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July 4, 2011

Verdict Forms for the Casey Anthony Trial

Posted: 04:44 PM ET
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Jury Instructions in the Casey Anthony Trial

Posted: 12:53 PM ET

IN THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE

NINTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT, IN AND

FOR ORANGE COUNTY, FLORIDA

STATE OF FLORIDA,

Plaintiff,

v. CASE NO.: 2008-CF-15606-A-O

CASEY MARIE ANTHONY,

Defendant

JURY INSTRUCTIONS

INTRODUCTION TO FINAL INSTRUCTIONS

Members of the jury, I thank you for your attention during this trial. Please pay attention to the instructions I am about to give you.

INTRODUCTION TO HOMICIDE

In this case, Casey Marie Anthony is accused of Murder in the First Degree, Aggravated

Child Abuse, Aggravated Manslaughter of a Child, and four counts of Providing False Information to a Law Enforcement Officer.

Murder in the First Degree includes the lesser crimes of Murder in the Second Degree,

Manslaughter and Third Degree Felony Murder, all of which are unlawful.

A killing that is excusable or was committed by the use of justifiable deadly force is lawful.

If you find Caylee Marie Anthony was killed by Casey Marie Anthony, you will then consider the circumstances surrounding the killing in deciding if the killing was Murder in the First Degree or was Murder in the Second Degree or Manslaughter or Third Degree Felony Murderwhether the killing was excusable or resulted from justifiable use of deadly force

JUSTIFIABLE HOMICIDE

§ 782.02,Fla.Stat.

The killing of a human being is justifiable homicide and lawful if necessarily done while resisting an attempt to murder or commit a felony upon the defendant, or to commit a felony in any dwelling house in which the defendant was at the time of the killing.

EXCUSABLE HOMICIDE

§ 782.03,Fla.Stat.

The killing of a human being is excusable, and therefore lawful, under any one of the following three circumstances: 1. When the killing is committed by accident and misfortune in doing any lawful act by lawful means with usual ordinary caution and without any unlawful intent, or 2. When the killing occurs by accident and misfortune in the heat of passion, upon any sudden and sufficient provocation, or 3. When the killing is committed by accident and misfortune resulting from a sudden combat, if a dangerous weapon is not used and the killing is not done in a cruel or unusual manner. I now instruct you on the circumstances that must be proved before Casey Marie Anthony may be found guilty of Murder in the First Degree, Aggravated Child Abuse, Aggravated

Manslaughter of a Child, and four counts of Providing False Information to a Law Enforcement Officer or any lesser included crime.

MURDER – FIRST DEGREE

§ 782.04(1)(a), Fla. Stat.

There are two ways in which a person may be convicted of first degree murder. One is known as premeditated murder and the other is known as felony murder. In order to find the defendant guilty of murder in the first degree, the State must convince you beyond a reasonable doubt of the defendant’s guilt of either premeditated murder or felony murder. While you must all agree that the State has proven first degree murder beyond a reasonable doubt, you need not be unanimous in your opinion as to whether that finding is based upon premeditated murder or felony murder as I shall now define those terms.

To prove the crime of First Degree Premeditated Murder, the State must prove the following three elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

1. Caylee Marie Anthony is dead.

2. The death was caused by the criminal act of Casey Marie Anthony.

3. There was a premeditated killing of Caylee Marie Anthony.

An “act” includes a series of related actions arising from and performed pursuant to a single design or purpose.

"Killing with premeditation" is killing after consciously deciding to do so. The decision must be present in the mind at the time of the killing. The law does not fix the exact period of time that must pass between the formation of the premeditated intent to kill and the killing. The period of time must be long enough to allow reflection by the defendant. The premeditated intent to kill must be formed before the killing.

The question of premeditation is a question of fact to be determined by you from the evidence. It will be sufficient proof of premeditation if the circumstances of the killing and the conduct of the accused convince you beyond a reasonable doubt of the existence of premeditation at the time of the killing.

FELONY MURDER – FIRST DEGREE

§ 782.04(1)(a), Fla. Stat.

To prove the crime of First Degree Felony Murder, the State must prove the following three elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

1. Caylee Marie Anthony is dead.

2. The death occurred as a consequence of and while Casey Marie Anthony was engaged in the commission of Aggravated Child Abuse.

Or

The death occurred as a consequence of and while Casey Marie Anthony was attempting to commit Aggravated Child Abuse. 3. Casey Marie Anthony was the person who actually killed Caylee Marie Anthony.

In order to convict of First Degree Felony Murder, it is not necessary for the State to prove that the defendant had a premeditated design or intent to kill.

AGGRAVATED CHILD ABUSE

§ 827.03(2), Fla. Stat.

To prove the crime of Aggravated Child Abuse, the State must prove the following two elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

1. Casey Marie Anthony knowingly or willfully committed child abuse upon Caylee

Marie Anthony and in so doing caused great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement.

2. Caylee Marie Anthony was under the age of eighteen years.

“Willfully” means intentionally, knowingly and purposely.

“Child abuse” means the intentional infliction of physical or mental injury upon a child or an intentional act that could reasonably be expected to result in physical or mental injury to a child or active encouragement of any person to commit an act that results or could reasonably be expected to result in physical or mental injury to a child.

