Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Casey Anthony Frye Hearings: Day 4

While waiting for today's hearing to begin, I began to wonder how much longer Dorothy Sims will be conducting the direct examination of Dr. Logan. At this point, we don't even know if Dr. Logan's testimony will be a factor in Judge Perry's decision on the motion concerning the odor analysis of Casey's car. I also wonder how John Ashton will impeach him.

I do hope we have the opportunity to hear from Dr. Vass today. I also wonder if Jeff Ashton had a chance to read Valhall's excellent articles on the Hinky Meter based on her analysis of Dr. Furton's testimony and the articles he cited in his testimony. If you haven't read them already, you can find both Part 1 and Part 2. They are a must read if you are like me and has a hard time with the scientific evidence.

Judge Perry entered the courtroom at 9:02. The defense forgot to ask for the equipment for Dr. Logan's testimony and we started with a half-hour recess so that the equipment could be set up. Judge Perry was not pleased!

At 9:32 Casey reappeared and court again came to order at 9:38. Such a waste of the court's time!

Witness #4 (returning): Dr. Barry Logan

Sims asked if Logan is the VP of the American Academy of Science and he answered he wasn't. He is the Vice-President of the Academy of Forensic Sciences. He continued going through his background. I was surprised that Ms. Sims had questions where the answers were "no"! (Doesn't she remember not to ask a question to which she doesn't know the answer?)

There was more about his experience with the GC/MS and other equipment that is used in this testing.

She had him go through the procedures that are used to develop new tests.

Here again, we see the difference in procedures in a forensic lab versus a research lab. It's like apples and oranges in comparison.

To add to his information, Sims asked him to explain what the American Academy of Forensic Science does. (They were trying to prove how "unprofessional" Dr. Vass' work is.)
Jeff Ashton objected to a Sims' question and was allowed to voir-dire Dr. Logan. asked how a group would apply to the board for recognition. For example, toxicology is one. There has to be a "critical mass" of experts in the field who need to get together and apply. (Obviously, there is no "critical mass" of people doing the type of work Dr. Vass is doing.)

Sims came back with the fact that if there are few people doing work in the field, there is less chance for validation.

The question was then read back, "Does the American Academy of Forensic Science have a committee which recognizes the specialty of odor identification secondary to decomposition. The answer was no. It would probably fall under "Criminalistics" and isn't recognized as a separate discipline.

Logan then went back to the testing process and certification.

Sims then asked about his awards in forensic toxicology. The judge sustained Ashton's objection to that.

She then asked when science is considered "forensic." Logan gave an answer that again "went through" the process by committee.

We even learned that the National Academy of Science was started by Abraham Lincoln in 1863!

Since there were still annoying sounds from the Skype feed, it was hard to hear any objections made by Jeff Ashton.

The defense then asked that the report by the American Academy of Science which deemed much forensic testing as “junk science” be admitted into evidence.

Judge Perry then asked which of the 4 prongs of the Ramirez case this exhibit went to.

Ashton objected to the document and the judge went through the contents and found nothing related to the topic at hand.

Sims cited part 4, which is the principal of science in interpreting forensic data. The judge decided to allow that section in.

There was then discussion of “pattern analysis”. GC/MS use would be used here to develop pattern evidence. Sims asked what Logan thought of the document concerning this.

This is the latest trend in defense strategy, the old “junk science” that’s been around since the report came out. We’d heard Linda Kenney-Baden talking about this way back in the early stages of the case.

Ashton kept objecting to the general nature of the questions.

Next was the SWG (standard working guidelines) groups run by the FBI.

Apparently the FBI has issued no standards for decompositional analysis.

The judge announced a brief recess and announced the Florida government had extended funding for the courts through May.

When court resumed, the interference was even worse. It seemed that Dorothy Sims was allowed to proffer an entire article into evidence. We couldn't hear Jeff Ashton' objections, but the judge allowed her to put stickies on pertinent material.

I'm no court stenographer, and I do pity her today. Sims read a portion that mentioned why analysis could go wrong.

Logan was asked to testify that there is no consensus among those who do such testing. Ashton objected saying Logan is not an expert in decompositional analysis.

