Saturday, November 27, 2010

Casey Anthony: The Mitigation Witnesses And A Taphonomy Expert

According to what we have heard, the motion for discovery by Jeff Ashton is the only one to be discussed. However, two more motions have been filed. Just in case they come up, here's my take on them.

On November 23, attorney Ann Finnell filed the Defendant's Motion To Seal Penalty Phase Discovery Response. This motion comes after Judge Belvin Perry's Order denying the previous motion filed by Andrea Lyon on April 28, 2010. Lyon's motion, entitled Defendant's Motion for Protective Order with Respect to Penalty Phase Discovery, essentially stated that the defense wanted Perry to:

...enter an order protecting Miss Anthony from having to reveal any information relating to any potential penalty phase proceeding to the State prior to the time that she is actually convicted of First Degree Murder, should that event occur.

In a ten page memorandum of law, Ms. Lyon cited quite a bit of legal precedent and Casey Anthony's constitutional rights.

In sum, Rule. 3.220 does not require pretrial disclosure of penalty phase discovery. Extending Rule 3.220 to require penalty phase discovery before trial would raise serious constitutional questions, and the Florida Supreme Court has expressly declined to do so. To compel disclosure before trial would severely prejudice Miss Anthony's defense, violate her constitutional rights, and likely violate the witnesses' right to privacy under Article 1, section 23, of the Florida Constitution.

The defense argued Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.220 does not require pre-trial disclosure of penalty phase discovery materials, so there should be no requirement to provide a list of mitigation witnesses prior to trial. The state argued the defense chose to participate in discovery, which triggered reciprocal obligations that include the sentencing phase of a capital trial... " (bold mine)

With this order denied, the judge did give the defense an "out" concerning the names of the witnesses.

2. If a particular witness will face public harassment, the defense may file a specific motion regarding that witness and the Court will consider a restriction on public disclosure of the name and address.

Surprisingly, in her motion, Ann Finnell chose to ask that all witness names and addresses be sealed from the public and the media. As we heard at the last hearing, she is having difficulty getting witnesses to speak to her. Apparently, Finnell believes that:

To date witnesses in this case, especially defense witnesses, have already been subjected to intense media pressure and harassment by the media and the public at large. This has resulted in a chilling effect with some witnesses becoming reluctant to come forward with information for fear of harassment and stalking. (bold mine)

Furthermore, Finnell also asks the judge, should he deny this motion,

...Defendant objects to any disclosure at this time and requests this Court delay disclosure of any kind until after the innocence/guilt phase of the trial. (bold mine)

Valhall, over at the Hinky Meter went to a great deal of effort to list all the defense witnesses who are not on the State's witness list. I have to agree with her that these people haven't exactly been featured in the media.

However, I know for sure that two of the defense witnesses, psychic Gale St. John and her daughter, Tamara have been harassed by the defense investigator, Jeremy Lyons. After speaking with Lyons once and essentially saying that she didn't have anything to offer, Lyons has called her constantly. HERE is a broadcast of Gale's that talks about the harassment and even plays the audio of one of his phone messages.

She then repeats the video of her "search" on Suburban Drive. If you watch carefully, you will see that Travis Sanders and the dog get sick just about where the remains were found. They then pull up further up the road and briefly walk the dog in the grassy area, a goodly distance away.

As for Travis Sanders, he's managed to escape the harassment by making himself totally unavailable somewhere in Northern California!

If Ms. Finnell knew more about harassment in this case, she would know that most, if not all the harassment, comes from the defense towards the State's witnesses. Think Roy Kronk, for one. Think all of the TES searchers who have been cold-called. I'm sure of you can come up with some more.

While I really don't care if the names are sealed or not, it does bother me that MSM and bloggers and posters on message boards are included in the harassment. We write what we see. While there are "haters" out there, there are many more of us who "call it as we see it".

As to Ms. Finnell's assertion that witnesses won't speak for fear of harassment, I really wonder if this is the ONLY reason. The defense cannot force mitigation-type witnesses to testify, it has to be voluntary. In this case, the mitigation witnesses will only be called for two reasons: to say how wonderful Casey is, such a good mother, good student, etc., and to bash Casey's upbringing by testifying about her parents, George and Cindy and the terrible values they taught their daughter.

People who would be unwilling to get up on the stand in court and do those things probably wouldn't want to talk to an investigator. They don't want to be involved, they don't want to be out there in public trash-talking family or friends. The defense can't force the issue.

Many years ago, early on in my teaching career, I was asked to be a mitigation witness for a student who had been in my homeroom for 10 minutes a day. It was a military murder trial and the officer spent the day at the school talking to all this man's former teachers. He came into my room at the end of the day, introduced himself to me, and asked me what I knew about "Pete". Unfortunately, I had nothing positive to say since my only experience with the then student had been dealing with his awful behavior, curses, and threats. The officer sighed and told me it hadn't been a good day for him.

I later learned from others that there was nobody who could credibly speak to any positive qualities they had observed in this future murderer. That was it, we never did hear what happened.

It will be interesting to see, should we get to a penalty phase, who volunteered to testify for Casey.