AGGRAVATED MANSLAUGHTER OF A CHILD

§ 782.07, Fla. Stat.

To prove the crime of Aggravated Manslaughter of a Child, the State must prove the following two elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

1. Caylee Marie Anthony is dead.

2. Casey Marie Anthony’s act(s) caused the death of Caylee Marie Anthony.

Or

The death of Caylee Marie Anthony was caused by the culpable negligence of Casey Marie Anthony.

I will now define "culpable negligence" for you. Each of us has a duty to act reasonably toward others. If there is a violation of that duty, without any conscious intention to harm, that violation is negligence. But culpable negligence is more than a failure to use ordinary care toward others. In order for negligence to be culpable, it must be gross and flagrant. Culpable negligence is a course of conduct showing reckless disregard of human life, or of the safety of persons exposed to its dangerous effects, or such an entire want of care as to raise a presumption of a conscious indifference to consequences, or which shows wantonness or recklessness, or a grossly careless disregard of the safety and welfare of the public, or such an indifference to the rights of others as is equivalent to an intentional violation of such rights. The negligent act or omission must have been committed with an utter disregard for the safety of others. Culpable negligence is consciously doing an act or following a course of conduct that the defendant must have known, or reasonably should have known, was likely to cause death or great bodily injury.

If you find the defendant guilty of Aggravated Manslaughter of a Child, you must then determine whether the State has further proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Caylee Marie Anthony was a child whose death was caused by the neglect of Casey Marie Anthony, a caregiver. “Child” means any person under the age of 18 years.

“Caregiver” means a parent, adult household member, or other person responsible for a child’s welfare.

“Neglect of a child” means:

1. A caregiver’s failure or omission to provide a child with the care, supervision, and services necessary to maintain a child’s physical and mental health, including, but not limited to, food, nutrition, clothing, shelter, supervision, medicine, and medical services that a prudent person would consider essential for the well-being of the child. Repeated conduct or a single incident or omission by a caregiver that results in, or could reasonably be expected to result in, a substantial risk of death of a child may be considered in determining neglect.

FALSE INFORMATION TO LAW ENFORCEMENT

§ 837.055,Fla.Stat.

To prove the crime of False Information to Law Enforcement, the State must prove the following five elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

1. Yuri Melich was conducting a missing person investigation.

2. Yuri Melich was a law enforcement officer.

3. Casey Marie Anthony knew that Yuri Melich was a law enforcement officer.

4. Casey Marie Anthony knowingly and willfully gave false information to Yuri Melich.

5. Casey Marie Anthony intended to mislead Yuri Melich or impede the investigation.

“Willfully” means intentionally, knowingly and purposely.

WHEN THERE ARE LESSER INCLUDED CRIMES

In considering the evidence, you should consider the possibility that although the evidence may not convince you that the defendant committed the main crimes of which she is accused, there may be evidence that she committed other acts that would constitute a lesser included crime.

Therefore, if you decide that the main accusation has not been proved beyond a reasonable doubt, you will next need to decide if the defendant is guilty of any lesser included crime. The lesser crimes indicated in the definition of First Degree Murder are: Second Degree Murder, Manslaughter or

Third Degree Felony Murder. The lesser crime indicated in the definition of Aggravated Child Abuse is Child Abuse.

MURDER – SECOND DEGREE

§ 782.04(2), Fla. Stat.

To prove the crime of Second Degree Murder, the State must prove the following three elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

 1. Caylee Marie Anthony is dead.

2. The death was caused by the criminal act of Casey Marie Anthony.

3. There was an unlawful killing of Caylee Marie Anthony by an act imminently dangerous to another and demonstrating a depraved mind without regard for human life.

An “act” includes a series of related actions arising from and performed pursuant to a single design or purpose.

An act is “imminently dangerous to another and demonstrating a depraved mind” if it is an act or series of acts that:

1. a person of ordinary judgment would know is reasonably certain to kill or do serious bodily injury to another, and

2. is done from ill will, hatred, spite or an evil intent, and

3. is of such a nature that the act itself indicates an indifference to human life.

In order to convict of Second Degree Murder, it is not necessary for the State to prove the defendant had an intent to cause death.

MANSLAUGHTER

§ 782.07, Fla. Stat.

To prove the crime of Manslaughter, the State must prove the following two elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

1. Caylee Marie Anthony is dead.

2. (a) Casey Marie Anthony’s act(s) caused the death of Caylee Marie Anthony.

Or

(b) The death of Caylee Marie Anthony was caused by the culpable negligence of Casey Marie Anthony. 

However, the defendant cannot be guilty of manslaughter if the killing was either justifiable or excusable homicide:

The killing of a human being is justifiable homicide and lawful if necessarily done while resisting an attempt to murder or commit a felony upon the defendant, or to commit a felony in any dwelling house in which the defendant was at the time of the killing. § 782.02, Fla. Stat.

The killing of a human being is excusable, and therefore lawful, under any one of the following three circumstances:

1. When the killing is committed by accident and misfortune in doing any lawful act by lawful means with usual ordinary caution and without any unlawful intent, or

2. When the killing occurs by accident and misfortune in the heat of passion, upon any sudden and sufficient provocation, or

3. When the killing is committed by accident and misfortune resulting from a sudden combat, if a dangerous weapon is not used and the killing is not done in a cruel or unusual manner. In order to convict of manslaughter by act, it is not necessary for the State to prove that the defendant had an intent to cause death, only an intent to commit an act that was not justified or excusable and which caused death.

