Casey Anthony Defamation Suit- Law Firm Stunt or Bona Fide Hunt?
Casey Anthony is one of the least popular people in the United States –if not the world- right now. She was acquitted of the murder of her daughter, Caylee, and many took the decision personally. Websites call for Casey’s sterilization, for her never to have any earnings and a host of other unfortunate (and mostly illegal) things. A woman recently recklessly drove a look-a-like off of the road. It’s hard NOT to root against her. Even in her own defense, she was shown as a pathological liar and deviant, an atrocious mother and a selfish, heartless person.
I was interviewed repeatedly regarding the trial and have made no bones that I was surprised, and very disappointed, with the jury’s decision. However, I am not sure if civil suits are going to make anything better here. There is no “wrongful death” case here because the father is suspected to have predeceased his daughter and was not involved in her life, so there is no next of kin to fight for Caylee and her deviant mother has no assets. There is zero true real loss potential for Casey in such a suit. In fact, she has a STRONG chance at winning again. She also has one of the largest and wealthiest advertising law firms in the country, Mordan & Morgan, pushing her name to nightly news regularly when most of us would rather not publicize her any further.
I wanted to take a look at the pending law suits and determine if they are worthwhile, legally, or are further giving another person 15 more minutes of fame because of the unfortunate, tragic death of Caylee Anthony. I will address the search firm’s suit next, as it is a little different.
Zenaida Fernandez-Gonzalez v. Casey Anthony
The suit with the most publicity was filed by a lady named Zenaida Gonzalez. It is located here- http://myclerk.myorangeclerk.com/CaseDetail.aspx?CaseID=1450829. Defamation has the following five elements: (1) publication; (2) falsity; (3) actor must act negligently on a matter concerning a private person; (4) actual damages; and (5) statement must be defamatory. I get the lawsuit, but the whole slanderous episode lasted VERY briefly, was NOT believed by police, was not specific to the Plaintiff who filed suit based on released evidence and had very limited damages. Frankly, it seems like Zenaida is just seeking to capitalize on her unfortunate coincidence of name.
On July 15, 2008, Casey Anthony reported to the Orange County Sheriff’s Office that her daughter Caylee had been missing for more than a month. She claimed she had dropped her daughter off with her babysitter, Zenaida Gonzalez, at her apartment on South Conway Road on June 9. On July 16, they all went to the Sawgrass Apartments. The manager at the Sawgrass Apartments said that apartment No. 210 had been vacant since February. At no point had Zenaida Gonzalez resided at that complex. Casey had also claimed that Zenaida had been a seasonal employee at Universal with her, but the company could find no record that at all…. Read more
My name is John Phillips. I have the honor to serve as the lawyer for the family of Jordan Davis, a teen killed by a grown man who took offense to his music, his skin color and his choice of words. Like too many others these days, Michael Dunn was empowered by the Stand Your Ground law. He fired 10 times, never called police and found comfort in believing he was on the right side of the tipped scales of justice for legal gun owners in this country.
Like my father, I am a lifelong Republican. He was from Monroeville, Alabama and my mother was from Mississippi. Like my father, I own guns. I grew up in the conservative south, even attending the University of Alabama. I worked for a stalwart member of the GOP, Representative “Sonny” Callahan while in college. I am one of the over one million concealed weapon permit holders in the State of Florida. I value the Second Amendment. I am unlike many of my clients in all of those respects. In fact, it is because of the inequality of these gun laws and the inhumanity of some of those who so zealously advocate for them, I have second-guessed all of these things. Jordan’s death was the most wrongful death I have ever known.
The Second Amendment is the only Constitutional Guarantee so tightly tied to an article of commerce that it can alienate its sisters, like the Sixth Amendment- the Right to Trial by Jury. Stand Your Ground laws hold jury trials are a nuisance to the legal gun owners’ freedom. And, with Stand Your Ground, the Second Amendment plays favorites when it comes to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” It does not simply stop intruders from invading your space as the name conveys, it allows a biased population, a person with unreasonable fears based on skin color and others to “shoot first” provided they can tell the police they had the requisite fear and walk way, stepping over the body of his or her victim who cannot defend himself or herself ever again.
