Warning—I tend to shift from present to past tense when writing!!
The beginning—Casey’s in jail; her parent’s have hired a lawyer for her. Then, in conversation with Lee, comes up the point that she hired Baez; that he (Baez) understands that she is “his first priority,” that he grasps the importance of getting her out in order to find Caylee. She’d heard about him from fellow inmates; she “liked him” right away.
Baez was a novice lawyer, and kinda young; he was at the jail (not a prison), where clients were likely being represented for either misdemeanors or lesser felonies (certainly not death cases).
Opening Statement—Baez’s opening is, I have to admit, quite astonishing. Don’t need to regurgitate it; we probably all remember it. I was concerned about his accusations. Spoken outside of court these could be considered slander or libel if not substantiated. Then, too, the opening just seems to drop off after George took charge of the body. How did it get to Roy Kronk? Baez seemed so sure about his claims when making his opening, but left a hole in his narrative; if he was just guessing, he shouldn’t have made such an inflammatory accusation. This will come back to haunt him later.
Baez begins to fall apart a little during the Prosecution Case. His “crosses” are a little a lot weak; frequently tentative and uncertain. Several times he lost his train of thought; a couple of times he ceased suddenly. Once, on being asked to repeat the question, he struggled then admitted he couldn’t remember it himself! With his best country boy, “Aw, shucks” smile, but still he looked ineffective.
And I don’t like the frequent inference that the authorities suspected Lee of fathering Caylee. This absolutely needs clearing up. . . I’ll do that at another time.
This week and the Defense Case! And the real trouble begins. Baez has been “massaging” certain issues to aid his side. He avoids FULL discovery, gets in trouble with the judge, and begins to look just a little . . . is dishonest too strong a word? perhaps, disingenuous? So here are a few observations. . .
1. During his “dressing down” by the judge, Casey moved over to sit in quiet conversation with Cheney Mason; I predict he will be representing her in an appeal on the grounds of inadequate counsel! After the dressing down, Baez tells the judge, the next witness is “30 minutes away and in transit.” Judge orders 35 minute break; then suddenly, court’s over for the day. Did he lie to the judge? Don’t jump yet; I’m thinking, he’s in front of the judge, thought his first two witnesses would take the whole day, suddenly they can’t testify, the judge is already mad and now wants the next witness. Baez can’t think quickly (off the cuff), he doesn’t want to get in more trouble, so he offers up the 30-minute excuse, hoping he can get someone here, but it doesn’t happen. It’s not an intentional lie; it’s just a delaying tactic—but ill-advised. After the break, the lawyers are in and out of judge’s chambers—and in and out—and the judge calls it a day.
2. About the inmate Amy(?) who lost her son in a drowning accident. I think it likely that Casey did, in fact, co-op that story. But this raises another question. In jail, Casey talks about Baez understanding the importance of getting her bonded out, in order to find Caylee. If Baez believed the missing child story when he hired on, why did he open with the accident story? Was she lying about first story, or second? Since he’d heard both, he knew she was lying at one time or the other, so why open with any information presented by her?
3. About computer activity on June 16 (for rebuttal), why didn’t he check that out when he first heard about the drowning story? If his client told him about the drowning, certainly he should have confirmed that nothing counters that claim (esp. considering the two stories!). Was he just hoping the prosecution hadn’t looked, or wouldn’t look, into it?
Speaking of less than full disclosure, there’s something else. It appears he may have held back from his own experts when prepping them. On cross, some have given testimony suggesting certain requirements were not told to them. Also, deadlines and required info for those reports, wasn’t fully explained. Were these omissions were deliberate; by not telling his witness how to report fully, the prosecution wouldn’t be able to adequately cross. But, did he think the court (or the prosecution) wouldn’t catch on? Or, was he thinking that he could blame the witness’s ignorance and just get a pass on the error?
5. There’s the issue of Baez’s texting while questioning a witness. It looks like Baez is uncertain about his own ability, and is texting co-counsel for advice on how to continue. But he will not give up his seat at the front of the bus. Which brings me to. . .
6. From the beginning, he seems to have a need to be seen as the chief, the head guy. Cheney Mason made it clear. in an interview, that he wasn’t first chair, that this is Baez’s show. Mason, I understand, is an expert at cross examination, yet Baez rarely utilizes his co-counsel. Heck, the lady lawyer (can’t even remember her name) is mostly babysitting Casey!
7. One last notice about this week—the questioning of Dr. Wise; a good example of how little Baez understands about human nature. Early on, talking about Wise’s credentials (and comparing to Vass), he belittles Vass as he exalts Wise. But Wise wants none of that; he respects Vass, very much! Baez, instead of backing off, tries to press forward that Wise is a better expert than Vass. He pushes so hard he angers his own witness. Wise begins to expand his answers to such an extent he becomes, virtually, a prosecution witness. Had Baez backed down on Vass at the first hint, his witness would not have felt compelled to exonerate his co-worker; he would have kept his answers short, and narrowly on-point.
So, this is what I conclude about Mr. Baez. His ego was stroked because this attractive young woman sought him out. And he saw his big chance for fame and fortune. This isn’t a mark against him; I mean, why not if you can do successfully?!
But, he lacked both the experience for such a tough case and the agility of mind to deal with the unexpected. What he considers “clever lawyering” frequently “crosses the line.” He underestimated his client, was too willing to fall in line with her statements, without confirmation. And, he was too far-reaching in his opening statement. He didn’t offer an alternative hypothesis; he stated his opening as fact—now he must prove his claim. If he doesn’t, the prosecution will use that lack of proof in the closing remarks.
Post Script—Just saw him call as a defense witness, the gentleman who did the PowerPoint display on root banding experiments, the display Baez successfully objected to in the prosecution’s case. And, shot himself in the foot again! Using just two of the screens for his direct, Ashton was now allowed to bring in the whole display on cross, which supported the prosecution case far more than the defense!