Logan testified he'd not done decompositional analysis on pigs.

Logan would be able to testify because he'd read all these articles.

The judge asked when Logan read all these articles. Did he read them long before the case or just since he came into the case?

Logan said he had read all the articles plus two others. He read Vass 2008 article when it came out and the rest in preparation for this case. He'd mentioned the Statheropoulos (thank you, Valhall) report prior to his deposition.

Sims said his time of reading didn't matter since he is an expert.

Ashton was allowed to ask Logan if the only purpose he had read the articles was for this case.

Sims stressed he read the 2008 article when it came out.

The Judge sustained the objection by pointing out that the lawyers had read the articles as well, but weren't experts in the field.

Logan also testified that there are no studies on decomposition of children.

The series of questions that followed were marked by a number objections by Jeff Ashton.

There were more questions, more objections, more re-wording, so on and so forth.

From Logan's testimony I would infer that for Vass' to develop standards, he would have had to study the decay of children of Caylee's size under rigorously controlled conditions. Just thinking about this turned my stomach.

There were more detailed questions, hypotheticals given. The end result was that he believed that Dr. Vass' research was totally unreliable.

Sims asked if being in a peer-reviewed article automatically make the science valid. Ashton objected and it was sustained.

There were questions about pseudo-sciences. (Like dowsing, lol). Sims wanted to make a chart of science vs. pseudo-science. Ashton said this was a topic for the jury. No chart was made.

The judge then told the lawyers that they had asked him to decide if the research of Dr. Vass was acceptable in the scientific community. He also said they had asked questions as to the reliability of Vass' results. He felt the defense was going about it the long way and they were going to run out of time.

He would set a time limit and all the evidence not heard by 5:00 will not be considered. He said he would give both sides all the latitude in the world in terms of questioning.

Is that fair to Ashton? Sims has been at this for hours! Of course, I doubt that Ashton will need that much time.

Logan felt that the science was not mature yet and that it was impossible to say whether it is valid or not.

Dr. Logan made a chart comparing the results of Vass vs. Statheropoulos reports.

Ashton asked him if he made the chart hmself, and he said he did. There was more discussion which was hard to make out, however, the judge accepted the chart.

There was also a discussion of carbon-tetrachloride and its presence in various items. He said that it is not present in human decomposition.

Sims asked about other scenarios for the presence of fatty acids. Logan cited they are present in fingerprint oils, milk, butter, suntan lotion, cheese, dairy products.

I suppose you could call this the Velveeta defense!

Logan testified that the amount of chloroform present was unclear. When asked if there was chloroform in the controls and Ashton said that this information wasn't in evidence here. It was in the deposition. No one had asked him to take judicial notice of the deposition.

After much back and forth and objections, the testimony went to anaerobic conditions.
Remember, Caylee was decomposing under anaerobic conditions in the garbage bags.

Logan also said the negative carpet sample contained chloroform. (Note, there is no mention of comparable amounts.)

As proof, Sims mentioned that Casey went swimming in Tony Lazzaro's pool and put Caylee's wet bathing suit in the trunk of the car.

More unintelligible objections.

The judge sustained the objection.

There was then a discussion about chloroform in various sources in the environment.

Then, Sims went back to her chart. Quite frankly, I found the comparisons bogus because I couldn't see the chart. They were talking about compounds that weren't there, were there. I couldn't even figure if they were using the garbage study versus Vass' study.

Logan testified that the amount of chloroform present was unclear. When asked if there was chloroform in the controls and Ashton said that this information wasn't in evidence here. It was in the deposition. No one had asked him to take judicial notice of the deposition.

After much back and forth and objections, the testimony went to anaerobic conditions.

There was no fluoride found in the Montana sample. What significance did that have in relation to the Vass study?

Logan didn't recall that section. When reminded by Sims, he did.

She was attacking the lack of fluoride in the Vass study and his conclusion. (This would be a good time to read Valhall’s article #2)

Jeff Ashton asked if there was a difference between looking for a specific compound in a sample and looking for the compounds in a sample. Logan called the second, "general analysis."