Some claim Stand Your Ground had “nothing to do” with George Zimmerman’s or Michael Dunn’s criminal trials. That is untrue. In each, the jury was instructed:
If George Zimmerman / Michael Dunn was not engaged in an unlawful activity and was attacked in any place where he had a right to be, he had no duty to retreat and had the right to stand his ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he reasonably believed that it was necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.
Here is the jury instruction read to Florida juries BEFORE the Florida legislature’s enactment of Stand Your Ground:
The defendant cannot justify the use of force likely to cause death or great bodily harm unless he used every reasonable means within his power and consistent with his own safety to avoid the danger before resorting to that force. The fact that the defendant was wrongfully attacked cannot justify his use of force likely to cause death or great bodily harm if by retreating he could have avoided the need to use that force.
Jurors have admitted confusion and deadlock, both of the lawyers in Zimmerman’s case were admonished by the judge on the grammatical errors of improper comma placement and a half a nation wondered why Trayvon Martin could not stand his ground. Even more now wonder how Dunn could be convicted of attempted murder, but not his actual murder of Jordan Davis.
Some claim Stand Your Ground is “grounded in history.” That is also a little deceiving. On April 19, 1775, John Parker was the captain in command of 77 members of the Lexington militia when, according to history, he issued the famous order: “Stand your ground; don’t fire unless fired upon, but if they mean to have a war, let it begin here.” His legendary quote is even engraved on a monument to him on Lexington Green. One problem – he didn’t say that at all. Historians have acknowledged this quote was fabricated in the 1800s and is not accurate to 1775. Further, by Parker’s own sworn deposition, as the British troops approached, he realized that his force was greatly outnumbered. He gave his men the order to disperse- to retreat.
Even in the wildest days of the wild west, justifiable homicide was weighed by a jury of one’s peers- not a cop deciding not to arrest, not a prosecutor deciding not to charge, not a judge based on some NRA-written standard. It was a jury- a jury tasked to weigh the facts and decide right and wrong.
The right to a trial by one’s peers was one of the biggest fights of the American Revolution. When Massachusetts enacted its colonial charter in 1641, it expressly guaranteed the right to juries in criminal and civil trials despite making no mention of the right to free speech. This right was stripped from the American colonies, as American colonial judges served pleasure of the King. King George III abolished trial by jury in the colonies to ensure his power and to restrict autonomy of the colonists.
In 1777, Edmund Burke, an Irishman and member of the British Parliament, wrote, A Letter to John Farr and John Harris, Esqrs., Sheriffs of the City of Bristol, on the Affairs of America. In this letter, he pointed out the unfairness of recent laws passed pertaining to Britain’s “rebellious colony” of America. Burke critiqued the laws because they imposed “a much deeper malignity” and carried “into execution, purposes which appear to me so contradictory to all the principles, not only of the constitutional policy of Great Britain, but even of that species of hostile justice which no asperity of war wholly extinguishes in the minds of a civilized people.” Burke could echo that concern today.
Burke’s rebuke was heard a year later in the Declaration of Independence. We all know how that begins, “When in the course of human events . . .” and “We hold these truths to be self-evident.” Many are not as familiar with the complaints it made thereafter against those unfair and tyrannical laws the king placed on our American forefathers. Those injuries included “depriving us, in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury” and “transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences (old English spelling),” to which Burke objected. And which Stand Your Ground laws shrug away.
It is un-American to look at excused or justifiable homicide or “Stand Your Ground” laws without looking at the institution of a jury system to balance out “right and wrong.” The laws we have now take power AWAY from the jury and have become so confusing that they entirely CONFUSE the jury, making them weak. Even the drafters of the most zealous opinions on one’s Right to Stand One’s Ground would be upset because we’ve gone from letting a jury sort things out to letting a killer’s words let him be excused and justified without even one unbiased peer weighing the actual facts- not just from the “state of mind” of the killer now that he faces a life sentence.
I obtained my concealed weapons permit in 2012 after our house was burglarized. In the 4-hour class, the two “teachers” spent most of their time in the Florida state mandated class on a sales pitch, pulling out 6-8 guns hidden on their person and detailing the merits of each. They spent ample time discussing Stand Your Ground and other laws, preparing us for possible run-ins with the law and also pointing out they keep a law book they sell on the counter in their cars and homes just in case you need “quick help.” They told us the places in town where guns were not allowed and to “boycott” them. Most offensively, they taught the grey area of the law. They explained it well.
