Drowning in a Pool of Lies?

    This time tomorrow, I will be sitting in a courtroom located on the 23rd floor of the Orange County courthouse. I am one of the lucky few who gained press credentials to attend the Casey Anthony murder trial. Fortunately, it will be televised live on TruTV’s In Session program, and online at several Internet feeds from Orlando area television stations and the Orlando Sentinel site. Most of us are waiting to hear the first few minutes of Jose Baez’s opening statement that, he claims, will explain why Casey sat quietly in jail for almost three years, never uttering a word. Why would an innocent person do that? Why remain silent all this time? If her daughter’s death was an accident, why wait until now to tell her story? Millions of us have been asking ourselves those very perplexing questions.
    I planned on writing my thoughts on what Jose would say after the state lays out its strategy during opening statements, but it was pretty much covered yesterday in a Sentinel article written by Anthony Colarossi. In it, he pointed out that the defense team would try to throw everyone but Casey under the proverbial bus. There was Roy Kronk, who discovered Caylee’s remains, and Jesse Grund, her ex-fiance. Out of Casey’s own mouth came Zenaida Fernandez-Gonzalez, the nonexistent Zanny the Nanny. Actually, it almost seemed like an unscrupulous game of Wheel of Fortune. Wherever the wheel stopped, a new tale was spun that implicated others as the suspect du jour. One by one, as the trial approached, those names flew off the wheel save one or two – George and Cindy Anthony, who may be accused of being the worst parents ever born.
    Two huge clues emerged recently that may shed light on what strategy Jose Baez & Co. will take. The first one came when defense attorney Cheney Mason discussed possible causes of death with Jan C. Garavaglia, M.D., better known as Dr. G, the chief medical examiner of Orange and Osceola counties. Caylee’s autopsy results stated that her death was a “homicide by undetermined means.”  During Garavaglia’s deposition by the defense, Mason suggested that Caylee’s death could have been an accidental drowning in the backyard pool. When Mason confronted Dr. G with this possibility, she said that most people would call 911 for help. No such call was ever made. She also said a good mother would never throw her child’s remains in the woods to rot. Of course, Mason will claim someone else did it; that Casey was behind bars at the time.
    The second clue came in the form of an objection Mason filed after George and Cindy’s attorney filed a motion requesting that, as grandparents of the victim, the court excuse them from the Rule of Sequestration. Florida Statute 90.616 states that, “At the request of a party the court shall order […] witnesses excluded from a proceeding so that they cannot hear the testimony of other witnesses…” Judge Perry ruled in favor of George and Cindy, but oh, the implications.
    Although both statements are telling, the one on impeachment is more revealing. According to the uslegal.com Website, “Impeachment may refer to different legal concepts. One meaning in the law refers to discrediting a witness by showing that he or she is not telling the truth or does not have a reliable basis for their testimony.” Caylee’s grandparents will not be accused of murder. Instead, the defense plans on attacking their credibility; their character. After all, it was what they said early on that implicated Casey. As much as many of us in the public accuse them of being liars, the defense plans on taking full advantage of it. Imagine that, something from the defense we agree on!
    If we take it at face value, the defense has a good point. George and Cindy have lied on many occasions, and it shouldn’t be hard to discredit them. However, there’s plenty of speculation that it will go well beyond that. As of today, less than one day before the trial starts, it seems likely the defense will paint a picture of Casey as being a victim of her own parents; that the death was accidental. All Casey has to do is raise an element of doubt in any number of the jury members, and convince them that she was frightened of her parent’s retribution; the same parents who taught her how to lie at a very young age.
    George seems to be the focus right now according to most legal analysts examining the case. Before Caylee died, Casey told her then boyfriend, Anthony Lazzaro, that she was physically abused by her father, who may or may not have sexually abused her. There is no doubt in my mind that he never did, but once again, what will the jury believe? I guess there are many degrees of ugly coping, as Baez once suggested, including postpartum depression, but will it work? Does it cause people to lie?
    Since we’ll never know what she told her defense team, there are certain things they can take advantage of that are truths. For instance, if we examine Casey’s cell phone pings, she remained at or very near her home from June 15, 2008, until she left for Lazzaro’s apartment just after 4:00 pm the following day. Just before 1:00 pm on Monday the 16th, George said he watched Casey and Caylee leave the house, just like every other weekday morning. Clearly, she didn’t go far.
    Most people plan murders ahead of time. In Casey’s case, she was charged with premeditated first-degree murder, but in Florida, premeditation could be the moment a person picks up a weapon of some kind. That person still has the option of putting it down or using it. It means that premeditation is not necessarily a length of time, it’s the choice one makes. In her case, there’s the possibility that she waited for her father to leave for work before returning home. After all, where was she most comfortable? Home was the least likely place in the world to get caught because her parents were gone and she had the house completely to herself.
    On the other hand, cell phone activity could help her, too, if the defense uses it properly. Her cell phone pings bounced off the same three towers from Sunday night through much of Monday, all reachable from the Anthony home. At 1:00 pm, she made a 14-minute phone call to her boyfriend, Tony Lazzaro. At 1:44 pm, she was on the phone with Amy Huizenga for 36-minutes. At 2:52 pm, she talked to Jesse Grund for 11-minutes. Suddenly, at 4:11 pm, she made four attempts to call her mother within a two-minute period. Was it something that happened? She left the home and traveled north, calling Lazzaro at 4:19 pm. Minutes later, she called Grund, and at 4:25 pm, she tried her mother one more time.
    Could Casey have returned home after her father left for work to take a swim? Will the defense say that during one of those lengthy phone calls, especially the 36-minute call, Caylee climbed the pool ladder and drowned? If so, Casey would only be guilty of being a negligent mother. By Cindy’s own admission, she noticed the ladder and open gate when she returned home from work that day. Say all you will about her, but she was a most attentive grandmother. She would never have left the the ladder out and the gate open. Could Casey have been preoccupied on the phone and by the time she hung up, her daughter was already dead? It was a horrible accident?
    In any event, July 15th, the date the 911 calls were made, was not the first time Casey used the nanny excuse. The fictitious Zanny never searched for chloroform on the home computer, and George never stuffed dead squirrels in the trunk of her car. Unfortunately for Casey, if she discredits her parents, the ladder and gate statement goes out the window, along with the accidental death theory. It’s a perfect Catch-22.






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