Thursday, September 17, 2009

Casey Anthony: The Defense Files More Motions - Part 1

When death penalty qualified attorney Andrea Lyon came on board the Casey Anthony team earlier this year, she informed Judge Stan Strickland that she would be filing more motions after Labor Day. Well, she's come through with five new motions Wednesday, September 17.

The first motion is an Amended Motion For Change of Venue. This motion is to update one filed by Jose Baez on May 4. The original motion contained extensive arguments as to why the trial should be moved, an affidavit signed by Casey Anthony and pages and pages of sworn affidavits and media research which pinpointed the Miami-Dade County area or Broward County as ideal locations for the trial.

At the time this motion was filed, Judge Strickland felt it was far to soon to consider and never made a ruling. The new motion is briefer and indicates that the defense would also consider a trial in Palm Beach.

This motion again stresses the high level of publicity about the case, especially in the Orlando area. It says that the coverage in Orlando is far more extensive than that of the national media.

One section I enjoyed reading was that which covered Internet coverage of the case:

Internet-based publicity has been particularly inflammatory in this case. Internet publications often fail to adhere to journalism ethics and standards. Furthermore, the Internet fosters community hostility toward Miss Anthony by providing a means for distributing expressions of prejudice against Miss Anthony. p3, #5

I have a feeling that the fraud trial will be a test run for this motion. Judge Strickland will attempt to seat a jury in that case before considering a change of venue. The fraud trial and Casey's reputation have been as widely publicized as the murder trial.

Perhaps that is the reason that on p.4, #11, Baez and Lyon ask the judge to order the prosecution to file a response motion within 30 days. He wants 10 days to respond and wants a hearing on the matter. I believe this is the defense's way of running an end run around the seating of a jury in Orlando for any case against Casey.

The next motion filed today is a Motion To Dismiss Due To Spoliation Of Evidence. This motion had me digging through my files to find the Emergency Motion filed by the defense December 12, 2008 and search my bookmarks to refresh my memory on the situation. Here is a bit of a trip down a very sad Memory Lane which will help explain the new motion.

As you are all well aware, the remains of a small child were discovered on Suburban Drive on December 11. The defense indicated in the motion that they wanted to be present at the crime scene. Judge Strickland ruled that the crime scene was under the auspices of LE and it was their responsibility to process the scene. The defense had also asked to be present at the autopsy and that was also denied, as their had been no official identification of the remains.

As it turned out, poor Caylee's bones were scattered over a large area and it took LE much longer than expected to process the site. It seemed that every day there was a press release that stated that yet another bone had been discovered and the excavation site enlarged.

There was another emergency hearing on December 16 with Baez asking for photographs and other information about the crime scene. There was also a request to do a second autopsy. Judge Strickland denied this motion as well since the first autopsy hadn't been done and LE was still in the process of excavating the site for yet more remains.

Of importance at this point is a press release from the infamous "Todd Black." In the December 17 release, the defense's position about the situation is made abundantly clear. Here is a portion of the release.

The Casey Anthony Defense Team has made numerous attempts to preserve the evidence in and around the location where the human remains of what appear to be a small child were found.

Law enforcement has been repeatedly asked to allow reasonable access by medical and scientific experts for the defense, including requests for photographs, and assistance with maintaining a secure examination scene prior to any media or general public access.

Every effort by The Baez Law Firm to establish a level of basic cooperation and professional courtesy have all been rejected by the government. This lack of cooperation has complicated how to proceed.

The next day, FOX carried an article with the headline: Casey Anthony Defense Worried Police Are Tampering With Evidence, Accuse Cops of Lying

Here are some snippets from the article:

"Some of their comments are blatant lies," Black told "History has shown that in some cases authorities have been caught tampering with evidence. That is something we hope is not happening. We're not accusing anyone of anything."

Among the lies Black is accusing the sheriff's office of telling are statements about clothing found with the child's remains and the implication that the area where they were discovered hadn't been searched before.