I will now define "culpable negligence" for you. Each of us has a duty to act reasonably toward others. If there is a violation of that duty, without any conscious intention to harm, that violation is negligence. But culpable negligence is more than a failure to use ordinary care toward others. In order for negligence to be culpable, it must be gross and flagrant. Culpable negligence is a course of conduct showing reckless disregard of human life, or of the safety of persons exposed to its dangerous effects, or such an entire want of care as to raise a presumption of a conscious indifference to consequences, or which shows wantonness or recklessness, or a grossly careless disregard of the safety and welfare of the public, or such an indifference to the rights of others as is equivalent to an intentional violation of such rights.

The negligent act or omission must have been committed with an utter disregard for the safety of others. Culpable negligence is consciously doing an act or following a course of conduct that the defendant must have known, or reasonably should have known, was likely to cause death or great bodily injury.

FELONY MURDER – THIRD DEGREE

§ 782.04(4), Fla. Stat.

To prove the crime of Third Degree Felony Murder, the State must prove the following three elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

1. Caylee Marie Anthony is dead.

2. The death occurred as a consequence of and while Casey Marie Anthony was engaged in the commission of Child Abuse.

or

The death occurred as a consequence of and while Casey Marie Anthony was attempting to commit Child Abuse.

3. Casey Marie Anthony was the person who actually killed Caylee Marie Anthony.

It is not necessary for the State to prove the killing was perpetrated with a design to effect death.

Child Abuse means the intentional infliction of physical or mental injury upon a child; or an intentional act that could reasonably be expected to result in physical or mental injury to a child, when that person knowingly or willfully abused a child without causing great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement to the child.

“Willfully” means intentionally, knowingly and purposely.

ATTEMPT TO COMMIT CRIME

§ 777.04(1), Fla. Stat.

In order to prove that the defendant attempted to commit the crime of Child Abuse, the State must prove the following beyond a reasonable doubt:

1. Casey Marie Anthony did some act toward committing the crime of Child Abuse that went beyond just thinking or talking about it.

2. She would have committed the crime except that someone prevented her from committing the crime of Child Abuse or she failed.

It is not an attempt to commit Child Abuse if the defendant abandoned her attempt to commit the offense or otherwise prevented its commission, under circumstances indicating a complete and voluntary renunciation of her criminal purpose. 

CHILD ABUSE

§ 827.03(1), Fla. Stat.

To prove the crime of Child Abuse, the State must prove the following two elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

1. Casey Marie Anthony

a. intentionally inflicted physical or mental injury upon Caylee Marie Anthony

or

b. committed an intentional act that could reasonably be expected to result in physical or mental injury to Caylee Marie Anthony

2. The victim was under the age of eighteen years.

 PLEA OF NOT GUILTY; REASONABLE DOUBT; AND BURDEN OF PROOF

The defendant has entered a plea of not guilty. This means you must presume or believe the defendant is innocent. The presumption stays with the defendant as to each material allegation in the indictment through each stage of the trial unless it has been overcome by the evidence to the exclusion of and beyond a reasonable doubt.

To overcome the defendant's presumption of innocence, the State has the burden of proving the crime with which the defendant is charged was committed and the defendant is the person who committed the crime. 

The defendant is not required to present evidence or prove anything.

Whenever the words "reasonable doubt" are used you must consider the following:

A reasonable doubt is not a mere possible doubt, a speculative, imaginary or forced doubt.

Such a doubt must not influence you to return a verdict of not guilty if you have an abiding conviction of guilt. On the other hand, if, after carefully considering, comparing and weighing all the evidence, there is not an abiding conviction of guilt, or, if, having a conviction, it is one which is not stable but one which wavers and vacillates, then the charge is not proved beyond every reasonable doubt and you must find the defendant not guilty because the doubt is reasonable.

It is to the evidence introduced in this trial, and to it alone, that you are to look for that proof.

A reasonable doubt as to the guilt of the defendant may arise from the evidence, conflict in the evidence or the lack of evidence.

If you have a reasonable doubt, you should find the defendant not guilty. If you have no reasonable doubt, you should find the defendant guilty.

WEIGHING THE EVIDENCE

It is up to you to decide what evidence is reliable. You should use your common sense in deciding which is the best evidence, and which evidence should not be relied upon in considering your verdict. You may find some of the evidence not reliable, or less reliable than other evidence. 

You should consider how the witnesses acted, as well as what they said. Some things you should consider are:

1. Did the witness seem to have an opportunity to see and know the things about which the witness testified?

2. Did the witness seem to have an accurate memory?

3. Was the witness honest and straightforward in answering the attorneys' questions?

4. Did the witness have some interest in how the case should be decided?

5. Does the witness' testimony agree with the other testimony and other evidence in the case?

6. Has the witness been offered or received any money, preferred treatment or other benefit in order to get the witness to testify?

