Casey Anthony trial: Defense launches case with attack on forensic evidence
Three years to the day after Caylee died, the defense began to make its case in the Casey Anthony trial. Seven forensic scientists and crime scene investigators were called to the stand.
An FBI forensic document examiner testified on Thursday that she found no evidence of a heart-shaped sticker or heart-shaped residue on a piece of duct tape that prosecutors say was the murder weapon used by Casey Anthony to suffocate her two-year-old daughter Caylee.
Lorie Gottesman, a 20-year forensic specialist at the Federal Bureau of Investigation, also told the jury that she found no match between black plastic bags containing a portion of Caylee’s skeletal remains and similar black plastic bags seized from the Anthony home.
The testimony came on the first day of the defense case and Day 20 of the Casey Anthony murder trial, as defense attorney Jose Baez called to the witness stand seven forensic scientists and crime scene investigators in an attempt to cast doubt on the state’s case.
The action came three years to the day – June 16, 2008 – that both the prosecution and the defense say Caylee died.
Ms. Anthony has been charged with first-degree murder in the death of the toddler. If convicted she faces a possible death sentence.
In an unusual twist, Ms. Gottesman also testified that the only traceable DNA evidence found on the duct tape discovered near Caylee’s remains belonged to her.
“How did it happen,” Mr. Baez asked.
“I have no idea how it happened or when,” Gottesman told the jury.
Baez asked if she sneezed on the evidence.
“Throughout the entire time you had these items you exercised great care,” Baez asked.
“Yes,” she said.
Outline of a heart
In earlier testimony Gottesman told the jury that when examining the duct tape she used a high-tech device with special lights and filters that is capable of identifying images that are beyond the range of the human eye to see.
During the prosecution’s case, earlier this week, an FBI fingerprint expert testified that she observed what appeared to be a dime-sized residue outline in the shape of a heart on a portion of the duct tape that allegedly covered Caylee’s face. A supervisor also said she saw the residue outline.
The expert, Elizabeth Fontaine, continued conducting fingerprint tests. Later, when she attempted to photograph the outline, she said she was unable to see it.
The critical piece of evidence was then sent to Gottesman for analysis.
The testimony is important because it raises doubt about one of the most vivid and brutal suggestions in the case – that Caylee’s killer may have adorned the murder weapon itself with a heart-shaped sticker.
Heart stickers found
The disappearing heart on the duct tape isn’t the only heart-shaped piece of evidence in the case. Prosecutors also introduced a pink raised heart on a piece of soiled cardboard that crime scene investigators located in the same woods where Caylee’s remains were found.
Investigators found and seized heart stickers in a drawer in Casey’s bedroom. But it is unclear whether any of them match the raised pink heart found on the soiled cardboard or are similar to the dime-shaped image reported by the fingerprint expert.
Baez called three crime scene investigators who testified for the prosecution back to the witness stand to ask them how far away the pink heart on the cardboard was from Caylee’s remains.
Ron Murdock of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office estimated that the sticker was found about 30 feet from Caylee’s skull. Another witness testified that the wooded area was littered with trash.
The defense effort was aimed at convincing the jury that the pink heart was just a piece of refuse unassociated with Caylee’s remains or the crime scene.
In another potentially important development, a DNA expert at the FBI revealed that she had been asked by investigators to confirm whether Casey Anthony’s brother, Lee, might be Caylee’s father.
Shocking claims reintroduced
The expert, Heather Seubert, said her analysis of the relevant DNA excluded Lee from being Caylee’s biological father.
The revelation is important because it reintroduces shocking claims made by Baez during his opening argument last month. He had suggested that one of the reasons Casey Anthony seemed emotionless after Caylee’s death was that she’d been conditioned to react that way through years of sexual abuse by her father, George Anthony. Baez suggested she’d also been abused by her brother.
In testimony during the state’s case, Mr. Anthony denied that he sexually abused his daughter and also denied a defense claim that he was present when Caylee allegedly drowned in the family swimming pool.
Baez has said that rather than calling 911, both George and Casey Anthony participated in a coverup to hide Caylee’s body.
The trial is set to continue Friday morning.