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Orlando Sentinel – Casey Anthony trial: Did woman whose child drowned in 2007 have ‘indirect’ contact with Casey?

Posted by 4love2love on June 23, 2011

By Anthony Colarossi and Jeff Weiner, Orlando Sentinel9:09 p.m. EDT, June 21, 2011

Following a couple of rough days, lead Casey Anthony attorney Jose Baez appeared focused Tuesday when questioning a forensic botanist, an internationally-known touch DNA expert and even a chemist who did work for the prosecution.

But for every time Baez seemed to score some points for the defense, the prosecution came back with an equally effective cross-examination of his witnesses.

The day’s last defense witness, analytical chemistry expert Dr. Marcus Wise, testified about testing done on items found the trunk of Anthony’s car.

Wise, a research scientist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, was asked several times by Baez about a colleague who already testified in the case, Dr. Arpad Vass. Vass earlier told jurors of high levels of chloroform in air and carpet samples collected from the trunk of Casey Anthony’s Pontiac.

While chloroform is usually found in decomposing human bodies, Vass said his research team was “shocked” about the “unusually high” chloroform levels.

Much earlier in the day forensic botanist Dr. Jane Bock offered sometimes confusing testimony about the length of time Caylee’s skeletal remains were placed at the east Orange County crime scene before officials recovered them.

She initially said the shortest amount of time Caylee’s remains could have been placed at the recovery scene is “two weeks approximately.” She based her estimate on photos, a trip to the site and other evidence she reviewed for the defense.

But Ashton had Bock agree that Caylee’s body could have been placed there far longer than that estimate. “I don’t know exactly when it was placed there,” she ultimately told Ashton.

Also Tuesday, Assistant State Attorney Linda Drane Burdick said an investigation was launched after authorities learned a woman who was booked into the Orange County Jail in 2009 had a child who had accidentally drowned in the family’s back yard pool and was found by his grandfather.

April Whalen’s tragedy on Christmas Day 2007 in east Orange County has similarities to the scenario Baez outlined during his opening statements about what happened to Caylee. Baez said Caylee drowned in the family pool and her grandfather, George Anthony,helped dispose of the body.

It is not clear if information about the drowning of 15-month-old Isaiah Whalen was conveyed indirectly to Casey Anthony, Burdick told Chief Judge Belvin Perry. The matter is still being investigated.

Orange County Jail spokesman Allen Moore said Whalen, 30, spent five days in women’s dormitory ‘L’ between June 4, 2009, and June 8, 2009. That is the same dorm that houses Casey Anthony’s cell.

Moore said there is no documentation or jail investigation that shows contact between the women. However, Moore explained that the cells are not soundproof and “it’s possible that things can be heard.”

Earlier Tuesday, Chief Judge Belvin Perry determined that Baez made substantial and willful evidence-sharing violations related to one of one expert who ultimately testified Tuesday.

Perry determined that touch DNA expert Richard Eikelenboom was not informed of the need to provide his opinions in a report months ago. This, he said, is a substantial violation because it involves a critical subject matter.

Perry decided not to allow Eikelenboom to testify Tuesday about the possibility of testing decomposition fluid from the trunk of Casey Anthony’s car for DNA. He may later allow that testimony, however, after a special hearing is conducted regarding the admissibility of Eikelenboom’s scientific methods.

“It is a remedy short of exclusion,” Perry said.

Baez got in trouble because he didn’t tell Eikelenboom to prepare a report about the DNA recovery. The report, including his expert opinion, should have been shared with the state.

Meanwhile, the expert was permitted to talk about other findings. But Perry read special instructions to the jury stating that Eikelenboom’s report was not provided to the state until Saturday and that matter may be considered in evaluating his credibility.

In a late filing Tuesday afternoon, the defense announced its plans to depose surprise witness Vasco Thompson on Wednesday. A court document filed Monday said Thompson, a man the defense listed as a late-witness last week, was subpoenaed to appear in court this morning.

Thompson’s attorney, Matt T. Morgan, has filed a motion to quash that subpoena, saying that Thompson “has no personal knowledge of facts relating to the alleged killing of Caylee Marie Anthony.”

Morgan did not immediately return a call seeking comment on the notice filed Tuesday.

Anthony’s defense team added Thompson to its witness list, claiming he had telephone contact with Anthony’s father, George Anthony, in July 2008.

acolarossi@tribune.com or 407-420-5735

Copyright © 2011, Orlando Sentinel

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