7. Had any pressure or threat been used against the witness that affected the truth of the witness' testimony?

8. Did the witness at some other time make a statement that is inconsistent with the testimony he or she gave in court?

You may rely upon your own conclusion about the witness. A juror may believe or disbelieve all or any part of the evidence or the testimony of any witness.

WEIGHING THE EVIDENCE CONCERNING CANINE SEARCHES

It is up to you to decide what evidence is reliable. You should use your common sense in deciding which is the best evidence, and which evidence should not be relied upon in considering your verdict. You may find some of the evidence not reliable, or less reliable than other evidence.

Some things you should consider in evaluating canine searches are:

1. The canine’s training and certification records, including an explanation of the meaning of the particular training and certification.

2. The field performance records including any unverified alerts.

3. The experience and training of the officer handling the canine, as well as any other objective evidence known to the officer about the canine’s reliability.

You may rely upon your own conclusions about this type of evidence. A juror may believe or disbelieve all or any part of the evidence or the testimony.

EXPERT WITNESSES

Expert witnesses are like other witnesses, with one exception – the law permits an expert witness to give her opinion.

However, an expert's opinion is only reliable when given on a subject about which you believe her to be an expert.

Like other witnesses, you may believe or disbelieve all or any part of an expert's testimony.

DEFENDANT NOT TESTIFYING

The constitution requires the State to prove its accusations against the defendant. It is not necessary for the defendant to disprove anything. Nor is the defendant required to prove her innocence. It is up to the State to prove the defendant's guilt by evidence.

The defendant exercised a fundamental right by choosing not to be a witness in this case. You must not view this as an admission of guilt or be influenced in any way by her decision. No juror should ever be concerned that the defendant did or did not take the witness stand to give testimony in the case.

DEFENDANT'S STATEMENTS

A statement claimed to have been made by the defendant outside of court has been placed before you. Such a statement should always be considered with caution and be weighed with great care to make certain it was freely and voluntarily made.

Therefore, you must determine from the evidence that the defendant's alleged statement was knowingly, voluntarily and freely made.

In making this determination, you should consider the total circumstances, including but not limited to:

1. Whether, when the defendant made the statement, she had been threatened in order to get her to make it, and

2. Whether anyone had promised her anything in order to get her to make it.

If you conclude the defendant's out of court statement was not freely and voluntarily made, you should disregard it.

RULES FOR DELIBERATION

These are some general rules that apply to your discussion. You must follow these rules in order to return a lawful verdict:

1. You must follow the law as it is set out in these instructions. If you fail to follow the law, your verdict will be a miscarriage of justice. There is no reason for failing

to follow the law in this case. All of us are depending upon you to make a wise and legal decision in this matter.

2. This case must be decided only upon the evidence that you have heard from the testimony of the witnesses and have seen in the form of the exhibits in evidence and these instructions.

3. This case must not be decided for or against anyone because you feel sorry for anyone, or are angry at anyone.

4. Remember, the lawyers are not on trial. Your feelings about them should not influence your decision in this case.

5. Your duty is to determine if the defendant has been proven guilty or not, in accord with the law.

6. Whatever verdict you render must be unanimous, that is, each juror must agree to the same verdict.

7. It is entirely proper for a lawyer to talk to a witness about what testimony the witness would give if called to the courtroom. The witness should not be discredited by talking to a lawyer about his or her testimony.

8. Your verdict should not be influenced by feelings of prejudice, bias or sympathy.

Your verdict must be based on the evidence, and on the law contained in thes instructions.

CAUTIONARY INSTRUCTION

Deciding a verdict is exclusively your job. I cannot participate in that decision in any way.

Please disregard anything I may have said or done that made you think I preferred one verdict over another.

VERDICT

You may find the defendant guilty as charged in the indictment or guilty of such lesser included crime as the evidence may justify or not guilty.

If you return a verdict of guilty, it should be for the highest offense which has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt. If you find that no offense has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt, then, of course, your verdict must be not guilty.

Only one verdict may be returned as to each crime charged. This verdict must be unanimous, that is, all of you must agree to the same verdict. The verdict must be in writing and for your convenience the necessary forms of verdict have been prepared for you. They are as follows:

SINGLE DEFENDANT, MULTIPLE COUNTS

A separate crime is charged in each count of the indictment and while they have been tried together each crime and the evidence applicable to it must be considered separately and a separate verdict returned as to each. A finding of guilty or not guilty as to one crime must not affect your verdict as to the other crimes charged.

SUBMITTING CASE TO JURY

In just a few moments you will be taken to the jury room by the court deputy. The first thing you should do is elect a foreperson. The foreperson presides over your deliberations like a chairperson of a meeting. It is the foreperson's job to sign and date the verdict form when all of you have agreed on a verdict in this case. The foreperson will bring the verdict back to the courtroom when you return.

Your verdict finding the defendant either guilty or not guilty must be unanimous. The verdict must be the verdict of each juror, as well as of the jury as a whole.

During deliberations, jurors must communicate about the case only with one another and only when all jurors are present in the jury room. You are not to communicate with any person outside the jury about this case. Until you have reached a verdict, you must not talk about this case in person or through the telephone, writing, or electronic communication, such as a blog, twitter, email, text message, or any other means. Do not contact anyone to assist you during deliberations.

These communications rules apply until I discharge you at the end of the case. If you become aware of any violation of these instructions or any other instruction I have given in this case, you must tell me by giving a note to the court deputy.

