By Jeff Weiner, The Orlando Sentinel –
ORLANDO, Fla. — Casey Anthony’s appeal of four misdemeanor convictions in her daughter’s death took a step forward Monday, with her defense revealing its arguments for why she shouldn’t have been found guilty.
Anthony was acquitted of all major charges in the death of 2-year-old Caylee, including murder, but was convicted on four counts of lying to law enforcement, a first-degree misdemeanor.
The appeal is notable in part because of the effect it has on lawsuits Anthony faces. Zenaida Gonzalez, a woman whose name is similar to the nanny Anthony said kidnapped Caylee, and Texas EquuSearch, the search group that scoured Orange County, Fla., for the girl before she was found dead, are suing and want to question Anthony.
However, Anthony has deflected most questioning, citing her constitutional right against self-incrimination during the pending appeal.
After several delays, Anthony’s lawyers filed their initial brief with the 5th District Court of Appeal on Monday. Their arguments should be familiar to those who followed the high-profile trial a year ago.
Jurors only heard testimony about Anthony’s lies, the lawyers argue, because Circuit Judge Belvin Perry improperly allowed it into her trial. Anthony had not been advised when she made those statements that she had a right to remain silent or that she had a right to an attorney.
Typically, a suspect’s statements can be used at trial, even if she has not been read her rights, so long as she made them before she was arrested or taken into custody. Law enforcement witnesses testified that Anthony was not officially in custody when she lied. However, she was briefly handcuffed and put in a deputy’s vehicle.
Anthony’s attorneys also argue that her four convictions for lying are improper under the “double jeopardy” clause of the U.S. Constitution, which courts have ruled prohibits a defendant from facing multiple punishments for the same criminal act.
The four lies she was charged with, Anthony’s lawyers say, were actually one ongoing act, and shouldn’t have been separated into four separate counts of lying to law enforcement. The lawyers also argue that Perry incorrectly ruled against Anthony’s defense on an objection to a portion of the jury instructions.
Anthony, 26, has been in hiding since she was acquitted of murder in July. She is currently serving probation in an unrelated conviction on check-fraud charges.
Anthony’s appeal could have a major effect on the lawsuits against her.
Through her attorney Cheney Mason, Anthony was recently subpoenaed to appear at a January trial in the Zenaida Gonzalez suit. At a video deposition in that suit, Anthony refused to answer most substantial questions, and her attorneys have said she will do the same at trial.
Depending on the results of the appeal, legal analysts say Anthony could lose her constitutional protection against self-incrimination. That could put her on the witness stand for the first time and force her to answer questions about her daughter.
However, there’s no guarantee that the appeal, though it was initiated almost a year ago, will conclude before her civil trial.