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ABC News – Casey Anthony Trial: Video of Vain Search Where Body Later Found

Posted by 4love2love on June 27, 2011

June 27, 2011

Jurors in the Casey Anthony trial watched a video today of a private investigator searching in vain for the body of 2-year-od Caylee Anthony in the wooded area where the decomposed remains were discovered just a month later.

Caylee’s mother, Casey Anthony, is accused of her murder and could face the death penalty if convicted.

Today marked a day of courtroom surprises with jurors handling and smelling trash from Anthony’s car trunk and the revelation that Anthony’s own defense team tried to halt the trial over the weekend because they did not think she was competent enough to aid in her defense.

The video today showed investigators Dominic Casey and James Hoover, who were hired by the Anthony family, searching for Caylee’s remains in November 2008. They did not find any remains despite appearing to be near the fallen tree where the girl’s skull was found on Dec. 11, 2008.

Casey was working as a private investigator for the Anthony family and Hoover was acting as a security guard for the family.

Searching for Caylee Anthony Video

The video appeared to captivate jurors. It was filmed by Hoover and shows Casey looking through the woods and an area behind a private fence on two days in November 2008. Casey can be seen talking on a cell phone in one of the searches. He said today that he was on the phone with a psychic guiding him in the search for Caylee’s remains.

Casey slashed open black plastic bags near the fence searching for Caylee. He also found what appeared to be a blanket, but no body or bones. He left the blanket in the woods.

It’s unclear if the blanket found by Casey is the same blanket that was found with Caylee’s decomposed skeleton. Her skull and bones were found with a Winnie the Pooh blanket, three pieces of duct tape, canvas bags, black plastic bags and a Gatorade bottle with a syringe.

Casey said that large parts of the wooded area were under several inches of water, a point law enforcement has made in why the area wasn’t searched more frequently.

Casey Anthony Search Video Rivets Jury

It appeared the defense was attempting to bolster its contention that Caylee’s remains had been tampered with and moved prior to their discovery.

The defense claims that Caylee accidentally drowned in the family pool on June 16, 2008, 31 days before she was reported missing. They claim that George Anthony helped dispose of the body and that meter reader Roy Kronk who claims to have found the remains actually tampered with them.

If the recovery site of the remains is proven to have been tampered with, it could bring into question any of the evidence found at the site or with Caylee Anthony’s remains, including the duct tape on her face that prosecutors argue was used to smother the girl.

Evidence photos in Casey Anthony murder trial

Along with the video, jurors in the Casey Anthony murder trial were handed pieces of trash today to sniff.

The trash came from Casey Anthony’s car, the car that prosecutors claim reeked of death from the decaying remains of her 2-year-old daughter Caylee. Defense lawyers argued the foul smell came from garbage left in the trunk.

Prosecutor Jeff Ashton asked the judge for permission to let the jurors smell for themselves, handing them a Velveeta box and other bits of garbage that had been found in Anthony’s car in the summer of 2008.

The defense attempted to poke holes in the testimony of the prosecution’s star witness, Arpad Vass. Vass collected the controversial air samples that he says contains five chemicals that are signatures of human decomposition’s odor.

Forensic and analytic chemist Kenneth Furton told jurors that there is “no instrumental method” that is scientifically valued for a chemical signature of human decomposition, a direct blow to Vass. Vass said that five chemical compounds including chloroform showed that there was human decomposition in the trunk.

Today, Furton argued that a variety of products, including some of Anthony’s trash, could exhibit the same compounds.

Upon cross examination, an exasperated Ashton began taking out pieces of trash asking Furton if each piece of trash could have produced all five chemicals found by Vass. Furton said that not one of the products could have created the odor alone but could have contributed to it.

Ashton then passed those pieces of trash to jurors. Some of the jurors sniffed the trash, while others chose not to examine it.

Furton also questioned the standards that Vass used in the air samples he collected from the trunk of Anthony’s car. Vass works at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee at what is called the “Body Farm” where he studies the odor of human decomposition. He collected controversial air samples from Anthony’s Pontiac Sunfire. Vass testified that the car contained an abundance of chloroform, a chemical found in human decomposition and also had the presence of fatty acids typically attributed to a decaying body.

Today, Furton said that chloroform can found in household cleaners like bleach and fatty acids could be found in animal products like milk and salami. A salami wrapper was found in the trunk of Anthony’s car.

