Yesterday, the prosecution introduced all of the exhibits which mostly relate to the Pontiac Sunfire that Casey Anthony drove. We got to see the spare tire cover as the box containing some of the contents of the trunk were individually tagged. Today, Karen Lowe, a hair and fiber analyst from the FBI will be up on the stand with the first of the forensic testimony concerning the hair banding. Since the defense has no expert to testify in their case in chief, the defense will have only one shot at debunking her testimony. At the Frey Hearing, they were unable to do so and the evidence was deemed admissible by Judge Perry. Ms. Lowe is now tuned up to the defense questions and should be more than ready to handle the cross with Jose Baez.
Judge Perry entered the courtroom and Baez renewed the defense objections based on Frye. They also object to the predicate and asked to voir dire her at some time.
I love what Perry said, "do you want to rehash what you hashed at the Frye Hearing?" Judge Perry explained that they were not to do a mini-Frye Hearing today. The state only has to lay a foundation.
Judge Perry noted Baez’ objections to her testimony and previous motions he had filed. If the state failed to lay a proper foundation to make she is qualified, then he will allow her to undergo voir dire. Baez referred to 97.05 and the judge said that it concerned opinion testimony.
Perry wanted to know why Baez wanted to voir-dire Lowe and he answered that he wanted to be sure she was qualified.
Perry again brought up the Frye Hearings and said that Baez had no objection to her qualifications then. As usual, the judge had case law on hand to rebut Baez' argument.
Baez then cited the judge's orders that the state has to provide a proper predicate. Perry told him the predicate is that she is qualified as an expert in her field.
When Baez attempted to continue his arguments, Perry said they had already wasted enough time, and brought in the jury.
Karen Lowe was called to the stand. Jeff Ashton took her through her CV. She has been qualified as a trace evidence examiner for 13 years and this is her 44th time testifying. She has testified all over the country at the state and local level. The majority of her testimony has touched on hair evidence.
Baez was then allowed to do a brief voir dire. Baez asked if it was the first time she was testifying on hair banding and she agreed.
Side-bar time again!
When Baez asked if she took a six-month training period in hair analysis, she said it was a six-month intensive course. Only a portion of the training dealt with hair banding. The rest of her training came from examination in the lab.
That was the end of the voir dire.
Jeff Ashton then proceeded to question this expert witness over the defense objections.
Ms. Lowe said that hair analysis has been done since the late 1700's and since the 1930's in the US by the FBI.
She explained the steps of her examination, collection, examination with a comparison microscope, and her conclusion if they come from the same source. Unlike DNA, hairs cannot be said to come from the same person, but that the characteristics are similar. Exclusion can also happen due to various hair characteristics.
These kind of examinations are done all over the world.
There are signs in hairs that relate to decomposition. There were articles published, one in 1988 by Nicholas Petraco. A post-mortem root band appeared at the transition of the hair from near the scalp and the hardened area of the hair in one specific stage of hair growth.
Ms. Lowe spoke rapidly, but did directly look at the jury while answering the questions.
There were also two papers by Lynch on the topic. In the peer-reviewed articles, it was explained that post-mortem root banding appears 2 to 15 days after death.
There were tests done where hairs from living people were left in environmental conditions which showed no root-banding.
They are not clear on what causes the root-banding.
Ashton then showed Ms. Lowe a poster she uses to explain root banding.
Then, she spoke of the training. Lowe explained that there are slides in their collection that they examine during their training.
In 13 years of experience, she's seen a fair number of examples of hair banding during her examination. This is the only case where she has seen a hair which was not taken from a known deceased individual.
Ashton then showed Lowe a number of envelopes containing hairs. First was 87, which she identified. Next, exhibits 90, 93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99, 100, and 101.
There were also hairs from known individuals she received. IS, IT, IW (Cindy Anthony), and a sample from George Anthony.
She was also submitted a hairbrush which was a purported sample of Caylee Anthony's hair and comb which she identified. She identified the hair from the brush.
Upon examination of items, she found human hairs among the evidence. She found at least 11 hairs from the unknown exhibits. One of the hairs showed signs of decomposition (Q-12).
Upon examining the hair she identified it as a Caucasian head hair with a darkened band consistent with post-mortem-banding. She used a comparison microscope to conduct the comparison.
The hair was light to medium brown, with no root found. It was about 9 inches long.
None of the other hairs had signs of decomposition. She then compared it to the hair from the hairbrush.
The hair in Q12 was similar to the hair attributed to Caylee Anthony. It was dissimilar to Casey Anthony's hair. She did not compare it to Cindy Anthony's hair (which was blonde). It had the post-mortem root banding.
