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
- 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.