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The Summer of Skull and Bones

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Defense, defense, defense is everything in the lap of a murder-trial jury where twelve people are put together to hear a sensational, nationally televised death penalty case and asked to render a verdict of guilty in the first degree for a young, pretty woman of 25 living in Florida. I am talking about Casey Anthony whose summer trial has ended and whose fate is now in the hands of the jury. It is a jury of her peers from the Clearwater, Florida area because Orlando had heard, seen and knew too much.What are the seven charges Miss Anthony, a single woman, a single mother, faces?

  • First-degree murder (premeditated part does not have to be unanimous)
  • Aggravated child abuse (a second-degree felony)
  • Aggravated manslaughter of a child (a first-degree felony which manifests as extreme indifference to life–reckless actions leading to death)

4 counts of providing false information to a law enforcement officer:

  • That she worked at Universal Orlando in 2008,
  • That she left Caylee with a babysitter named Zenaida Fernandez
    Gonzalez,
  • That she told Jeffrey Hopkins and Juliette Lewis that Caylee was missing,
  • That she received a phone call from Caylee on July 15, 2008.

Without a doubt she will be found guilty of the four counts of false information. I don’t see any compromise by the jury there. On the other hand, the jury could compromise and return a lesser verdict of aggravated manslaughter of a child. This is a fancy way of saying it was an accident in which the defendant was negligent or reckless. First-degree murder and aggravated manslaughter are mutually exclusive. In other words it can’t be an accident and premeditated murder.

The least of all major charges in this case is aggravated child abuse. If you watched the case you would know that this refers to drugs, homemade or over-the-counter, used to sedate Caylee. That reckless behavior spiraled out of control and she did not wake up or drowned in the pool, take your pick. To make matters worse (or better), the defense argued that George Anthony was party to a perfectly good accident but made it look like murder! 

The prosecution argued that Casey used or made chloroform to sedate Caylee, then duct-taped her mouth and nose shut so that she would die peacefully, no blood, no mess, no fuss. She then made a coffin of a cylindrical cotton laundry bag, the mate to a square one that Cindy Anthony purchased, wrapped the body in a Winnie the Pooh blanket taken from her bed at the Anthony home (where both lived), double- or triple-wrapped the body in black garbage bags, put the body in the trunk of her car then went to her boyfriend’s bed to spend the next couple of days.

The remains, the skull and bones of Caylee Anthony, were described for the viewer but only those in the courtroom could actually see the hair mat as it fell from the skull, because the judge ordered the photos pixilated before publishing to the media. We saw a garbage dump in the woods and heard a description of skull and bones at their final resting place for months. Not a shred of tissue left, only the threadbare clothing worn by the child. She was not wearing shoes or socks, which indicates to me she was taking a nap, not drowning in a pool. Where did Casey commit this crime? Neither the defense nor prosecution could provide an answer.

If it was a home pool accident, as the defense claims, then it happened at the home. If it was first-degree murder, it might have happened at an undisclosed location away from the Anthony home, but obviously not far from it. No evidence of a chloroform kit (only internet searches about it) or Casey cooking it up in the Anthony kitchen, but that does not mean she did not use it. The confusion over chloroform was interesting in that the decomposing body will off-gas many chemical byproducts including chloroform. The trunk of Casey’s car was said to hold high levels of chloroform and the smell of decomposition.

Smell was a big factor in this case. And in the prosecution rebuttal. Prosecutor Linda Drane-Burdick believes that Casey backed the car up to a dumpster to fill its trunk with trash, which would account for any nose-defying smells. She even texted her friend that she thought her dad “must have run over a dead animal.” Casey had a lie for every occasion. One of the most prolific liars in history and quick to accuse others of lying about her…unbelievable.  

The smoking gun: the prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt that the body of Caylee spent time in the trunk of the car and that Casey dumped the body in the woods. The defense made much of the fact that Casey was in jail when the body was found by Roy Kronk, the meter reader, and that he moved the body. But we all know that he didn’t put the body there. He had no access to Caylee, the Anthony home or the remains of Caylee before they were dumped there like trash by her mother, Casey. This requires premeditation: placing the body in the trunk, moving the body and hiding the remains, thereby destroying the evidence down to a case of circumstantial evidence. This case is not so low on the circumstantial side because other cases have been won where there was no body, no remains recovered. Precious time was lost if Kronk found the body in August 2008 just after Casey went to jail because there would have been soft tissue available for DNA testing.