Logan said he did that sort of general analysis on people who used drugs.

Logan had only done air samples for accelerants, and exhaust samples. He did these studies in the late 1980's when he was in graduate school.

Ashton asked a series of questions to which Logan agreed. He went too fast for me to catch them all, but they pretty much went to the techniques Vass used and if they were scientifically accepted.

He also agreed that peaks on a chromatogram could show relative abundance of the compound.

Error rates were discussed. It does not apply to an individual's opinion. They concern measurement error rates.

Logan said that error rate was valid for a comparative test such as accelerant in an arson case. They would send various samples to different labs. It is a proficiency test.

Logan said that one could send various decomposition samples to laboratories and see the comparison of their results.

Ashton asked about air samples. How could one be 100% sure they were the same. Logan said they could have divided up the air sample and send it to a number of labs for verification.

Ashton then asked if the National Academy of Science report was requested because of problems with labs. Logan pointed out that the study went further.

Ashton asked if it was because of difficulties with issues of errors and fraud in the traditional laboratories.

Logan said the Academy said they were problems they decided to look into it after the study was commissioned.

Ashton asked Logan to look at issues of errors and fraud. Logan doesn't seem to have that section and Ashton read it to him.

Ashton asked if there was anything in the document of research science and forensics. There is a section of "validation of new methods" and says there is no caution against new science.

Logan said it encourages new science with the appropriate levels of research and validation.

Ashton called Logan on the fact that he'd mainly relied on his own knowledge of adipocere and can't remember the articles he have read. He said he had read about a dozen.

Ashton then went to the comparison of the Vass and Statheropoulos studies. The bodies were not of the same stage and the collection methods were different.

Essentially, Logan had to say that the comparison of the two studies was difficult to do due to the differences of the studies, there weren't similar circumstances.

Ashton also brought out that Logan had only read the papers. He would have been better off if he had done his own research in that field.

Logan replied that if he had done his own research, he would have been prepared to go further in his testimony.

Ashton pointed out that the procedures in a forensic laboratory and a research laboratory are different.

With that, Ashton was finished.

Sims then came back on re-direct. She read from the report. There is no way I'm typing that out! They are discussing pure science here.
My heart goes out to Judge Perry, he has to make the final decision.

There was mention of the fact that the body had been gone from the car for 30 days prior to the sample be taken.

Sims then referred to Vass as an "alleged" scientist. There was a brief discussion of error rate and if a research scientist could be wrong 100% of the time. That was objected to and it seems we finally getting a lunch break.

During the break, Judge Perry held a brief presser to announce that the funding issue had been dealt with for now. They will be funded through May and the legislature is in session to work out the rest of the fiscal year.

As we returned from lunch, Jose Baez entered stipulations and gave the date of the picture that he had wanted admitted into evidence. He also asked to include four depositions as appendices to his original motion. (None of these people testified at these hearings.)

Ashton disagreed and said the witnesses were here to give testimony and these depositions are hearsay. Baez argued that Ashton included Nick Petraco's transcript. They weren't even from this case.

Ashton pointed out that Petraco isn't available to the State as he is a defense consultant.

The depositions Baez wanted to put in were taken even before the motion was filed.

Baez contended that Ashton had all but abandoned the Frye portion and said it was pure opinion testimony. He told the judge there is no jury there. He referred to the judge as the "gatekeeper of science."

Ashton said that Baez must be confusing this motion with the botany motion.

Judge Perry reserved his ruling on the issue.

The next motion that was dealt with was the defense's Amended Motion For Hearing On The Unreliability Of Expert Opinion Testimony Of Dr. Hall. This was filed by the defense on March 29.

Witness #5: Dr. David Hall (testifying telephonically) He is the State forensic botanist

Dorothy Sims began her questioning. She asked for his basic background. He authored a report on the botanical evidence. He reached his conclusions by measuring the photographs with a ruler. He never had the original specimens.

He looked at the roots of the plants, not just the root tips as Sims had said.

His conclusions included how long the root had been there.

He was asked to refer to his deposition as Sims pointed out where he mentioned root tips. He said he meant to say root fragments.

