You would be justified to say I need to get a life and forget about the Casey Anthony murder trial. But sometimes it’s a relief to worry about other people’s problems instead of your own.
When listening to Jeff Ashton’s closing yesterday I realized it was the prosecution, not the defense, that had no coherent narrative. I knew it the minute he began his presentation with a silent video of Casey playing with Caylee—the video the defense had introduced to show that the shorts found with the body were shorts she had worn a year earlier. It was a shameless appeal to the emotions. It told me and everyone in the audience that Ashton had nothing to use to appeal to the jurors’ rational, reasonable minds.
And when that was the very first point Jose Baez made in his closing, I knew he was going to be able to make his case and save his client from Death Row.
Jose Baez did what I have seen no other attorney do: he used the phrase “beyond a reasonable doubt and to the exclusion of any doubt” as a battle flag, but his real argument was that “The state must prove each and every element of its charges against her. The defense has to prove nothing.”
Then he proceeded to tell a clear, coherent story about an emotionally disturbed young woman who made terrible mistakes and did awful things when her precious daughter died accidentally. He made the aftermath of Caylee’s death the central plotline of his story, and he made the state of Florida’s investigation of the crime the villain.
Key Defense Evidence That Had Previously Eluded Me
Mr. Baez walked through each of the elements of the alleged crimes and the evidence or lack of same that had been presented by the prosecution. Many of the points he highlighted were news to me. No, I’m not one of the poor jurors who was forced to sit through each and every excruciating moment of the trial. No, I didn’t watch or listen to more than perhaps half of the trial. Still, I thought I had heard the most important evidence. But some of what Mr. Baez explained yesterday was quite enlightening and even shocking.
1. The stench in Casey’s car trunk was not there eight days after both sides claim the child died.
During the period after June 16 when the prosecution claims Casey first put the body in the trunk, two people road in the backseat of the car to eat at McDonald’s and neither one smelled anything. On June 20, Casey’s boyfriend filled the gas tank of her car using a gas can. He stood within inches of the open trunk and smelled nothing. When the car was found in July abandoned in the parking lot of a bank, the banker who asked the police to tow it smelled nothing but the trash in the bin beside the car. The police officer who towed the car smelled nothing. The tow-yard operator later inspected the car and said he smelled “human remains.” It took him several days to identify the car’s owners and send them a notification (they being George Anthony). When asked by someone (tow-yard operator?) how long the car had been abandoned at the bank, George Anthony correctly replied “three days.” When George Anthony went to pick up the car, he told Mr. Baez he had muttered under his breath, “I hope it isn’t my daughter or granddaughter” when he smelled the stench. Then he got in the car and drove it home, but did not alert the police to his fears for his missing daughter and granddaughter, and instead just went to work as if nothing had happened.
2. The trash/garbage bag found in the trunk in mid-July cannot be proven NOT to have been the source of the stench, because the CSIs dried its contents out. (Sorry about the double negatives, but after all what the state is asking the defense to do is prove a negative.)
3. There is no so-called “stain of human decomposition” in the car trunk.
Several stains in the car trunk were there when Lee Anthony used the car. One stain not that old could NOT be analyzed to contain anything recognizable—certainly not human body fluids.
4. All that is known for certain is that the only evidence of carrion insects in the car was found in the dried trash bag; these included maggots, which would certainly have contained Caylee’s DNA had they fed on her flesh, but the state did not extract any DNA from any of the insects in the case, including those at the recovery site.
5. The neighbor who claimed Casey had borrowed a shovel from him had initially NOT been certain on which day this occurred, he believed it was June 20 (four days after Caylee died) and in any case it had been less than an hour before she returned it.
6. The defense presented more FBI-expert testimony than the prosecution did—because “the best crime lab in the country” couldn’t find any incriminating evidence. Crime lab evidence can be used to exculpate people, too, but clearly that isn’t what the state wanted them to do for Casey.
7. The chloroform evidence was entirely bogus (and that was clear even to me before he said it, and I trust the jury to understand this, too, even if Ashton doesn’t.)
Sidebar: As I write this Jeff Ashton is claiming that a quantitative analysis of the trunk air would have been meaningless, so when his own witness said that there was minimal chloroform in the sample he tested it meant nothing because it wasn’t anything like the air when the trunk was first opened. Duh? Excuse me. This is a non-sequitur. This guy needs to study logic.
8. The computer search report was doctored and flawed and not even produced by the witness who testified about it.
Computers are something I know a fair amount about from my past lives in the industry. It didn’t take Mr. Baez to point out to me how inappropriate it was for the police to search a hard drive looking for a specific search term, in this case, “chloroform.” And I knew that the reason they had done so was because Dr. Vass had told them he had found “shockingly high amounts of chloroform” in the air from the car trunk. But I didn’t realize the extent of the stupidity and deception involved in that so-called forensic computer analysis of the Anthony family’s hard drive.