I left that class knowing many there had just shot one bullet- the first and only bullet they might have shot in their lives and now they were about to be armed in public, filled with fear and a non-lawyer’s rendition on the law. I hope none have a bad day and sense fear from people of a different race, creed, ethnicity or country of origin. Yet, I heard some acknowledge JUST THAT.
We are in danger. Stand Your Ground has fueled acceptance of killing. In just a few hours, a gun store named “Shooters” took 100 or so people and further instilled fear and empowered them to not only defend themselves, but to arm themselves with enough “reason” to get away with it. In Florida alone, 10,000 to 15,000 more are undergoing this training each month and they soon will be Standing Their Ground, harnessing this fear to justify killing without consequence of a fair judgment by their peers.
I will end stating this- Jordan’s life and the lives of all of our children have the power of the butterfly effect- to trust that the flapping of his wings as he ascends into Heaven will open one mind. Mine, was one of the first. I humbly beg you to hasten the winds and create a tsunami. Pandora’s box of guns and crime, hate and bigotry is wide open in our Great nation. Only the combined winds of love and understanding, passion and hope can close it. Thank you for your time and God Bless the United States of America.
MARK YOUR CALENDARS! Jordan’s News & Upcoming Events:
- February 3rd, 2014 – Starts the Criminal Trial
SHOW YOUR SUPPORT: Jordan’s Parents Donation Website
WALK WITH JORDAN: Jordan’s Legacy Journey
November 22nd – Memorial Service – Atlanta, GA
November 23rd – One Year Remembrance – Sea Walk Pavilion, Jacksonville Beach – 5-8 pm
November 8th – John, Ron and Lucy argued for revision to SYG law to the Florida House
October 29th – Lucy Testified before Congress at the Senate Hearing on “Stand Your Ground Laws” to watch her speech, click here.
October 14th – Terry Parker High School’s Unity Plaza in Jacksonville, FL – Brick Dedication Ceremony was very special and heartbreaking to see so many victims families.
September 23rd – This was an emotional day, as it was the 10 month anniversary of the day that changed the family’s lives forever and the original trial start date. Ron joined First Coast Connect for a radio interview where he continues to show such strength and highlighted profound points. Lucy also had an interview, click here to read the article or listen.
September 19th – There was a hearing. It was determined that the trial date will most likely be in early February.
September 17th – Lucy was scheduled to testify before Congress when it was postponed due to the unfortunate but not unforeseen Naval Yard Shooting. Her testimony is rescheduled in October. As soon as we hear, we will post the exact date. While the team was in DC, Ron and John were interviewed, click here to watch.
August 24th – Jordan’s parents, John and TC celebrated the 50th Anniversary of The March on Washington, in DC. They met political leaders and shared Jordan’s story to gain supporters in the mission to reduce gun violence.
August 18th – Mom’s Demand Action For Gun Safety in America at Focus on Atlanta with host Keisha Lancelon.
July 20th – The National Women of Achievement Luncheon, Atlanta, Ga. Lucy receives award for work in gun safety advocacy.
June 24th – Lucy and Ron spoke at the Newton Cross Country Bus Tour in Atlanta, at the Ga. State Capitol. It ironically turned into an armed camp, click to read more.
June 14th – Lucy was asked to speak at an event for Mayors Against Illegal Guns. Gun legislation supporters were in attendance for this event marking the 6 month anniversary of the Sandy Hook massacre in Newtown, CT.
June – Wolfson High School Graduation Ceremony. Honorary Graduation Certificate given to Ron and Lucy.
June 4th – Dunn was back in court in front of a new judge. After Michael Dunn’s attorney cited possible procedural error in support of a motion to recuse first year Judge Suzanne Bass. Judge Mallory Cooper has taken over. We do not expect any delay from this. We are steadfastly proceeding with the civil suit, as well, and filed motions for summary judgments on the civil cases. Justice will not be denied.
May 30 – Lucy spoke at Rep. Phil Gingrey’s office a press conference held by Mayor’s Against Gun Violence.
April 26 – J-City performed his song written for Jordan Davis at Museum Bar. Lucy McBath was in attendance.
April 19– Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Honoring Jordan and Treyvon. The award is a Post Humorus award given by Pastor RL Gundy.
