Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Letting Go of the Casey Anthony Trial

Allow me the next few posts to decompress. The Casey Anthony trial has consumed my days for the past seven weeks, and I'm not thrilled with the outcome. I watched every day of the trial, except when I was on vacation. Then I stayed informed by following @VinniePolitan on Twitter. Yeah. I'm that girl.

Convinced of Casey's guilt three years ago, I made the decision to view the trial through the eyes of a juror. That is, I set aside my prior knowledge of the case.  I wanted to see if I would find her guilty based only on what was presented at trial. Also, it's a terrible thing to murder one's child; it wouldn't be so horrible if compelling evidence exists proving a young mother didn't kill her child. I would have loved to be proven wrong.

By the time closing arguments concluded, I felt confident the state had proven it's case and that Casey Anthony had murdered her daughter. I believed this beyond a reasonable doubt. I predicted she would be convicted of the lesser charge of manslaughter, (a compromise among the jury perhaps?) and she would ultimately serve five to fifteen years in prison. It would appear that what I know about the American justice system can fit in the palm of my hand.

Before I sum up my thoughts on this trial, I'd like to acknowledge the judge and attorneys. I'll miss Judge Perry most of all...
Judge Belvin Perry is an extraordinary man. He is smart, he keeps the trial running smoothly, the circus antics were at a minimum, and as characters go, he possessed this quiet charm and reminded me of a cross between Cliff Huxtable and Stanley from The Office. When he gets angry, he speaks slowly, draws out certain words, and punches the occasional word up as he bounces in his seat. Kind of the way Cliff Huxtable would talk when admonishing Theo or Vanessa for being sassy. Also, not to diminish His Honor (because I do respect him), he has adorable facial expressions:
"Do you know what would have happened, sir, if some of the members of the jury had affection to Mr. Ashton?"

That was when he was addressing 28-year-old TGI Friday's server Matthew Bartlett, sentenced to six days in jail for contempt of court after he made an obscene gesture in court. That was an unexpected treat. You can view a video summary here.

Assistant State Attorneys Jeff Ashton and Linda Drane-Burdick were like a real life DA Jack McCoy and Serena Southerlyn from Law & Order

This was Jeff Ashton's final trial before retiring (what a way to go). I am in awe of the fabulous Linda Drane-Burdick. I think even Jose Baez was impressed with her. I would observe them during sidebars and recesses, and they appeared to have a camaraderie.
There was almost a Sam and Diane kind of tension and chemistry. I said almost. He's totesbuying her a cocktail after this.
I was astounded by the seeming incompetence of Jose Baez. I felt he was in over his head. I wondered if he purchased his law degree at a strip mall. At one point in the trial, he had to object to himself, and ask that his own line of questioning be stricken from the record because he lost his way and was asking the wrong questions. Yeah. That happened. Within a week or two of the trial, I was convinced that Casey would be convicted, and that she would be granted a new trial on the basis of ineffective counsel. I wondered if that was Jose's strategy. That's how bad I thought he was. It was like she was being defended by My Cousin Vinny. 
And, in the end, the trial kind of did mirror the movie. Just like Vinny, Jose won. (Oops, I should have warned: Spoiler!)

So...we can talk about how there is no justice for Caylee. We can quip that murder is legal in Florida. I would submit that murder isn't legal in Florida, but that one can get away with murder, if one takes the proper steps and selects a jury that is willing to laugh in the face of common sense.

We can criticize the jurors:
  • A couple have less than a 12th grade education. 
  • At least four of them are childless (I would offer that childless people are less judgmental of others' parenting skills. I know I was.)
  • At least two have been arrested at some time
  • One didn't want to be on the jury because she "doesn't like to judge people"
  • One believes strongly in "second chances", having a sister who once tied up their father and robbed him. 
  • One of them has big plans involving a cruise ship that would be ruined if this trial didn't end soon
It's been said that "a jury of our peers" is in actuality a group of people "too stupid to get out of jury duty." My mom has served on a jury. I would willingly serve, but I've never been summoned. Steve has avoided jury duty by never registering to vote, which until recently was the only way names were submitted to the jury pool. I have friends who have been summoned to jury duty and done everything, up to and including telling a group of African American attorneys that she is a racist in order to be excused from serving as a juror in what promised to be a lengthy trial. For the record, my friend doesn't have a problem with black people. She has a problem with fulfilling her civic duties.

