CASEY ANTHONY TRIAL
by Leigh Lundin
Three years ago this month, a devastating drama began in Orlando now playing out in local court. I pay scant attention to local news, but details stick in my mind from the early days of a family residing at the ironically named Hopespring Drive:
- Caylee, a missing toddler
- Casey, a distraught mother
- Cindy and George, distraught grandparents
|George Anthony attacked|
By late summer, network news trucks crowded the neighborhood at Hopespring Drive as attention– and suspicion– focused on the family. Local toughs literally stoned George Anthony, grandfather of the missing girl, and dragged him into the street for a beating. Cindy strove to maintain as much dignity as possible with cameras jammed in her face. Their older child and problem solver Lee Anthony organized volunteer efforts, searches, and media events.
Casey Anthony landed in jail, initially suspected, then accused, and eventually indicted for murdering her tiny daughter. Last week began her murder trial.
Other than criticizing the eighty-some ‘psychics‘ who misdirected search efforts, I haven’t commented on the case, though it’s dominated local news for 35 months. Miss Anthony requires a fair trial and I am sorely disappointed by lawyers hired by local television stations as their experts, blithely condemning the accused before hearing the evidence, instructing audiences what we should think. Shouldn’t televised attorneys teach the public to withhold judgment until all the evidence is in?
The Science of Air and Hair
Many years ago, Judge Belvin Perry and Prosecutor Jeff Ashton took part in the nation’s first use of DNA in court, setting a landmark case. Judge Perry has shown he favors scientific evidence and it’s likely this hearing will establish new ground in scientific evidence testing, specifically air analysis and hair analysis.
Hair root death banding has been noted by researchers at the Body Farm. The idea is that hair roots show dark bands as body tissue decays. It seems likely Judge Perry will allow this evidence.
Air samples were drawn from the trunk of the Anthony’s Pontiac Sunbird, although the Anthonys opened the car’s windows and trunk to air out a terrible stench. Crime scene investigators closed the trunk and took air samples, which they sent off to University of Tennessee‘s Oak Ridge Laboratory and their famous Body Farm. Even though human body decomposition shares certain emissions with gasoline, human putrefaction contains a number of unique factors, which the prosecution wishes to demonstrate.
Investigation and Trial
Orange County detectives and crime scene investigators garnered the respect of residents (setting aside early reliance on ‘psychics‘). One detective prompted followers to coin WWYMD, meaning "What would Yuri Melich do?" Corporal Melich, sometimes called Dick Tracy Orlando, was among the first detectives who took– and took apart– Casey Anthony’s story.
Seeing George Anthony testify was difficult but watching Cindy Anthony on the stand was excruciating. They lost their tiny granddaughter and if the state has its way, they could lose their daughter. It’s sad and amazing how well the Anthonys managed to hold up, fighting back tears and pain in the glare of worldwide broadcast television.
|mother and daughter|
Local sentiment has been harsh, demanding how a registered nurse and a retired homicide detective couldn’t have known. Armchair experts insist a 22-year-old girl couldn’t kill and discard her child, therefore it must have been the father or brother or unspecified boyfriend.
I think a tiny sliver of the grandparents’ subconscious minds did know, the part that made Cindy Anthony say on her 911 call that the car smelled like a "dead body". But I also think the human brain has a remarkable ability to push back the horror your daughter may have murdered your granddaughter until dawning realization can no longer be denied.
With 400 condemned on death row, Florida is an extremely aggressive death penalty state, a state that will even execute for drug trafficking. In our factory-like system of capital punishment, some felony court judges annually handle more homicide trials than entire states, more than many nations. Until recently, hectic time frames required filing certain appeals in as little as seven days. Such rush-to-judgment procedures brought Florida into second place behind Texas in the race to execute.
Recent DNA exonerations brought pressure to bear on Florida to remove sloppiness from the system, and to its credit, Florida has done that. It comes too late to rein in, say Governor Bob Martinez as he hurried to execute Willie Darden, a likely innocent man. When the governor learned people nationwide, even worldwide, believed (a) the trial was racially unfair and (b) Darden was probably innocent due to unheard witnesses, Martinez infamously replied, "I could care less."
On their web sites, letterheads, and business cards, our attorneys brag if they are ‘death certified‘, meaning the Florida Court certifies qualifications to handle capital cases. Defense lead José Baez, a rookie attorney hired the second day of Casey Anthony’s incarceration, is not death certified. This is one of the reasons he brought in more experienced attorneys seen at the defense table.
Like a Rug
One aspect that has been proven, even admitted by the accused, is that the defendant is extraordinarily talented at lying, once bragging "I’m such a good liar." She extemporaneously invents imaginary names, events, extensive histories, and complex relationships, and the girl remembers them months and years later.
Psychologically, it’s fascinating like studying an elusive virus under the microscope. Detectives describe her as ‘credible’ and ‘convincing’ and I have to agree. With a couple of exceptions, I find it nigh impossible to tell she’s lying and I already know the answers. (On the other hand, I’ve learned I can’t get away with lying without everyone realizing it, so it’s better I keep my mouth shut.)
If the live rolling blogs are anything to go by, women may be less gullible than males. There’s a lot of "She’s lying. You can tell the bitch is lying." But now, of course, we have the benefit of hindsight.
Check out our time line and other articles below:
- Criminal Brief timeline of the Anthony case
- articles • daily collection
- documents • audio/video
- live web casts of trial
- Investigation Discovery articles
© photo credits: original publisher as identified by links