There is another motion floating out there in which the defense is asking for an expert in taphonomy. In the May 6 hearing setting the budget with the JAC, the following discussion took place. This is from my original article where I posted my notes and the dialogue is approximate:

Baez: Taphonomist. Taphonomy is the study of human decomposition.

Ashton: It’s not a recognized area of forensic science.

Baez: Ashton needs to Google it!

Bischoff: We need more information about this. Don’t they already have a forensic anthropologist?

Baez: I’ve labored hard over many hours to find the best experts for defense. Taphonomy IS a science.

Perry: Let me cut you short! We meed to have a Rogers hearing on this; file a motion and set a hearing pretty quickly. The expert can appear by video

Ashton: I need more information.

Perry: Provide (the State) with a CV of the particular witness. Have that witness appear by video conferencing, it can be done easily

In his Order, the judge denied the taphonomy expert without prejudice. He never seems to have followed Judge Perry's advice, and has now filed a new motion.

I'll write more about it when I can get my hands on a copy.

See you in court Monday!


FRG said...


Great article, as usual! Thanks a lot!

I watched Gale's video and the PI's recording is not so clear... Did you understand what he was saying?

It is really upsetting to me that defense is harassing people and nothing has happened. This is called "intimidation"! If I were these people I would complain to LE, this is too much! There is no limit to what extent they will go.

BTW, not a happy camper with the price of a crate of oranges! $8,000? I heard Dr. Lee on NG stating he was working pro-bono. What about the PI? JAC has paid him $8,000 as well... Did you see that? What for? "Fishing expedition"! I want to see JB filing more motions to ask for more money, think I am going to freak out. Good Lord!

See you in court!

Anonymous said...

Jeremy Lyons threatened to subpoena me. I hung up, they are a bunch of asses! they are calling others insisting they were at Surburban Drive when they were not..

FRG said...


Wow, that's awful! Why didn't you call LE and reported it? I am sure they are not allowed to do that.

ritanita said...

Anonymous, Thank you for posting. I don't know your area of "participation" in the case, be it as a witness or searcher. Whatever the case, it is my opinion that if the defense has to "threaten" people with subpoenas and those people have already said they have no information concerning the case, they are indeed desperate.

FRG, there is nothing illegal about issuing a subpoena. It would just order the person to appear for an interview or a deposition. Why they would want to do that is beyond me. Why waste the time and money to get information that doesn't exist.

The officer who interviewed me as a possible mitigation witness never tried to get me to change what I had to say, he never asked that of anyone. He was just looking for someone who had something nice to say about the defendant.

It reminds me of the Scott Peterson mitigation phase. Aphrodite Jones had a series on Discovery ID and one of the programs was on that trial. One of the jurors remarked that the mitigation phase was a "joke" in that it was mainly about what a good golfer he was and how he once did a favor for a neighbor. That's the best the defense could do.

FRG, it took me a few "listens" to make out Lyons call, too. However, what interested me more was that Ms. St. John states she did speak to him and had nothing new to say. She was also upset by his conversations with his daughter. How she and her crew ended up on the defense witness list is a mystery to me.

donchais said...

So, if Ms. Finnell claims,

"witnesses in this case, especially defense witnesses, have already been subjected to intense media pressure and harassment by the media and the public at large."

that wording kinda makes me think all she has is Cindy, George and Lee, pretty much! Wonder if they know all the lyrics to, "The Wheels On The Bus"!

FRG said...


Thank you for explaining that to me.

True, defense can't make people say what they want to hear period! I have an issue with all these worthless phone calls... trying to intimidate people, you know why? This PI is spending "our taxpayer's money" and this is so NOT fair.

I wonder if defense is going to use the mitigation phase and say how KC was the MOTY - NOT!!! They have the video of KC playing with Caylee but it does not mean anything. I guess that KC and Scott Peterson have a lot in common and their mitigation phase will be the same... I can picture that in my mind. Holly Gagne and JW will take the stand to say something stupid about her. Well, George, Lee and Cindy will lie through their teeth, they have already lied a lot about KC to the Media. Is there cross examination in the mitigation phase?



Now, seriously, I believe they also have on their list Holly Gagne, Mallory and perhaps JW (what she has to offer I don't know). There is always that person wanting to be part of this circus, you know some guy she spent the night with, we never know it.

ritanita said...

FRG, I don't think Joy ever met Casey. I doubt she will do anything at the trial. She's just another wingnut who inserted herself into the case and has zero credibility.

If they decide to use George and Cindy, they'd better put them on first. I truly believe that a lot of the mitigation will be to say what terrible parents they were to Casey. I'm thinking at least a psychologist to discuss her personality disorder caused by her upbringing.

IF we get to the point, it will literally be a trial unto itself.

Anonymous said...

I always enjoy your posts! Thanks for your take on thing!

Jomo :-)

shari said...

ritanita, YOU ROCK!!!!!!!!
I get so confused in the legal terms here that my head spins..Thx for the "normal language" and synopsis!

ritanita said...

Hold on, Shari, I'm working on an article about today's hearing. It should be up in a few hours!