By Rhetta Peoples, Special to the NNPA from The Florida Sun –
ORLANDO - The American justice system has often been scrutinized for being one-sided or biased when it comes to justice.
According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, an agency of the U.S. Department of Justice, African Americans make-up more than 38% of national prison inmates, who are also predominantly male. However, the U.S. Census Bureau reports Black people are only approximately 14% of the U.S. population.
A Chief Judge in Central Florida is proof that even national statistics have exceptions.
Often referred to as the “Judge’s Judge”, Chief Judge Belvin Perry, Jr., of the Ninth Judicial Circuit Court, is the highly respected African American judge with a lead role in one of the most highly publicized court cases in history. Judge Perry received his Juris Doctor from Thurgood Marshall School of Law and received both his Bachelor of Science degree in History and Masters of Education from Tuskegee University.
Judge Perry has served as Chief Judge of the Ninth Judicial Circuit Court since 2001 and is a member of the Florida Bar, Orange County Bar Association, Texas Bar Association, and Trial Court Budget Commission. Perry said, “I’m humbled and grateful for the confidence of my fellow judges in re-electing me to this position.”
The irony of his position is significant in the overall view of criminal justice in America because African American men highly populate U.S. prisons and jails. Specific to the Casey Anthony case, it is rare to see White women being a part of statistics that have been dominated by African American men in what is sure to be one of America’s most historical and watched cases.
Judge Perry is not only an icon in the African American community but also an inspiration to African American men. His direct manner and voice has been the subject of commentaries and radio mocks because of his southern accent or lack of what broadcasters may call a “General American Speech”, like that of President Barack Obama or General Colin Powell and is typically what mainstream Americans expect to hear from a person of a higher position.
However, journalists and talk show hosts neglect the real issues when they focus on the accent. Dr. Cornel West, Attorney Willie Gary and the late Attorney Johnny Cochran, among others, also spoke with a certain flare of their culture yet, each left footprints in their areas of expertise.
Judge Perry is set to preside over the trial in which Anthony is charged with first-degree murder charge of her 2-year old daughter Caylee Anthony, who had not been seen for more than a month before she was reported missing by her grandmother, Cindy Anthony, after she admitted to smelling an odor similar to that of a “dead body” in her Casey Anthony’s car.
Months later, Caylee was found dead only a short distance from the Anthony family home. The child’s death was ruled a homicide by the medical examiner, even though the cause of death remains undetermined.
Anthony became a suspect after she neglected to report her daughter missing, exhibited strange behavior, searched numerous times online for chloroform, an ingredient in children’s medicine that is potentially hazardous, law enforcement found a mysterious stain in the back of her car that resembles a toddler in the fetal position and she gave authorities a vivid description of “zanny the nanny”, a female baby-sitter who she claimed mysteriously disappeared with her daughter. To date, none of her allegations have turned out to be credible.
Anthony still maintains her innocence, claiming she was protecting her daughter from people who she claimed threatened to hurt her and her family if she were to report the child missing.
Defense attorney Jose Baez has filed several motions requesting to dismiss key evidence from the trial, including the infamous stain that appears to resemble a child in the fetal position found in the back of Anthony’s car. Judge Perry ruled the evidence could be admitted into evidence. Also, Judge Perry denied the request of the defense to exclude the expert opinion testimony of Dr. David Hall, a Botanist who testified that he analyzed fragments of roots from the area in which the victim’s body was recovered.
Recently, Judge Perry denied the defense motion to exclude alleged identification of the chemical composition of human decomposition odor, or testimony relating to air, carpet samples or paper towels tested by Oakridge Laboratories.
Judge Perry is not only known as a well-respected judge, but also for his days as a prosecutor. His reputation as a sound prosecutor was solidified in what came to be known as the Black Widow trial, in which Judy Buenoano was sentenced to death by electric chair for the 1971 murder of her husband. She was also convicted for the murder of her son and attempted murder of her fiancé in 1983. She was also believed to be responsible for the 1978 death of her boyfriend in Colorado.
The Court, under the direction of Judge Perry, kept the location of the selection of the jury unknown until the actual day of jury selection. Currently, the jury is being chosen in Pinellas County, an area located on the outskirts of Tampa, Florida. Reportedly, there are four African Americans currently in the jury pool.
Once the jurors are selected, they will be transported to the Orlando area where they are expected to stay in area hotels for the duration of the trial, which is expected to take up to eight weeks. To date, Judge Perry has dismissed dozens of jurors based on conflicts with the case. He said, “I do not want to have to do this again,” respectfully referring to not having the taxpayers or the court spend time, energy, and money to retry this case. Perry said, “I am not naïve enough to think we’ll encounter no one who has heard this case, but the goal is to find people who have not been oversaturated with the media.”
More than 600 media credentials were requested for this case. The Florida Sun will be in the courtroom and will report on the trial. Stay current with the print publication, electronically at floridasunreview.com, and on Twitter and Facebook.
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