Getting back to this jury, here is my summary of all of the evidence that the prosecution presented with expert testimony that these twelve jurors had to unanimously disregard in order to come to a verdict of "Not Guilty":

  1. For 31 days, Casey told her mother Cindy that she and Caylee were travelling to various areas of Florida on business (she didn't have a job) with a babysitter, a co-worker, a potential love interest, and other children (all of whom don't exist).
  2. Casey is seen on surveillance video at Blockbuster video acting "normal" and "happy" renting movies with her boyfriend on the day Caylee died.
  3. Casey shacked with her boyfriend, partied, participated in a "hot body" contest, and got a tattoo on her shoulder that says "Bella Vita" ("the beautiful life") during the 31 days Caylee wasn't reported missing. 
  4. Casey accused "Zanny" the nanny of kidnapping Caylee. Zanny does not exist.
  5. Google searches for "how to make chloroform", "neck breaking", and other diabolical searches were found on the hard drive of the Anthony home computer at a time when only Casey was home. 
  6. Traces of chloroform were found in the trunk of Casey's car
  7. The smell of human decomposition was recognized by many members of law enforcement, crime scene investigators, forensic experts, and Casey's own parents.
  8. A hair containing Caylee's mitochondrial DNA that featured a "death band", a characteristic only found in hair shed from a dead body, was found in Casey's trunk
  9. One or two days after Caylee's death, a neighbor witnessed Casey back her car into the garage (something he'd never seen her do before) and ask him to borrow a shovel.
  10. Caylee's skeletal remains were found in the Anthony neighborhood, a quarter-mile from their home. The skull was found with duct tape over the mouth. The duct tape was from an uncommon tape manufacturer consistent with a roll in the Anthony's home. 
  11. Caylee's body was inside a trash bag that was inside a laundry bag that coordinated with another laundry bag in the Anthony home, with clothing Casey had dressed her in but Cindy had never seen before, and a Winnie the Pooh blanket from Caylee's bedroom.
  12. A crime scene investigator observed adhesive residue in the shape of a heart on the duct tape, indicating that somebody placed a heart-shaped sticker over Caylee's mouth.
  13. The medical examiner testified that in the case of accidental drownings (which the defense maintained was the cause of Caylee's death) family members do not conceal the accident to make it appear to be a murder. At no time is it appropriate to place duct tape on a child's face.
Ok, so obviously that is not all of the evidence that the state presented against Casey Anthony, but this is the bulk of what I considered to be damning evidence. In fact, when discussing the case with my mom, I said that I would be willing to indulge the Defense and cast aside over half of this evidence and I would still come to a conclusion of guilt. Forget the sticker, forget the shovel, forget the computer searches. I believed there was duct tape on Caylee's mouth, that she was tossed in the swamp with items from the Anthony home, and that prior to being dumped in the swamp she spent time in Casey's trunk. I felt she could easily be convicted of manslaughter. Obviously the jury saw something I didn't.

Just to reiterate: ALL TWELVE JURORS had to disregard all thirteen facts I listed above in order to find Casey not guilty. ALL THIRTEEN!

Ok, so that's my summary of the key players and the evidence. Next we'll explore the steps one might take to get away with murder like Casey Anthony did.

*totes is short for totally. I like to occasionally toss in some fresh slang terms the kids are using. You know, to help my blog appeal to a hip young audience.


  1. I can understand the outrage felt by many due to the outcome, but the problem is that the prosecution had weak evidence (in terms of connecting Casey Anthony to the murder) that left more than a shadow of a doubt. Especially when you throw in all the allegations the defense was throwing around. All the defense needs is a shadow of a doubt in one juror's mind to get his client off. The evidence circumstantially makes the case for Casey's guilt, but didn't connect her to the crime scene. Unfortunately, Casey's parents were so untrustworthy on the stand that all the scenarios and denials were plenty to cast doubt into one's mind. You stated "Just to reiterate: ALL TWELVE JURORS had to disregard all thirteen facts I listed above in order to find Casey not guilty. ALL THIRTEEN!" Actually, it only takes one juror to disregard and then make effective arguments to sway the other jurors. Do I think Casey Anthony did it? Most likely. Was that proven beyond a shadow of a doubt? Not even close.

  2. That is so funny that you said that about Judge Perry looking like Cliff Huxtable! I thought the same thing! Also, disappointed with the verdict. I really don't get it...

  3. my favorite part about this post is the endnote... classic samantha in my opinion. and i was really hoping you would do a summary of the trial for those of us who didn't follow it and you definitely delivered! can't wait to hear what else you have to say!