A reasonable defense?  Jose Baez argued that the location in the woods where the remains were found was “staged.” Really? The prosecution rebuttal: this was a site staged only by Mother Nature, wherein vines and vegetation were growing in and through the skull and bones of Caylee Anthony.

Personally, I was underwhelmed by the defense arguments and objections. They did not convince me, they put me to sleep. There were rumors and whispers of childhood sexual abuse, accidental death in the family pool, family coverup, family dysfunction, prolific lies that spell extenuating circumstances, all to keep murder one off the minds of the jury, all to keep Casey off death row. Yes, extenuating circumstances, such as a low IQ or horrific childhood, can keep a man or woman from the death penalty but neither fits this case. The defense accused the prosecution of throwing stuff against the wall to see what would stick; it seems the prosecution did exactly that.

Grasping at laws:  the testimony of Cindy Anthony was impeached to high heaven, as was the testimony of George Anthony. Specifically, Cindy was at work, unlike Casey, who lied and said she worked at Universal, when the searches for chloroform were made by Casey. George was at the home of a search volunteer, Krystal Holloway, when he was supposed to be looking for Caylee. He lied and said he went there only a couple of times and that there was no intimate affair. His testimony was impeached by his text trail and testimony of Krystal.

Finally, who had the most to gain? This thought and two photos are what Linda Drane-Burdick left the jury with: one of Casey partying and the other of her tattoo “bella vita” which translates as beautiful life in Italian. Jeff Ashton played a huge role in the prosecution of this case with closing arguments that nailed the crime to Casey’s hide and two parts of the rebuttal. At one point he was laughing with his hand over his mouth while Jose Baez offered closing and he stopped mid sentence to call out Ashton with “that laughing guy over there.” Judge Belvin Perry about leaped to his feet shouting “sustained, approach the bench Mr. Baez.” I can tell you from watching most of the televised trial that Judge Perry was no fan of Baez but Perry was fair and threatened to replace both men if there were further antics and game playing.

How should we grade the prosecution in this case? I give them high marks for the forensic experts, DNA evidence, great timeline presentation, masterful closing arguments with their solid cry of death by mothering. They had to argue a plausible manner of death: Casey smothered little Caylee and it was no accident. My verdict prediction: first-degree murder and guilty on the four counts of lying.

This July fourth, the jury got the case for deliberation at high noon. Does this bode freedom for Miss Anthony? Or the loss of it? You be the judge.

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About Heloise

  • John Lake

    Heloise has produced an excellent piece of writing here, and a glowing summation to the case.
    During the ending statements, last week, it is pointed out that Jeff Ashton of the prosecution was contemptuous of the court by thinly disguised attempts to hide his laughter, as the defense in this ‘death penalty eligible’ case spoke. The laughter, had it been in view of the jury would have been grounds for a mistrial. Additional grounds for a mistrial or a serious appeal may come based on the poor defense of Casey Anthony, on the part of Jose Baez; he seemed to me to be playing “both ends against the middle”, and his arguments failed to gel into any substantial claim. Perhaps testimony from the accused might have brought his point of view, whatever it was, into some focus. Baez failed to provide conclusions on the matters of the “accident that snowballed”, the discrepancies in the finding of the remains by the meter reader, and other matters.
    We were left as the case closed with a composite picture of Casey Anthony ‘partying and carrying on.’ Baez may have made the point that as a shot waitress, she was merely doing her job, and to do so may have given an edge to any “denial” that the 25 year old Anthony may have had within her as to the death of the baby. A young lady struggling to keep her job and some semblance of order in her life is understandable to all of us.
    The relevancy of suspected sexual and emotional abuse on Casey Anthony cannot be understated. If her father had thrown away any love he may have felt for her, as a child, and replaced it with sordid sex involving a child incapable of understanding these things, the damage would endure for life. The pain of abused children, the failures in life, the lack of friendships… all can be crippling.
    If George Anthony berated his daughter as an unfit mother, if he claimed to be the father of Caylee, and the final authority on her upbringing, or if he seemed to threaten abuse on the young Caylee, Casey would be helpless and distraught. In such cases, a loving mother might be driven to end the life of a child, to spare the child from the misery that she herself had endured, and would endure for life.
    A girl abused from early childhood must develop some defenses, and is among the most likely to become a pathological liar. Pathology is a large part of the abused child’s life. For example, she must learn to be like the other children in school, to carry on in laughter and games, while knowing that at home there awaits ugliness and torment. All these speculations were suggested, but left unspoken by the defense team of Casey Anthony. In any case, lying is not a crime, particularly in a murder trial (everyone pleads innocence), and the jury should be instructed not to be influenced by lying.
    One small flaw in the above article, which as I remarked is excellent, is the speculation that the absence of shoes and sox on Caylee indicates she was taking a nap; this is pure conjecture. The absence of footwear reconfirms any other evidence that might suggest a drowning in a family pool.
    On one last occasion I make the statement that the Anthony family tradition of wrapping dead family pets with duct tape precludes any suggestion that the tape found at the wooded area (which, incidentally, ex-cop George Anthony should have discovered on ‘day one’) might have been wrapped most unpleasantly over the babies nose and mouth.
    Most important, follow up on the revelation by George Anthony’s intimate acquaintance’ of “an accident that snowballed” should have been extensive, and central to the case. The fact of that statement being allowed to drift off into a high degree of unimportance is itself grounds for mistrial. I might well be the only one to think Baez played the ends against the middle.
    We shall find out soon the fate of Casey Anthony; we will never know the truth about the death of Caylee Anthony.

