For six weeks in 2011, one story dominated the airwaves. Casey Anthony was on trial in Orlando, dealing with a capital homicide cost within the dying of her 2-year-old daughter.
The native TV stations introduced in distinguished attorneys to supply authorized evaluation. Most of them argued that Jose Baez, Anthony’s unseasoned lawyer, was in manner over his head. “He hadn’t represented circumstances of a lot significance — DUIs and issues of that kind,” says protection lawyer Invoice Sheaffer, who analyzed the case for WFTV. “He floated so many balloons and out-there protection theories. … It actually was not spectacular.”
However to everybody’s shock, Anthony was acquitted. Baez turned a star, each extensively vilified and newly revered.
“Clearly he proved us all mistaken,” says Bob Jarvis, a legislation professor at Nova Southeastern College in Fort Lauderdale. “I stated when that verdict was learn that Baez was the luckiest lawyer in America. However given what he has performed since, in case you have luck after luck after luck, sooner or later it’s not luck.”
Baez went on to defend NFL star Aaron Hernandez, successful an sudden acquittal on a double homicide cost.
Now the lawyer is getting ready for the most important trial of his profession, and one that each one of Hollywood is awaiting: the rape case in opposition to Harvey Weinstein. If convicted, the 66-year-old former film mogul faces life in jail.
Weinstein is accused of sexually assaulting a former manufacturing assistant in 2006 and of raping a second girl at a resort in 2013. His earlier lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, argued that the encounters had been consensual, and attacked investigators for suppressing proof. However Brafman and Weinstein fell out over technique in January, and Brafman withdrew from the case.
After his first look as Weinstein’s lawyer, Baez stood on the courthouse steps and declared, “He’s harmless,” then stated the case would check whether or not everyone seems to be entitled to the presumption of innocence. He declined to be interviewed for this story.
In some ways, Weinstein and Baez are strikingly comparable. Weinstein grew up in Queens, Baez within the Bronx. Each had been dropouts, each pugnacious and tough across the edges. Each used their aptitude for publicity and attention-getting theatrics to attain beautiful success.
Weinstein can also be nearly universally despised, which is Baez’s specialty. Repeatedly, the lawyer has proven jurors a loathsome shopper and gotten them to see affordable doubt.
“He took on probably the most hated girl within the nation,” Sheaffer says. “He would possibly as nicely tackle probably the most hated man within the nation.”
Baez stop college in ninth grade and later enlisted within the Navy. He obtained a GED and went to group faculty earlier than transferring to Florida State College. He enrolled in an obscure legislation college, St. Thomas College, in Miami, and obtained an internship with the Miami-Dade County Public Defender’s Workplace, which allowed him to attempt circumstances alongside a licensed lawyer.
“I bear in mind Jose was notably zealous,” says Rick De Maria, who was his mentor within the workplace. “He was receptive to suggestions about how one can develop into a greater trial lawyer. He would take the coaching and suggestions, and he ran with it.”
Baez was rejected on his first software to the bar, because the Orlando Sentinel reported in 2009. The Florida Board of Bar Examiners faulted him for being delinquent on little one help funds and located that he was dishonest concerning the challenge throughout a listening to.
The board additionally famous that Baez had attended a diversion program to keep away from a prison cost for writing a nasty test, and had didn’t disclose that, together with having a easy assault cost, on his legislation college software.
The board additionally faulted varied acts of “monetary irresponsibility” within the wake of his 1990 chapter, together with leasing a Mazda Miata for $340 per 30 days.
Baez appealed the board’s resolution to the Florida Supreme Courtroom, which upheld it, writing in its ruling that he had proven “a complete lack of respect for the rights of others and a complete lack of respect for the authorized system.” He was in the end admitted to the bar in 2005, eight years after his first software. On the time of the Sentinel story, he accused the paper of “sensationalist persecution of a Hispanic lawyer.”
Baez demonstrated his aggressive — even reckless — method to prison protection in one in every of his early circumstances. His shopper, Nilton Diaz, was accused of murdering his girlfriend’s 2-year-old daughter. In his opening assertion, Baez stated he would present that the woman’s mom was responsible.
“I’m not going to defend Nilton Diaz,” he stated, based on the Sentinel. “I’m going to prosecute Samaris Bobe Silva,” including that Silva had handled her daughter like “an animal.”
Baez’s technique was undermined when jurors noticed Diaz’s police interrogation video, during which he stated he had by no means seen Silva mistreat her daughter. “She’s a superb mom,” Diaz stated. “She spoiled her.”
The choose additionally barred Baez from displaying jurors pc animation depicting how Silva might need injured her daughter.
Diaz was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 15 years in jail. He appealed the conviction on the grounds of ineffective authorized help, which was denied.
Baez took a equally hard-charging method to the Anthony case. He filed a blizzard of pretrial motions and was fined for failing to show over proof to the prosecution.
In his opening assertion, he stated the proof would present that Anthony had been sexually abused by her father. However Anthony by no means testified, and no such proof emerged.
“It was a really high-risk technique,” Jarvis says. “Lots of people thought, ‘Clearly it is a man who by no means dealt with this type of case and has no thought what he’s doing.’”
Most Anthony trial watchers credit score Baez for delivering a compelling closing argument, during which he held that the prosecution had didn’t show its case. His victory silenced the skeptics.
“He’s a grasp strategist,” Belvin Perry, the choose on the Anthony case, advised Selection. “He’s the grasp at studying jurors and bringing dwelling factors that may resonate with them to create that factor known as affordable doubt.”
Baez has since gained a number of different acquittals, demonstrating that the Anthony case was no fluke. A number of observers say he has develop into extra polished with out shedding
In 2017, Baez defended Hernandez, the previous New England Patriots tight finish, on a double homicide cost. Hernandez had already been convicted of a earlier homicide and was serving a life sentence. Baez hammered the prosecution’s star witness, suggesting that the witness had shot the victims in a busted drug deal. 5 days after the not-guilty verdict, Hernandez dedicated suicide.
Final 12 months, Baez gained an acquittal for David Demos, a bond dealer who was charged with fraud in Connecticut. On each circumstances, Baez teamed with Ronald S. Sullivan Jr., a Harvard legislation professor who represented the household of Michael Brown in its wrongful-death swimsuit in opposition to town of Ferguson, Mo. Sullivan can also be engaged on the Weinstein case.
Two months after the Hernandez verdict, Baez gained an acquittal for Benjamin Shaw, who was accused of murdering a person in a bar struggle in Louisiana.
“He had the prosecution on the protection,” says Martin Stroud, who was Baez’s co-counsel. “It’s extraordinary that you simply see an acquittal in a homicide case in Bossier Parish.”
As for the Weinstein case, Stroud says, “he’ll make it attention-grabbing.”