Private investigator Dominic Casey submitted a court affidavit in Casey Anthony’s bankruptcy case (he wants to get paid), that stated that Casey’s attorney Jose Baez (above, left) “ told me that Casey (above, right) had murdered Caylee and dumped the body somewhere. He also alleges that Baez had sexual relations with Anthony.
Here’s what you need to know about the ethics issues involved:
1. Most important of all: USA Today’s website headlined the story, P.I. says Casey Anthony lawyer acted unethically. I’d guess 95% or more of readers assume that what was unethical was Baez defending Anthony when she was guilty. Maybe USA Today even thinks that. That is pure, inexcusable ignorance. All criminal defendants have a Constitutional right to a zealous defense, and the defense lawyer’s duty is the same whether his client is guilty or not, Jack the Ripper or a jay-walker. The duty is to make the State prove its case with admissible evidence beyond a reasonable doubt. Almost everyone who has followed the case believes that Anthony is guilty of facilitating the murder of her daughter Kaylee, but the evidence was ambiguous and circumstantial, and the prosecution didn’t prove its case.
Having sex with a client is unethical, specifically under the rules of most states, and arguably under the rules of all states under general ethics and professionalism principles.
2. Anthony can’t be tried again. That’s in the Constitution too: double jeopardy. Nevertheless, the statement by the investigator is harmful to her.
3. If what the investigator says about Baez is true, the investigator has breached his profession’s ethics, and outrageously and unforgivably so. From the Florida Association of Private Investigators Professional Ethics Code:
Article Ten: I will safeguard confidential information and exercise due care to prevent its unauthorized disclosure.
4. Also, if it is true, Baez violated the legal ethics rules by allowing this to happen. A lawyer is duty bound to protect privileged and confidential information (Rule 1.6), and the best way to protect it is not to tell anyone about it. There is no conceivable reason a lawyer would ever have to tell an investigator that his client is guilty. If there was a reason, Rule 5.3 requires an attorney to make as certain as possible that his or her “non lawyer assistants” understand and are capable of meeting the lawyer’s ethical obligations, including the duty of confidentiality. The Casey Anthony information ( again if really communicated by her lawyer) would have to be accompanied by signed non-disclosure agreements with dire penalties attached.
5. Baez denies all of the allegations, which tells us nothing at all. This is a perfect example of a denial that would naturally be made by any lawyer unethical enough to act this way, and also by any lawyer being dishonestly slandered by his former employee.
6. Baez also denies that Dominic Casey was his investigator; Casey (the investigator, not the client) claims he worked for Baez from July-October, 2008. If Baez is right, it seems highly unlikely that any lawyer would tell an non-employee that a client in a high-profile murder trial was guilty. If he did, that alone would be a major ethics breach. Dominic Casey, meanwhile, is a major sleazeball whether he was hired by Baez or not, inherently untrustworthy, and anyone, lawyer or otherwise, who would hire someone like him after this is both irresponsible and has a professional death wish.