16 Days

    Early Saturday afternoon marked the end of sixteen days of intense testimony from the people who have almost become household names over the past three years. Some we’ve vilified, while others we’ve grown to know and respect. The list is long and varied, and it will grow even longer this week as the State nears the final stages of its case against Casey Anthony. So far, we’ve seen a veritable who’s who in this case, from law enforcement and expert witnesses to Casey’s immediate family, her former friends and her erstwhile lovers. We’ve watched and listened to cross-examinations, readdresses, recrosses and redirects, not to mention what must be close to a record number of sidebars.
    The past weeks have brought us quite an education in many respects. We’ve learned a lot about Casey’s life, as told by some who were very close to her. I imagine many of them still feel remorse for not recognizing Casey’s complex emotional problems, but they were in their early 20s and at that age her problems were not theirs. And no one saw it coming.
    As the trial progressed and professionals took the stand, it became clear why the State believes it has enough evidence to convict her. Before the trial started, State Attorney Jeff Ashton said that you never know what a jury will do, no matter what evidence you present. There’s never enough confidence on either side, but in this case, defense attorney Jose Baez was dealt a lousy hand from the start, and the deck remains stacked against his client.
    The jury has heard particularly damning testimony against Casey, including the stench of human decomposition in her car. Her parents, the police, and the most preeminent person in the field, Dr. Arpad Vass of Body Farm fame, all testified to detecting that odor. Two K-9 handlers testified separately about how their cadaver dogs hit on human decomp in the trunk and back yard of the Anthony home. Orange County Sheriff’s Office CSI investigators examined Casey’s cell phone, her laptop and family desktop computers, and two digital cameras for evidence pointing to her involvement in Caylee’s death.
    Computer crimes investigator Kevin Stenger of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office found incriminating evidence on the Internet history cache on computers in the Anthony household. But it took a civilian techie named John Bradley, the owner/programmer of CacheBack, to uncover hidden evidence on a computer desktop – 84 instances of how to make chloroform in searches that could only have been performed by the one unemployed person in the Anthony household at the time.
    Then came the most horrific evidence of all – photographs of Caylee’s skeletal remains resting in trash bags in woods off Suburban Drive. As picture after picture flashed across the courtroom monitors, we saw it all, and it must have been as unpleasant for the jury as it was for the gallery of credentialed media and the 50-odd seats filled by the public.
    Those images were followed by testimony from Dr. Jan Garavaglia, better known as Dr.G. She is the Chief Medical Examiner for Orange and Osceola counties, and she performed the autopsy on Caylee. She described the difference between manner of death and cause of death. The manner of death is based on scientific principles and circumstances surrounding the death. Things that are outwardly observed formulate an opinion, and that helps decide what constitutes a homicide. In Caylee’s case, there are three main reasons:

  • She was not reported missing immediately;
  • Her body was hidden;
  • No child should ever have duct tape over its mouth, whether antemortem or postmortem.

Although Caylee’s death was deemed a homicide by undetermined means, a cause of death in other circumstances could be attributed to injuries or diseases that initiate a chain of events. Diabetes, for instance, may trigger kidney failure followed by death. Therefore, kidney failure would be the cause of death, not diabetes. If defense attorney Cheney Mason meant to shred Dr.G’s testimony, he failed miserably. In 100 percent of all accidental child deaths, they are reported, she said on cross-examination. It’s a “legal, moral and ethical responsibility,” she added.

    Another fascinating field of forensics is entomology, or the study of insects. A professor of forensic entomology at St. Joseph’s College in Indiana, Dr. Neal Haskell is considered an expert on the link between insects and human decomposition. Flies were collected from the bag of trash in Casey’s car trunk, including the ones found in paper towels. The type of flies collected in those towels are only associated with decompositional fluids, he testified. When the towels were sent to Vass for evaluation, they were determined to contain adipocere, or grave wax. Haskell told the jury different species of flies develop over a period of time. As one dies off, another one comes in. The lifecycles of flies help tell the story of what transpired in the trunk of Casey’s car.
    What’s important to note is that, in my opinion, Baez had some very good flourishes in his crosses and recrosses. He even reached the point of occasionally deserving praise, except for one critical area– the defense’s “accidental death by drowning” strategy. For example, Baez suggested that the spike in chloroform could have been caused by a wet bathing suit in the trunk of the car. But Vass shot down that theory, saying the level of chloroform found in the trunk could not have come from just chlorine in a pool. When Baez said raw meat could have been responsible for the grave wax, flies and odor, Haskell said that the types of flies found were not the same types of flies that are attracted to processed foods. There are too many pieces of evidence that fit together, and I don’t see any cohesive plan coming together in most of the cross-examinations.
    What’s next? The field of botany, for sure, because plant growth in and around Caylee’s remains will tell a tale as poignant as the one from Haskell, who also explained the difference between garbage and trash. Garbage and trash was also a sticking point between Baez and OCSO CSI Supervisor Michael Vincent. Haskell explained that garbage is primarily decomposing organic material, while trash is any non-organic matter, such as glass, plastic and cardboard.
    Yes, there are many other names on the State’s witness list, but it couldn’t possibly call them all if it expects to rest its case this week. Who else? I don’t know, but wouldn’t it be fitting if it’s Bobby Williams? He’s the artist who inked Casey’s now famous Bella Vita tattoo on her upper back. She’s not having such a beautiful life now, is she?






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