Casey Anthony trial's new twist: Mother says she searched for 'chloroform'
The prosecution in the Casey Anthony trial had argued Casey sought information on chloroform before using it to drug her daughter. But Cindy Anthony said she searched for chloroform on the family computer.
In a surprising development, Casey Anthony’s mother testified on Thursday that she conducted Internet searches using the word “chloroform” on the days and times prosecutors allege that Casey Anthony searched for that word as part of a premeditated plot to murder her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee.
“I started looking up chlorophyll and that prompted me to look up cholorform,” Cindy Anthony, Casey’s mother, told a stunned courtroom.
In testimony filled with unexpected twists and turns, the mother also told defense attorney Jose Baez that the stain in the trunk of Casey Anthony’s car was present when the vehicle was purchased in 2000 – eight years before prosecutors allege the stain was caused by leaking fluid from Caylee’s decomposing body.
The riveting testimony prompted immediate speculation that Mrs. Anthony may have altered earlier statements she made to detectives and prosecutors in an effort to help create reasonable doubt in her daughter’s first-degree murder trial. A family lawyer later said her testimony is consistent with all her prior statements in the case.
Her statements, on the seventh day of the defense case and the 26th day of the trial, represent a serious setback to the prosecution’s case. Her comments are an assault on two pillars of the state’s theory of Ms. Anthony’s guilt: that she used chloroform and that she kept Caylee’s decomposing body in the trunk of the car.
Prosecutors have presented a circumstantial case based on the theory that Ms. Anthony drugged her daughter with chloroform and smothered her by pressing duct tape over her mouth and nose. She then allegedly placed the girl in the trunk of her car for several days before dumping the body in a wooded area not far from the Anthony family home.
The state has offered no direct physical evidence linking Ms. Anthony to Caylee’s death.
Mrs. Anthony’s testimony is important for a second reason: Among all the players in the wider drama surrounding the trial and alleged crime, Mrs. Anthony is by far the most sympathetic figure.
There is no doubt that she adored her granddaughter, was crushed by her death, and is still grieving. In earlier testimony during the state’s case, the judge had to call a special recess to allow her to try to compose herself after she began sobbing on the witness stand. During her last trip to the stand she supposedly turned toward Ms. Anthony and mouthed the words, “I love you.”
On cross-examination, Assistant State Attorney Linda Burdick attempted to undercut Mrs. Anthony’s testimony, suggesting that her employment records indicate that she had been at work – not at home on the family’s desktop computer – on the days the Internet “chloroform” searches were conducted.
“Were you at home March 17, 2008 between 1:43 and 1:55 p.m.,” Ms. Burdick asked forcefully.
“If those computer entries were made, then I was home,” Mrs. Anthony replied, her voice rising to meet the force of Burdick’s question. “That week was Casey’s birthday and our anniversary and I went home early a couple days.”
She added: “My hours were whatever I made them.”
“So you are testifying that it is possible you were home that day? Even though your work records establish that you were working March 21, 2008 from 2:16 to 2:28 p.m.,” Burdick asked.
“It is possible.”
Burdick’s voice rose again: “Were you or weren’t you?”
“The only thing that triggers these days for me is the computer entries,” she said. “If I had access to my work computer I could tell you when I left that day.”
Mrs. Anthony said she had not been back to work since July 15, 2008, the day she first learned that Caylee, her granddaughter, was missing.
Mrs. Anthony said she first searched the word chlorophyll because she was worried that her dogs might get sick from eating bamboo leaves. That search took her to chloroform, she said.
She also said she searched the words acetone, rubbing alcohol, alcohol, inhalation, peroxide, and hydrogen peroxide. She denied searching how to make weapons out of household products. And she denied specifically typing into the Google search engine the words “how to make chloraform” with the word chloroform misspelled.
A computer analysis showed those precise words were typed into the computer.
“Were you on druglibrary.org,” Burdick asked.
“Oh – all the time,” she said.
Burdick asked if she had conducted 84 searches on the effects of chlorophyll on animals.
“I didn’t do 84 searches on anything,” she replied.
Mrs. Anthony said that the computer was usually kept on all the time and that members of the family, and even Ms. Anthony’s friends, used it.
“All this stuff about chlorophyll and chloroform, you told the investigators about this back in 2009? Is this testimony anything new,” defense attorney Mr. Baez asked.
“I did tell the investigators and the state attorney’s office about the search and they knew I had searched for chlorophyll as well,” she said.
Later in the day, Baez called for the testimony of police computer forensics analyst Kevin Stenger.
Mr. Stenger was asked about significant differences in the results obtained from two different computer forensic software programs. One shows the progression of Internet search history including 84 visits to MySpace.com.
It is well known that Ms. Anthony was active on that website. What is less clear is the suggestion in earlier testimony that someone used the Anthony’s family computer to visit a chloroform website 84 times.
Baez asked Stenger to read the results of a report produced by a program called Netanalysis. He asked: “What is the total amount of time anyone spent looking at ‘chloroform’ before moving on” to a different topic?
Stenger replied: “Approximately three minutes.”
The prosecution’s Burdick then asked whether it was possible for someone to open computer screen tabs or quickly print information off the screen?
“That’s correct,” the computer forensic analyst said.
Baez responded with his own question. “This report, does it give you an indication about tab stuff?”
“No sir,” Stenger said.
“You don’t know what happened,” Baez said, about whether someone had opened a computer tab or printed something.
“I do not know if that happened.”