Friday, April 30, 2010

Will There Be Justice For Emma Barker? UPDATED 4/30

UPDATE below Original Story-
Emma Leigh Barker
September 2, 2007-March 18, 2009
 Emma Barker was just 18 months old when her mother, Stacey Barker, 25, led police to her little body on March 19, 2009 . Emma’s mother had dumped her body along side the Golden State Freeway in Sylmar, CA. 12 hours earlier.

When Emma was first reported missing Stacey Barker claimed she had been attacked and knocked unconscious, when she came to Emma was gone, evidently taken by her attacker(s). Later Barker admitted she had made up the story of the attack and kidnapping, she said Emma had died accidentally and she feared being blamed so she dumped her daughter’s body.

On April 27,2009, Barker was arrested and the charges filed against the young mother include murder, assault on a child causing death and child abuse. The complaint alleges that Barker willfully caused and permitted the child to be injured and harmed and that injury resulted in death. Barker pled not guilty to all counts on August 12, 2009. She has been held at the Century Regional Detention Facility on a one million dollar bond since her arrest.
For more details on this case click here.

There was supposed to be a hearing on Monday, April 12 in the Stacey Barker Murder Case. We had hoped to learn at this hearing if there would be a plea deal or if this case would be going to trial. There was not an actual hearing according to our friends Tori, Ange and TD who attended the “hearing“ and shared what happened in court with katfish….ponders, so that I could share with you. (Thank you friends!)

Public Defender Roberto F. Dager told the court that at 10 am, Stacey Barker was still en-route to the Michael Antonovich Antelope Valley Courthouse in Lancaster, CA. from the Century Regional Detention Facility in Lynwood. It's a 90 mile drive from the jail to the courthouse, one way. Dager told the court that when Barker arrived he wanted to see her for 5 minutes so she could sign some papers. Superior Court Judge Hayden Zackey set the next court date for Thursday, April 29, 2010.

PD Dager was overheard telling a few of Stacey Barker’s family, who had also came to the courthouse for the hearing, there was no use for them to stay because Stacey wouldn’t be seeing the judge today and after signing papers she would be on the bus right back to LA.

Our friends think it is pretty likely that Stacey Barker is accepting a plea deal and noted that Deputy District Attorney S. Kelly Cromer wasn’t present in the courtroom when this "hearing" took place. Had she and the Public Defender already discussed what needed to be discussed before the “hearing“? Hopefully we will find out more on April 29.…stay tuned.

Update- 4/30/2010
There was another short hearing held  4/29 in Lancaster, Ca in the Stacey Barker murder case.Just a few short notes from our friends who attend the hearings and share with us:

The defendant's bus was late again coming from the Central Regional Detention Center. While waiting for the defendant to appear, DDA Kelly Cromer and PD Roberto Dager had a "little side conference" in the jury box. Our friend said Dager said "something" to Cromer, to which Cromer was heard to laugh and say," The only deal I'll go for is 15 to Life." With that the discussion was over until the Barker was brought up to the courtroom. (keep in mind this was just part of a conversation that was over heard, so should be evaluated on that basis, not as fact pertaining to this case, just something you might have heard as well if sitting in the courtroom)

Something that was put on the record is Judge Hayden Zackey's desire to get a court date set in this case. PD Dager told the court he needs more time to interview more witnesses and there was still a question of some discovery. Judge  Zackey said," I would like to start TRIAL within the 60 days, this is getting OLD." Zackey added, "I understand the nature and gravity of the crime, but I would like to proceed with trial soon." (Tori's thinks the "this is getting old " statement was in reference to the defendant being brought to court, 90 miles one way, and nothing being accomplished.Given the financial crisis in CA that seems a reasonable assumption.) Another hearing date was set for June 7 and court was recessed.

Our friends noted that Stacey Barker was in GREAT spirits today. When she entered the courtroom she said hi to her boyfriend in a flirtatious manner, during the hearing she was bouncy and laughing with her attorney, and when she was led out of the courtroom by the bailiff (despite an admonition earlier in the case not to have make any contact with the gallery) she turned in a "coy" way and said "BYE" to her family...kind of like she was somewhere other than a court of law.....bidding farewell to her fans. ( LOL, whatever)

Check back, our friends will attend and give us an update of what happens in court on June 7. Hopefully there will be a trial date set so there can be some Justice for Emma.

In this writer's opinion, getting to the  Truth = Justice. Sphere: Related Content

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Jailhouse Connections And Investigations - Continuing.... The Justice For Caylee Anthony Saga -

Casey Marie Anthony  is a 24 year old Orlando, FL woman who has been held without bond at the Orange County Florida Jail since October 14, 2008 when an Orange County Grand Jury handed down a seven count Bill of Indictment . The charges brought in the indictment against Anthony  in relation to the Death Investigation of her 2 year old daughter, Caylee Marie Anthony  are as follows :
CMA #08049710
1 count - First-Degree murder

1 count - Aggravated Manslaughter of a Child

1 count - Aggravated Child abuse

4 counts- Providing False Information to a Law Enforcement Officer

The first degree murder charge is a capital offense and the possible penalty is Life In Prison Without Parole (LWOP) or the Death Penalty.

Casey Anthony is housed in what the Orange County Florida jail calls Level 1 protective-custody in Dorm L. When Casey was arrested for the murder of her daughter Caylee, the Orange County Sheriffs Office (OCSO) decided that she needed additional protection above and beyond what other prisoners that are housed there require. Most prisoners in a high profile case are held in protective custody, but  no doubt the public's hostility towards Casey Anthony after learning most everything she told law enforcement about Caylee's disappearance was a  lie and that she didn't report her daughter missing for a month  factored into her Level 1 Protective Custody status.