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com/ handyguy

    So what do Heloise and John think now? Of course I don’t want to see a murderer get away with it [if that is what happened], but it was sweet to see Nancy Grace so gobsmacked. I can’t stand her, and she deserves to be taken down a peg.

  • http://cinemasentries.com/ El Bicho

    what’s the political angle?

  • John Lake

    Myself, I hope they let her go home on Thursday.

  • Clavos

    Myself, I hope some nutcase blows her head off as she walks out of the jail..

  • zingzing

    oh, american justice… trumped by the media. weird how people trust the media when it comes to some things and are perfectly willing to judge another person’s life when it comes to others.

    i didn’t read anything that made me think she was innocent, but that’s kind of what bothers me. it was like judgment had been handed down already. maybe she is guilty. but the prosecution didn’t convince the jury of that, and that’s all that matters in the end.

    either way, she’ll be treated like she was guilty the rest of her life. and maybe that will be justified. but maybe it isn’t.

    my money’s on the upcoming book deal. but it had better happen fast, because you know america’s satiation only lasts so long. what’s up with that american girl in italy?

  • zingzing

    ahem. “won’t trust the media…”

    lamestream, etc.

  • http://cinemasentries.com/ El Bicho

    “i didn’t read anything that made me think she was innocent”

    Yeah, that will happen when you wait a month to report your dead daughter missing and repeatedly lie to police

  • zingzing

    of course it will. but the jury certainly wasn’t convinced. i have no idea why they came to the decision they did, and the media coverage isn’t telling. there seemed to be no doubt, and yet, the jury deliberated for a very short amount of time (for a case this big).

    it was all circumstantial evidence against her, which i guess is why they came to the decision they did. i’d have a hard time sending a person to their death if that’s all that was against them, no matter how damning.

    maybe it was the perfect crime, and she’s a sick fuck that killed her kid. given what i know, that’s probably the case. but i don’t really know…

    does anyone else have any doubts? no one deserves to judged guilty by the media.

  • http://cinemasentries.com/ El Bicho

    Not sure what media coverage you’ve been listening to but what I picked up today on talk radio on way home from work was that while child is obviously dead the DA couldn’t prove a murder took place, so then no way to prove mom did it.

    Scott Peterson was all circumstantial so people do get put away for it. I am against the Death Penalty, so I wouldn’t give it to her. I’ll grant you that I don’t know if she killed her daughter but can’t imagine how any parent would behave the way she did afterward and not know at least something about what happened.

  • John Lake

    ABC, NBC, AND CBS for starters are all displaying outrage over the verdict. This is in direct conflict with the usual ‘agreement with juries’ by media outlets under such conditions. In fact the prosecution failed to prove a case, find a time or means of murder. They chose to go after the lies and the partying, neither of which is precisely illegal, and as I have said, both of which are perfectly understandable.
    Lets not discount the role George Anthony may have played in this sordid affair, and for that, even Nurse Cindy Anthony may have had involvement which may still come to light.