By measuring the small roots in the photograph, it was his opinion that they were probably growing from 2-3 months, the larger roots 3-5 months.

He used photographs that came from the ME's office. He said he was able to use the scale on the pictures. He did not know if the photos without scale had been enlarged.

He was unable to identify the plants in the photographs. He stated that he had no formal training in estimating root growth rates of unknown plants.

I've just figured out that this testimony goes to the last motion filed by the defense on the botany issue.

Sims mentioned that he should have followed the root down to the end. He agreed. He never got to see the actual plants. He did see plants in the area. (Sorry to say, plant specimens like this have a tendency to shrivel and die pretty fast.)

She then went into all the different things that can affect plant growth rates.

It's hard to follow what Hall said, but essentially, Sims is battling against the fact that he dated the growth rates which helped him decide how long Caylee's remains were in that final location.

Sims pointed out some plants whose roots could grow faster. Hall also pointed out that it mattered which part of the root was measured. He said he averaged the width of the majority of plants that grew in the photograph.

Sims asked if he had measured 90% of the roots. He said he only measured roots in pictures that had a scale.

Hall said he had not done experiments on this because he hadn't found the right place to to it.
He also testified he did not know of any studies of root growth through bones and had not taught any classes suggesting his students do a study of it.

We are back to replication of results, here.

He admitted he had no empirical data or methedology to back up his findings.

Ashton had no questions of Dr. Hall and stipulated that Dr. Hall's deposition be taken into evidence for the case.

Witness #6 Dr. Jane Bock (testifying telephonically) defense botanist

Again, Dorothy Sims questioned the witness.

Dr. Bock said that root growth rates are in botanical literature. Sims asked her to testify that she didn't know of any journal or article that supported the ability to estimate plant growth by looking at the diameter of roots in pictures.

Pardon me here, I've read her depositions and I know that all she says about Hall's work is that there are no scientific studies or empirical data to back up Dr. Hall's assertions.

She has testified or consulted on about 40-50 cases.

There then came a mind-numbing batch of questions which made my mind glaze over. As Jeff Ashton pointed out, Dr. Hall had stated he used no articles, publications, educational e-mails... the result was cumulative and to no good purpose.

When Simms finished, Ashton had no questions.

Why this all had to happen, I have no clue!

At this point, the judge asked Ashton if he had asked Dr. Petraco to testify. Ashton said "no" because he was in the employ of the defense.

Then, Perry asked Baez if Ashton had attempted to call him as a witness, what would they have done?

Baez said he would be willing to engage in a "quid pro quo" and Perry said that didn't answer the question. Then, Baez said he would have said "no" due to a Crawford issue.

Then, the judge said that if he had been able to cross examine him, what would he have done? Mason answered with a lot of mumbling.

The judge then took on the defense and essentially said that if he had testified, the defense could object to work product.

The defense really didn't want to answer this. As Mason said, it was a double-edged sword.

The judge said he could look at the New York ruling and then at the testimony.

Jeff Ashton didn't want the transcript to become a problem.

Baez mentioned that only one hair in this case had the root banding. That could be a completely different from the New York case, which he though involved more than one hair.

At this point there were no more witnesses and the judge asked if the attorneys wanted to know if they wanted to continue with the status hearing. Apparently, they didn't. They discussed how the pictures would be presented as the defense and the State have to present their opinions as to which ones should be admitted into evidence. There was mention made that "certain" pictures which were delicate in nature were to be reproduced on copy paper so that they could be sealed.

The judge then called for a 20 minute recess.

After a 20 minute break,

Jose Baez began by stating that they could not properly question Dr. Vass because the State refused to turn over the entire data base.

He used his Power Point presentation and indicated Vass has a significant financial gain from his sniffer machine. By signing off on the motion, the judge would be putting money in Vass' pockets.

He pretty much read off his hi-tech cue cards.

He essentially said that the science is not yet generally accepted in any number of ways.

He showed Furton's tables and showed that the experts didn't agree.

Baez made such statements as "This is not science, it's guesswork." Somehow, Baez thinks there is "secret science that is being hidden from the court."

