Saturday, 11 June 2011

FILICIDE: Florida: Casey Anthony trial forensic evidence continues

June 10 2011
Jurors were today shown a disturbing film of two-year-old murder victim Caylee Anthony’s face super-imposed with an image of her bare skull after it was found dumped in woodland.
It provided a dramatic moment in the prosecution of Casey Anthony, 25, who is accused of killing her daughter in 2008.
The video, shown to a court in Orlando, Florida, aimed to prove that a piece of duct tape found stuck to Caylee’s decomposed remains was sealed over her nose and mouth when she died.
Anthony had earlier broken down in tears as forensic experts recounted how Caylee’s remains were found scattered through woodland and gnawed on by wild animals.
 She sat scowling as anthropologist Dr Michael Warren, director of the C.A.Pound Human Identification Laboratory at the University of Florida, played an animated video to the court.
It showed the little girl’s face, with an image of her skull - a length of duct tape still attached to the front – laid over the top of it, to demonstrate where on her face the tape may have sat before her body was left to rot in undergrowth.
Presentation of the picture in court was seen by legal experts as a powerful victory for the prosecution.
Anthony’s lead lawyer, Jose Baez, had branded the animation 'disgusting…nothing but a fantasy' and tried to prevent it from being shown to the jury, arguing it could unfairly prejudice them because of its highly emotive nature.
But Judge Belvin Perry ruled: 'Unfortunately in homicide cases, evidence tends to be not so nice but this particular piece of evidence, a live photograph of the victim superimposed with the skull, does not have the tendency to suggest an emotional basis for a verdict.'
The judge added: 'Both sides have cited the relevancy of this duct tape and the placement of this duct tape, thus it’s highly relevant…The court will permit the witness to testify.'
Dr Warren and others testified it was unusual for a human skull to be found with its jaw bone still attached, due to the breakdown of the tissue that connects one to the other.
The prosecution asserts that the fact that Caylee’s jawbone was still attached when her bones were found is proof that duct tape was wrapped around her face before her body was dumped.
 'It (duct tape) was placed there prior to decomposition,' Dr Warren confirmed.
Earlier Anthony broke down as investigators recalled how they crawled through woodland on their hands and knees to retrieve the child’s bones after her skeleton was found dragged apart by wild animals.
She drew deep breaths, sobbed into a tissue and leaned on one of her lawyers for comfort during a second day of graphic testimony from forensic experts about her daughter’s dismembered remains.
The bones had been gnawed by animals and entwined by roots. Caylee’s clothing had largely disintegrated apart from the lettering on her T-shirt which spelled out the phrase: 'Big trouble comes in small packages.'
Her Winnie the Pooh blanket was among the remains.
At the start of the day's proceedings Judge Belvin Perry warned spectators they could be held in contempt of court if they showed emotional reactions in front of the jury.
He called an early morning break following a private conversation with prosecutors and defence lawyers as Anthony sobbed.
The day before the judge had to adjourn the court early when Anthony fell sick after hearing grisly details about Caylee’s decomposed remains, which were found in December 2008 in an area of undergrowth near her Orlando home.
'Because we were dealing with a small child, the bones were very small... many of the bones were in multiple parts,' he said, describing in macabre detail how pieces of Caylee’s skeleton were scattered through the vegetation.

Remains: A tiny pair of shorts worn by two-year-old Caylee when she died was shown to the court today

Clothes: The court was shown pictures today of the Caylee's destroyed clothing, found in the woods
shows wording found on the remains of a shirt. Caylee has the same wording on her shirt in the picture on the right
Evidence: The photo on the left shows wording found on the remains of a shirt. Caylee has the same wording on her shirt in the picture on the right

Anthony looked away and closed her eyes tight as the court was shown photographs of the scene, including a close-up image of her daughter’s skull, still stuck with the duct tape that prosecutors say Anthony sealed over Caylee’s mouth and nose to kill her.
'The top of the bones, these have been chewed on by animals,” Dr Schultz explained, gesturing at an image of several ribs. Defence attorney Dorothy Clay Sims wrapped her arm around Anthony and held her, as the defendant broke into sobs.
Dr Schultz told jurors that despite clear evidence of 'carnivore activity' investigators recovered almost all of the young victim’s bones. He showed jurors a photograph of the skeleton laid out in anatomical order.
He said: 'I feel we were very successful here. We collected all but one tooth, we have most of the spine, all the ribs and the long bones, then the tiny bones.'
Anthony is charged with first-degree murder – for which could face the death penalty if convicted -  aggravated child abuse, aggravated manslaughter of a child and four counts of lying to law enforcement. She has pleaded not guilty.
Her lead defence attorney, Jose Baez, has admitted in court that Anthony lied to her family and investigators when she claimed the little girl had been kidnapped by a rogue nanny after she went missing in June 2008.
The truth, Mr Baez has argued, was that Caylee drowned in the family swimming pool on June 16, 2008.
He claimed Anthony lied to cover up her death at the time because her father George had instructed her to, and that she had been conditioned to lie since childhood as a result of her father sexually abusing her.
Mr Anthony, a retired detective, has denied the claims.
Prosecutors allege that Caylee died with duct tape sealed over her mouth and nose.
They have produced a series of witnesses who testified that Anthony carried on life as normal after her daughter’s disappearance, shopping, partying, staying over with boyfriends and visiting a tattoo parlour.
The court has also heard that in the months before Caylee’s death, Anthony’s computer was used to look up the keyword 'chloroform' 84 times.
Caylee’s remains were discovered six months after her disappearance by a utility worker who said  he had gone into the woods to relieve himself. They had originally been dumped there inside several bags, including a red plastic Disney bag that had plant roots growing through it when it was found.
Dr Jan Garavaglia, chief medical examiner for Orange and Osceola counties, who studied the remains, was shown a photograph of a mud-covered blanket found with them.
Prosecutor Jeff Ashton drew a circle around a faded motif on the blanket and asked her in court: 'Did it look familiar to you?'
Dr Garavaglia nodded. 'Winnie the Pooh, with Piglet on his back,' she replied.
The trial continues.

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