We are likely to see the end of the long line of witnesses for the prosecution in the murder trial of Casey Anthony today. Court will reconvene at 1:00 PM to accommodate two out-of-town prosecution witnesses who had scheduling issues. Barring surprise witnesses or recalls, this will end the prosecution’s case against Casey.
Will the prosecution team have proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Ms. Anthony is guilty as charged? All the elements of its case are circumstantial; no one has offered or can offer proof of exactly how Caylee Anthony actually died. The prosecution, however, posits that the little girl died in the trunk of Ms. Anthony’s car after having been chloroformed and having had duct tape wrapped around her nose and mouth. She either suffocated or succumbed to the chloroform. Witnesses from the Orange-Osceola Medical Examiner’s Office, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department Crime Unit, and the FBI presented and interpreted evidence that clearly suggested this manner of death, supported by expert witnesses, according to whom the body could have been in the car trunk for 3 — 5 days before being tossed into the swamp at the end of the street where the Anthonys lived. There, little Caylee’s bones were gnawed upon by animals and dispersed to surrounding locations. A gruesome animated film that superimposed the skull found in the woods over Caylee Anthony’s smiling face left a vivid impression on the jury while lead defense counsel Jose Baez cried “foul”, demanding a mistrial. Judge Perry denied that motion and the trial continued. The jury has probably seen enough to convince them, but if you’ve ever served on one, you know how fickle juries can be. One intransigent juror can cause seemingly interminable deliberations just to satisfy her.
How will the defense proceed to discredit the prosecution? Will Casey be called to the witness stand by the defense? Will Jose Baez, whose greenness has caused the defense to have shot itself in the foot several times thus far, rely upon his more experienced team members or will he continue to blunder his way to a conviction?
Recall that in Mr. Baez’s opening arguments he asserted that Caylee had suffered an accidental death by drowning, which Casey’s father George Anthony had witnessed. He said that Anthony had panicked and had driven the entire cover-up facilitated by his daughter’s penchant for lying convincingly. Casey, according to Baez, was raised in a hostile climate of abuse that made her a pathological liar; George Anthony was the primary abuser, having performed sex acts on his daughter through the years and told her to shut up about it. Defense counsel was quite graphic in his description of one particular act forced upon Casey, painting an image of a teenage girl being forced to perform a nearly daily act of fellatio on her father as one of her preparations to ready herself for school. Baez stuck his neck out with this theory and with his grandstanding, designed to imprint an indelible image on the jury. While the prosecution did not attack the theory directly except by asking George Anthony if he had, in fact, abused his daughter, which he denied, some of the recorded telephone conversations between George and Casey while she was in jail suggested that no abuse occurred, particularly when Casey declared that George had been the best father and grandfather through the years. For whatever reason, Baez chose not to cross-examine George about his denial. This now puts the defense in a position to have to call him as a witness during the defense phase. However, now, the time for cross-examination has passed and the defense will be able to ask only direct questions.
This brings up the most interesting potential stratagem by the defense: whether Casey Anthony herself will testify. As you undoubtedly know, an accused person can not be required to testify in his own defense. Nevertheless, because George has not admitted to having committed sexual abuses on Casey, it will be necessary, in this Turkey’s humble and non-legally qualified opinion. If Casey takes the stand, feel free to anticipate that perjury will be added to the collection of felonies that she has committed or is alleged to have committed. (She already has been convicted of five counts of forgery for stealing and using her friend’s checks.) Assuming that the abuse scenario concocted by the defense is folly, Ms. Anthony will have to conduct one of her finest dramatic performances to convince the jury that it is true. The jury knows about her penchant for lying convincingly, including her braggadocio: “I’m such a good liar.”; therefore, they can be expected to be skeptical about any representations Casey makes on the stand. Yet, since Baez’s opening arguments had made the abuse a cornerstone of Ms. Anthony’s defense, the jury will have to be convinced. I don’t think Baez can pull it off.
As for drowning being the cause of death (conveniently, because it would leave no signs on a decomposed body), the prosecution did not prove that it could not have happened that way. They merely advanced their own theory. Nevertheless, Dr. Jan Garavaglia, the Medical Examiner, cited statistics that made this an atypical drowning and a questionable cause of death. No drowning death had ever happened in Orange County without a call to the 9-1-1 emergency dispatch service. People who love a child do not immediately give up on trying to save her. Furthermore, the lengthy delay between the time of death and the first report of it by Cindy Anthony points to a homicide, according to Garavaglia, who said that typically missing children are reported within the first couple of days of being missing. The defense can not possibly have any proof of a drowning, which once again is an immutable cornerstone of its case. How will it convince the jury of the veracity of the assertions in its opening arguments, which seem so cloudy now after the prosecution’s laboriously methodical case presentation? I haven’t the foggiest idea.
Baez has a mere three years of trial experience, and has conducted only one murder defense, which he lost. Significantly better qualified attorneys exist on his team, for example Cheney Mason, but he has been loath to use them. Whether or not he does during the defense phase is anyone’s guess. Ms. Anthony is betting her life on Baez’s strategy. Yet he has demonstrated his lack of ability throughout the prosecution’s case.
This is a death penalty case. If Ms. Anthony is convicted, a punishment phase will determine whether the death penalty will be imposed. It is one thing to get a conviction, but quite another to get the death penalty. Only two women have been executed by the State of Florida during the time it has been conducting executions.
Judge Perry believes that closing summations can be completed and the evidence can be handed to the jury for deliberation on June 25 or June 27, the end of next week. Then, things get really interesting.
Not all the drama of the past month has taken place inside the courtroom. Daily skirmishes occur outside as people wait to see if they can get seats in the courtroom. There are always more interested people than there are seats. Yes, it’s a circus, and Geraldo, Greta, and Nancy Grace are its omnipresent barkers.