RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – The judge is already little more than upset with lawyers in the Casey Anthony trial. An undercurrent of ill feelings between Defense Attorney Jose Baez and Prosecutor Jeff Ashton brought the entire case to a halt yesterday. Our legal expert Steven Benjamin is here to explain what could happen if the two sides don't stop their bickering.
RYAN: Obviously, the worst case scenario would be a mistrial, but Steve, the judge in this case has gone out of his way to make sure that the jury sees as little of this bickering between the prosecutor and the defense attorney.
STEVE: That's exactly right and I think what we saw Monday, Ryan, was the judge reaching a point where he -- he felt everyone needed a timeout. That's what Monday essentially was, a very, very rare thing in the middle of a trial like this. Especially since one of the judge's concerns is about the very pace of the trial itself.
STEVE: He's pushing the attorneys, he's telling them they're taking too long, you're quibbling over ridiculous things; you're wasting this jury's time. They have been holed up in a hotel; you have got to start moving this trial. We're going to start working on Saturdays, full day. Yet, he takes a day off on Monday. I think what we saw there, Ryan, was an example of a judge doing exactly what he's supposed to do, being fed up with the antics of these lawyers just sniping at each other and not being professionals and perhaps knowing that even he himself had become so frustrated that he might risk becoming a factor in this trial, and so he just said, nothing is going to happen today. I think that was to make the jury -- the attorneys think about his words and the threat that he has imposed of a mistrial, the threat of excluding evidence, if that doesn't get their attention, nothing will.
RYAN: And because it's not really in the best interests of either the prosecution or defense to have a mistrial at this point, 30 days into the case with so much evidence and so much effort put in on both sides?
STEVE: Absolutely right, so the judge is doing what he can to avoid that. What has happen here, he found that the defense attorney intentionally violated the discovery order he imposed. You know, there are rules that attend a trial. A trial is not supposed to be a knife fight.
RYAN: A gotcha.
STEVE: That's exactly -- it's not a street brawl. There are rules and they're design to make sure that the jury receives only the most reliable evidence that there is, and so what the attorneys were required to do was to exchange information ahead of time so they knew what was coming so they could prepare to make the best presentation to the jury. That was violated and that what is drew the judge's disgust. One remedy he suggested was that he might exclude defense evidence, certain expert testimony and that would be a very serious sanction, but he is threatening the defense lawyer with that. He says if you keep playing these games, I'm going to start excluding your evidence, but the judge knows that this is a case that could end in the death penalty and that's incredibly serious, so what I think we're going to see as compromise. The judge is holding the defense feet to fire, he's going to permit a hearing and let the defense offer reasons why this evidence should be presented and we'll proceed from there.
RYAN: And there's a lot more to go in this case.
STEVE: There is; fascinating and very serious.
RYAN: Thank you, Steve Benjamin.
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