We have been told when it comes to protective custody, few people are guarded as closely as Casey Anthony. She resides in her jail cell for most of the day and is not allowed contact with any other prisoners. She is also not allowed to watch TV in her cell, but she is allowed one small transistor radio, which she bought at the jail commissary. The short time each day prisoners in protective custody are allowed out of their cell  is to shower, get books, make phone calls, or watch TV in a "community" day room  for individual use by those in protective custody (other than visits with their lawyer or court hearings). There is also scheduled visitation time (once or twice a week?) but Casey refuses all visitors.

While no contact with other prisoners is an important part of protective custody, in all of the cases I have followed ( not just in the OCJ ), prisoners find a way to break the rules and communicate. Let's face it, all they have is time to try and figure ways around the rules. This case is no exception.

During a pretrial hearing on March 18, 2010, Ninth Judicial Circuit Judge Stan Strickland unsealed an
  IN CAMERA SEALED MOTION TO DELAY DISCLOSURE   that he has allowed the State to keep under wraps for the previous month while they conducted an investigation.Judge Strickland unsealed the motion because he said that the investigation into this information has almost concluded.

The State's motion (link provided above) advised the court that the State had been informed the defendant, Casey Anthony has made a few friendships while in jail and had written and passed 50 letters to one of the inmates against jail rules, possibly with a guard's help. The State's Attorney Office (SAO) said the letters are not a confession, but appear to contain relevant statements of the Defendant. The motion also advised that based upon the past history of this case and in anticipation of accusations of misconduct by the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, the State Attorney requested that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (F.D.L.E.) take over the investigation of the communications between the Defendant and these witnesses.

Under the FL Sunshine Law, once the state turns over discovery to the defense, the discovery becomes public documents, unless ordered sealed by the judge ( for example: the video in the jail medical clinic of Casey's reaction to Caylee's remains being found has been withheld ). Judge Strickland gave the defense 15 days to look over the letters and decide if they would seek to have them remain under seal.
Anthony's defense chose not to fight the release of the documents. I'll discuss what's in the jailhouse letters and my thoughts on the contents of the letters in my next post that will be titled "Muffin and Cookie Plan A Road Trip".

In the rest of this post I'd like to give you a better understanding of the physical layout of Dorm L where Casey has been bunking for most of the last two years.  I did some research so that I can give you a more complete introduction to Casey's jailhouse friends and also got some of the legal documents involved in Robyn Adams case which I have linked in this post  It also seems important we cover some of the background of the F.D.L.E.'s investigation.  Most of the information about the investigation can be found in the OCSO Supplemental Report to Jailhouse Letter

~The Investigation~

A Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation found that Casey Anthony, Maya Derkovic and Robyn Adams became friends while they were in protective custody in the female detention center, Dorm L, which is where jail guard Silva Hernandez workedHere is a copy of the floor plan for Dorm L :

Orange County Jail, Woman's Detention Center, Dorm L
The dorm consists of a control center at one end of the dorm and facing the communal day room that resembles a classroom. The inmates cells are lined around the day room and consist of two levels. Inmates that are in close proximity to each other are able to communicate through the ventilation system. Robyn Adams explained it is possible for communication through the vents between any of the cells but the further away you are the louder you had to speak, so she and Casey didn't communicate "via the vents ".

 Casey Anthony was originally arrested and placed in protective custody on July 17, when she was arrested for lying to law enforcement  in the days after Caylee was reported missing. Adams was arrested on July 21 and placed into protective custody because her husband was a police officer.( I'll tell you more of the details of Adam's arrest in a bit.) Anthony remained in jail for about a month until California bounty hunter, Leonard Padilla assisted in getting her released on August 20, 2008. This is the first time when Adams and Anthony were in Dorm L together, but didn't form a relationship beyond a wave. ( For the sake of being thorough I should tell you
Anthony was arrested again, this time on economics charges on August 29 and bonded out on September 5. Anthony was arrested for more economic charges September 15 but was out the next day.) Adams wouldn't see Anthony again until she was arrested on October 14. During the time Anthony was out, Adams decided to agree to a plea deal in her case on September 25, 2008. Adams was sentenced in January 2009 and moved to a federal prison in August of 2009. Maya Derkovic was housed in the Orange County Jail with Casey Anthony during the latter parts of 2008 to the beginning of 2009.

   ~ Friends Made In Jail, May Turn Out To Be "Friends From Hell"~

Maya Derkovic mugshot
Maya Derkovic, then 18, was originally arrested on January 28, 2007 for armed carjacking. Derkovic identified herself as a full member of the 3rd World Rolling Sixties gang (a spin off of the West Coast Crips ) within minutes of her arrest.You can read more here about her arrest for the armed carjacking and how she came to be involved in and charged for the death of a 15 year old girl, who Derkovic admitted she choked
while two fellow gang members held the victim's arms in an act of crude gang justice.. "Maya is a pretty established member of this group and has been for long time," said sheriff's homicide Detective Brian Cross of the lanky, 6-feet-2 teenager with a "Daddy P" tattoo on her neck, a souvenir of her time as a prostitute in Miami. Derkovic first joined a street gang several years ago when her family lived in South Florida. Born in Bosnia, she went by the nickname "Luda," which means "Crazy" in her native language,
Derkovic's mother, who did not want to be named to protect her younger children's identity, has visited the jail regularly since her daughter's arrest. After years of trying to control her daughter's misbehavior, she said her daughter must accept responsibility for her actions, whatever they were and whatever punishment faces her. " Taking somebody's life is something I cannot imagine any child of mine doing. I can't imagine what that other girl's mother is feeling," she said. "For my child it is too late. If she did it, she's going to have to deal with herself. Someone else may learn from what happens to her."  (Hmmmmm, no comment!)
Derkovic, 21, is serving a 30-year sentence at Lowell Correctional Institution in Ocala, FL for murdering 15 year old  Jackie "Angel" Curtis three years ago.

