Anthony v. Florida
Anthony v. Florida was a controversial court case that argued who was to blame for the death of a 3 year old child and the legality of certain types of evidence. This was the first case in Florida that introduced the evidence of decomposition odor analysis, post mortem root banding, and cadaver dog hits. The State of florida presented a well developed theory of premeditated murder, but professionals on both sides of the prosecution and defense conflicted over the acceptance of the states evidence and the states theories relevant to the child’s death.
On July 15, 2008, Cynthia Anthony calls 911 on her daughter Casey Anthony for stealing a vehicle and money. In another call, Cynthia tells the operator that she learns that her granddaughter, Caylee Anthony, is missing. Cynthia then reports that her daughter’s car smells like there’s been a dead body in the damn car. In a report, Casey Anthony claims that she last saw her daughter Caylee when dropping her off with her nanny. Casey then claimed she was employed by Universal Studios. Investigators searched for the suspected nanny but could not find the nanny’s whereabouts nor did they find the right apartment Casey claimed the nanny lived in. Investigators soon find out that Casey has not been employed by Universal Studios for about 2 years. George Anthony (Casey Anthony’s father) then receives a letter in the mail indicating that the family car was in a tow yard. He went to go pick up the car. Upon inspecting the vehicle, both George and the tow yard manager noticed a smell similar to human decomposition. They opened the truck and found a maggot filled bag of garbage which the tow manager threw away. The bag was later recovered and it contained a stained paper towel with a large amount of fly pupa. George brings the vehicle home and the next day Cindy Anthony smells decomposure/rot coming from the vehicle and calls the police. Detectives reveal that they found strands of hair that look like Caylee’s in the trunk of the Anthony family car. Cadaver dogs also pick up the scent of decomposition. Investigators conducted an air sample test that indicated that there were human remains in the trunk.
On July 16, 2008 police arrest Casey Anthony and charge her with neglect of a child, false statements, and the obstruction of a criminal investigation, and inconsistencies in her statements. On July 22, 2008 officials call Casey a person of interest and police immediately began investigating Casey’s belongings and continued their search for evidence. Investigators found duct tape located in various places throughout the case. It was found on a gas can owned by Casey’s father, on missing child posters, and eventually, on the skull of the child. All of the duct tape found belonged to the same roll. As investigators continued their search for more evidence, they found an elevated presence of chloroform in the trunk. Investigators then acquired a warrant to search Casey Anthony’s laptop. It was found that there were searches for chloroform and self defense. Both Casey and Cindy Anthony admitted to searching those words, but Casey’s timestamps at work prove the unlikeliness of that occurring. Cindy however, received an email and searched chloroform in regard to an issue with her dogs. an elevated presence of chloroform in the trunk. On October 14, 2008, Casey Anthony is indicted by a grand jury on charges of first degree murder, aggravated child abuse, aggravated manslaughter of a child, and four counts of providing false information to police. On December 11, 2008 a human skull with a piece of duct tape and skeletal remains of a young child are found in a wooded area near the family home by a utility worker. On December 19, 2008, Police announce that the remains have been identified as Caylee Anthony and she is confirmed deceased.
On May 24, 2011, Trial begins in Orlando, Florida. The prosecution states that Casey used duct tape to suffocate Caylee Anthony and the defense contends that the child actually drowned in her grandparents swimming pool. The evidence that was admitted into court was the human hair found in trunk of Casey Anthony’s vehicle, decomposition detection, presence of chloroform, cyber evidence, and duct tape. The physical evidence was not convincing during the trial because the defense, prosecution, and jury had difficulty with legal issues the evidence had. The human hair evidence that was found in the Anthony’s family car trunk did not have a hair root, so extracting tissue DNA would not be precise for identification. The FBI laboratory analysis on the human hair in the trunk of the Anthony family vehicle demonstrated characteristics of decomposition near the end of where the root would be found. Another legal issue was decomposition detection introduced by the prosecution’s expert witness Dr. Vass. Dr. Vass found 41 compounds out of 424 that are associated with decomposition in Casey’s trunk. The reason odor analysis was disputed was because the Defense Attorney’s expert witness Dr. Furton claims that the findings should conclude evidence of decomposition. In an video interview Defense Attorney Jose Baez, Baez claims that the research Dr. Voss is conducting is experimental and is nowhere near ready for a courtroom(Jose Baez 2012). At the time of the trial, odor-analysis techniques were fairly new and it had lack of acceptance from the scientific community.
FBI laboratory results found compounds in the air surrounding the trunk are associated with decomposition. One compound that was found were excessive levels of chloroform. The prosecution then moves on to the stained paper towel retrieved from the trash bag that was found in the trunk. The cause of the stain on the towel was grave wax. Grave wax is the breakdown of fat by water in an oxygen deprived environment. This piece of evidence was disputed by the defense because the grave wax found on the towel originated from human fat when there are fatty acids. Another legal issue the evidence presented was the presence of chloroform. The FBI laboratory confirmed there was chloroform in the trunk but investigators could not prove whether it was a result of spilling contents in the trunk carpet, or it came from an alleged decomposing body. The cyber evidence found in Casey’s laptop was also contested because investigators could not prove who performed the search for chloroform or self defense. The prosecution then made a huge mistake in having their expert witness testify that a chloroform making website found on Casey’s laptop was visited 84 times. In reality, it was a MySpace website that was visited 84 times. At any rate, the cyber evidence that was presented was incomplete and inaccurate. Over 300 searches were missing, the timings when the searches were made are are off because someone was searching how to make chloroform and the state argued how could someone look up the ingredients of chloroform before knowing how to make it.
The final piece of evidence that was largely contested was the duct tape found partly attached to Caylee Anthony’s skull. Since the prosecution believed that the duct tape was the murder weapon, they supported their belief by showing an animation in court that had duct tape superimposed on an image of Caylee Anthony to demonstrate that the tape would cover her mouth and nose, leading to suffocation. The defense objected and claimed that the lower jaw was still attached to the skull. They argued that decomposed bodies have the lower jaw detached because connective tissue has decayed. According to their expert witness Dr. Schiltz, it was hair, ingrown roots, and leaf litter that kept the lower jaw connected to the skull. In addition, the fact that the lower jaw was still attached to the skull indicated that the child did not fully decompose in the bag she was found in.
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Anthony v. Florida was a controversial court case that argued who was to blame for the death of a 3 year old child and the legality of certain types of […]