In closing, let me remind you that it is important that you follow the law spelled out in these instructions in deciding your verdict. There are no other laws that apply to this case. Even if you do not like the laws that must be applied, you must use them. For two centuries we have agreed to a constitution and to live by the law. No juror has the right to violate rules we all share.

Filed under: Breaking News • Casey and Caylee Anthony • In Session • Trial Updates • Verdict Watch


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July 3, 2011

Looking back: The best of week one in the Anthony trial

Posted: 07:04 PM ET

Filed under: Casey and Caylee Anthony • In Session • Trial Updates • Trials • Uncategorized • Verdict Watch


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June 22, 2011

Sweat lodge case in jury’s hands

Posted: 01:30 PM ET

Camp Verde, AZ – At the start of Day 53 in Arizona v. James Ray, prosecutor Sheila Polk faced a formidable obstacle in her task to present a rebuttal to last Friday’s aggressive closing argument delivered by defense attorney Luis Li.  Some felt it may have been unwise of the prosecutor to have not addressed the jury before the long weekend break.  But it is uncertain whether or not Polk should have used the hour she had left in the court day on Friday to make some initial attempt at challenging the many harsh accusations made by Li in his systematic condemnation of her office’s criminal investigation.

Instead, the jury was given a three-day weekend to digest numerous allegations of incompetence resulting in clues not pursued and potentially crucial evidence lost, destroyed, or improperly preserved.  So yesterday, in the last hours of her case against Ray, after a 19-month investigation that continued after the trial had begun, after over 300 hours of courtroom testimony and with almost 1,100 pieces of evidence, Polk had her final chance to convince the jury that they must find Ray guilty of manslaughter beyond all reasonable doubt.

Polk started by establishing what she believes to be Ray’s “intent” to induce an altered mental state by creating the sweat lodge’s super-heated environment.  She played for the jury a recording of Ray describing to the participants how intense the experience would be.

“There are no sweat lodges like mine,” Ray was heard saying, “this will be the most intense heat you have ever experienced… and you will have one of the most intense altered states you have ever had.  You will feel like you’re going to die,” he continued, “the true spiritual warrior has conquered death… your greatest fear is death and you will get to the point where you will surrender, but it is okay to die.”

The prosecutor again evoked the testimony of some of the key medical witnesses, specifically medical examiners Drs. Archaius Mosley and Robert Lyon, emergency room physician Dr. Brent Cutshall, the State’s expert witness Dr. Matthew Dickson and defense expert Dr. Ian Paul.  Only this time, counter to Li’s assertions, it was to affirm for the jury that, even in the absence of a documented 105 F body temperature which would confirm heat stroke, all of the doctors concluded some form of heat exposure was responsible for the deaths of Liz Neuman, Kirby Brown and James Shore.

“Even [the defense’s own witness] Dr. Paul,” Polk insisted, “[had] not ruled out heat stroke and conceded that [he] would have to conclude heat stroke if [he] had the body temperatures.  Therefore,” she suggested, “if Dr. Paul had the body temperatures, then all the doctors would be in agreement.”

Considering that the obvious stipulation in this logic would be evidence of the requisite body temperature, Polk quickly pointed out that “we have no documented evidence, but there is circumstantial evidence that they experienced high body temperatures… and the law says you can look to the circumstances.  The law makes no distinction [between direct and circumstantial evidence],” Polk explained, “It is for you the jury to determine the significance of the surrounding evidence.”

This was just the beginning of a three-hour long argument that would frequently rely upon the existence of largely circumstantial evidence.  As the prosecution ramped up their attack on the credibility of defense witness Dr. Ian Paul, Polk stated that even though the doctor had no documented evidence of core body temperatures, he still didn’t agree that the deaths were due to heat because he determined that there was no evidence of dehydration.  The prosecutor affirmed that none of the medical experts said dehydration is a required criterion for heat stroke and that Dr. Paul’s own professional organization supports this position.

“Only Paul,” she said, “makes a distinct [in this regard] between exertional and non-exertional heat stroke.”

Pertaining to the possibility of organophosphate poisoning, Polk put Drs. Paul and Dickson head-to-head. 

According to State’s expert Matthew Dickson, “organophosphate toxicity is so far-fetched he is not willing to conclude that the victims died [due to this cause.]  Hypothetically pigs could fly,” Dickson said, “but I will not concede that.”

Polk went on to explain that medical examiner Dr. Mosley believes that if organophosphate toxicity was the cause, you would have seen multiple people with the similar symptoms, but that was not the case.  Polk stated that according to Dr. Mosley, there were many symptoms that did not fit the toxidrome for organophosphate toxicity.  Furthermore, the prosecutor explained that according to Dr. Dickson, when you look at the big picture when organophosphates kill people, they are really, really sick… they would present with fluid pouring from every possible orifice so copiously that they would drown.  He qualified that those that fell ill or died at the sweat lodge did not have those symptoms.

The battle of the experts continued when Polk contested that the only doctor who treated live patients for organophosphate toxicity, that being Dr. Dickson, rejected organophosphate toxicity as a diagnosis; whereas “Dr. Paul has never treated a live patient for heat stroke.  Toxicology,” the prosecutor attested, “is, by [Paul’s] own admission, outside his area of expertise… and so his testimony is not credible.”

