A Mixed Bag

Trash Talk

    Gerardo Bloise took center stage once again Tuesday morning. Bloise, if you recall, collected evidence from Casey Anthony’s white Pontiac Sunfire, including a white bag of trash removed from the trunk of the vehicle. Part of the job description of the CSI Level 2 investigator is to sift through some of the worst stuff, like someone else’s garbage, after it has sat in a steamy Florida trunk in July. It’s hot enough to bake a pizza!
    After he set the garbage aside, he noticed that it no longer imparted the horrible odor of human decay and it took on a much more palatable aroma of baked rubbish, so what that proved to him was that wherever the smell came from, it wasn’t from the contents of that bag. As he examined bit after bit of goo and muck, he photographed every morsel of it for the jury’s viewing pleasure. And ours. Eventually, to preserve the goods, he placed the wet stuff in a dryer. All-in-all, there were 37 items in that bag and all of it was accounted for.
    On cross examination, Jose Baez told him, “You know, that wet trash was wet until you put it in the dryer.”
    While some might think of that as a mundane statement, it did get better. He showed his lawyer side by telling the witness that by drying some of the contents, the evidence was altered. Poor Bloise may have destroyed DNA in the process.
    Linda Drane Burdick wasn’t buying it. When she asked the investigator why he dries things, he responded with, “The purpose of drying is to preserve evidence. Wet items can very easily become moldy.”
    I think it’s clear who made more sense in that exchange.

The Good Old Can Switching Trick

    Arpad Vass gave an encore performance. He was a big hit on Monday because he seemed to bond with the jury. It was quite apparent he knew how to connect with people because it’s his very nature to be that way. What happened on Monday was that Assistant State Attorney Jeff Ashton mixed up a couple of cans of evidence and he gave the wrong one to Vass. Upon examination, Vass agreed it was the right one, only it wasn’t. Ashton switched cans and the right one was put into the record, but on cross, Baez took complete advantage of the error. He accused Vass of failing to examine the evidence properly. Although no harm was done and the mistake was corrected, I would expect to hear about this when the defense presents its side, and certainly, during closing arguments. If the state and Vass are capable of mixing things up, how much more is wrong? “If it’s wrong evidence you submit, you must acquit.”

The Federal Bureau of Investigation

    Michael Rickenbach is a forensic chemist at the FBI lab in Quantico, Virginia, with over 15 years of experience. He received several pieces of evidence for examination, along with a request from the Orange County Sheriff’s Office to find chloroform. This is the area where we learned about many of those “Q” pieces, such as Q-23, Q-24, Q-44 and so on. The evidence that came in cans did smell of decomposition, but that wasn’t the focus of the tests. They were to detect chloroform. Of course, he did testify that it was there, but Baez got him to admit it was only in trace amounts in most of the items. Rickenbach explained that the reason for that: Chloroform, as a volatile substance, degrades over time and the shipping containers were not sealed.
    In his cross examination, Baez asked about qualitative and quantitative testing; the former meaning to find out whether the chloroform exists, and the latter meaning the amount of chloroform found. In this case, the chloroform was only found in trace amounts, and in some of the tests, carpet samples were cut in different sizes and that produced different results. Baez concluded that the methods of testing were not only incorrect, they were inappropriate for a scientist. Although there may be some validity to some of his statements because chloroform can be found in small amounts in a lot of things, the bottom line is still the matter of chloroform and it’s as if it were splashed everywhere. I think it’s abundantly clear the prosecution is convinced that Caylee was suffocated with chloroform. After the past two weeks of testimony, jurors must be tossing that idea around in they heads, too.

A Dog Day Afternoon

    Sheriff’s deputy Jason R. Forgey is a K-9 handler with 10 years of experience. He spent a great deal of time on the stand explaining everything about training dogs and what he’s experienced. What I found most interesting was that dogs are either multiple or single purpose. By this, he explained, multiple purpose dogs can search for cadavers or drugs or explosives, while single purpose dogs specialize in one of those fields. After training, the handler will put a collar on a multipurpose dog that represents what the search will be for. In other words, one collar design will signal cadaver while another may mean explosives.
    We spent hours Tuesday listening to Linda Drane Burdick address issues over training and experience. Forgey responded with every piece of literature that makes up his resume and that of his dog, or dogs, over a period of time. While his responses were quite lengthy, they were interesting and educational. Why was it necessary to spend so much time with the dog handler, going over training records and positive hits? Because the state wanted to show the jury how dedicated and thorough the K-9 team was. The prosecution expected a tough cross-examination from the defense, but in the end, it never came.
    Deputy Forgey and his dog, Gerus, went to the OCSO Operations Center on July 17, 2008, to examine Casey’s car. The next day, they searched George and Cindy Anthony’s back yard. Gerus did alert the handler to the vehicle trunk and a spot in the yard. When Baez crossed, he asked the deputy why his sweeps weren’t videotaped. Because it isn’t required, he was told. Why didn’t the dog alert you to the garbage? The dog doesn’t hit on garbage, Forgery responded. In the end, there wasn’t much substance in what Baez was trying to get across. All that time spent educating the jury probably paid off because Baez walked away frustrated. “You don’t really know if Caylee was in the back yard or not, do you?” Baez asked, trying desperately to discredit Forgey’s search.
    Forgey admitted he didn’’t, but what did that prove? Only that Baez was no match in this dog fight.

 

 

    

 

 

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