For those of you waiting for an important breaking story, I showed that in the video of Joy Wray with her statements about searching the exact location and not finding Caylee where her remains were later found. Because I wanted you to see and hear it, I got the video up as soon as I could. For sure, the interview showed why WESH television journalist and reporter Bob Kealing is the best in central Florida.
There are no revelations in this post. It is just about my experience and observations in the courtroom. There are reasons why I did not put this post up right away, too. Other than for my own personal reasons, I am not really one to grandstand. Most people know by now that Judge Stan Strickland called me up to talk after the hearing ended. Yes, I was the guy in the second row he asked for. What the judge and I discussed was not “breaking news” and, therefore, not something that needed to be released immediately after the event. Sorry, but it was never my intent to rush home and turn my blog into an outlet to publicize myself. I was not seeking my fifteen minutes of fame as some have suggested. I needed to wait until things settled down. What transpired at the end of the hearing was something I will remember for the rest of my life. I am not one to sensationalize. I do not love to blow my own horn. Not too loudly, anyway.
No doubt, I try to be independent, but I will always have a soft spot for the whims of a good woman. It’s definitely one of my traits, as anyone who knows me will probably agree. Stubborn, yes, but a softie at heart. At the same time, it’s very important to point out that there are a lot of good – dare I say great – women who frequent this blog and I am often thrust into acquiescing to some of their strongest wishes or suffer in the ensuing quagmire of “reader’s block” and harsh words if I don’t. Fortunately, we all know how to bend and it’s, more or less, just a way to vent and express how passionate we all are about the Anthony case.
When I mentioned I was going to do my best to go to the latest hearing, I was asked specifically that I not sit on the side of the defense. A lot of folks just don’t like any of the Anthonys. What difference does it make which side of the court I sit on, I wondered? I mean, this wasn’t going to be like a wedding where you tell the usher whether you’re a friend of the bride or groom. Oh, it makes all the difference in the world, I was corrected. Well, I continued, what if I have an opportunity to speak to George or Cindy or anyone else, like Brad Conway? If I am to consider myself a journalist of any kind, shouldn’t I be allowed to write about both sides of a story? I realize we all have bias here, but isn’t it a fact that I have been more than fair and protective of all sides, defense and prosecution? How can I get both sides of a story if I only listen to one? One of the reasons why people come to this blog is because, deep down inside, they are more than fair, too. It’s just tough sometimes, given the evidence we’ve pored over and the fact that emotions do run deep.
As I drove toward downtown Orlando on Friday morning, I wondered what sort of day I would have. Would I even be able to get into the courtroom?
When I got to the courthouse, I went through security and walked straight ahead to the information desk. I wanted to make sure the hearing wasn’t moved from 19-B. Good thing I did, because the nice man behind the desk said it was moved to 10-A. As I entered the courtroom, I glanced left and right. The right side was booked solid. I had to make a decision and I wanted to sit down before the judge walked in. The only seat left was right next to Holly Bristow – someone out to get a story. Obviously, the story was more important to her than where she sat, and later, I heard no complaining about her.
While waiting the long five or so minutes, the courtroom remained silent. There was no friendly banter. I think, like a church, there’s a certain reverence, but instead of God, it’s for the law, courtrooms and judges. It did not stop me from looking around. On the right side, I spotted Bob Kealing in the front row and Kathi Belich a few rows behind him. I sat in the second row on the left, in an aisle seat. Right away, I saw Jose Baez and Andrea Lyon, but where was Casey? Had they not brought her in yet? And where were George and Cindy? I peered around the left side of the person directly in front of me and there was Casey, flanked by her two attorneys. Her neatly combed hair flowed about six inches below her shoulder. Throughout the proceeding, I noticed she would often take her left hand to brush her hair back. Meanwhile, I began to wonder why George and Cindy weren’t there.
Suddenly, a small entourage of people, including Judge Strickland, entered through a door at the front of the courtroom, to my right. He walked along the wall, between a four foot high partition, and took his seat behind the bench. When Casey stood, I noticed she was wearing a green top with a wide black belt. It appeared the belt came with the blouse. As much as I wanted to look at all of these people as celebrities, I couldn’t help but think they were in this courtroom because of one person. As the proceeding began, I still wondered why George and Cindy weren’t there. I did my best to look all around without it being so awkwardly apparent. Finally, there they were, two seats directly to my left. Sandwiched between Holly and the Anthonys was Jim Lichtenstein, a producer for the NBC Today Show. I chatted with him later. Jim was visible in the Bob Kealing video interview with Joy Wray, standing on the left side of the camera view. He had a very friendly demeanor.
Just as the proceeding began, George and Cindy’s attorney, Brad Conway, entered the courtroom and parked his wheelchair directly to my right. Early into it, Judge Strickland questioned whose courtroom it was because there was hand lotion all over the place. That brought laughter from the crowd, including Casey. Whatever you think about her, it was a comical moment and it seemed to me that it was a simple way for the judge to help the entire courtroom to relax a bit. Judge Strickland apologized and the proceeding continued. Of course, we all know the outcome by now. Casey lost the battle to get her murder case thrown out.