Moreover, contended Ms. Polk, not a single doctor in this case’s stable of experts saw anyone die from such a toxin and Dr. Dickson’s most seriously ill patient did not die.  This, the doctor explained, is due to organophosphates generally occurring in concentrations that are too low to do fatal harm.

Putting this argument to rest, Polk reminded the jury that defense attorney Truc Do called Dr. Dickson an “outlier” because of his lone opinion that organophosphates played no part in the sweat lodge deaths.

“Ms. Do,” the prosecutor asserted, “got three of the doctors to agree hypothetically that they could not exclude the possibility of organophosphates due to overlapping symptoms.  But, you can get a witness to agree to a lot of things, if you ask hypothetically.”

Going down her list of defense allegations of a mishandled investigation, one of the next items on the State’s agenda was the matter of improperly preserved evidence samples.  Polk strongly insisted that all evidence was properly preserved and available to all parties.

“Detective Ross Diskin,” explained Polk, “had conversations with both Drs. Mosley and Lyon and requested that all three victims’ blood be tested for organophosphates and the results were negative.”

Investigators were also told, according to Polk, “that the samples may not be reliable and that there is no good test for the presence of organophosphates.”  But she did not qualify why the samples were unreliable and which of the almost countless organophosphates they were looking for.

Regarding the purported EMT in the Angel Valley dining hall, whose recorded voice we heard warning the sweat lodge participants of the possibility of carbon monoxide or organophosphate poisoning, “he never came forward,” claimed Polk, “and his concerns were never relayed to the doctors.”

Consequently, “over the following days, no doctor ever tested for organophosphates because it was never indicated.  The notion of organophosphates is a complete red herring,” declared Polk, “[because] the doctors saw no clear pattern that the symptoms fit into the toxidrome.”

After enough talk on Tuesday, and certainly over the course of the past four months about pinpoint pupils or dilated pupils, hydration or dehydration, hyperthermia or hypothermia, virtually to the point where the jurors themselves had pinpoint pupils, the rebuttal moved to the last few criticisms made by the defense regarding how investigators handled evidence.

With regard to the wood used to heat the rocks possibly having been chemically treated and the alleged presence of rat poison, Polk simply said, “there has not been one shred of evidence that either of these [toxins] were involved.  The defense,” Polk retorted, “wants you to focus on all the evidence we did not find, and not on what we did find.”

In an apparent rejoinder to Li’s remark about the Hamiltons’ preference for talking to pests as opposed to poisoning them, Polk argued, “the Hamiltons are protected by the same 1st Amendment rights that protect James Ray.  They were given no immunity, as was Mark Rock, they were always cooperative and witnesses corroborated what they said.”

“What we are left with,” Polk declared, “is right in front of everyone’s eyes, the intense heat of the sweat lodge.”

At this point, the prosecutor explained to the jury that they are permitted to look at prior sweat lodges as she recounted the testimony of Jennifer Haley who participated in a 2007 ceremony.  Polk detailed how Haley described Ray as her mentor and that she believed “he knew something she didn’t.”

Haley also believed that she needed to endure the heat of that lodge for her dreams to come true.  However, after four rounds in the lodge, she felt as though she would die and that none of her dreams were going to come true.  Polk reminded the jurors that witnesses testified that Haley was carried out unconscious.

“This is where,” Polk explained, “looking at what happened in prior lodges is relevant to causation.  The defense,” she argued, “does not want you to see that people only get sick when Mr. Ray is conducting the ceremony.”

Polk suggested that “the structure doesn’t matter… it is the extreme nature of the lodge that causes people to get sick and die.”

In concluding her rebuttal, Polk spoke of Beverly Bunn, a dentist from Houston who participated in the 2009 ceremony.  The prosecutor led the jury through Bunn’s testimony recounting how difficult it was to breathe or swallow due to the searing hot steam.  She was right next to the exterior wall and still could not get relief.  She recalled Ray calling out that “you are more than that” and that “you can do this.”

When she decided she couldn’t stay any longer, Bunn crawled toward the door only to hear Ray say, “Beverly, especially you can endure this.”  She thought he knew better and she went back in, finding a different position where she got some relief when the door opened.  Ultimately Bunn talked about participants being dragged out unconscious right in front of Ray and he simply continued the event.

“Ask yourself why,” Polk implored the jury, “[Mr. Ray] wasn’t alarmed by the chaos and carnage in the aftermath of the ceremony.  That was because everything that happened was what he intended to happen.  It was what he expected, except for death.”

“The defense suggested that what occurred was merely an accident,” Polk told the jury. “Intentionally using heat to cause an altered mental state is not an accident.  [Ray] had many opportunities to change the course of his conduct, and, if not for his conduct, the victims would be alive.  Li criticized me for leaving up the photos of the victims [during my closing argument.]  They are why we are here.  For $10,000 they trusted James Ray knew what he was doing and would keep them safe.  We are here because these people, but for Mr. Ray’s conduct, would still be alive and I ask you to find James Ray guilty.”