Sgt. Stinger apparently first tried unsuccessfully to hunt for the term using “Netanalysis” software in August of 2008. A year later at a conference he learned about software called “Cashback” and tried to run the data he had through it. He couldn’t make it work, so he asked the company’s owner who was at the conference to search for the term. The owner spent three nights working on the problem and finally produced a report with a single search: “how to make chloroform.” Sgt. Stinger then used that information to run another report in which a reference to chloroform appeared on the MySpace page of one of Casey’s boyfriends. However, in the new report he erroneously picked up every hit on the boyfriend’s MySpace page as a new search for chloroform, when it is simply a redisplay on the Anthony computer of the boyfriend’s web page. On the stand, Sgt. Stinger claimed to have found 84 searches for chloroform. Mr. Baez had to call the Cashback programmer to the stand to explain that.
BTW: I first learned about that MySpace page when researching Cashback. A press release from the software company mentioned it. Apparently the page had a photograph with a caption something like “How to Wind Girls with Chloroform.” If my boyfriend had posted something like that, I would search for “how to make chloroform,” too.
There is a computer professional on the jury. He will understand this.
9. The police ignored evidence that Caylee drowned on June 16, 2008, which they had in July of 2008.
June 15, 2008, Cindy Anthony and Caylee swam in the backyard pool. June 16 is the day Caylee allegedly drowned. On June 17 at work, Cindy Anthony told co-workers that she thought “yesterday” someone had been swimming in her pool and she saw the ladder up. On July 16, Cindy Anthony told detective Yuri Melich about the ladder incident and also said she had taken the ladder down on June 15. The door to the backyard had no child-safety locks and Caylee could open it, as shown by a photograph. (When I saw that photograph days ago, it also struck me as odd that a former policeman and a nurse would permit this to happen.)
10. The duct tape is clearly associated primarily with George Anthony, not anyone else in the family.
The duct tape came from a manufacturer in Ohio where the Anthony’s lived while Casey was a toddler. It was no longer sold after 2007, and apparently never sold in Orlando. The first time a strip of that duct tape appeared on items of evidence was near the beginning of August after Casey was arrested, when George Anthony handed a gas can over to the police. The police photographed it and tested it for prints (none were found). In the photograph the duct tape is visible and is being used as a vent cover. Early in 2009 under oath, George Anthony told Ashton that he didn’t recognize the can. Then under oath in the trial he told him that it was his gas can, and he had used the duct tape to prevent fumes from escaping and becoming a fire hazard. He soon changed his story and told Mr. Baez in the trial that he didn’t know how the duct tape had gotten there or when. In a TV news videotape on August 15, 2008, a large roll of the duct tape is shown lying on a table under a tent for search volunteers where George Anthony was supervising. On the stand, George Anthony said not only that he didn’t know whose tape it was, but the TV station was mistaken about where the video had been taken.
11. George Anthony bought a gun while Casey was under house arrest in August 2008, in direct contradiction of the court order that permitted her to leave jail.
The state and George Anthony claim that he bought the gun to threaten Casey’s friends, because he thought they knew something about where Caylee was. Huh?
12. The child’s body was found without socks or shoes, which proves she died at home.
Testimony proves that Caylee always wore shoes outside the house and that she enjoyed trying to tie her own shoes.
13. Roy Kronk knew about the remains for four months before finally getting the cops to believe him, and his conflicting statements prove that he tampered with the recovery scene.
On August 10, 2008, Roy Kronk pointed out a skull to co-workers, who promptly collected a dead snake instead. The next day at 4:28 p.m., Roy Kronk called the police and said he had found a white skull. On August 12, he called the police again and said they could locate the skull by a tree with a white board over it. In November he told his son that he had found Caylee’s remains and that he expected to collect the reward. But he didn’t call the police again until December 11, when he was once again at the scene. On that day, there was no white board over the tree, and it took two Crime Scene Investigators to move the fallen tree, because the remains were concealed beneath it—two men, not a slim 22-year-old young woman. In statements after December 11, Roy Kronk first said he had picked up the bag and the skull fell out (so how did he see the skull in August?). He also said he had poked a stick into the eye socket. Then he changed his story. This is what you call “staging.”
As I write this, Ashton is completely misstating what Mr. Baez said in his closing about this; Mr. Baez is objecting; and the judge is over-ruling him. I don’t get it. Mr. Baez did not say that Roy Kronk took the remains home with him, put the duct tape on the skull, and then returned it to the scene. He said that Roy Kronk admitted disturbing the skull, which was subsequently found with the duct tape attached to the hair from the top of the skull and that the tape could have originally been used to seal the black plastic bag with her hair caught up in it. If I were a juror I would be growing increasingly angry at Ashton. I would think he’s either very stupid or he thinks everybody else is.
Mr. Baez concluded by saying the case against his client was comprised of “fantasy forensics” and “lies.” “You must have an abiding conviction of guilt,” he said, in order to convict Casey Anthony of any of the crimes with which she is charged.
I could be wrong. The jurors may be as gullible and ignorant of reality as Ashton seems to be and could convict her of manslaughter. But I can’t believe there are twelve thoughtful people who could sign Casey Anthony’s death warrant based on the state’s shabby investigation and presentation.
Either way, I believe the jury will be able to reach a verdict in four hours. They will only need to argue among themselves about one or two points. Specifically, I think they might talk about whether or not Casey’s admission that she neglectfully permitted Caylee to go outside and get into the pool (that she didn’t actually supervise her properly) was manslaughter. They might also discuss the charges of lying to investigators, which Mr. Mason argued came about through coercion. But that will take only four hours.
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