“It’s a farce. It doesn’t even come close to the legal requirements necessary for the court to even entertain a motion to dismiss,” state prosecutor Linda Drane-Burdick argued Friday. “The entire motion, from top to bottom, it is replete with errors, it’s insufficient as a matter of law.”
“It cannot be the intent of the Florida legislature that a person swear to something that they do not have personal knowledge of,” Lyon argued.
“The content of the motion, as well as Ms. Anthony’s brief affirmations, are not enough to carry the day under Florida Rules of Pleading,” Judge Strickland wrote in his order. He ruled (read his order) that Casey had not sworn to the proper and legally required facts to even ask for him to consider dropping the murder and child abuse charges against her. (read motion | state’s response to strike) There is nothing that stops the defense from refiling the motion.
One thing I observed was Andrea Lyon’s very strong voice while arguing against the state’s c4 motion, which was the response to the defense motion to dismiss counts 1 and 2 of the indictment against their client.
Another aspect of the hearing concerned the time the defense argued against turning over evidence yet that showed someone else having dumped Caylee’s body in the woods last year. The judge said he realized that discovery was a rolling process as new witnesses are added, but if Todd Macaluso hadn’t opened a can of worms to begin with, there would be no issue. Because he did, the state should be allowed to see it. You said you have proof. Put up or shut up. The judge gave a deadline of February 1 to turn the evidence over to the state by granting the motion to compel witness list and reciprocal discovery.
As I watched and listened to what was transpiring before me, I tried to glance to my left at Holly without looking like a peeping Tom. I was trying to see how she was making notations. I had brought along my little pocket notebook and I seemed to be writing down information at the same time the real journalists were. She had a legal size pad and what appeared to be a Palm Pilot, where she diligently and quickly entered text. Pretty nifty, I thought. At some point, the judge brought up the Richardson Hearing, of which I had absolutely no knowledge. I still don’t, but it has something to do with defense depositions.
Part of the hearing dealt with those persnickety autopsy photos the defense has yet to see. The judge and prosecutors were mostly concerned with sending them out of state to be viewed by the defense team’s forensic specialists. How could the defense be certain that someone in another state, where Florida laws and court orders don’t apply, wouldn’t release any images to the public. If the photos leave the jurisdiction of the state, the judge said, no court would have jurisdiction over them. He also wondered how anyone could guarantee the images wouldn’t be lost or stolen in transit. It was during this part of the hearing that an idea popped in my head. I wrote it down on my pad and tapped Brad Conway on his arm to show him.
UPLOAD TO SECURE FTP SITE
We briefly exchanged a few very quiet words. What the defense said was that the photographs on the server were unmanageable to print because their experts were “technically challenged.” In other words, too old to learn new computer tricks. They didn’t know, for instance, how to place 2 images side by side for comparison. Don’t laugh, I know a lot of people like that. They may know everything about plant decomposition, but nothing about how to operate sophisticated imaging software. In the end, the state was granted discretion over how and when they would be sent.
Casey will go back to court in December. A pre-trial hearing is scheduled in her check fraud case for December 18. The judge set the trial date in that case to begin on January 25. Her defense team has asked that the trial be moved out of Orange County, but the court has yet to rule on that.
I must be honest with you. As much as you may despise these people, George and Cindy Anthony are a very attractive couple in real life. When the hearing ended, Casey turned around and I saw her face to face as she walked in my direction. No matter how ugly you feel she is inside, she is still a pretty girl. She was short, no doubt, and and not as chunky as her latest jail photos show. She’s still quite petite. I wanted to get an up close and personal look at her and I did. Did she look like a cold-hearted baby killer? I can’t say. Is there a certain look? Did I miss something? All I can tell you is that she was there, and without these charges, she would still be Casey. It didn’t appear that over a year in jail has hardened or aged her.
I turned to Brad Conway again to mention a newspaper article I had read recently. It was Florida Today and it chronicled his past and what compelled him to become an attorney. It was complimentary and well written. I also told him I had something to give him from a private source, something that was sent to me. We discussed it and I had to tell him that I, unfortunately, left it in the car by mistake. He gave me his card and asked me to mail it, which I will do today. I excused myself and turned to George, who was now directly to the left of me. I offered my condolences for his and Cindy’s loss and we exchanged a few pleasantries. I don’t know exactly when and how it happened, but a court bailiff stopped me from leaving. I thought it was protocol, like I was leaving out of turn, similar to a wedding. After it’s over, you leave row by row. She told me to stop and wait. I did. This is the account of my experience. It may not be verbatim, but it is real and true.
“The judge wants to see you.”
“I don’t think so.”
“Hold on. Yes, I’m sure the judge wants to see YOU.”
“Uh, uh, no… I don’t think so. I think you got the wrong guy. Are you sure it’s me and not someone else? I mean, why would the judge want to see me? I don’t think I did anything wrong.” I was completely perplexed and I began to get a little nervous.