At the conclusion of the State’s rebuttal, the jurors gathered in the jury room to have a lunch brought in for them by the court.  Shortly thereafter they began their deliberations minus the three alternates chosen via a lottery.  Per their request, after asking one question about whether or not a specific exhibit was admitted as evidence, they concluded at 7:30 p.m. ET and agreed to resume at 12 p.m. ET today.

-Jim Kyle, In Session Field Producer

Filed under: James Arthur Ray • Sweat Lodge • Trial Updates • Trials • Verdict Watch


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December 10, 2010

Jury to resume deliberations in Elizabeth Smart case

Posted: 09:47 AM ET

 

FILE IMAGE

Salt Lake City (CNN) - The jury will resume deliberations Friday in the trial of a homeless street preacher accused of kidnapping 14-year-old Elizabeth Smart in 2002.

The jurors will decide whether Brian David Mitchell, 57, was legally insane when he snatched Smart at knifepoint from her bedroom on June 5, 2002. Smart testified at the month-long trial that he led her to a makeshift camp in the canyons above her home, "sealed" her as his spiritual plural wife and raped her.

Jurors deliberated for three hours Thursday before breaking until 10:30 a.m. ET Friday.

U.S. District Dale Kimball instructed jurors that in order to acquit Mitchell under the insanity defense, they must determine he was mentally ill and that his illness was so severe it kept him from knowing right from wrong.

Defense attorneys mounted the insanity defense for Mitchell, trying to convince jurors that Mitchell was so delusional he could not understand his actions were wrong when he abducted Smart. Several mental health experts testified for the defense, offering diagnoses that ranged from delusional to psychotic to paranoid schizophrenic.

Prosecutors produced their own mental health experts, who testified that Mitchell was little more than a narcissistic pedophile who used religious dogma and claims he received revelations from God to get what he wanted.

Smart spent nine months with Mitchell and his legal wife, Wanda Barzee, at makeshift camps in the Utah mountains and at a homeless camp outside San Diego, California.

Now 23, Smart was the star witness for the prosecution. She said Mitchell raped her nearly every day of her captivity, some days more than once. She initially was kept tethered between two trees and treated "like an animal," she testified. Later, she was allowed to accompany Mitchell and Barzee into town, but was forced to wear flowing religious robes and a veil. She was not permitted to speak to other people, she said.

Mitchell claimed to be a prophet named Immanuel David Isaiah, who would take 49 wives and battle the Antichrist in the end times. Afterward, his family would hold exalted positions in the new kingdom.

READ MORE

Filed under: Elizabeth Smart case • Trial Updates • Trials • Verdict Watch


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November 19, 2010

Jury deliberations underway in Jim Leyritz DUI manslaughter trial

Posted: 10:29 AM ET

Ft. Lauderdale, FLJurors began deliberating the fate of ex-Yankee James Leyritz on Thursday who faces a single count of DUI manslaughter after the judge tossed out a second DUI manslaughter concluding that there was insufficient evidence for it to be considered by the jury.

“I’m granting the motion for acquittal on count one,” said Judge Marc Gold. “As to what I’ve considered, it was the video presented to us, as far as those tests, if pass requires perfection; the majority of the people in this building would fail.”

The decision brought the former pro baseball player to tears as he wept for several minutes while the judge made his announcement and his attorney continued his argument that the case against Leyritz be dismissed.

The judge rejected the defense’s motion to toss out a second count of DUI manslaughter, based on Leyritz’s unlawful blood alcohol level. 

Prosecutor Stefanie Newman urged the jury to find Leyritz guilty of the charge as evidenced by his BAC reading of .14 three hours after the crash.

Newman asked jurors to recall the testimony of defense expert Dr. Stefan Rose who testified that Leyritz told him he had seven drinks shortly before the crash. She said her expert Dr. Harold Schueler testified that Leyritz’s BAC at the time of the crash was .196, and that it could have been lower, but not lower than the legal limit of .08.

Newman told the jury that Leyritz “caused or contributed” to the death of Fredia Veitch because he was clearly impaired. She asked the jury to recall that Bruce Barger initially told police that Leyritz’s light had turned red.  And while he testified on the witness stand that he did not recall ever seeing the light turn red, Newman said Barger was still their best witness.

“The problem is Jim Leyritz didn’t see the light, he was looking down reaching for something. It took his passenger to get his attention,” said Newman. “If Jim Leyritz’s motor skills were not impaired he could have avoided this accident. He had four seconds of yellow to apply his brakes.”

The defense also referenced the yellow light’s cycle, but used it to question the State’s other traffic light witness, Garth Henry who said he saw Leyritz’s light turn red.

The defense computed 1.4 seconds for Leyritz’s car to reach the point of impact. Another second to account for the screech or the yawing that occurred after impact, and another second for the bang-Veitch’s car to hit the pole.

“We’re over three plus seconds,” said Defense Attorney David Bogenschutz, who asked the jury to recall that Henry said he was drawn by the sound of the screech and the bang. “Anyone who has been part of an accident knows when you hear a bang you look at it…he’s looking at it 2.5 seconds after the collision.”

Bogenschutz argued that Leyritz’s blood alcohol reading was unreliable.

“We have the wrong kit, wrong tubes, wrong place, wrong time,” said Bogenschutz who argued that the jury could not rely on the BAC level reported by the State. 

