Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Long Road to Justice for Caylee Anthony

Casey parties after Caylee is gone
by Diane Fanning

This morning, Tuesday at 9 a.m., in an Orange County Courthouse in Orlando, the state of Florida will step to the podium to present the opening arguments in favor of the conviction of Casey Marie Anthony for the murder of her toddler daughter, Caylee Marie Anthony. 

Following that, the defense will present its arguments for a not guilty verdict. Attorney Jose Baez has promised that he will explain why Casey didn't report her daughter missing and answer a lot of other questions in the first three minutes.  Odds are he will claim the death of Caylee was an accident, or he will point the finger of guilt at a member of Casey's immediate family, or perhaps at one of Casey's friends.

The body discovery site
This day of reckoning has been delayed for quite some time. From the moment of Caylee's death in mid-June 2008, her road to justice has been long and full of obstacles. She spent days unnoticed in the trunk of a car driven by her mother, Casey Anthony. She was then dumped in the undergrowth--her location unknown to anyone but her killer.

No one else even knew for nearly five weeks that she was gone.  It was then that her grandmother, Cindy Marie Anthony, reported her missing.  Nearly six months after Caylee was last seen alive, the poor child's decomposed body, with duct tape wrapped around her skull, was found less than half a mile from the Anthony home.

Still, her mother would not admit to what her daughter had done.  She lied again and again and again. Each prevarication more outrageous than the last. And, somehow, Casey seemed to think she would be believed if only she kept lying. 

That string of lies will surely be part of the deliberations of the jury at trial's end.  They'll also consider some controversiaal evidence--the cans of air taken from Casey's car. The defense argued that allowing the jury to smell the contents turns jurors into witnesses. I did not find that argument compelling because it is only a matter of which sense is being invoked. Juries are taken to crime scenes all the time. There they use their eyes to observe. Here the state wants them to use their noses. I can't say that I've seen all that much distance between the two. But as Stacey Dittrich said on the Levi Page Show, the odor from those cans will permeate the area where they are opened. Let's hope for everyone's comfort that they are taken outside to sniff and not expected to smell the odor of decomposition inside a closed space.

Judge Belvin Perry has estimated that the trial will last six to eight weeks.  That length of time seems as optimistic an approximation as his prediction that the jury would be seated in one week; it took twice as long.  Six hundred and forty seven subpoenas have been issued to witnesses--an enormous, time-consuming number. Even if only half of them are called to the stand, it's hard to believe it could be all over before the end of July.  At this point, there is really no way of knowing how long this trial will last.

From June of 2008 until May of 2011 is a long time--nearly three years after Caylee Anthony died. By the time the trial is over, we will be near the date that would have been Caylee's sixth birthday. She's waited a long time for justice. Let's hope Caylee Anthony finds it in the courtroom of Judge Perry.

Diane Fanning is the author of the best-selling Mommy's Little Girl, the only book about the death of Caylee Anthony. Watch for updates about the Anthony case on Diane Fanning's blog, Writing is a Crime,


Anonymous said...

Lets hope that "everybody" finds justice in the court room. Both Caylee - who had the right to live - and Casey - who has the right to not be executed or put away for life solely based on inappropriate behavior and flimsy circumstantial evidence.

cheryl said...

I thought the prosecution's motion to offer the "decomposition cans" as evidence was denied by the judge.
Either way, it's hardly flimsy circumstantial evidence" to have had a decomposing body in the car that Casey was using solely for herself.
I wonder whose body it could have been? Hmmm...

Anonymous said...

While I certainly hope to see justice done in the courtroom, whatever the outcome, I always find odd the construction/conceit that dead people may "find justice." Dead people don't "find" anything - justice, car keys, anything - they're dead. The sad truth is, Caylee will neither benefit from her Mom's conviction nor be further harmed by her acquittal.

Whatever the court finds, we do know that Ms. Fanning has already found a way to profit from the tragedy before the evidence is even presented. So at least somebody benefits.

Anonymous said...

Funny you should mention the "air cans" Cheryl. That's probably one of the oddest things I have ever heard in a court room - quite preposterous even by Hollywood standards. Who would they call to sniff those? A talking cadaver dog? Surely a jury of ordinary people cant be expected to associate a smell to human decay with a certainty sufficient to convict a person. I could go to prison based on the smell in my daughters gym-bag that way!