Robyn Adams mugshot
Robyn Adams and her husband Clay were arrested on federal drug and gun trafficking charges on July 22, 2008.Clay Adams lived two lives: one as an Altamonte Springs cop of nine years, the other as a painkiller-addicted, marijuana grow-house operator who was scheming to kill a former supervisor.

That's how authorities described it when Adams, 36, and his wife, Robyn, 32, were hauled into federal court in Orlando on drug and weapons charges. Assistant U.S. Attorney Rob Bodnar sought to have the couple  (who could face up to life in prison if convicted on all charges) held without bond, noting both made threats to a police informant and others.

The 35-page Criminal Complaint describes in detail how investigators say the Adams' stockpiled weapons, sold drugs and gave sensitive police secrets to criminals.

According to the complaint,  Robyn Adams used her position at an orthopedic surgeon's office to get Oxycontin which was then sold across the state. The complaint also detailed how Adams approached an informant to partner in a marijuana-growing operation. That person tipped off City-County Investigative Bureau (CCIB) agents, who brought the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and ATF into the case. After the informant rented a home for the operation, Adams and his wife set up hydroponic equipment in the residence and provided marijuana seeds.Adams provided the informant with drivers-license photos, undercover aliases and real names of drug agents and CCIB officers, along with the descriptions of their vehicles. Adams also supplied weapons and prescription drugs to the informant, a convicted felon.
Gunning wrote, Adams told the informant that he joined CCIB earlier this year to learn investigative methods on how to detect marijuana-growing operations.

When Clay Adams was  removed from a position on an undercover unit, investigators say he snapped. Adams advised [the informant] that he will let the issue cool off for a couple of months and then 'take [the supervisor] out' when he least expects it, utilizing a .308-caliber rifle equipped with a silencer," Gunning wrote.
Both husband and wife confessed and entered into plea agreements.He pleaded guilty to five federal charges, including conspiring with his wife to grow 2,200 pounds of marijuana. Robyn Adams pleaded guilty to two charges: conspiracy and a weapons count. The pair were sentenced on January 9, 2009. She is now serving an eight year sentence at a Federal prison in Tallahassee, FL and will be on supervised release for ten years after. Clay Adams was sentenced to seventeen 1/2 years and is serving his time in a Texas federal prison.

 More Of The Investigation~

It was Derkovic who first approached law enforcement about her and Adam's contact with Casey Anthony.
In Derkovic's sworn statement, she told authorities she and Anthony would talk through the ventilation system. (I haven't been able to determine exactly which cell Derkovic was in from the floor plan, but her cell was on the same side as Anthony.) I won't go too far into Derkovic's claims about those vent talks in this post, mainly because I'm not sure I believe her and really want to devote more space to Adams and Anthony, and just how their relationship developed.

Adams told the F.D.L.E. investigator her cell (#19) was across from Anthony (#12) and they would smile,  wave and give hand signals through the window on their cell doors, or when one was out in the day room. She said it was just a way of offering support to each other. They would signal if they were ok or not, that they were praying for each other, that sort of thing was the extent of their communication at the time. Adams said that she felt Anthony came to trust her because she smiled and didn't yell taunts at Casey like the other inmates did.

Shortly after they began their communication, Adams was moved to another cell (#27) on the same side of the dorm as Casey but on the upper level. Shortly after the move, Anthony signaled to Adams (from the day room) that she would leave her a note in a green hardback book called, " Do Away With August", from then on they used that book to pass notes (same type of stuff as they had communicated by hand signals before) and eventually the letters.

When asked by the investigators to elaborate on how her communication with Casey evolved into talking to each other, Robyn Adams explained that the even number cells took their turns coming out for showers, day room / TV time, etc. during the day and the odd numbers were let out night. She said after a while she started helping the guards out a bit, cleaning showers, fold laundry, whatever and as much as the guards would allow her to do. When Adams was folding laundry in the day room they were able to " kinda lip talk" and hand signal as they had before, but in closer proximity.

Adams says she started asking "Shannon", (this was the name she and Casey assigned Sylvia Hernandez because her uniform said," S. Hernandez" ) " Hey, can I go give her a book? Can I, can I just go over there you know talk to her through the glass?" Adams said after a while this just became a routine when "Shannon" was working. I would say, "Hey, I can't hear her, can I just go see what she's saying? Can I go closer, that type of thing."

Adams said it never got to the point that she just took it for granted she could approach Casey's cell, and "Shannon" did not receive any type of compensation for allowing the communication between the two. There was no gain in it for her, she just treated us as "people". People in confinement for a long period of time who needed human interaction. When asked point blank if there was any type of sexual relationship between any of the three (Anthony, Adams, Hernandez) Adams replied, "I strongly believe it was strictly that she just felt bad. She felt bad. There was nothing for her to gain from it except for being human and having someone to talk to." ( I guess that means no sex. LOL)

Next the investigators asked Adams how frequently she and Anthony were allowed to spend time together, how long were they allowed to talk, and were there times you were allowed in the same cell together? Adams told them the contact with Anthony took place after the other inmates were done showering and placed in "lock". The contact took place every night that Hernandez was on shift (4-5 nights a week) and they were allowed to talk anywhere from a few minutes to hours. Their contact ranged from speaking through the bean hole (food tray slot) in the cell door to spending time in the same cell. (Hernandez allowed Adams to cut Casey's hair on one occasion. WTF?)

On March 9, 2010 F.D.L.E. conducted an interview of Sylvia Hernandez about the communication between Casey Anthony and Robyn Adams. This interview was independent of any investigation being conducted by OCSO. Hernandez told investigators she hired on with Orange County Corrections in January of 2008 and worked the "B" two shift (6pm-6am) with the standard law enforcement rotation of 3 days on 2 days off in the Female Detention Center (FDC) Lima Dorm (Dorm L).

