Should Casey Anthony have to reimburse state for its failed case against her?
Casey Anthony should have to pay more than $500,000 in prosecution costs, the state tells the judge, asserting that the case was 'put in motion' by her lies. Her lawyers decry 'sour grapes.'
Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP
Casey Anthony’s lawyer told a Florida judge on Friday that it was “sour grapes” for prosecutors to try to force his client to pay more than $500,000 in costs associated with her murder trial after the young mother was acquitted of involvement in the death of her two-year-old daughter.
Defense Lawyer Cheney Mason accused the State Attorney’s Office of trying to punish Ms. Anthony by requiring her to pay the full cost of the murder investigation and prosecution – even though a jury in July declared her not guilty of murder.
“The state wants to charge her the entire cost of prosecution, not the legitimate expenses related to the convicted counts,” Mr. Mason said during a hearing in Orlando. “That has nothing to do with justice,” he said. “It has everything to do with [public] outrage and sour grapes.”
Mason urged Chief Judge Belvin Perry to limit any financial assessment against his client to expenses directly related to the only counts for which she was convicted – four misdemeanor charges of lying to a law enforcement officer.
Assistant State Attorney Linda Burdick told the judge that Anthony should pay all investigative and prosecution costs in the murder case because it was her actions that forced the state to investigate and prosecute.
“But for Ms. Anthony’s lying to law enforcement at the inception of this investigation, there would be no cost of investigation to law enforcement and there would be no cost of prosecution,” she said. “Every expense regardless of how [defense] counsel wants to belittle it is related causally, if not directly, to the machinery put in motion by Ms. Anthony,” the prosecutor said.
“We are not trying to assuage anyone’s outrage at the verdict in this case,” Ms. Burdick said. The state’s expenses would have never been incurred “if Ms. Anthony ever had it in her to tell the truth,” she added.
At issue in the hearing was a Florida law that allows prosecutors to seek reimbursement for investigative and other costs in cases resulting in a conviction. In most cases such assessments have been a token amount of a few hundred dollars.
The law requires a payment of no less than $50 per case involving a misdemeanor conviction and no less than $100 per case for a felony conviction. But the statute sets no upper limit for potential assessments.
“The court may set a higher amount upon a showing of sufficient proof of higher costs incurred,” the law says in part.
Although Ms. Anthony, who was not present in court Friday, is listed as indigent and is being represented by state-appointed and taxpayer-funded counsel, many analysts believe she is poised to cash-in on her notoriety with possible lucrative book and movie deals, interviews, and photo spreads.
The issue facing Judge Perry is how to properly apportion the state’s costs as they relate to the four misdemeanor charges for which she was convicted.
Do the four misdemeanors open the door to a half-million dollar assessment? Or must the judge narrowly limit costs to that portion of the investigation dealing with Anthony’s lies?
Anthony’s false statements in July 2008 contributed to a massive search for her missing daughter, Caylee. The effort included both law enforcement officials and scores of volunteers. Caylee’s skeletal remains were discovered in December 2008 in a wooded area near the Anthony home.
At the start of Anthony’s murder trial, Defense Lawyer Jose Baez asserted that Caylee had accidentally drowned in the backyard swimming pool in June 2008. That would suggest that Anthony knew all along that her daughter was dead but remained silent while the state used substantial resources to try to find the little girl.
Specifically, Anthony was convicted of telling four distinct lies to detectives during questioning on July 16, 2008.
1) She claimed that she was employed at Universal Studios in Orlando in 2008. She had not worked at Universal for at least two years.
2) She claimed that she had left her daughter with a nanny in June 2008 and that the nanny had taken the child. There is no indication that such a nanny existed.
4) She claimed that she’d received a telephone call from her daughter at noon on July 15. Phone records showed no such call took place.
At the hearing Friday, Mason argued that detectives were able to disprove each of Anthony statements within a day or two. He said by Sept. 30, detectives had ended their missing person investigation and started a murder investigation.
The defense lawyer said an accurate assessment of costs related to the four guilty verdicts for lying should encompass expenses incurred no later than Sept. 30, 2008.
He added that if police had diligently followed up on a lead provided by a county meter reader named Roy Kronk, they would have discovered Caylee’s remains on Aug. 13, 2008, four months earlier than when authorities found the body in the same location in December.
Mason said the state was seeking reimbursement from Anthony for $46,427 in transcription fees incurred in 2010 and 2011. He said they sought payment of $5,750 for a University of Florida hydrologist who was never called as a witness, and $32,072 for an expert in the types of insects that are attracted to dead bodies. Mason said Prosecutor Jeff Ashton had even submitted a bill for $31.50 for a book he purchased on Amazon.com dealing with human decomposition.
“You have the state claiming, in essence, 100 percent of their expenses for the prosecution of the case they lost, not for expenses related to the four misdemeanor counts,” Mason said.
Burdick insisted that the charges were proper and should be paid by Anthony. “It is our position that as a result of the lies that she told, the Sheriff’s Office undertook an investigation that cost them hundreds of thousands of unnecessary dollars,” Burdick said.
“Once Ms. Anthony set that machinery in motion by lying, there was no turning back,” she said. “The lies are inextricably intertwined with the investigation and cannot be apportioned.”
Judge Perry invited counsel to submit additional briefs. He said he expected to issue a ruling by Sept. 22.