An appellate court panel has thrown out two of Casey Anthony's four misdemeanor convictions of lying to law enforcement.
Casey's attorneys had appealed the convictions Jan. 8 in Daytona Beach.
The Fifth District Court of Appeals filed the panel's opinion Friday morning, stating two of the convictions should be set aside, because she made them before she was read her Miranda rights, and the multiple convictions constituted double jeopardy.
The appeals court rejected the appeal on the other two convictions.
"Appellant [Casey Anthony] argues that these convictions should be reversed because: The trial court should have granted her motion to suppress statements made to law enforcement officers prior to Appellant having been apprised of her Miranda rights; her multiple convictions violated the prohibition against double jeopardy; and section 837.055 is unconstitutionally vague.
We reject Appellant's first and third arguments, but conclude that double jeopardy principles require that two of her four misdemeanor convictions be set aside."
Reaction to the ruling
In response to the ruling, Casey's attorney, Cheney Mason, said he was very happy with the victory, and he would review the opinion on Monday to determine whether they need to motion for a rehearing or seek clarification on the two remaining misdemeanor counts.
"We are pleased that they have affirmed the ruling of Judge Perry that the deputies of the Orange County Sheriff acted properly during their interactions with Ms. Anthony," said state attorney Jeff Ashton, who prosecuted Casey. "We understand and respect the ruling of the court in connection with the multiple false statements made by Ms. Anthony. Once the trial court vacates the appropriate counts pursuant to the District Court's opinion, we expect the case of the State of Florida vs. Casey Marie Anthony will be closed."
Casey Anthony's civil attorney, Charles Greene, said Casey Anthony was somewhat pleased with the appellate court's decision.
"Ms. Anthony is half-happy that the court threw out two charges, which are gone and have no chance of being revived as from what we can see," said Greene. "The other two, we still think it is scary that the police officers can question you for hours upon hours and make threats of the kind that they did in this case and that an appellate court finds that you do not have to be read your rights and you don't have to be in custody, it's, we are not willing to accept that as a final decision yet."
Despite being acquitted of murder in 2011, Casey was still found guilty on four counts of lying to law enforcement officers, one for each of the following false statements:
- That she was employed at Universal Studios at the time,
- That she left her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee, with a nanny named Zenaida Gonzalez,
- That she told two alleged co-workers that Caylee was missing, and
- That she had talked to Caylee on the phone the day before she was reported missing.
There was no doubt Casey lied, but her attorneys argued she should not have been charged with four counts.
The panel of three judges heard 15 minutes of testimony from both sides of the case, attorneys Lisabeth Fryer and Cheney Mason representing Casey Anthony, and assistant state Attorney General Wesley Heidt representing the state.
Heidt claimed Casey Anthony knew what she was doing, lying again and again, even as her story unraveled. But Fryer argued that Casey had not been officially told that she had the right to remain silent.
With the appeal resolved, Casey's civil trial involving the real Zenaida Gonzalez can move forward. The trial was set to begin Jan. 2, but lawyers on both sides moved to delay it until after the appeal.
Greene said Friday that a status hearing in Casey's civil trial is now tentatively scheduled for August.
Gonzalez, a Kissimmee woman who had never met Casey Anthony, is suing her for defamation, claiming her life was ruined after Casey said Caylee was kidnapped by a nanny with the same name.
Gonzalez's attorneys had been struggling to depose Casey, who refused to answer their questions after her civil attorneys said any answers could have jeopardized her appeal.
"There will be arguments at some point that the Fifth Amendment rights of Ms. Anthony have gone away, and that people can ask her more detailed questions about what happened that night," said Greene. "
"It brings us one step closer to the resolution of Zenaida's trial," said Gonzalez' attorney, Matt Morgan. "At this point what it means, in all likelihood we are going to be able to obtain the testimony of Casey Anthony, which is what we have wanted since the beginning of this trial. We want to hear how Zenaida was brought into this and get direct testimony from Casey."
Legal analysis: Casey won't be able to hide for long
Legal analyst Mark NeJame says the appeals court's ruling means it's only a matter of time before Casey Anthony will have to show up at the Orange County Courthouse to answer questions in her civil case.
NeJame said Casey's answers will be under the microscope of Ashton, now the state attorney for Orange and Osceola counties, who will make sure her statements match what she said when he prosecuted her in the criminal trial.
"I think there is more than a shot," said NeJame. "I think that she will be arriving, she will be showing up and she will be testifying in whatever civil cases are pending against her where she is being subpoenaed as a witness."
NeJame said Casey won't be able to hide behind Fifth Amendment privileges for long. He said in short order, she's going to have to talk -- and when she does, she had better tell the truth.
"For Casey Anthony to think that she is going get a free pass to say whatever she wants once she is subpoenaed and required to be in deposition under oath, she has got another thing coming," he said. "That's not the way it works. She is now under oath under subpoena, and if she gives false statements during those depositions, she could be held for new crimes for swearing under oath and telling a lie."
And, in an interesting twist, what she says will be gone over with a fine-toothed comb by some familiar faces.
"Jeff Ashton, the No. 1 person in the state attorney's office," said NeJame. "His main assistant in now Linda Drane [Burdick]. It's a one-two punch. Those people know this case better than anybody on the planet."
It could only be a matter of time before the media circus is back in town.
"I think the fireworks will start again when she is held to answer under oath for the civil cases, because of course, the lawyers that are going to be questioning her on the civil cases are going to be getting into issues of Caylee and her disappearance, and what happened to her, and why and how."