He argued that the wrong blood draw kit was used, so vials used to collect Leyritz’s blood did not contain the recommended amount of chemical to keep the blood from fermenting and releasing alcohol. Once the blood was drawn the vials were not properly inverted and refrigerated immediately.

He also criticized the State’s handling of the videotape evidence that his defense expert relied on to pinpoint the time of the accident. He described for the jury how the discovery of the video by a fellow law enforcement officer was ignored by lead investigator Jill Hirsch, ultimately causing the original video to be lost.

“It is my opinion that it is the height of gall to destroy the reliability of the video and then hire an expert to say that you can’t rely on it,” said Bogenschutz. “It’s like someone killing their father, then saying don’t execute me because I’m and orphan.”

A copy of the video was turned over to the defense nearly two years after the accident and only pursuant to public records, but by then the original data had been overwritten. Though it was inadvertent, the judge found evidence of a discovery violation, and agreed to instruct the jurors to give it what weight they deemed fit, including inferring that the original could have been exculpatory for the defendant.

Bogenschutz told the jury that if they found reasonable doubt they had to find his client not guilty.

“When you’re standing there on a street corner and a breeze gives you the chill, you can’t see it but you can feel it,” he said. “That’s what’s blowing through this case. If you have reasonable doubt, you report it as such.”

Stay with In Session for verdict watch of Florida v. Jim Leyritz!

-Grace Wong, In Session Senior Field Producer

Filed under: Trial Updates • Trials • Verdict Watch


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August 27, 2010

Felon guilty of beating, robbing NFL Star

Posted: 11:31 AM ET

 

 Las Vegas, NV - After hearing from 23 witnesses over eight days, jurors took just over four and a half hours to make a decision in Nevada v. Deshawn Thomas. Towards the end of their deliberations, they asked for an additional definition of “substantial bodily harm.” They were told to rely on the instructions already provided to them. The jury was made up of six men and six women. There were no African-Americans on the panel. Jurors in Clark County are allowed to ask questions of the witnesses, in this case, via notes to the judge after each witness’ testimony.

Deshawn Thomas was found guilty on the following counts:

• Conspiracy to commit kidnapping
• Lesser included of first-degree kidnapping
• Lesser included of battery
• Battery with intent to commit a crime
• Robbery
• Conspiracy to commit robbery

Javon Walker and his friends left town after their testimony and did not attend the verdict. The defendant, Deshawn Thomas, was surrounded by a number of extra Marshalls’ Deputies, and showed no visible reaction to the verdict. Other than a handful of reporters and curious attorneys, the gallery was empty.

–Lena Jakobsson, In Session Field Producer

Filed under: Trials • Verdict Watch • Verdict!


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July 29, 2010

Verdict watch in Blagojevich trial

Posted: 10:26 AM ET

Chicago, Illinois (CNN) - Jurors in the federal corruption trial of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich began deliberating Wednesday.

The jury members were instructed by the judge before they received the case just before noon (1 p.m. ET). Testimony wrapped up last week.

The ousted governor did not take the stand in his own defense, saying it was his decision, based on his attorneys' advice, not to do so.

While awaiting trial, Blagojevich protested his innocence in interviews and on Twitter, as well as during his appearances on the "Celebrity Apprentice" reality show.

Blagojevich faces 24 counts including racketeering, wire fraud, attempted extortion and bribery. The two-term Democrat was removed from office in January 2009 amid accusations that he had attempted to sell the U.S. Senate seat that had been occupied by Barack Obama before he became president.  Full Story

Filed under: Case Updates • Verdict Watch


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July 23, 2010

Tearful defendant describes fatal stabbing

Posted: 11:02 AM ET

 

 CLEARWATER, Florida (CNN) - A 20-year-old Florida woman accused of fatally stabbing a romantic rival testified tearfully Thursday that she acted in self-defense after the victim and two friends attacked her. Rachel Wade said she stabbed Sarah Ludemann only after she was hit three times in the head during the fight. Ludemann, who was unarmed, died at the scene after being stabbed twice in the chest.

"I never approached them. I never went after them," Wade told jurors in her second-degree murder trial. "They came to me. I had told her to leave me alone beforehand." During cross-examination, Wade admitted she threw the knife into a neighboring yard - but said, "I didn't know what happened and I didn't want anybody else to get hold of it. I didn't want anything to be done or anybody to be hurt that night," she said.

The April 15, 2009, killing took place after several months of confrontations over a former boyfriend, Joshua Camacho, via MySpace postings, text messages and voice mails.

In an August 29, 2008, voicemail, Wade can be heard saying "I'm guaranteeing you I'm going to ... murder you," and in another, she tells Ludemann, "You don't know when to stop. You haven't learned your lesson yet, but I'm going to ... teach you." Full Story

– - In Session's Beth Karas contributed to this report.

Filed under: Trial Updates • Trials • Verdict Watch


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June 3, 2010

Oregon v. Beagley Verdict Watch!

Posted: 09:37 AM ET

The Oregon v. Beagley homicide trial is shining light on the Followers of Christ Church, and their belief in faith healing.  The jury will decide if Jeff and Marci Beagley are guilty of criminal negligent homicide.

Question of the day: What is your verdict for each of the defendants and why?

Filed under: Question of the day • Verdict Watch


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