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com/ handyguy

    She was convicted of the one thing she was proven to have done: lying.

    Clavos’s abhorrent comment is all too typical of Americans forming their opinion through media hype — a trend he professes to despise.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clavos –

    Myself, I hope some nutcase blows her head off as she walks out of the jail.

    I won’t second-guess the jury – they made their decision, and did so far more quickly than anyone expected. There is almost certainly a very good reason why…and it’s probably a little something called “reasonable doubt”.

    That said, you want someone to “blow her head off” for (in your opinion) killing her child…and the death may actually have been accidental. You. simply. do. not. know. But if that’s what you think should happen to a woman who has just been declared not guilty of killing her child, then what do you think we should do to the president who purposefully lied us into invading a nation that was no threat to us and resulted in the deaths of over 5,000 American servicemembers, the wounding and maiming of tens of thousands more, and the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis?

    Oh – I forgot! It’s unforgivable if a young mother (who obviously has serious mental issues) may have killed her child but was declared ‘not guilty’…but it’s just fine with you if a Republican president lies us into an illegal and immoral war in which tens of thousands of purely innocent women and children die!

    Are you offended at this comment? I’m sure you are – but I refuse to hypocritically and immorally wish for someone’s death when a jury has declared him or her not guilty.

  • Clavos

    …what do you think we should do to the president who purposefully lied us into invading a nation that was no threat to us and resulted in the deaths of over 5,000 American servicemembers, the wounding and maiming of tens of thousands more, and the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis?

    Try him for whatever crimes you think he committed. If convicted, throw the book at him.

    Your comment doesn’t offend me at all; I absolutely agree with you.

    Bush does offend me.

  • Clavos

    Clavos’s abhorrent comment is all too typical of Americans forming their opinion through media hype…

    You’re right (as you usually are, handy) virtually all my opinions are cribbed from someone else.

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com/ handyguy

    Well, if you’ve conducted an independent investigation, we’re all ears. Since you apparently know just what happened and are ready to play judge, jury and proxy executioner,

    Wishing for someone to be murdered because of what you think but don’t know that she did is pretty extreme.

  • Clavos

    Wishing for someone to be murdered because of what you think but don’t know that she did is pretty extreme.

    It certainly is. Extreme AND reprehensible.

  • zingzing

    you’ll never beat clavos over his head with his morals, handy.

  • Cannonshop

    The system worked the way it was supposed to-in this case, resulting in an acquittal in the face of a media “Trial” played under Napoleonic and Rabble-Rouser rules.

    Ms. Anthony may be a sociopath, hell, she might be a Psychopath, but the State failed to prove that she was guilty of THIS death.

    This wasn’t Lawyerly Razzle-dazzle, the Prosecution failed to prove their case-and that’s what the whole business of Jury Trials under Presumption of Innocence are all about-the State must PROVE the defendant is guilty-failing that, the Defendant is freed.

  • heloise

    Hey folks, sorry not to read or answer any posts. It was not what you think. I got a call to come to Houston at the last minute. I dropped everything and spent the weekend in Austin and Houston. It was hot there too. Thanks for all the comments.

    My take: it seems strange that there was nor is a law or a felony on the books for not reporting a missing child especially if you freaking know the person is missing.

    Even if it was an accident it is still a felony to cover up an accident. Isn’t that on the books? An accident never reported and covered up?

    Boy it shows how lies and hiding the body can lead to a free ride to murder. This jury would have acquitted Oswald.

  • heloise

    wow, first of all thank you for the great comment John Lake and the compliment. I just wrote that in like ten minutes because I had so much info.

    You probably wrote it the morning of the verdict. That’s why I wanted to get this published. I had a real feeling the verdict from that lazy bones jury would come real sooooon. And so it did.

    My first, very first impression, and I should have gone with it, but it would not have changed the outcome: prosecution going for MURDER ONE and the death penalty. My first reaction is that they overreached. This was before I watched even one day of the trial. I did not start to follow until about the tenth day or so. But that was the most riveting part. Then I saw every minute pretty much.

    Thanks for your analysis. People are mad as hell and some laws are going to change to prevent this. Caylee’s law is already on facebook for people to sign.

  • Hannah Wilson

    satan will torture that bitch forever and she deserves every bad thing that can possibly happen to someone in there life