How the Cards Stack
After two full weeks of trial, so far the state has presented a highly credible chronological account of the events in the life of Casey and what happened to Caylee, starting in June 2008. With all the defense bumbling and missteps throughout pretrial motions and hearings, just how is Jose & Co. handling affairs in the courtroom, now that the trial against Casey Anthony is underway? One of the things we must recognize is that Jose is not only lead attorney by name, he is walking the walk – guiding her defense through thick and thin. Despite error after error, he's not really doing all that poorly, based on how he handled cross examinations and readdresses on Friday and Saturday. Considering that he has a liar and thief for a client, and his tactics have not always been on the side of integrity, he seems to be handling his own in some areas, particularly forensics. One must give credit where credit is due.
While Casey's family and friends testified that she was a cold, callous and calculating mother who lied about Caylee's whereabouts for a month, Jose managed to get them to concede that she was a wonderful mother who never showed any signs of abusing her daughter. That means their testimony didn't just work to the state's advantage, and anything in favor of Casey is a plus.
As to the 5 hours of damaging video, clearly, they speak volumes, none of which will help her cause one bit, but let's move on to the testimony of law enforcement. When Yuri Melich took the stand, he became a formidable challenge because he refused to let Jose impeach him on cross examination. Jose sought to introduce blogs as a means to undermine Yuri's credibility. Yuri had commented on Websleuths very early into the investigation, but he said nothing about this case. While the defense was successful in using my blog, Marinade Dave
, to remove the presiding judge, Stan Strickland, from the bench last April, it failed miserably this time. Why? Because the defense went from Strickland to stricter. Sure, he didn't have to step down, but this time, court and law enforcement personnel were wise to Jose's trickery and he failed miserably. Besides, technically, Websleuths is not a blog, it's a forum. After this recent attempt, a very wise man, studious in law, told me the hidden ball trick only works once in a game, and the defense already used theirs. This time, Yuri prevailed.
The trial has now moved into the realm of forensics, and it's an area that's subject to scrutiny because it pits science against science. While facts don't lie, opinions of facts do, and so do otherwise benign discrepancies. Take the contents discovered in the trunk of Casey's car, particularly hair samples. While many of those hairs could be attributed to Caylee, there are two ways to introduce those hairs into the trunk:
- Caylee was inside the trunk, or;
- Caylee came close or touched her mother and when Casey opened the car trunk, her daughter's hair fell from her.
That's called primary and secondary transfer, and science alone cannot determine how any of those hairs got inside the trunk.
Gerardo Bloise is a CSI Level 2 investigator for OCSO. For many years, he was a police officer in Puerto Rico and his credentials are, seemingly, impeccable. He was the first person to process and document Casey's automobile. He wrote in his report that when he first broke a police seal on her car's door and opened it, the first thing he noticed was the odor of decomposition. That's very compelling, and it sounds incriminating, but Jose, on cross-examination, asked about decomposition in general; garbage, animal and human, plus the many different stages of decomposition. Sure, he agreed, they all vary. Why then, Jose asked, did you describe the decomposition as human to the state and just plain decomposition to me? Why did you write decomposition instead of human decomposition on your report? Those are the subtle questions a competent defense attorney asks, and there's nothing wrong with it. It's called strategy.
Another accepted strategy lays in attacking an opponent's credibility and qualifications – other layers in the field of impeachment. Jose did this with Karen Korsberg-Lowe, an FBI forensic examiner with the Trace Evidence Unit who failed her first proficiency test. Yes, Jose was well within his rights to say that. She testified about the death banding found in one lone hair from the trunk of the car. Jose managed to get her to admit that her science had never been allowed in a courtroom when the identity of a hair – who it came from – was in dispute. She said the science had been in use in the U.S. Since the 1930s, but it's only been permitted when identification was not an issue. In this case, there was no tissue left intact to allow complete DNA testing. Although the lone death band hair points to a deceased person, who it belongs to remains a mystery. All we know from mitochondrial DNA testing is that the hair came from Caylee's maternal side. That includes her and her living relatives; her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. Death banding certainly points to Caylee since she is, after all, dead, but it's not 100% foolproof, and that's no small concession by the state.
Michael Vincent is an assistant supervisor with the OCSO Crime Scene Unit. He's a retired Philadelphia police officer and a military veteran. I knew there was something I liked about him - a Philly cop and an Air Force vet. He is Gerardo Bloise's direct boss. Arpad Vass, of Oak Ridge National Laboratory fame, sent him a portable air pump, along with test tubes and instructions on how to collect air samples from the vehicle's trunk. He also assisted Gerardo by taking hair samples and buccal swabs from George, Cindy and Lee for testing. Jose attempted to show that air samples could vary from day to day, since no air in an open area remains stagnant. So could evidence that's wet or dry vary. Jose managed to get the CSI supervisor to admit that he wasn't trained in the field of air samples since it's such a new science, and it had never been utilized in a courtroom before. While his testimony overall was beneficial to the prosecution, he admitted that the air samples he took were consistent with regular trash and not necessarily with human decomposition. That played well with Jose. It was one small victory amidst a trial that won't cede many for the defense. That may change dramatically after Vass is sworn in.
Although the cards are very, very much stacked against him and it seems the trial shaping up to be a slam dunk, I must say that Jose Baez remains remarkably confident – testy at times, but he has never given up hope, and for that, I give him credit. History will say he was the lawyer who represented the murderous Tot Mom, and he will be vilified for a number of reasons, but one thing is certain, he will never be remembered as a quitter.
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