The truth is always in the evidence. However, in my opinion, a good story supported by circumstantial evidence will beat the truth because sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction. Usually a story with twists and turns is less believable than a story rooted in common sense, but it is no less true. Sometimes this reality forces defense attorneys to “modify” the truth to make it more believable.
If you read the past four installments (the chloroform, the duct tape, the trunk, and the cover-up), you will notice there is very little of the defense’s theory present. I wanted to evaluate the State’s theory as it related to all of the evidence presented in the trial (the defense put on evidence) and I also wanted to evaluate the credibility of the evidence itself.
This was a circumstantial case with no direct evidence showing murder. However, there was plenty of evidence available to form a theory and, clearly, the State formed the best one they could. The elements of the crime, according to the State: Disabling the child with chloroform, duct taping her airways to suffocate her, wrapping her body in a blanket and two bags, transporting her in the trunk of the car, “dumping” her body in a swamp, lying to friends and family about her whereabouts, and enjoying a child-less new life.
How much of this theory was proven?
Summary of Prior Analysis
I will recap what I wrote in the previous posts.
Chloroform was found in the trunk of the car in levels an expert considered to be high. Also computer searches were conducted in March 2008 regarding the homemade production of chloroform.
The State never presented physical evidence of the purchase or production of chloroform. There was also no circumstantial evidence to support chloroform production (strange smells in the household, etc.) Therefore, the only link to the chloroform in the trunk, as presented by the State, was the computer search. As stated in the analysis (read “The Chloroform”), the MySpace picture posted by her boyfriend appeared to be more timely and relevant to the searches. Of course, this is speculation. However, without any physical evidence of chloroform production, murder by chloroform is also speculation. Also, the remains showed no signs of poisoning.
With the lack of physical chloroform evidence and the questionable intent of the searches, there were no direct or circumstantial links to the chloroform in the trunk.
Duct tape was found loosely attached to the hair embedded between the mandible and the skull of the remains. It was also found 6.27 feet southwest of the skull.
The keys to the remains were the skull being found upright and the mandible being in its anatomical position, as referenced in the analysis (read “Challenging the Duct Tape”). This indicated that the body was out of the bag when connective tissue was still present, and the skull decomposed in the position it was found. The skull was partially buried in muck which kept the mandible in place after the connective tissue decomposed. Any other scenario would have caused the mandible to disarticulate (e.g. decomposing on its side). The hair was matted at the base of the skull. If duct tape was wrapped tightly around the child’s head, the hair would have draped over the tape as the scalp decomposed, not matted itself at the bottom. One could argue that an animal wriggled the duct tape free and thus a piece was found 6 feet away, but the issue of the undisturbed mandible remains. Also, the autopsy showed no signs of suffocation.
The fact that duct tape was found on the hair cannot exclude the possibility of duct tape being on the face at some point. However, given the admitted environmental factors and animal activity, there was certainly the opportunity for light, buoyant pieces of tape to attach to the hair in some manner. Nevertheless, for a crime scene to stay unaltered under Florida conditions for 6 months is bewilderingly remarkable.
A smell resembling decomposition was noted to be emanating from the trunk of Casey Anthony’s vehicle. The vehicle was abandoned in a parking lot in late June after it ran out of gas. Casey’s father picked it up from a tow yard on July 15, 2008.
Along with certain LE officers indicating that the trunk smelled like human decomposition, cadaver dogs gave indications that a dead body may have been in the trunk. A odor test was conducted and the results indicated that a decompositional event may have occurred in the trunk. However, the methodology behind the odor analysis was questionable. There was a lack of entomological evidence in trunk and the staining was not a good representation of a decompositional stain. Also, at some point in late June, Casey and her friends rode in the car and did not smell a foul odor.
As indicated in the analysis (read “The Trunk”), the evidence suggests that there was a decomposing body in the car trunk for a very short period of time. The lack of staining and entomological evidence indicate that cleaning may have taken place. Cleaning may have also masked the smell for a short period of time. If it was cleaned more than once, chloroform and other chemicals may have saturated the carpet.
In the time after the child’s disappearance, Casey was seen doing what she normally did, with the exception of going home. She stayed at her boyfriend’s apartment for most of the time. When asked about her child’s whereabouts, Casey indicated she was with the babysitter. When she was confronted by her mother on July 15, 2008, she said the babysitter kidnapped the child 31 days prior.
Casey’s behavior indicated that she knew what happened to the child. There seemed to be element of guilt associated with it, but to draw any further conclusions as to why it existed would be speculation.
Based on the analysis of the evidence, it is highly unlikely that the crime was committed as the State suggested. The gaps and inconsistencies in the evidence were greatest in the areas that directly impacted cause and manner of death. Without nailing those down, the rest of the theory fell apart.
As I stated, there was not much evidence to support the “death by chloroform” theory. The computer searches were a mess and no one could say where the chloroform in the trunk came from. How can you connect the dots if there’s only one dot?
The duct tape made up for the shortcomings of the chloroform theory. But suffocation by duct tape was unheard of (and probably still is). There was no scientific evidence to say that it was ever on the child’s face.
If you cannot provide conclusive evidence or analysis to support your theories of murder, than how can you prove there was a murder?
Ultimately, the biggest blow to the State’s theory was Casey Anthony herself. No witness could produce any testimony indicating that she ever abused or mistreated her child in any way or felt that her child was a burden.
There was zero evidence to “justify” a murder.
This analysis is not a reflection of the verdict. Given another theory (or jury), Casey Anthony may have been found guilty of murder. The facts of the case remain: Casey was last seen with the child, Casey evaded her parents for a month, Casey lied about the whereabouts of the child, Casey lied about what happened to the child, the trunk of Casey’s car smelled like a dead body, and the child’s remains were found in a swamp around the corner from her house. However, the evidence does not completely substantiate the elements of the crime as laid out by the State.
If I was forced to choose a verdict, as per the indictment, I would have initially chosen Manslaughter. However, my conviction would be tentative due to the definition of “culpable negligence,” as laid out in the jury instructions (read document).
Culpable negligence is a course of conduct showing reckless disregard of human life, or of the safety of persons exposed to its dangerous effects, or such an entire want of care as to raise a presumption of a conscious indifference to consequences, or which shows wantonness or recklessness, or a grossly careless disregard of the safety and welfare of the public, or such an indifference to the rights of others as is equivalent to an intentional violation of such rights.
The negligent act or omission must have been committed with an utter disregard for the safety of others. Culpable negligence is consciously doing an act or following a course of conduct that the defendant must have known, or reasonably should have known, was likely to cause death or great bodily injury.
If I did not buy the chloroform theory and was skeptical of the duct tape theory, I would not be able to determine if there was “culpable negligence” or not. Taking the other circumstances into consideration, I’m not sure if that would have mattered to me, though. On emotion I would have voted for manslaughter; on logic I would have voted to acquit. Murder was out of the question.
However, the jury arrived to a perfectly logical conclusion when they rendered their verdict given the evidence that was presented and the theory laid out by the State.
To see what the evidence really said, please read Casey Anthony: Mystery Solved.