Sadly I fear that we will see a conviction solely because a cute child has been murdered and a person who is generally seen as unsympathetic and behaves inappropriately had the opportunity to do the deed. The prosecution has an easy job because in this trial Casey is presumed guilty until proven innocent.

If they convict her based on what we know so far I don't see justice for anybody...

A Voice of Sanity said...

We shall see whether evidence, logic and the law can overcome prejudice, hysteria and revenge. In far too many cases they do not.

While Baez' opening was well done, as far as I have seen his cross has been poor.

Diane Fanning said...

I and many others feel strongly that the conviction of a perpetrator brings some measure of justice to the victim. I have worked with my victim's family members who feel the same way.
I and other true crime writers work very hard to write our books. We earn every penny we make. Just as reporters covering stories for newspapers, television and radio stations. I could name a lot of other professions who do the same--but I'll stop there.
I have carefully examined the evidence and drawn the conclusion that it was murder and that Casey is guilty. Perhaps we have differing opinions but that is no cause for personal attack.
As for the air cans, I may be mistaken because I didn't hear it from the judge's mouth but simply relied on reports from others I thought were reliable. I'll look into that.
I do not think having the jurors sniff the cans inappropriate on the grounds that they are not experts on the smell of decay. Juries are often taken to crime scenes to view where the victim died or to see the blood spatter on the walls. They are not experts on any things their eyes may observe there. The sniffing is just having the jurors use a different sense--their sense of smell rather than their sense of sight.

Anonymous said...

There is a vast difference between visual and olfactory observations ms. Fanning.

Non-experts can get a lot out of seeing a crime scene with their own eyes,- and even if you don't see blood-spatter on a daily basis most people wont have a problem recognizing them as such. But as far as smell goes the vast majority of the population have (luckily) never smelled a decaying dead body in their life and have thus absolutely no frame of reference for identifying the smell. In order to make this make even a minimum of sense you would need to let the jury smell a decaying corpse - or better yet, a selection in various stages of decomposition - before they sniff the bottled air.

And while we are at it, how distinct is the smell of a dead human body really? Can it be confused with an old bacon sandwich, a dead squirrel or my daughters gym-bag? How well can we (or rather the jury) distinguish the smell from all others? When they get a whiff of stale air will the very idea that they might be breathing in little pieces of a dead child make their minds fabricate all kind of grim but non-factual associations?

We are after all talking about somebody's life here. Perry Mason'esque theatrics are entertaining but have no place in a real court room.

Diane Fanning said...

Most experts agree that the smell of a decomposing body is instantly recognizable even to the unintiated and cannot be confused with anything else.
I am not an expert on that. I can only trust appears to be a universal truth.
I think that Baez "theatrics are entertaining but have no place in a real courtroom."

cheryl said...

I see that Anonymous has a very good grasp of the English language, which some people might mistake for righteousness.

Whether or not you believe this little girl was killed by her Mother is of no consequence to the people who believe that she was killed by her Mother.

You may not believe in the recent advances in forensic science, but many people do. It wasn't too many years ago that DNA evidence was looked upon suspiciously. Would you only believe DNA evidence that exonerated someone?

I haven't ever smelled human decomposition myself. An old friend of mine was the unhappy person who found an old man who was murdered the week before. He told me that he knew before he saw the man's body that he was dead. He said the smell was unreal.

By the way...although a conviction will not bring Caylee back, I'd like to use your logic on a number of other cases. Oh well...let's not convict anyone of murder...after all, the dead can't vote. And it won't bring any one of them back from the dead.

Anonymous said...

Look, listen and learn from the evidence. The smell of decom is something you will never forget. If you want personal experience, join a local rescue squad and you will learn quickly after intense training what you smell, feel, and can actually believe what one human can, do to another. I worked a summer of 5 suicides, a body cut in half in a wreck and a meth lab flash over on a baby plus a woman who was a victim of unspeakable torture during her being held hostage, a scene where the smell was so bad; I bagged the hands of the suicide victim another’s could not. You better develop a strong stomach, a belief in the justice system or be grateful for the people who deal with this daily basis.

Diane Fanning said...

Cheryl, I never could find any indication of a decision about the cans either way. This morning, I heard Beth Karas on TruTV say that the judge has not yet made a decision on the cans.