Hernandez explained that Lima Dorm is basically a confinement dorm where you have inmates for disciplinary, protective custody, special management (medical or pregnancy), psychological  inmates for evaluation counseling and suicide precautions.There were usually 30-35 inmates in Lima dorm while Adams and Anthony were both in custody there, although they were the only two who were in protective custody status. Most inmates came and went , but Adams and Anthony as protective custody, were stationary.

Hernandez admitted she was aware of written communication between Anthony and Adams, but made no attempt to stop the communication.Hernandez also allowed Adams and Anthony to have face to face contact at Anthony's cell door, but denied allowing them to spend time together in the same cell. Hernandez admitted she allowed Adams to cut Anthony's hair on one occasion.

When Hernandez was questioned about having a relationship (sexual) she denied that but admitted she had written to Adams after she was sent to Tallahassee. She also admitted she attempted to assist Adams in retaining counsel for her case by providing her with names of local attorneys and on one occasion approached Anthony's counsel on behalf of Adams.

Hernandez told investigators that she spoke to Anthony "a few times" about her case. One conversation took place when it was being reported that Caylee's bones may have been found in the water at Blanchard park, but turned out it wasn't Caylee. According to Hernandez, Anthony told her investigators were "not looking in the right place" and it's right in their face but they're"not looking in the right place".

At the end of the report F.D.L.E.Investigators stated they thought Robyn Adams seemed to be truthful and forthright about her involvement with Casey and her role in creating and maintaining the evidence in question. Adams showed a great deal of emotion associated with her current sentence, her friendship with Anthony, the loss of Anthony's child and the moral dilemma of providing information pertaining to Sylvia Hernandez, because they had formed a friendship. The information was also consistent with the information in the letters between her and Anthony. The investigators stated in their report they think Hernandez was less than truthful during her interview but her actions didn't rise to the level of violation of Florida statutes. Wonder which one if any of them the State will use in the trial?

When Casey Anthony was arrested on July 16, 2008, little did she know even though her daughter was gone forever that she would soon have a " new sister". A sister who she could share (most) all of her confidences with and not be judged because in her own words, “We have so very much in common , both the good and the bad”.
Check back and we'll talk more about the information in the letters and the conversations between Casey Anthony and Robyn Adams, there is a LOT to talk about.
Sphere: Related Content

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Land Of Casey Fables - Continuing...The Justice For Caylee Anthony Saga -

The primary interest of katfish...ponders in this case has always been Justice for Caylee. Reporting on the State of Florida's quest for justice for Caylee Marie Anthony has truly turned into a SAGA. In the past month, there has been enough fodder added to this true story ( that is playing out like a fractured fairytale) to fill  dozens of  chapters. It's not surprising this case plays out like a fairytale, given that most of what Casey Anthony says about Caylee sounds like a fable.
                              ~The Poor Poor Princess~
 There was an indigency hearing held on Thursday, March 18, 2010 for the court to rule on a
Defendant's Motion For Determination Of Indigency For Costs.
This motion caused a lot of concern for anyone who had been following this case, particularly the citizens of Florida. Many defendants are indigent but the background of this defendant raises special concerns. Many readers are familiar with the background of this case but it never hurts to refresh.

When Casey was first arrested on July 16, 2008 she filed an application for indigency and requested a public defender be appointed.( If you follow the link provided to the application, note Casey stated on the form that she had an income of $1,400 bi-weekly....oopsie... she scratched the income part out....for a second she must have forgot the police had discovered she had been lying about having a job for 2 years.) Casey hired Jose Baez to represent her the next day.( Or was he already waiting in the wings?) It was curious hiring a private attorney one day after being granted indigent status and assigned a public defender, even more so when her parents testified a week later during a bond hearing they had very little net worth. A curious fact but really no one's business since she wouldn't be using state money, so there the speculation about the Anthony's windfall of riches began.

After a grand jury indicted Casey for first-degree murder, in October 2008, Casey's " Knight in Shining Armor", Jose Baez, began to bring in reinforcements to defend the case. By March of 2009, Casey's "round table" included as many as eight attorneys working various aspects of the case and several world renowned experts announced they had been retained to work their "magic" on the forensic evidence that was accumulating in the case. This led the State's Attorney to file a motion dubbed "The Pauper To Princess Motion". The State's Attorneys  feared there might be a conflict of interest if Casey's defense attorney was also handling business deals for her.The state knew Casey had no tangible assets to sell to afford this type of defense and wanted assurance that  there were no book or movie deals for her story that might hinge on the outcome of this case and potentially raise appellate issues if there is a conviction. The issue was resolved in a short hearing and a session " in camera" between the Judge, the defense and the state. Judge Strickland ruled that he found no conflict of interest. The transcript from the in camera session was sealed, so speculations about the riches being bestowed upon the Anthonys continued.

That brings us to where we are now in 2010 and the hearing for the Defendant's Motion For Determination Of Indigency For Costs . There were several surprises during this hearing on March 18. The first surprise was a new attorney, Cheney Mason, had joined Casey's defense. Mason addressed the court through-out most of the hearing so I'll refer to his appearance in the hearing here but I'll discuss him more specifically  in a bit.

 When the hearing started Casey Anthony was surrounded by defense attorneys. Cheney Mason on her left, Jose Baez on her right. Linda Kenney-Baden and Andrea Lyons were bringing up the rear. At the prosecution table were Jeff Ashton, along with Linda Drane Burdick and Frank George. An attorney for the Justice Administrative Commission (JAC) participated in the hearing by telephone. (The Justice Administrative Commission is the state agency that oversees funding. The commission has opposed allocating funding for Anthony's defense, saying in court papers it has "severe concerns" about whether Casey Anthony qualifies for financial assistance, given her own financial affidavit attached to her motion that shows she has already contributed over $ 110,000 for her defense.)