"When [police] started searching for that child, they went into that area several times — with dogs, with people. Not once, but several times," Black said. "It's kind of suspicious."

He suggested the bones might have been dumped there by the person Anthony says took her daughter.

Does any of this sound familiar? I could be wrong, but I believe at some point after the revelation that "Todd Black" was a cover name for Gil Cabot, a gentleman of dubious background, Jose Baez had stated that "Black" had issued these releases all on his own and that he, Baez had nothing to do with what he said. I'm sure somebody will tell me if I am wrong!

It wasn't until December 19 that the DNA revealed that the bones were indeed those of Caylee Marie Anthony. It took LE until December 20 to finish their investigations at the crime scene. Once available to the defense, they decided not to bother with it. Months later, they filed a motion to compel the owner of the land to give them permission to examine the scene. That motion was approved by Judge Strickland.

Well, we now get to the Motion to Dismiss. Baez and Lyon begin the motion with a time line and history:

1. On December 11, 2008, the unidentified remains of a small child were discovered.

2. The location of the discovery was then processed by the Orange County Sheriff's Office (OCSO) and the Office of the Medical Examiner as a crime scene.

3. Later that evening, the OSCO used evidence from the crime scene to obtain and execute a search warrant of the Anthony home at 4937 Hopespring Drive, where Casey Anthony lived prior to her arrest.

4. On December 12, 2008, the Defense requested in open court that its own forensic experts be present at the crime scene as observers.

5. The Assistant State Attorney represented to the court that the State "would work it out" with the Defense and come to an agreement as to the access by the Defense to the crime scene.

6. The Court advised that it was "counting on cooperation" between the tow parties.

7. In open court, the OCSO indicated that the processing would be completed on the evening of December 12, 2008.

As I recall, from viewing this hearing, the "work it out" part was that the State would notify the defense when they were finished with the scene so that the defense could examine it for themselves.

We also know that on December 12, the State had absolutely no idea as to the area that would have to be meticulously searched would be so large and complicated.

The motion goes on to discuss the fact that the State agreed that the OCSO would provide reasonable notice to the defense when the scene was cleared by them. It also indicated that the defense could hire off-duty officers to provide security. Relying on the December 12 date, Baez gathered his famous team of forensic experts to go in and examine the scene.

The defense learned later in the day that it wouldn't be possible to hire off-duty officers and the scene was proving more extensive than first thought. The motion lists the delays. We remember the delays. The delays were caused by LE, obviously. They had a huge job to do and wanted to do it right.

Here's where the motion reminds me of Todd Black's statement:

13. In short, the State represented to the Court did not know the identity of the remains when in fact they had been informed of the positive identification from the FBI. The State deliberately misled the Court and delayed the formal identification of the remains so that it could retain exclusive control of the crime scene through December 19, 2008.

What seems to be missing in this section is a date. When did the State learn the identification? I've been following the tragic case of Annie Le, the murdered Yale student. In that case, the DNA match was made with amazing speed. Of course, LE opened the lab just for this testing and worked on it round the clock. The New Haven authorities had a live person from which to obtain samples to test. This isn't what happened in the case of the identification of Caylee's remains. The material to be tested had to be sent to the FBI lab in Quantico, Va. The FBI lab probably put this identification on the fast track, but they have many such cases. They had to work from bones and teeth. It was a more difficult case to process than merely testing blood or saliva from a living human being. Considering the complexity, the results came back in just over a week from the date of discovery.

Caylee's identification would seem to be a separate issue from the release of the crime scene. We all watched day after day as LE painstakingly searched every millimeter of earth in a densely foliated scene. They took their time and kept meticulous records. Recently released document include maps and high-tech visuals to show the location and elevation of every tiny shard of bone.

This motion goes on, attacking the State:

14. The State has prevented the Defense from observing the remains in the condition that they were discovered.

As I've said before, the judge ruled on this. It is the responsibility of LE to process the site, not the defense!