She preserved the section of the hair with the banding and sent the rest to be tested for mitochondrial DNA testing.
Lowe identified the hair sent for mitochondrial DNA.
Then, Ashton had Ms. Lowe explain why they used the term "apparent" decomposition. Lowe responded that the term was used to be conservative.
Jose Baez did the cross examination.
First, Baez said that hair examination had changed since the 1930's. She said that the equipment had changed, but the process of examination has stayed the same.
He brought out that she had read 4 articles as well as the National Academy of Science report. (Here comes the junk science argument.) As Baez headed in that direction, Ashton objected and they went to a side bar.
When the side bar broke up, Judge Perry sent the jury out for a 15 minute recess.
Judge Perry read the entire title of the report and told Baez that he first had to ask Ms. Lowe if she considered it an established source. He said that it may not be a scientific treatise.
Baez pointed out that Justice Scalia had referenced it and Perry wanted to know the case and reference.
Jose Baez pointed out the portion he wanted to question her about. Baez quickly read the language and Perry reminded him to slow down.
Perry said that he needed to get her to recognize it. He also pointed out that Ms. Lowe had pointed out that the hairs were consistent, not identical as referenced in the report.
Ashton asked that it be proffered to prove it was appropriate. Perry AGAIN pointed out that what Baez had read was what Lowe had said. He also pointed out that Baez didn't even have the document to read to her. (Now we know the reason for the break.)
The witness was returned to the stand and Baez asked her about the copy the judge had handed to her.
She said she had read the portion that pertains to her field. She recognized the organization and the reason for the study.
Lowe felt it offered guidance, although not all the authors were scientists.
Baez asked if she was aware of the criticism of microscopic hair analysis. She said that it was more related to the limitations of the methods, not the methods themselves.
Baez asked if her lab had used comparative hair analysis to positively identify people.
Lowe said she didn't know that her lab had done that.
Baez then took some time to read the section and brought up the name Michael Malone, who no longer works in the lab. He asked if she was familiar with the Gates case where Malone's testimony ended in a conviction based on hair analysis where he was positively identified by the hair alone.
According to Lowe, the testimony was proper as far as she knew. But it would be improper to say that the hairs were identical.
At that point, Perry put a stop to the discussion as they were not going to litigate another case here in court.
What a waste of time! Had Baez read her report more carefully, he would have seen she was already following the guidelines outlined in the report and there was nothing in the document which would discredit her work.
Jeff Ashton had her agree that the report was not a scientific treatise but a guideline. Lowe did agree with the principles in the report and her testimony was in line with that.
Baez then began to discuss another study. (Please don't ask me the details!) Ashton again pointed out that the proffered information in the study was consistent with Lowe's testimony.
After more back and forth, the judge sent a message to Baez, who finally got it. He would not ask about other cases.
The jury was brought back in and Baez continued. He immediately brought up the report. He repeated what he had said earlier during the proffer.
Lowe accepted that the study was useful for guidance. The "criticism" there is actually something she takes heed of, that there are limitations to the analysis without a nuclear DNA match versus a mitochondrial DNA match.
Let's remember here, she said from the beginning of her testimony on direct that the hair was consistent with Caylee Anthony, not definitely Caylee Anthony's hair.
Baez reiterated that this is her first time testifying about hair-banding. (He was trying to make her sound like a novice in the field.)
Then, he got into the fact that she doesn't know how long it takes for hair-banding to occur. She referred back to the study she had previously referenced. Baez indicated that she was not qualified to testify to hair-banding. This was the first case, according to her, where she had no body to refer to in the testing.
Baez tried to get Lowe to say that she had doubts about her results because she wanted additional hairs to test. Lowe disagreed with him. She had no doubts that what she was seeing was post-mortem root banding. Baez tried to say that she asked to have the hairs to make the case stronger. She disagreed.
Baez then went to her first report in August 1, 2008. Of the twelve items submitted from the vehicle, the only one hair she said was consistent with Caylee’s hair was the one with the post-mortem root banding.
She did another report on August 6 and none of the hairs tested then showed signs of decomposition.
On August 13, she was given items of Casey Anthony's clothing. (Objection: items not in evidence, sustained)
There was another report on October 8, 2008 where she was given items, and vacuum sweepings. None of those hairs showed apparent signs of decomposition.
In an October 15 report she was given an item and there were no hairs with decomposition found.
October 25, same results, November 6, same results, June 25, 2009, same results, and so on.
Sometimes we already know the answers to these questions. There was never another hair found with decomposition, just the one hair from the trunk.
Jeff Ashton was ready to offer a stipulation to move things along, but Baez said he was almost finished.
Baez kept saying that she couldn't make the case stronger because she couldn't find any more hairs with signs of decomposition.
