to say that Nancy/dis/Grace ruined this trial and tainted public opinion, let me say that you are correct. Not only that, she has no respect for the law. She is a former prosecutor, sworn to uphold the law? Yet she excuses Cindy Anthony for comitting perjury and pats her on the back, exuding sympathy, stating she would have done the same thing. She does not uphold the very law she claims to defend.

    Not only that, N/dis/G and every talking head out there have ignored that Cindy & George Anthony lied, deceived, concealed and destroyed evidence of Caylee's death on 7/16/08 when they cleaned out the car trunk, and continued with their lies and deceit for two and 1/2 years, pretending that Caylee was still alive when they knew all along she was dead!

    But this is okay for so-called grieving grandparents? These crimes are okay since they were covering up for their evil daughter? NO, it is NOT okay. It is NOT okay to ignore their crimes under any pretense, not for their daughter, not for any reason. How little they cared for helpless little Caylee. N/dis/G claims to care for abused women & children? Spare me! She HELPED to whitewash crimes that could have led to justice for little Caylee.

    Fact is, no one who could or should care, cares, otherwise these two would be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. But they are justified? NO, they are not! Cindy & George both belong in prison.