Darryl Cohen, Jesse Grund's attorney stated on Nancy Grace December 12 that:

I also think it`s something, a bone that the defense is throwing out, trying to say, when they`re not allowed in, that the scene is going to be contaminated. As a result of that, our experts are not going to be able to show what really needs to be shown. It`s just a game they`re playing, and it`s not a very good one, quite frankly.

The following week, Dr. Henry Lee was on Nancy Grace as well. He made it clear in this exchange that he thought the State should work with him and the other experts cooperatively:

GRACE: Dr. Henry Lee, everyone, famed forensic scientist, is on the Anthony defense team. Dr. Lee, you are saying the judge denied a particular motion. Was that to allow you and other defense experts on the scene while police were processing it?

LEE: Not exactly observe. Not really join examination. But many time, you know, like (ph) cases, most of time, they allow for defense expert to observe. Some of the time, we even join together, work on the searching (ph) of the remain or search of the trace evidence.

GRACE: To Sheryl McCollum joining us tonight, crime analyst and director of the cold case squad at Pine Lake Police Department. Sheryl, I find that highly unusual, that defense experts are at the initial processing of the scene? No way!

SHERYL MCCOLLUM, CRIME ANALYST: No way. With all due respect to Dr. Lee -- and I`ve trained under Dr. Lee -- no way are they going to be on my crime scene. They`re not necessary. They`re not needed.

I followed the first Phil Spector trial. I remember that Dr. Lee and his experts were certainly not allowed to step foot in the crime scene until after LE had finished. Then, they did go in and do their own examination. Why would the Casey Anthony case be any different?

The motion goes on:

16. Without access to crime scene before the State removed the remains and topsoil, Miss Anthony was unable to gather evidence regarding the precise arrangement of the remains and the surrounding landscape. Without this evidence, defense experts cannot effectively examine or challenge the conclusions made by State experts.

The problem with this is that the only way to find all the bones, LE DID have to do extensive excavation. Casey should be grateful that virtually all Caylee's bones were found and not left lying in that swamp. I am sure Dr. Lee and the other experts would have loved to have found a few bones, so that they could then attack LE for doing a sloppy job.

17. By destroying the crime scene, the State has prevented Miss Anthony from gathering evidence to challenge the credibility of those witnesses who will describe the prior searches as well as those who ultimately discovered the crime scene.

This brings us back full circle to the prior searchers. Joy Wray? Dominic Casey? James Hoover? Former Deputy Cain? One only has to look at the credibility of these people by reading their interviews with LE. According to Tim Miller, that specific area wasn't searched because it was under water!

18. The State has excavated the crime scene and dismantled the remains so as to effectively prevent Miss Anthony's access to exculpatory evidence.

This section totally puzzles me for a few reasons. Firstly, what does "dismantle the remains" mean? I hate to say this, but Caylee's remains were already dismantled. If the defense is saying that the remains were removed from the site, their locations were well documented. We know that LE collected every item from the site and photographed them all. They went through the brush and debris near the bones searching for evidence. It was all documented. The defense has access to many photographs, and I am sure that every item was photographed in place before being removed. That's what the defense gets! If there is any exculpatory evidence, it is there for the defense to find!

This motion is a bad ploy for the defense. This crime scene wasn't a room in a house; it wasn't the trunk of Casey's car. It was a swampy piece of ground. The defense's expectations are ridiculous. This is not a crime scene which can be thoroughly processed by LE and remain the same. I truly expected more of Andrea Lyon, the Angel of Death Row.

The hearing for these motions will be quite an experience. We'll be watching this one, won't we?

I'll be posting more about the latest motions as I get a chance to go over them. Stay tuned to Trials and Tribulations.


donchais said...

Excellent detective work on your part!

You rock!

Unknown said...