Lowe then testified that she couldn't say with certainty that the hair came from a dead person.
Baez stated there are no standards for post-mortem root banding. Lowe stated it was her opinion which was confirmed by her supervisor. Baez got her to admit that there are no error rates for identifying root banding. (From what I know about scientific testing, error rates wouldn’t even apply here, anyway.)
Baez also pointed out that she did not show a photograph of the root banding because it is higher from the root.
Baez re-asked the question, however the photograph is not in evidence.
Lowe testified that the banding was located where it should be on the hair as seen under the microscope. With a photograph, it is difficult to see the hair properly as it doesn't capture the detail needed.
Baez did point out that she did have photographs of hairs to show the jury.
Baez then brought out that she failed her proficiency test in 2000.
Baez then tried to bring up the study the FBI had started after she studied the hair. Ashton objected because it was beyond the scope of direct and we had yet another bench conference.
Judge Perry dismissed the jury again and asked the name of the study. Ashton said it was an ongoing study by Steven Shaw and didn’t have a name yet. Ashton pointed out that Shaw would be a witness and would discuss the study then.
He asked Ms. Lowe if any of her testimony came from the study and she said none came from it.
The judge ruled the study was beyond the scope of the examination.
Baez asked if she attended any meetings to reinforce that root-banding is a sign of decomposition. She said she hadn't, but she did say there were discussions about articles and said that they doubted they could ever say without qualification that the hair came from a deceased person.
The hair that was associated with Caylee Anthony was based on a hair that came from a hair brush as identified as belonging to Caylee.
Baez tried to sneak in the fact that Cindy may have given them the wrong hair brush. That didn't work.
Baez went on to a missing child and a hair with a root... objection sustained.
When Baez asked Lowe about who decided on the type of DNA testing to be used, Lowe said it was part of her job to decide where it should go. If there was a small amount of tissue, she would consult with a DNA expert.
With mitochondrial DNA, it was determined that the questioned hair could have come from any of the maternal line. (Cindy Anthony, Casey Anthony, Caylee Anthony, Shirley Plesea, or Lee Anthony)
Baez moved on to hair shedding from a live person. There could be transfer of hair from one individual to another and there could even be secondary transfer.
Lowe pointed out that she wouldn't know that, but considered it.
Baez asked if, because there is only one hair, it was probably transfer or secondary transfer. Lowe said she didn't know how the hair got there.
Jeff Ashton then did re-direct.
He started by asking if the guidelines in the study was consistent with their procedures. Lowe said it was, and had been since the '70's. What Baez mentioned was already their policy. Her report came out a year before the study did and already followed the guidelines.
This hair was not naturally shed. This hair was still in its growth phase.
As to the one hair with apparent decomposition, the mitochondrial DNA indicated that it followed the maternal line of Cindy Anthony's family.
Casey Anthony's hair was dissimilar microscopically, but Q-12 could come from any maternal relative that had nine inch long brown hair. (That ruled out Cindy and Lee Anthony, and Shirley Plesea.)
The hair was untreated. Casey's hair was treated. (That ruled out Casey.)
The hair from the hairbrush purportedly belonging to Caylee Anthony did not have the root banding.
Assuming the two hairs belonged to Caylee, whatever happed to Q-12 was not natural.
Baez did re-cross. He asked if a pulled hair would be better for nuclear DNA. Since the hair Q-12 was a pulled hair...objection/sustained.
Lowe did not know the history of Casey Anthony's hair treatment and she couldn't say absolutely that the hair came from a dead body.
The next witness called was Mike Vincent, an assistant supervisor with the OCSO crime scene unit. He was in the Philadelphia police department with 11 years there with the crime scene unit. Gave his work history including attendance at over 30 crime-related courses.
He was the supervisor of Gerardo Bloise. He collected stain samples from the trunk liner of the Pontiac Sunfire. He also collected air samples from the vehicle and samples of the covering of the trunk cover which he sealed in tin cans.
The sampling began July 22, 2008. He worked with people from the University of Central Florida. He went through the entire process they used to collect the samples.
A Dr. Sigmond was able to suck out some air and transferred it into two teldar bags. He also hung a charcoal filter in the trunk.
He collected the filter which was sent to the Oak Ridge Lab in Tennessee.
Vincent identified the bag with the teldar bag and sealed in it.
He took a sample from the area of the spare tire cover the following day.
Ms. Burdick showed him a sealed evidence can which contained the piece of the spare tire cover. The can was sealed July 22, 2008. Vincent transferred the sealed can to the Oak Ridge Lab.
