ORLANDO -- Casey Anthony initially claimed 2-year-old Caylee Marie was kidnapped by a baby-sitter named Zenaida. But at her murder trial, defense attorney Jose Baez claimed that was a lie and that the toddler drowned in the family pool.
Although a jury found her not guilty of murder earlier this month, the contradicting stories may cost her financially.
In the weeks since Baez delivered his stunning opening statement and told the jury -- and the closely watching public -- that Caylee was never missing but accidentally drowned, Anthony has been slapped with several civil lawsuits.
Texas EquuSearch, the group that launched extensive searches for Caylee in the summer of 2008, wants to recoup more than $100,000 it spent looking for the toddler.
A diver who volunteered his services to look for Caylee in a river at Jay Blanchard Park has filed another suit, claiming he relied on false information and expended significant time and money on the search.
And last week, there were more developments in the initial suit filed against Anthony -- a defamation case brought by Zenaida Fernandez-Gonzalez, a Kissimmee mother who claimed Anthony ruined her reputation.
Bob Jarvis, a law professor at Nova Southeastern University, said the lawsuits raise an interesting question: When is a client bound by his or her lawyer’s opening statement?
Jarvis said those who sue Anthony will say her lawyer is her representative and therefore, she should be responsible for what he says.
“I know the plaintiffs’ arguments are going to be ... your agent’s statements are now your statements,” Jarvis said.
Baez told jurors in Anthony’s murder trial that she fabricated the baby-sitter kidnapping story. And the jury, which found Anthony not guilty of murder, aggravated manslaughter and aggravated child abuse, convicted her on four counts of lying to law enforcement.
Anthony is now appealing those convictions, which Jarvis said is noteworthy.
“She has never said that she made up these statements,” he said. “Casey never said anything in the criminal case.”
Jarvis said that in the civil cases, Anthony could argue she can’t be held responsible for everything Baez said at her murder trial. She’ll say “she had no control over what her attorneys did,” he said. “She’s a layperson.”
And how would a judge expect a 25-year-old, who is not a lawyer, to understand not only what is unfolding in court, but also to understand the implications it could have on future civil cases?
“I would be stunned if a judge were to rule, in the future, that she’s bound by the statements of Jose Baez,” Jarvis said.
But Orlando defense attorney Mark NeJame, who has followed the Anthony case closely, said Fernandez-Gonzalez, for one, may now be able to seek greater damages because Baez admitted at trial that Casey fabricated the existence of “Zanny the nanny.”
“(She) can now go ahead and make a greater claim against Casey Anthony because of the bad-faith representation that she made,” NeJame said. “I fully expect that (Fernandez-Gonzalez) will seek recovery of damages for the time and money extended having to defend a fraudulent claim.”