Through out this hearing, Princess Casey seemed down right giddy, much like the cat that swallowed the canary. Those surrounding her at the defense table seemed giddy as well, at a minimum, there seemed to be a new found confidence. (Was this man, Cheney Mason,  their new "Knight in Shining Armor"? ) They were so confident in fact, rather than present an accounting of their costs to the court, Cheney Mason beckoned the court to just "trust him" that Casey was broke. Strickland's responded this wasn't a matter of trust, they were seeking public funds and the affidavit provided the court  is "pretty light in terms of full disclosure." Despite defense efforts to provide the disclosure "in camera" it was decided the defense attorneys would testify as to their clients access to funds and the defense expenditures to date in open court.

Mr. Mason called his "witnesses" one by one. Lead (for all intents and purposes)defense attorney Jose Baez testified Thursday that the defense received and spent about $275,000 over the past year and a half. Of that, $5,000 came from an anonymous donor, $70,000 came from a former defense attorney, Todd Macaluso, and $200,000 came from ABC through a "deal" with Anthony.( The terms of the deal were not released.) That money, he said, was spent on defense costs including travel, depositions and retention of experts."It's been quite an expensive task," he said. Baez also testified that he has spent about 2,500 hours 
on the case (adding he hadn't really kept track??), and has been paid an estimated $89,454.

Attorney Andrea Lyon testified she has received $22,500, but all of that money went back into costs associated with the case.  She also added that she has raised about $70,000 (less the $22,000) through charities and as as the Supervisor of the Death Penalty Legal Clinic has enlisted the help of her students at DePaul University College of Law, in Chicago,  IL . The students assist in legal work in exchange for grades. Lyon concluded her testimony about the funds she has handled saying, "There's not a dime" left.

A third defense attorney, Linda Kenney Baden, testified that she is working pro bono on the case. After some questions she added she had torn up a prior retainer agreement because there was no money to pay her.

Cheney Mason told the court, it wasn't as though he and the other attorneys were seeking (their normal bucket of gold)  fees, they were all doing this pro bono (for free).The defense is only seeking help with costs that include service of subpoenas, investigative costs, travel, fees charged by experts to interpret forensic evidence, expert witness fees and the cost of depositions. Mason added, the renowned expert Dr. Henry Lee has been known to work for a crate of oranges.(So that should save some money, eh?)

 Judge Strickland deferred ruling until he had an itemized accounting of money spent so far by the defense.(That's right, the defense brought no proof of expenses to court for a hearing to rule their client indigent.)  Ninth Circuit Judge Stan Strickland ruled on Friday, March 19 that he would grant the motion to declare Casey indigent. So "Princess Casey" is officially a "Pauper" once again.

There was much more to this hour long hearing. If you would like to view the video click here.
The link will take you to the first 3 clips of the video. These first 3 were taken before court started , so is mainly attorneys arriving, Casey rubbing her hands, fixing her shirt, playing with her hair, etc. that page will link you to the rest of the clips, there should be 9.

The other surprise announcement in this hearing was the unsealing of an IN CAMERA SEALED MOTION TO DELAY DISCLOSURE that Judge Strickland has allowed the State to keep under wraps for the last month.The State learned that Casey had been communicating with a couple inmates in jail. After interviewing the inmates it was learned Casey had written over 50 letters to one of the inmates. The judge allowed the defense 15 days go over the letters and decide if they would ask the court to seal the letters. I'll tell you more about these letters and friendships in an entry I'm working on that I'll title  "Cookie and Muffin Plan A Road trip". I have more than a few thoughts about Casey's correspondence and choice of friends.

  ~ Casey's New Knight In Shining Armor Or Court Jester?~

The Casey Anthony defense has a new addition to the team, Veteran Orlando Attorney J.Cheney Mason, P. A.  
He has created quite a stir since entering his appearance at the indigency hearing on March 18.

J. Cheney Mason is considered a distinguished member of the Florida Bar Association. According to his website, Mason has been in private practice in the Orlando since 1971. His areas of practice include Criminal Defense, Marital and Family Law (Divorce Law), Entertainment Law and Trial Practice, with a strong emphasis on Marital and Family Law and Criminal Law. Mason is a Board Certified Criminal Trial lawyer certified by both The Florida Bar and the National Board of Trial Advocacy.
Mason is also a frequent guest lecturer before various Bar and Legal Associations and has published numerous legal articles and authored books.
He is currently an "AV" rated lawyer (highest possible rating) by Martindale Hubbell and is listed in the Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers. It seems he has had an esteemed career.

It's reported that Mason’s first love is his criminal defense work.“It’s been a special thing to defend the rights of the accused and fight the government for 36 years,” he says. Criminal defense is probably also the work that generates the most attention for Mason. Cheney has tried several criminal jury trials that were televised by national and local news media. He's been linked to the defense of astronaut Lisa Nowak, and several years ago, he defended businessman Nelson Serrano in a quadruple-murder case in Polk County, FL.

My first impression was that Casey Anthony is very lucky to have an attorney of Mason's stature willing to work her case pro bono. Mason is nearing  retirement as he joins this defense team. I think it is safe to say that admirers and detractors alike look forward to Cheney Mason getting this defense team on track.

This defense team, specifically Jose Baez, has come under fire for his inexperience, less than adequate presentations in court, lack of decorum in the courtroom, and mostly for his professed hate of the media but evident love of the camera. These qualities have garnered Mr. Baez some choice nicknames that I prefer not to use but I do understand those who are inclined to do so. Let's face it, few "love" a defense attorney until they need one. I think to be fair he should be commended for building a defense team made up some very high profile lawyers and experts, a caliper of defense you might see in a case for a rich celebrity not some "Party Princess" from Orlando..

