Geraldo Rivera: Juanie Cochran

That is what some reluctant admirers are calling Casey Anthony’s relatively young and inexperienced Latino defense attorney José Baez.

With just three years experience and a handful of meaningful trials at the time he got this huge case, the office of the Kissimmee, Florida-based, defense attorney is topped by the slogan, ‘Where Justice Begins.’

It is next door to the county jail, which is good for business, and offers bilingual consultation.

His earlier apprenticeship spent in the public defender’s office discounted, his journeyman experience put commentators in a bad mood from day one. The made-for-TV lawyers all think themselves better suited than this rookie from the edge of Orlando’s legal fraternity.

Any of them could do better, which, the consensus feels, means pleading the killer ‘tot mom’ guilty to save her worthless life.

It is an option I earlier shared. It may still come to that.

But by going forward, Baez is fair game, and from the beginning has been ripped by commentators from courtroom to beauty parlor to bowling alley for his shocking opening arguments, alleging an alternative theory of how little Caylee died.

His initial cross-examination of George Anthony was halting and unprepared. Focused too intently on his robust opening, the young attorney missed his first chance at the father of the accused. Having sensationally accused George of screwing up his daughter Casey’s mind by years of sex abuse, and of engineering a colossal cover-up, Baez couldn’t follow through on the steaming, squirming witness.

He has since hit his stride, going back at George and managing to show the court how deeply dysfunctional the Anthony’s are, including grieving grandma and (what is with) brother Lee?

Baez is now a formidable obstacle to the prosecution of the weird 25-year old alleged killer mom. What many thought would be a show trial featuring sluttish Casey Anthony’s straight-forward march to judicial hell is instead a grim but fascinating look in the dark heart of a family tragically flawed.

Most people believe the trail begins and ends with Casey, and that any attempt to see things otherwise deserves no pity. One observer emails:


I have been listening to you defending that little bitch Casey Anthony. I think when the Neo Nazi's hit you with the chair a few years back they racked your brain. That bitch should get the chair and the defense lawyer should site on her lap.


At least Tommy didn’t want me to take a fatal seat too.

The ‘Juanie Cochran’ reference is the spreading comparison of Baez to O.J. Simpson’s chief attorney in the murder trial of the last century.

Like Baez, Johnny Cochran was reviled during his most high-profile case, the double murder trial of the former football great accused in 1994 of the slasher killings of ex-wife Nicole Brown the mother of his two children, and her friend Ron Goldman.

At the time, Cochran’s efforts to impeach the DNA evidence seemed a stretch; his ‘if the gloves don’t fit’ ploy, preposterous; that knit cap he pulled over his head a joke.

We heaped contempt on Cochran, pouring scorn on Simpson’s laughable defense that the cops set him up.

That venom lapped onto the reputations of other attorneys on the ‘Dream Team,’ powerful lawyers like Alan Dershowitz and Barry Scheck.

But Cochran got it worst. The mighty litigator who represented everyone from Tupac Shakur to Snoop Dogg was portrayed as Roscoe J. Calhoun. At one point he was forced to shout out, “I am not on trial here!”

But Cochran laughed last when he caught my buddy Mark Fuhrman in a jam that served as the only excuse the inner-city jury needed to vote Simpson not guilty. Cochran masterfully engineered the escape of the guiltiest defendant ever acquitted.

Maybe until Casey Anthony.

The now 25-year-old Orlando, Florida, mother needs a Simpson-scale legal miracle to beat the capital murder charge she faces for allegedly suffocating her beautiful little child to death. She put gaffer’s tape over that baby’s nose and mouth, the prosecution says. They compiled a Simpson-scale ‘Mountain of Evidence” of hideous guilt, obvious evasion, patent lies, and damning statements all proving beyond a reasonable doubt that Casey suffocated her Caylee to death.

Yet, as José points out, the state can’t even prove how her tragic child died.

Did Caylee suffocate at her mother’s cruel hand? Or did she drown in the family pool, as the defense attorney portrayed in his shocking, ‘look what you’ve done,’ opening!

Every prosecution witness Baez questioned testifies that Casey was an ideal and loving mother who never abused or neglected her two year 10-month-old child.

Why would she then kill her? To be in hot body contests? For how long?

Baez asks how she could expect no one to notice that the much beloved toddler was missing. A crime without motive, a death without cause. A premeditated murder with no alibi except one that came with an expiration date?

The evidence suggests she probably did it or she was deeply involved. She will be punished. But the solid, steady and skilled litigator whose mom lives in Caguas, Puerto Rico, right down the road from me, has already saved his client’s life.

Geraldo Rivera is Senior Columnist for Fox News Latino. 

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