Thank you for an excellent and concise decoding of the splurge of new motions filed by the defense. Andrea Lyon deserves an A for both effort and creativity but an F for reality and factuality.

BJChand said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

I believe that the single, most significant factor that will determine Casey's ultimate fate will be the testimony of the state's expert forensic pathologists, anthropologists, entomologists, etc. who, I am sure, have already established the post mortem intervals between Caylee's estimated date of death and the dates on which Caylee's body was placed into and removed from Casey's car trunk -- as well as the post mortem interval between her estimated date of death and the date on which it can be scientifically predicted (based on her body being completely exposed to and unprotected from the hostile environment in which it was later dumped) that her small body would have become completely skeletonized and her remains scattered by Floridian wildlife.

Based upon what I have read on this subject, it would be highly improbable that this later post mortem interval would have exceeded one month. Assuming a date of death of June 16, 2008 - the last date anyone other than Casey claimed to have seen or talked to Caylee - this one-month interval would have elapsed on July 16, 2008, the day after Cindy Anthony first reported to LE that Caylee had been "missing" for a month. In any event, I do not believe the defense has a leg to stand on in alleging that Caylee was murdered and/or her body or remains dumped in the woods many months later, regardless of how many unsuccessful searches were conducted in this area prior to her skeletonized remains being found on December 11, 2008.

If you are not too squeamish, you might care to read "Death to Dust" which clearly explains the variables that affect the rates of human decomposition. Note: If you would like to print this article, I would suggest you cut and paste it into a document page by page as the raw article when printed is barely legible.

Dave Knechel said...

A very good read, ritanita. Clearly, you put a lot of work into it.

In my opinion, this is just the tip of the motion iceberg when it comes to Lyon. She will do her best to nickel and dime the judge down to remove the death penalty. Although important, I expect the best is yet to come from her.

ritanita said...


I totally agree with you about the condition of the remains. A couple of days in the trunk of the Sunfire (attested to by George and Cindy, the cadaver dog, air tests) plus the general heat conditions in Florida at the time of the crime made for speedy decomposition. As sad as it is to say, Caylee was pretty much destroyed by the time Casey was incarcerated. Moving those remains it highly unlikely.


Thanks you. I have more motions to look at today. I hope to have them posted by tomorrow.

Andrea Lyon has a full plate with this case. Looking just at the motion to dismiss, she has to deal with what the defense did back in December and January. It's a a clear path of argument from the hearing on the 12th all the way through the infamous Todd Black press releases.

She's stuck with it and has to deal with it through these motions.

Fortunately for us, Judge Strickland made good decisions in his early rulings. He won't buy the "spoliage" route here.

Anonymous said...

It is truly unbelievable and disgusting that we have people in our society like Baez and Lyon who will try to use any sneaky technicality to free a child murderer. No one knew if the remains were Caylee's (defense probably did, as casey is obviously guilty). They are being as dishonest and disingenuous as possible.

Baez, Lyon, and their peers should be shunned by society and should be outcasts. They are inherently evil people with dubious motives. I have no problem with presenting a defense, but to just take random shots based on nonsense to try to free a murderer is beyond disgusting. The idea is for justice to occur, not to win with trickery.

I guess anytime a body is found every defense lawyer in the country should be able to 'investigate' the scene until it's identified and then what? What about murders from 10 years ago? No conviction for them because defense lawyers weren't at the crime scene? I really hope these two get disbarred...and a lot worse. Utterly disgusting.

ritanita said...

Anonymous at 12:37,

Like them or not, defense attorneys are important to our judicial system.

I want Casey to have a proper defense so that if there is a conviction, it will be appeal-proof.

I am disappointed in the defense motions, but they have to work with what is available. They don't have much to work with here, they are grasping at anything to argue their case.

I'm not an attorney, I just know a lot about language and I enjoy taking apart the words and assessing what is being said.

Right now, I'm in the process of going throuh the other 3 motions. I find myself going back in history. I should have another post up tomorrow!