My second impression of Cheney Mason was that he is full of bluster and actually rude. In an effort to create a light-hearted moment during the indigency hearing, Judge Strickland pointed out that SA Jeff Ashton had laughed at something he said (about appointing a special master instead of divulging to the court where Casey's money had gone) Mason turned and looked at the prosecution and said, I don't care what the "ignorants" say. Ashton whispered to the others at the state table, "he's joking". There is a time and a place for everything, and a light hearted moment can go a long way in easing tensions inside the courtroom for everyone. Name calling is another matter, frankly this isn't a school playground.

In an impromptu press conference after the same hearing Mr. Mason was asked why he took on this case. His response to one who asked that question was something like," this (defending a death penalty case) is the greatest honor a defense attorney can achieve". That seems a noble response. But when Mason said he took this case on because he thinks it will be "fun" adding he expects to one day walk out of court with Casey Anthony on his arm I thought WTH?
There has been discussion out in blogosphere that this having "fun"comment shouldn't be offensive because everyone should enjoy their work. I agree that it would be sad for someone to spend almost 40 years doing work that they didn't enjoy, and frankly don't think I would want someone to represent me who didn't enjoy what they do. Beyond that I found the remark offensive and inappropriate. This is about a precious child who is dead and a young woman who has spent the last 2 years in jail and it's possible she will spend the rest of her life in jail, if she doesn't end up with the same fate a another 'high profile" client you represented. Mr. Mason, did you have "fun" representing Nelson Serrano? If so, I'm sure he is very appreciative of that from death row.

J. Cheney Mason is often invited by the news media to provide expert commentary on legal issues involving family law and criminal law. Here are a few quotes from one of those commentaries from Mr. Mason about the Casey Anthony case before Caylee's body had been found or Cheney was a member of this defense team :

Defense attorney Cheney Mason said claims made by Casey Anthony and Baez that Caylee was alive will now work against them at trial

“Then all the talking, all the press interviews and the parents going on this show and that show and the lawyer going on different shows establishes they have no credibility whatsoever,” Mason said.

“You can pretty well predict there’s going to be a life sentence, either a plea and get it over with or have a circus trial and then be convicted and get life,” Mason said

These quotes are excerpts from an  November 2008 article by Local 6 News reporter Tony Pipitone as he continued his investigation into the Casey Anthony murder case, discussing its merits with former prosecutor, Elizabeth Rahter, and  prominent defense attorney J. Cheney Mason.

Casey and the rest of the defense may see Cheney Mason as a "Knight In Shining Armor", but after his remarks and the attitude he displayed in his first appearance in this case, katfish is left to ponder......his performance thus far puts me more in mind of a joker, or more appropriately a "Court Jester".

Check back for the continuing Saga of the Quest for Justice for Caylee......        


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Saturday, April 17, 2010

Who Killed Haleigh Cummings? Eeny, Meeny, Miny or Moe ; Misty, Ron, Tommy or Joe ?

Joe Overstreet
Hank "Tommy " Croslin, Jr.
Misty Croslin- Cummings
Ronald Cummings

The investigation into the case of a missing 5 year old Satsuma, Florida girl, Haleigh Ann Marie Cummings, has taken some drastic turns in this past week. Haleigh was reported missing in the wee hours of the morning of February 10, 2009 by her father's 17 year old girlfriend, Misty Croslin, and her father, Ronald Cummings Sr. Here is a link to the  911 call made to the Putnum County Sheriff's Office (PCSO) to report Haleigh missing and the original police report.

This entry will be about the events of this past week, but I wanted to give some background for those who haven't closely followed this case. Click here to see previous entries on katfish...ponders related to this case.
I haven't written a lot about this case because other than the initial search for Haleigh, the search this week is only the second physical search for Haleigh in the last 14 months. Most  media reports have revolved around misbehavior or strange behaviors of those involved in Haleigh's life, but not necessarily what happened to Haleigh.

Speaking of misbehavior, on January 21, 2010, Haleigh's father Ron, his girlfriend/wife/ex-wife/whatever Misty, Misty's brother Tommy and 2 others were arrested for trafficking prescription drugs. I chose not to address those reports other than commenting on other blogs and message boards because the PCSO said the arrests were not related to the Haleigh investigation.

 ~   Fly Home Little Haleigh Bug  Fly Home ~

Haleigh Ann Marie Cummings
Haleigh's disappearance came on the heels of the Caylee Anthony case, as a matter of fact, the news broke as the nationally televised memorial for Caylee was starting in Orlando (70 miles away) . The similarities between the 2 girls brought instant media interest, and at first this case seemed that it may be an actual case of stranger child abduction.

The FL Department of Law Enforcement activated the Child Abduction Regional Team. Searching began by over 100 officers from county, state and federal law enforcement by helicopters, bloodhounds, ATV riders and ground searchers conducted grid searches of the wooded area and boats, divers searched the nearby St. Johns River. During the first week or so,  LE also worked to rule out roughly 44 sex offenders who live within a 5-mile radius of the Cummings home.

Unlike the Anthony family, those close to the case Haleigh's mother Crystal Sheffield, her father Ronald and his girlfriend Misty made emotional public pleas and voluntarily took lie detector tests. Another thing different from the Anthony case was the police were quiet about releasing information, although everyone who took lie detector tests said they were told they had passed and no one was arrested.

The only other "clue" was that Misty said she might suspect her cousin Joe Overstreet from TN. Misty claimed that Joe molested her as a child and had left town the day Haleigh disappeared. There were also varying reports of a dispute between Ron and Joe over a gun Joe had stolen that was supposedly recovered before Haleigh went missing. Law Enforcement (LE) from FL went to TN and interviewed Joe but apparently didn't find evidence to arrest or focus on Joe as a person of interest.

As time went on LE said that the evidence wasn't matching up to Misty's statements and her statements were inconsistent. LE also said they didn't think this was a case of stranger abduction. Even though LE essentially cleared Haleigh's parents as suspects (they were on the bottom of the list) they both remained "favorite suspects' for many following the case .
The fact LE has released very little information regarding this case has given a lot of room for speculation.
I know I have personally had at least a dozen theories over the last year. There are only 2 theories left standing in my mind that make sense to me, but I will leave them in my mind because I just don't know enough about the evidence gathered by LE in this case to "fairly" outright accuse anyone. One thing is certain, many people across the world took this child into their hearts and took sides, pretty much along family lines, as to who abducted Haleigh.

