ORLANDO — Fed up with the constant bickering and legal posturing, the judge in the Casey Anthony murder trial scolded prosecutors and defense attorneys Monday, warning them they may face punishment when the trial concludes. Then, the judge abruptly canceled proceedings for the day to give both sides time to work out their differences.
From the start, Judge Belvin Perry has had to be more than a legal referee. He forced both sides to shake hands a couple of months before the trial even started, and lately he has grown frustrated that the jury has to wait in another room while the two sides haggle over witnesses.
"There has been gamesmanship on both sides," Perry said. "Obviously, there is a friction between attorneys. That's something I guess the Florida Bar will deal with. And at the conclusion of this trial, the court will deal with violations that may have occurred."
Anthony, 25, is accused of killing her 2-year-old daughter in the summer of 2008. The defense says the girl drowned in her grandparents' swimming pool, while the state says she was suffocated with duct tape. If convicted, Anthony could get the death penalty.
In response to the attorneys' infighting on the 23rd day of the trial, Perry told them to expect to work a full day this Saturday, instead of just a half. He also said they must be in their seats at 8:30 each morning.
While Perry's wrath Monday was directed at all attorneys on the case, he is most upset with the noticeable discord between lead defense attorney Jose Baez and prosecutor Jeff Ashton, who has 30 years of experience.
On Monday, the judge highlighted the deep disdain between attorneys when he asked Ashton and Baez to look at the clock in the courtroom and tell him what time it was. Ashton said "9:25" and Baez "9:26."
"That shows the two of you won't agree on anything or ever interpret things the same way," Perry said.
University of Miami law professor Tamara Rice Lave said Perry's challenge is keeping order and not showing too much disapproval.
"In some ways it's a bit of a Wild West show, and the judge is trying to rein it in," Lave said.