Then, Baez actually made the suggestion that perhaps the people in Montana didn't send him the "real" blanket and the results didn't match. Baez stated that all Vass wanted was for them to trust him.

He also said that the defense is unable to replicate the work because they have no written protocols.

Baez said that Vass can't validate his own experiments. Oak Ridge has no quality controls. They don't have to follow quality controls while conducting experiments.

There was a chart that seemed to compare they Sybers case and this case.

I couldn't keep up with all Baez had to say, but he actually gave chunks of information and mentioned that certain information, which the Court wouldn't allow in, proved such and such. IF this information had been allowed in, the bench notes WOULD have shown... Jeff Ashton objected and the judge sustained.

There were more comparisons with the Sybers case.

Baez went into great detail about the "spoliation" of the trash. He attacked the results of the air tests (which actually tested the off-gassing from the carpet).

Baez mentioned the Febreze, the Blue Star, gas, etc. that were applied in the trunk.

I'm feeling as though the defense has put all this information into a blender and shot it out at the judge. As Baez spoke, Jeff Ashton shook his head "no" and wrote notes. Baez went on and on, basically bashing Dr. Vass and his qualifications.

Baez called Vass' work an experiment at best. He was still going on, script in hand. Vass was talking out of both sides of his mouth. Vass has a stake of this, he has so much to gain. He mentioned the scientific value of cars from a Tennessee scrap yard!

These are just some tidbits, people. Watching Baez right now is pure torture. He is loud and fast. I think you have the idea.

Finally, Ashton stood to speak. He came equipped with a thick notebook and began by correcting a statement made by Baez, stating that the detection of the adipocere was from the paper towels and not the carpet.

He then dismissed the 6th amendment issues Baez raised since he did not raise it in is motion.

He also ignored Baez' comments about 97.02 as it wasn't in his motion.

He cited two legal references, recently pronounced by the Florida Supreme Court which cleared issues which the defense used in their arguments concerning Frye.

He stated that general acceptance is far more deferential and limited than what Baez had stated.

Dr. Vass is the leading expert in the United States on the chemistry of decomposition. Dr. Furton acknowledged that when he said that the failure to read and cite his work in a thesis is a major mistake.

The Castillo case said that the Frye issue is limited to the use and interpretation data supplied by the GC/MS.

Dr. Logan admitted he is not an expert in the field and admitted as such, but that the method used is generally accepted.

Vass used comparative or signature analysis of the data in the case. In this case, In addition,all the witnesses agreed to that.

They also agreed that the use of peer reviewed journals is also generally accepted.

Ashton said that there are few people that understand what Dr. Vass does. Furton came the closest although his main job is to oversee the work of other people.

Everything that Dr. Vass did was by generally accepted methods. His results do not have to be generally accepted. Ashton agreed with the defense on the issue that there is no accepted signature odor for human decomposition. Dr. Vass had said that the results were consistent with decomposition, possibly of human origin. Dr. Furton agreed with that also. The significance of that, is for the jury to decide.

And he was finished!

Baez came up for a "very brief" rebuttal. Those chemicals that were found and discussed are commonly found in many, many items. He said there is nothing in the chemicals that indicate decomposition.

He cited his motion, p.5, that he had broached the 6th amentdment issue and made a snarky comment to Ashton, that maybe he hadn't read the motion in a long time.

Baez said that nobody agrees with Vass. "All that he has done is write two papers on a completely different topic..." " Perhaps Dr. Vass should get a degree in chemistry."

He also discussed the Marsh and Castillo cases and his arguments made absolutely no sense to me. Baez repeated again that one can't compare apples and oranges.

Baez said that Vass was a "non-chemist" more than once who is out to make millions and nobody agrees with him. (Yes, we heard that before.)

I was getting angry at this point and I seldom get angry. I don't know where Baez feels he can denigrate a recognized scientist. His comments did not go to the science, but to the person. Baez frequently uses such "ad hominem" arguments when he can't attack the evidence properly. It is not a pretty way for a professional attorney to argue at any time.