                           ~Let's Make A Deal~

Hopefully soon, the PCSO will have enough evidence, physical and circumstantial,  to arrest those involved and prove in the courtroom what happened to little Haleigh.

This past Tuesday morning (April 13),there was a dramatic increase in activity in the year old case of the disappearance of Haleigh Cummings. Dozens of officers from several law enforcement agencies converged on the Shell Harbour boat ramp in South Putnam County, FL. The intensity of the search was similar to how law enforcement initially responded to Haleigh's disappearance. Haleigh's family on both sides were brought to the PCSO so that LE could inform them of the search rather than them hear about it from the media. Ronald Cummings was brought over from the Putnum County jail to the sheriff's office when LE met with the family, many of whom were said to be crying when they left.

The search was triggered by a tip the Putnam County Sheriff's Office received on Monday, said Lt. Johnny Greenwood, a spokesman for the department. As expected, authorities have been tight-lipped about what the tip specified. In the press release Greenwood said," Due to the sensitivity of this investigation, the name of the person providing the tip and the physical evidence alleged to be in this area will not be released ".

Immediately rumors started to fly that Misty (long named as the key to the investigation), her brother Tommy (who last fall, had placed himself at the trailer the night Haleigh went missing ) or Ron ( who had shown a propensity for a quick temper ) had started to talk in exchange for a plea deal in their drug cases. For most people, the fact that Ron was allowed to join his family at the sheriff's office seemed to lighten the suspicion on him somewhat although there are still those who suspect him.

On Wednesday, Misty was taken out to the search site on St. Johns river by LE which fueled the fire of a plea deal and then word came out "unofficially" that Tommy had been to the search site on Monday.Were they confessing and showing where Haleigh had been placed in the river? There were also reports of letters that Misty had written to her parents and brother in Massachusetts said to blame Tommy and Joe for taking Haleigh.
Another rumor that spread was that a person(s) had been taken into custody in the Haleigh Cummings case. On Wednesday PCSO issued another press release:

Satsuma Area Search for Missing Haleigh Cummings Continue 2010-4-14 by: Lt. Johnny Greenwood

Still acting on a lead received in the case of missing Haleigh Cummings, investigators are continuing the meticulous search for physical evidence in the St. Johns River near Satsuma, Florida. At this point, this search has failed to yield any items of evidentiary value in the case.

The Putnam County Sheriff’s Office has received many media inquiries concerning a rumor that has uncontrollably spread throughout our community. The rumor that a subject is either currently being detained by law enforcement, or is in law enforcement custody related to the Haleigh Cummings case has been reported to the media. Sheriff Hardy wants the citizens of Putnam County and the media to know that this rumor is false. There is currently no one in law enforcement custody as the result of the investigation into Haleigh Cummings’ disappearance.

The Putnam County Sheriff’s Office will provide future releases when information in this case becomes available. Sheriff Hardy would like to again thank the citizens of Putnam County and the media for their support.
                        ~ A Race For The Reward ?~

Well....the PCSO may not want to disclose who made the tip, but on Wednesday morning a Former FBI agent named Steve Brown said in an interview ( here's a link to the video) with News4Jax  that he had solved the case on Monday and this was now a homicide investigation. Brown said that he was hired 10 months ago by Crystal Sheffield to investigate this case. Brown said the information he supplied PCSO led them to the St. John river to search for corroborating evidence to support eyewitness testimony..

On Thursday evening, Flora Hollars, Misty, Tommy's and Joe's grandmother appeared on "Issues" with Jane Velez Mitchell (JVM) and "Nancy Grace"(NG), both current event / news type shows on HLN. Flora Hollars' statements were a little inconsistent regarding who told her what and when between the 2 HLN appearances, but  it was the "way" she made a statement on "Issues" that raised my  hinky meter. Ms. Hollars told JVM, "I’m the reason they are searching down at that river. I’m the one that gave em the lead…I called the sheriff, I called crimestoppers, I called them all." It was like she was covering all her bases and the thought crossed my mind…is there still a $35,000 reward for leads to Haleigh? Hollars told several scenarios of what she has been told happened to Haleigh, but at the end she seemed to lay the blame on Joe. Her main mission in these appearances seemed to me,  to make the point Tommy confessed to her and she led the police to the river.

Below, I embedded a video of a Presser given by Putnam County Sheriff Jeff Hardy on Thursday about the search. Sheriff Hardy announced the investigation is now a homicide investigation and confirmed there has been evidence collected at the scene that is being sent out to independent forensic labs for testing. He also confirmed that the search will wrap up at the St. Johns River location today, but the stressed they will continue following up on the leads that brought them to the river.

 While Sheriff Hardy still didn't want to disclose what the tip was that led them to search of this part of St. Johns River,  he would say....the tip that spurred the search did not come from Tennessee (where Flora Hollars lives).When asked if it came from the jail, Hardy wouldn't comment. (If Tommy truly did confess to his grandmother on the phone, the call would have been monitored by the jail and LE could well have been to Tommy's cell before Granny Hollars finished looking up the phone number for LE.) What are the odds that Steve Brown solved this case the same day Tommy fessed up to his granny? IDK? ~shrugging shoulders~

           ~It's Time for A Family Feud~

 One thing that has become apparent over the last 14 months is that a sense of  loyalty is not a strong value in the Croslin family. A few examples: Tommy told police he went to the mobile home the night Haleigh was taken and no one was home, in exchange for getting out of jail. Misty and Ron had a physical conflict with Tommy and Hank Sr. that ended in a restraining order against Tommy and an accusation of Misty and Ron placing a dead rat in the Croslin mailbox.Another example is when Misty was first arrested for trafficking drugs she told LE that she had seen items in her brother Tommy's home that were stolen property. Was she hoping for a get out of jail free card for that?

