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Jose Baez: The Man Behind the Casey Anthony Case

From deadbeat father to international figure

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By R. Leigh Coleman, Christian Post Reporter
July 7, 2011|6:39 pm

Before this week, his life has been a roller coaster ride filled with heartache, embarrassment, and mediocrity. But José Baez's life changed when Casey Anthony needed a good lawyer to beat murder charges alleging she killed her 2-year-old daughter.

Desperate for help, Anthony heard that Baez was a fair man among inmates and solicited his law firm to save her.

Although the two did not know it then, their lives were about to change forever.

As a staunch opponent of the death penalty, Baez took the case as his small Kissimmee, Fla., law office was slowly growing.

The Internet was already buzzing Tuesday after the jury returned the verdict after just 11 hours of deliberation.

Baez, 42, was humble this week after winning what will likely be the biggest courtroom battle in his career.

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It has been reported that the William Morris Talent and Literary Agency in New York signed a book deal on Thursday with both Anthony and Baez – a package deal.

As protests and objections grow, the public may despise the verdict and Anthony's lifestyle, but they will want to hear what both of them have to say, experts say.

“The best feeling is I can go home and I can say I saved a life,” Baez said after the jury acquitted Anthony of capital murder this week.

Many wonder who Baez is and where he came from after winning the most high profile case in the country.

"It is like he came out of nowhere three years ago," said Tom Little, a defense attorney in Miami, Fla.

"He is now known internationally, but the interesting thing is, he is humble about it and actually thanked his mother at the press conference this week. I think he will go a long way because he has seen the other side of life both in Casey Anthony and his past."

However, it took some time before Baez made a name for himself as a successful defense lawyer among inmates and the legal community.

Baez, a native of Puerto Rico, has an interesting climb to fame dating back to when he was a high school troublemaker in the Bronx.

He and his single mother moved to South Florida when he was a teenager but he dropped out of school in the ninth grade.

The teen married at the young age of 17 and was soon to become a father. He said becoming a father motivated him to turn his life around.

After earning his GED and joining the Navy, he returned to college and ended up graduating from St. Thomas University School of Law in South Florida.

Despite graduating from law school in 1997, Baez was denied admission to the Florida bar for eight years until 2005, according to state records.

He landed in some financial trouble after his divorce and in the eyes of Florida law, became a deadbeat dad unable to pay child support.

Court records show he declared bankruptcy as the bill collectors were piling up against him.

It also states that he had previously declared bankruptcy, written bad checks and defaulted on student loans, the court said.

His finances were in such a shambles that he was not allowed to practice law, according to a decision upheld by the Florida Supreme Court.

The Florida court said his behavior showed “a total lack of respect for the rights of others and a total lack of respect for the legal system, which is absolutely inconsistent with the character and fitness qualities required of those seeking to be afforded the highest position of trust and confidence recognized by our system of law," according to a recent report published in the Orlando Sentinel.

He ended up selling bikinis until he got a break and was allowed to be admitted into the bar in 2005.

His new small practice grew, but he was still an unknown among his colleagues and the “big hitters” in the legal world.

Despite the negative publicity during the past three years, Baez stuck by Anthony’s side, ultimately saving her life.

“While we are happy for Casey, there are no winners in this case,” he said during a press conference after the verdict was announced.

"Caylee has passed on far, far, too soon. What my driving force has been the last three years was to make sure there was justice for Casey and Caylee.”

Today, Baez is known as the Latino lawyer with just six years of experience under his belt and is being called one of the best lawyers in America.

Television media are competing over interviews with Baez and analysts say he will probably get a movie deal out of the trial.

“Where Justice Begins” is the motto hanging on the door at his law firm.

The legal community learned to respect Baez – even praise him as the Casey Anthony case grew into a nightly gavel-to-gavel report catching the nation's attention.

Most of his colleges say one of his strengths is Baez handles pressure well.

Others say he was a sleeper who has a unique skill in the courtroom.

“He is the luckiest man in America,’’ Robert Jarvis, a lawyer and law professor at Nova Southeastern University in Davie, said in an interview.

Terry Lenamon, a former member of Anthony’s defense team, said in an interview that Baez could be an example of what lawyers call the “Columbo factor,” referring to the popular 1970s crime series featuring Peter Falk as a naïve, clumsy detective who was underestimated by colleagues and others because of his irritating questions and shaggy demeanor. In the end, however, he always got the bad guy.

“This case has brought on new challenges of all of us,” Baez said.

“Challenges in the criminal justice system, challenges in the media, and I think we should all take this as an opportunity to learn and to realize that you cannot convict someone until they’ve had their day in court.”

 

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