“Hang on, I’ll check.” She never left my side and I was almost oblivious to what was going on around me. I must add that at no time did I want to dart from the courtroom, making a hasty escape. But the thought did cross my mind.
Another bailiff came over to her and said yes, HIM. I kept looking at the bailiff and the judge, who was now gesturing for me to step forward. The bailiff opened the gate and I tiptoed my way over to him. He had moved away from the bench, but was still behind that retaining wall, about 4 feet tall.
“Here? Or over at the side?” I asked. I followed him as he moved to my right, nearing the exit door at the front of the courtroom, where he had entered earlier.
We stood looking at each other, with only a mere two feet separating us. Neither one of us had a problem making eye contact. The first thing I noticed was a real sincerity in his eyes.
“Are you Dave?”
“Yes sir, I am.”
“Yes sir, that’s me.” I thought that, perhaps, he had tried my marinade years ago and remembered me from one of the many food demos I had done. It turns out, that wasn’t it at all.
Now, some of you may choose not to believe me and you can think whatever you want, but I have absolutely no reason to lie or embellish my story. It’s not going to change my life or yours, but I would appreciate it if you don’t make up stupid stories. I also would be risking my credibility if the judge decided to publicly denounce this in the future. I value my honesty way too much and that was one of the things he addressed.
He told me he was not a computer person, nor was he very good on the Internet. I told him he didn’t need to be. After all, it was not a computer that qualified him to sit on the bench.
“Needless to say, I do go on the Internet and read about this case.” I see no reason whatsoever for him to remain blind to what the outside world, meaning outside of the court system, has to say. Should he cancel his subscription to the Orlando Sentinel and remove all TVs from his house? Would you expect him to sequester himself from the outside world? “I must say that you have the best Web site regarding this case. You investigate and you are very fair to everyone.”
“I thought you were going to ask me to never come back because the glare off my head kept you from concentrating.”
“No, I just wanted to tell you that.”
“I thought, maybe, you had used my marinade years ago.”
“No, you are very good as a writer and you stick to facts. You are very fair and I’m impressed.” WOW! That was impressive. I impressed HIM.
I thanked him to no end. I was in awe of the man. I, we, have watched him in action. His demeanor. His fairness. His elegance on the bench. Let me tell you all something, Judge Strickland is a very humble man. To think that I impressed him was the best compliment I could ever get about my blog. He did not look down upon me. He treated me as a person and that’s the way he looks at Casey and everyone else related to this case; something we have ALL seen in him – his fairness on the bench. I think he looks at blogs and forums the same way. He looks for fairness. After all, he must listen to both sides or he wouldn’t be a good judge at all, would he?
I told him about a friend of mine who was also a judge, but one who heard workman’s compensation cases. When I mentioned his name, he said he knew him. With that, I thanked him again and turned to leave. At that point, I was floating on air and I was bouncing off the walls. I told my story to several people standing outside. That was when I met Michelle. She said, “Wow, I’ve finally met a real celebrity.”
That brought me back down to earth again. I am no celebrity and I told her so. It was a real honor, but I am just a regular old guy. Nothing else.
I left the courtroom and went back to that information desk. I told that same nice man I first spoke with about my great adventure. I was still floating and I must admit, I did a little gloating. I asked him where Casey came out. He said in the basement. They have holding cells and prisoners leave from that location. Can reporters go down there? No, no one is allowed access and she’s already on her way back to the jail. I thanked him and walked toward the front. When I walked out the door, reporters and cameras were waiting. I walked right up to Bob Kealing and told him what had just transpired. He said they all saw me getting called up to the bench. I was not expecting to be interviewed by anyone. Instead, I asked him what they were waiting for. He said the defense team. They’ll walk out this door. I said I didn’t want to miss it. Did I have time to go to the parking garage and retrieve my video camera? He said yes, he was sure.
As I walked to the garage, I was stopped by a woman. “Are you Dave? Marinade Dave?”
“Yes, I am!” I said, proudly. Here I was almost living in the moment of my celebrity world that did not ever exist.
“I’m Joy Wray.” I knew immediately who she was. I told her I was going back to my car to get the camera. We walked together and chatted. We also walked back to the courthouse and a few moments later, Baez & Company walked out. The rest is captured on my video.
After it was all said and done and the morning was winding down, I walked with Bob Kealing to the television trucks, the ones with the towering antennae.
He said, “You’re the one that got James Thompson to open up. I read that. That was really good work. As a matter of fact, we all read your site. You are always fair and honest.”
Yup, that was me, or at least, that’s what I had always hoped people would look at me as. I still do and it’s reassuring to know media people follow blogs. We should all know that, too. He asked me for my card. I told him I ordered some last week, but they weren’t in yet. Instead, he offered one of his. Drats, my cards came in the mail this morning. If only I had ordered them earlier. Anyway, it’s time to get back to work. In the end, I’m still the same old Dave and I noticed I still put my pants on the same way as every other morning. The only thing that’s different? There are a lot more people out there who hate me now. Just remember, like Judge Strickland, I read what others are saying, only I am VERY Internet savvy.