On July 23, 2008, he conducted another effort to collect air samples. Dr. Michael Sigmond opened the trunk and hung a carbon filter and another kind of filter and left them there for 40 minutes. Then, he opened the trunk and collected the samples. Vincent identified the package containing the filters.
It was also sent to Oak Ridge, Tennessee.
On August 29, 2008, he conducted another examination of the trunk to collect samples from it. Dr. Vass of the Oak Ridge Lab sent him a portable air pump, 9 test tubes and instructions on how and where to collect the samples.
He did tests on the vehicle, the garage, and the trash that was in the vehicle.
Vincent identified the evidence envelopes for these items as well.
In September, he also collected a substance on the inside of the spare tire well which was also sent to Dr. Vass.
On October 30, 2008 he also collected other pieces of the spare tire cover, including a part that did not have any stain on it.
Vincent identified the cans.
Vincent also assisted in taken standards (hair samples, buccal swabs) on Cindy, George, and Lee Anthony at the end of October. He reviewed the method of collection and then he identified the packages containing them.
Vincent also collected the gas cans from the Anthony home in August.
Finally, the gas can picture Baez wanted to use is going to end up in evidence!
Vincent did nothing to change the gas can prior to photographing it. He swabbed it for DNA and fingerprints. He was unsuccessful.
The cans were returned to the Anthony home on August 13, 2008.
Jose Baez the cross examined Mr. Vincent. He asked if when he did the test collection for blood did he know it was on television? Vincent said that the car was in the garage was and they were using the Blue Star. Vincent didn't believe they had any lights on at the time and did not call the media.
Baez tried to get in that it was done intentionally to be broadcast over the nation to no avail. (Always the media!)
Vincent said that collecting the air was a new process, but not an experiment.
Baez questioned if there were multiple attempts and tried to get the samples. He was trying to get Vincent to say they had some times when the process wasn't done correctly.
Vincent pointed out that Dr. Sigmond was the one who did the sampling.
Baez mentioned the syringe, carbon filters, and a pump used. Baez asked if the difficulty in collecting was that the air is a free flowing thing. Vincent didn't understand the question.
Baez asked if the air would come and go at different times. He was trying to get Mr. Vincent to say that the air collections would be invalid since there was some time had passed since the car was collected.
Notice it's Mr. Vass, Mr. Sigmond
Baez asked a number of questions which confused Vincent and me as well.
Vincent finally answered that they were testing to see what was contained in the air of the garage, the car, and the trunk.
Baez said that the samples were taken a month and a half later and the air is free-flowing. They are not representative of the air in the car on July 15 and 16.
Vincent said that the reason was to get the odor from the three locations, not the air itself..
There was more confusion then.
The air in the trash bag wasn't sampled until August 29. Baez asked if there was a significant difference. Vincent couldn't say.
Baez is fumbling and stumbling trying to get his idea across.
Baez asked if the trash was taken to a dry room when it was originally received. Vincent didn't know, Gerardo Bloise dealt with it.
To try and clarify, Baez showed Vincent defense exhibit C. He asked if the picture on the right looked different than when he received it. He said he didn't receive it. The other picture had the garbage spread out on brown paper. Vincent didn't know if it had been in the dry room.
It was established that the testing of the air was done after the trash was dried.
Baez tried to get Vincent to say that the smell would be significantly different from when it was wet.
Vincent said it could be. He also said it was POSSIBLE it was dry, but that it was stored in a brown box, but it wasn't moist or damp.
Baez held up the picture of the gas can and asked about its condition. Baez brought it up to the witness and asked if a shiny area was wet or slightly drying gas. Vincent said it wasn't wet and there was no gas in the can.
Baez twice asked if he thought the gas can was wiped down. Vincent said it did not appear to be wiped down and had no fingerprints.
On re-direct, Linda Burdick asked how he retrieved it. He said it was pointed out to him and he retrieved it with gloves, carrying it by the handle.
As to the Sunfire, it was stored in their garage the entire time. The odor in the vehicle was the same between July 15 and the time he took the samples. It hadn't diminished in any way.
The trash items were handled and photographed by Gerardo Bloise. The garbage was stored separately from the car.
The witness was excused, subject to recall.
It was 12:52 and Judge Perry dismissed the jury until Monday at 9 AM.
After the jury left, Linda Drane Burdick mentioned she needed to have two computer experts excluded from sequestration to discuss issues with a consultant. The consultant is not on the witness.
Jose Baez objected but couldn't figure out why, then, Cheney Mason objected, no, he didn't object after Ms. Burdick explained the situation in simple language.
Mason made some almost undecipherable comment about the trash which somehow involved a possible violation of the sequestration rule. Judge Perry didn't take it seriously and made a comment about trash/garbage.
Minor edits by DLT, 6/4/11, 4:48pm