I have a feeling those examples are petty compared to where this family feud appears to be heading...... Misty is accusing her brother Tommy and  cousin Joe of abducting and killing Haleigh. Tommy has accused Joe of killing Haleigh. Granny Hollar accuses all 3 of her grandchildren of  various levels of involvement in Haleigh's death.. Overstreet's attorney says Joe was interviewed by detectives late Tuesday, and he denies any knowledge or involvement in the case.

Tommy's attorney, James Werter said Friday that Tommy Croslin Jr, "did not tell Flora Hollars anything about the investigation except to have his attorney contact and meet with him." The Putnam County Sheriff's Office confirmed that Croslin Jr. had called his grandmother on Sunday but couldn't address the contents of the conversation. It declined to release the tapes of the phone calls, saying the content was connected to the ongoing investigation.

Hollars also said she heard from Misty Croslin on Thursday, who gave more details about Haleigh being dropped into the river tied to a cinder block.However, her father, Hank Croslin Sr., said Misty Croslin "didn't tell Flo all that stuff."

Hank Croslin Sr. said,  "Tommy said he only asked Hollars to get in touch with other family members to arrange visits. At the time Hollars was the only one in the family with money in a telephone account to pay for collect calls from jail. I'm not saying he doesn't know anything," Croslin Sr. said, adding that Hollars may been repeating the content of letters Misty Croslin sent to her father and another brother in Massachusetts. He also said the reward money in the case - $35,000 - might be an influence."The only person who knows the truth is the police and the lawyers and them," he said.

All I can say is good luck to the police and lawyers sifting out the truth from this group. Once again, hopefully there will be some corroborating evidence to support the testimony of any of this family the state needs to put on the stand to get justice for Haleigh!.
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Sunday, April 4, 2010

A Salute To An Authentic American Hero

Here at katfish…ponders the focus of this blog is the criminal justice system. Much attention has been paid to those who break the laws and what happens when they reach the courtroom. For me trials are a study of human behavior. You get the best and the worst of people. Some people are truthful and some are liars. Everyone has an agenda, whether it is the pursuit of justice, trying to dodge a conviction for bad behavior, or ensuring the defendant receives a fair trial. How the arguments for these agendas are woven around the constitution in an effort to achieve their goals is most interesting to me.

There are a couple of subjects that I haven’t really opened the door to here, my personal life and the men and women who are out there risking their lives to enforce the laws of our land and protect the public. I would like to crack the door open a bit to my personal life in order to introduce to you a man who I have admired all of my life and consider my personal authentic American hero.

Captain Clinton D. Spurlock of the Illinois State Police

This hero is Clinton D. Spurlock also known as “Captain Clinton D. Spurlock“, “Clinton“, “Clint“, “Duane“, “C.D.”, “Spur” and for me he will always just be “Uncle Duane“.

While saluting my uncle, I hope this post will also shine the spotlight on all of the men and women of The Illinois State Police, as well as the other branches of law enforcement who serve to protect us.

Clinton served 30 years with the Illinois State Police (ISP) before retiring as Captain of District 20 in Pittsfield, IL. District 20 serves five counties, Adams, Brown, Pike, Schuyler and Scott. Clinton Spurlock also held the position of Chief of the Personnel Bureau during his years with the ISP.

When I decided to write this entry, I looked up the definition of hero. There are a lot of definitions and most of them fits Clinton Spurlock like a comfy pair of house slippers:

hero - someone who fights for a cause -champion, fighter ,defender, guardian, protector  -  a person who cares for persons or property.

I think most of the men and women who wear a shield while enforcing the laws to protect us and promote public safety improve the quality of our lives to the extent they deserve to be considered our heroes. Don’t you? Where would we be without them?

hero - someone distinguished by exceptional courage and nobility, strength and fortitude - leader - a person who rules or guides or inspires others.

This definition of a hero also fits my Uncle Duane very well, not only because of his chosen profession and the many State Troopers that he inspired as an instructor at the Illinois State Police Academy, but his strength of character made me feel very safe growing up and without a doubt he “inspired” me to behave (at least in his presence, LOL).

After ”retirement” Clint worked as chief of police in Griggsville, IL for a few years. As of the 2000 census, there were 1,258 people, 500 households, and 360 families residing in the city. Griggsville is located between the Mississippi River and the Illinois River which provided a perfect backdrop for “Spur” to enjoy nature and spend many good times with friends and family hunting and fishing. He also took advantage of the rich black soil that blesses the Midwest to grow wonderful gardens, flowers and plant trees.

hero - a person who is idealized for possessing superior qualities in any field

This final definition of a hero embodies Clint’s spirit in the whole of his life as much as the warm and fuzzy lining does those comfy house slippers I referenced above. He achieved great success in his career, but there is so much more to this man, he was of the Christian faith and past master of the Good Hope Masonic Lodge. He graduated from Bushnell High School and attended Western Illinois University, Missouri University, and is a graduate of the prestigious Northwestern University Traffic Institute in Evanston. He was a Boy Scout leader in Good Hope when his boys were growing up. Clinton is also well known for his artistic talent including the Bushnell mascot "Sparky" and his many years of restoring antiques.

Sadly, my uncle passed away on March 31, 2010 after an extended illness. He will be missed but remembered, oh so fondly, by his wife of 56 years, Mary, his 2 sons Mike and Jim and daughter Brenda and their families, his sisters and extended family and his large circle of friends. The respect shown by the Illinois State Police color guard during the visitation, funeral at the church and graveside service was awesome and just drove the point home that this man laid to rest was an Authentic American Hero. Sphere: Related Content