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Casey Anthony trial: Witness refutes duct tape as murder weapon

A top forensic pathologist said Saturday in the Casey Anthony trial that Caylee, 2, was already dead when duct tape was affixed to her face. Prosecutors say the tape was the murder weapon.

By Staff writer / June 19, 2011

Dr. Werner Spitz, a forensic expert, testifies at the trial of Casey Anthony in Orlando, Fla., on Saturday.

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A world-renowned forensic pathologist testified on Saturday at the Casey Anthony murder trial that duct tape found near the remains of Ms. Anthony’s 2-year-old daughter was not affixed to her face until after the child was already dead.

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“I think the duct tape was a later event, not an early event,” Dr. Werner Spitz told the jury. He added that it was introduced “after decomposition.”

The testimony is significant because it is in direct opposition to the prosecution’s theory that Anthony killed her daughter, Caylee, by smothering her with pieces of duct tape pressed firmly over the toddler’s nose and mouth.

It also clashes with the findings of Orange County Medical Examiner Dr. Jan Garavaglia, who ruled Caylee’s death a homicide and concluded that the duct tape had been affixed to her face before her death.

His testimony came on Day 22 of Anthony’s trial in an Orlando, Fla., courtroom. She is charged with first-degree murder and faces a death sentence if convicted.

Dr. Spitz has been involved in some of the country’s highest-profile death investigations, including the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., and the O.J. Simpson murder trial.

Spitz said he concluded that the duct tape was applied after decomposition because investigators found no DNA evidence, such as pieces of skin, on what had been the sticky side of the tape. He said skin would be expected if the tape was pressed firmly onto a living person’s face.

“It is my opinion that the duct tape was stuck on there after the skin deteriorated, after the skin decomposed,” he said during cross-examination.

“How did this person put duct tape on the skull,” asked prosecutor Jeffrey Ashton in a disbelieving and dismissive tone of voice.

Spitz responded with his own sarcasm. “They took a piece of duct tape in a roll – it comes in a roll – and tore off a number of sections, maybe this long, and stuck them on the skull,” Spitz said. He said it may have been done to hold the lower jaw in place and to keep the skull intact.

Spitz also accused the medical examiner in the Anthony case, Dr. Garavaglia, of conducting a “shoddy autopsy” on Caylee’s remains. He said he was shocked to discover that Garavaglia had neglected to examine the interior of the toddler’s skull.

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