April 17– John Phillips, Lucy and Ron interviewed with Raising America – Headline News at CNN. Lucy, also had a radio interview with Lisa Jackson. Interview will be shared with Hip Hop Weekly, BET.
April 15th, Lucy attended a meeting with State Senator Chambliss office. She accompanied Atlanta’s delegation of “Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.” They encouraged votes for national background checks.
In March, Lucy and John, traveled to New York for the Black Male Re-Imagined Conference. You can watch video from the conference at http://f4a.tv/YezCjj. The creators of this event recently launched a website www.perception.org – a multi-media, multi-platform campaign driving a national conversation about the experiences and challenges black men and boys are facing due to negative perceptions.
February 26th, CBS Evening News interviewed Ron. You can watch the interview by clicking here. After reading Jordan’s story and being inspired to help, Georgia’s Senator Vincent Fort introduced a bill to change gun law, SB 147. Lucy plans to offer support. On
February 26th, Georgia Public Broadcasting interviewed Lucia and followed Lucy and the Senator to a rally that supported all “gun safety” legislation, including SB 147. Watch the interview by clicking here. Issue 1181>>April 25, 2013 Click to read full article.
The week of February 18th, Rolling Stone Magazine was in Jacksonville interviewing the family, attorney and Jordan’s friends, who were in the car that unfortunate day. A Jordan Davis Memorial Fund is set-up to help and support the movement and butterfly effect of kindness. Donations can be sent to PO Box 23833, Jacksonville, FL 32241-3833.
February 16th, we celebrated the Mayoral Proclaimed Jordan Russel Davis Day at the Jacksonville Landing. Political Leaders spoke and a variety of talented artist entertained. We thank you all for celebrating with us. We handed out 500 “Walk with Jordan” bracelets in 2 hours – if you want one, simply send a self addressed envelope with postage on it.
February 10th, Ron, his wife, John and TC met with the Travon family at his birthday celebration. Sharing in each others grief but also hoping to work together for a better future. Celebrities in attendance, were Jamie Fox and Cedric the Entertainer.
January 30th, Ron, Lucy and the Mayor announce plans for Jordan Davis’ Day – February 16th, what would have been Jordan’s 18th Birthday.
January 23rd, Lucy flew to Washington DC to meet with members of Congress and again they welcomed her with open arms, even ushering her into another hearing on gun violence. On the same day, Ron and John debated gun control with a member of Florida Carry. The debate aired Sunday, January 27th, click here to watch the gun control debate.
January 16th, Ron and Lucia visited Washington DC to meet with Senate and Congress staffers to discuss Jordan’s story. The family, was invited by Pelosi to attend the Congressional Hearing on Gun Violence Prevention.
Soledad O’Brien’s Starting Point Interview 12/14/2012
Lawrence O’Donnell Last Word Interview 12/14/2012
Declare ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws illegal in accordance with Federal law. Require states amend laws to match Federal law. To date, 21 states have adopted laws allowing citizens to protect themselves by use of force outside their homes. This goes against the Federal law which only allows for deadly force if the perpetrator is within the confines of ones home. There is a flaw in the state laws, which does not address the programmed psychological judgement of the arms bearer. It gives too much authority and right to untrained citizens who may live in fear on a daily basis, the right to make an assumed judgement on individuals deemed a threat to them. It allows the use of deadly force with a weapon against unarmed citizens. The law is unconstitutional and should be addressed to protect unarmed innocent civilians from bias vigilante justice seekers. Click here to learn more: www.walkwithjordan.com
On November 30th, a movement started nationally online to honor Jordan Davis by “turning the music up” in his honor. We saw Russell Simmons, Omar Epps, Fat Joe, 50 Cent and others tweet about his story and it is truly touching. During our previously scheduled Holiday Open House, Ribbon Cutting and Toy Drive benefiting Toys for Tots that Friday, we took a moment at 5pm with the rest of the country to pay tribute to Jordan, by turning our music up and playing ”Strawberry Letter 23″ by the Brothers Johnson (a family favorite that expresses love).
To watch more media coverage of the case click here.
John Phillips Law Office of John M. Phillips 4230 Ortega Blvd. Jacksonville, FL 32210 (904) 517-8903 firstname.lastname@example.org