Ashton briefly spoke and said that there was a mention of the 6th Amendment. He also said the defense never made an effort to get information they wanted. All they did was ask him for it and he didn't have it. They took "no" for an answer from Oak Ridge and didn't pursue it further.

Finally, Ashton pointed out that this is not the only evidence of a dead body in the car. There is the odor, the hair band, the cadaver dogs.

Baez wrapped the hearing up by crying "indigent" and that they couldn't afford to pay for what Ashton said they should have done. He also mentioned that he hadn't found any cases where cadaver dog testimony was allowed into evidence where there were no remains found.

The remainder of the hearing dealt with housekeeping issues for Friday's hearings.

Heart Shaped Sticker- It will either be argued or Ashton will give a written reply.
Smell in the Pontiac- It will either be argued or Ashton will give a written reply.

I'm not totally sure on these first two. I suppose we will find out Friday!

Stain in Car- Jeff Ashton has replied to the motion and Judge Perry will rule on the filings.

Lucky us! There will also be closing arguments on the canine and chloroform motions. Let's hope Mr. Baez takes a lesson in brevity from Mr. Ashton.

Jeff Ashton stated that they will be deposing the psychiatrists tomorrow and may submit a
motion in limine. If they do, Judge Perry said that they will argue on Friday the 15th. Jose Baez pointed out that it would be short notice for Ann Finnel. Ashton mentioned that the filing of the witnesses had been very late. Judge Perry suggested that Ms. Finnel could appear via the Webex.

The next hearing will be on Friday, April 8, at 9 AM.

Watch the hearing! Links at the WFTV article along with other cool stuff to watch.


FRG said...


Thank you so much for the article! You are the best!

So what it started as "junk science" became "secret science"! Please somebody shoot me! LOL

What are we going to do? Who is the "most annoying" between Sims and JB? I find it hard to say! Sims supposedly be good at cross examining doctors? Good Lord, she has no idea what she is doing! 

Well KC, you are done! Just beg for a plea! I am not kidding!

KC's lawyers won't appeal to the jurors! They are annoying and have no charisma. JB had no business calling Dr. Vass "a guy"! He has no manners, no respect at all! Jurors will despise KC's lawyers! 

By the way, what an outfit KC wore today! Goodness grace! Does Cindy hate her or what? LOL

I have such a headache from JB and Sims it's not funny! 

Mr. Ashton always saves the day, he is always sharp and short, thank God!

Keep up the great work ritanita!

You poor thing, Friday is awaiting for you!

pathgirl said...

Trust me Dr. Kemp in Montana is very fastidious and he would NEVER send a fake blanket as a control to Dr. Vass. Willie, I've known since he was a fellow @ the Dallas ME, is an excellent ME, a good teacher and a very nice person. Shame on you baez.

donchais said...

Passing a glass of Merlot - you deserve it!

Today was terribly painful, to say the least.

Great writ-up!

Anonymous said...

thank you so much for the recap. I too have noticed that mr. Baez begins personal attacks when cornered by his own lack of reasoning. I really want Casey to have a better defense as Mr. Baez says" death is different " and I couldn't agree more

LCoastMom said...

RITANITA - many thanks for the rundown of the hearing. If Baez has his way this trial may take months!

If you can't dazzle them with brilliance, confuse them with BS.

Jeff Ashton continues to shine - Baez continues to be confused. The differences are striking....

ritanita said...

Hi everyone!

Thanks for visiting.

I always feel better when my impressions are confirmed by others!

The reason Jeff Ashton can get to the point and not go on and on is that he does his homework and is intelligent enough to know that long-winded diatribes against the opposing team get one no-where when arguing in front of a highly esteemed judge who knows what's going on.

The comparison between the two sides was patently obvious today in all facets of this hearing.

The defense has a good deal to lose in these hearings. They should have spent more time trying to understand their experts and less time with "strategies" and "telling them what to say" as Dr. Furton said.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for all your work. Love your blog. Casey shouldv'e gotten rid of Baez along time ago. This is the time she really needs someone experienced in the area of science.

ritanita said...

That's why I think that the loss of Linda Kenney-Baden was devastating to the defense team.