Defense Says Casey Anthony Not Competent to Continue Trial

Today’s hearing started with the surprise revelation that Anthony’s defense team had tried to halt her murder trial on Saturday by claiming in court documents that she is not competent to aid her own defense. They filed a motion for a competency evaluation Saturday morning which prompted an abrupt recess that until today had not been explained.Judge Belvin Perry said that over the weekend three court appointed psychologists evaluated Anthony. The reports concluded she was competent to continue.

The mystery behind an abrupt recess in the trial over the weekend was revealed this morning when court documents were released showing that defense attorney Cheney Mason filed for a motion Saturday to determine Anthony’s competency.

Psychologists Deem Casey Anthony Competent to Continue Trial

Mason claims that, “based on privileged communications between Casey Marie Anthony and her Counsel, Counsel reasonably believes that Ms. Anthony is not competent to aid and assist in her own defense and is incompetent to proceed,” according to court documents.

If Anthony had been deemed incompetent, it could have halted the trial. Anthony could face the death penalty if convicted of first degree murder.

The judge told the court before the jury took their seats that three state psychologists spent Saturday and Sunday evaluating the 25-year-old Anthony.

“The court will find that the defendant is competent to continue to proceed. Those reports will be filed but pursuant to law those reports will remain under seal,” Perry said.

Evidence photos in Casey Anthony murder trial

Experts said that Anthony’s defense attorneys could certainly be concerned for her well being and have an ethical duty to report their concerns, but an incompetency ruling could also serve a strategic purpose.

“To the extent that it is strategic, it stops trial. She goes to a locked mental facility until such time as she’s deemed competent again, if that happens,” said Michael Seigel, a law professor at the University of Florida’s Levin College of Law. “The trial starts all over again, they could change their defense strategy and the prosecution’s case is likely to be weaker.”

The prosecution’s case gets weaker as time progresses and memories fade, experts said. A halt to the trial could allow the defense to move away from their shocking opening statements that claimed that Caylee drowned and George Anthony, Casey Anthony’s father, helped dispose of the toddler’s body. The defense also told jurors that Casey Anthony hid the child’s death out of fear of her father who they claim sexually abused her as a child.

George Anthony has denied those accusations.

The motion to determine Anthony’s competency could serve appellate purposes, too, if she is found guilty and appeals her sentence. The adequacy of the tests could come up on appeal, experts said.

The court documents reveal little about what Anthony told her lawyers. On Saturday, there were private meetings in Judge Perry’s chambers with the defense and prosecution. At one point, Anthony left the meeting and was seen crying.

“Maybe he [Judge Perry] was given some information outside of the motion that he went ahead to grant the order…he could have said no and the defense could have been found in contempt,” said Mary Anne Franks, law professor at the University of Miami School of Law.

Legal experts told ABC News that competency hearings are typically done at the start of a trial.

“Normally you would do this before you start a trial or maybe they were able to say that something has happened in the last few weeks that makes her no longer fit to stand trial,” said Mary Anne Franks, law professor at the University of Miami School of Law.

This morning, Anthony smiled in court and was busy reading materials along with her lawyers. During the trial, Anthony has appeared emotional at times. On the day pictures of Caylee’s skull was shown, Anthony became ill and an early recess was called. Last week, she was extremely emotional watching her brother, Lee Anthony, cry on the witness stand.

The request for competency exams by Anthony’s own lawyer raises the question whether they are considering an insanity defense. Legal experts caution that there is a difference between insanity and competency.

“Insanity has to do with a person’s ability to understand right and wrong at the time of the offense, whereas competency has to do with understanding the nature of the charges and what the proceedings mean,” said Franks.

Psychologists Determine That Casey Anthony Is Competent to Proceed With Murder Trial

Legal experts said that in order for Anthony to use an insanity defense, there would have to be a mistrial first.

Another reason for the competency hearings could be that the defense is still considering putting Anthony on the witness stand.

“The competency has to be for generally the process as a whole. I suppose it’s possible that now they’re nearing the time that she could take the stand and they’re thinking more seriously about if they’re going to put her on the stand, if she’s able to withstand that,” Franks said.

Franks also said that this is one of the few high profile cases of a mother accused of murdering her child where some form of an insanity defense has not been used.

Anthony and her defense team claim that Caylee accidentally drowned in the family pool on June 16, 2008, 31 days before she was reported missing. The prosecution claims the Florida mother drugged and murdered her daughter.

This morning the defense focused on the cell phone records pulled by law enforcement and the use of a cadaver dog to examine Casey Anthony’s car.

© 2011 ABC News



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