Wrapping up the week

Days three and four of the Casey Anthony trial involved more of Casey’s friends testifying about how they observed no change in her demeanor in the days following her daughter Caylee’s death.  Casey reportedly told one of these witnesses that her brother, Lee Anthony, had tried to touch her inappropriately, the only evidence thus far that Casey had ever told anyone, prior to being arrested, that either her brother or father had sexually abused her.  Another witness testified that Casey had once lied to a friend about a trivial matter by telephone and had boasted after ending the phone call, “I’m such a good liar!”  Casey’s attorney, Jose Baez, made a motion for a mistrial based on the prejudicial nature of this kind of testimony, but that motion was denied.  On cross examination, each of these witnesses also testified that he/she didn’t know how Caylee died.  Lee’s fiancée also testified that Casey had appeared to be a loving mother.

George Anthony, Casey’s father, returned to the witness stand each day, testifying first about some gas cans that Casey apparently took from his shed and then about retrieving Casey’s car from an impound lot.  (People who aren’t used to watching trials might find this surprising, but in practice, witnesses are often re-called to testify as cases are made and rebutted.)  With respect to the gas cans, their full relevance is not yet entirely clear, but one issue involving them is the presence of duct tape on one of them.  Apparently, the defense is trying to establish that George had used the same kind of duct tape on one of the gas cans that was later found on Caylee’s body.  Even if that’s true, all it would prove is that a particular kind of duct tape was present in the Anthony home, where Casey also lived, so it really wouldn’t suggest that George is more likely than Casey to have been the one who put the tape on little Caylee.  With respect to the car, George testified that it smelled like something had died inside of it (which the impound lot manager corroborated) and that the trunk had maggots in it when he found it.

On each day, George again expressed, politely, some resentment toward Baez, which was understandable for two reasons:  1) Baez accused George of molesting Casey, and 2) Baez has tended to be repetitive and somewhat argumentative with George at times.  Baez may want to get George to show some anger on the witness stand in the hopes of bolstering his accusation that George was an abusive father whom Casey feared, but if so, I think it could backfire if Baez comes across as disingenuously aggressive toward a man whom the jury concludes is innocent.  Baez’s best point in questioning George was that George didn’t immediately call either Casey or police after finding Casey’s car with the foul smell inside.  Baez argued that George didn’t make those calls because he knew what had happened to Caylee, but George explained, convincingly I think, that he didn’t have enough reason to really suspect, at that time, that a dead human body had actually been in the car (keep in mind, George testified the he didn’t have any reason to believe Caylee was dead at that time and that there was trash in the trunk of the car including, at least, pizza residue).  George comes across like a guy in a terrible position, unwilling to corroborate Casey’s story and implicate himself in crimes to spare her a murder conviction, yet hating to have to give testimony which could facilitate that conviction.

So, to summarize up to this point, with three to five more weeks of evidence expected:  I still think it’s possible that Casey killed Caylee intentionally, and if so, I would think it’s appropriate for the death penalty to be on the table.  I also still think it’s more likely that there was an element of accident involved in Caylee’s death, but not the specific drowning accident that the defense claims (if Caylee had drowned on George’s watch, I don’t think either George or Casey likely would’ve reacted by hiding the body, as the defense claims — I think George more likely would’ve called for help, tried to resuscitate the child, apologized to Casey rather than accusing her, etc., and I doubt that Casey would’ve had legitimate fear of telling law enforcement the truth about what happened).  I still suspect that the accident, if there was one, involved abuse, like an overdose of a sedative, of Caylee, by Casey.  If that’s the truth, then while it may still be a “felony murder” (a death occurring during the commission of another felony), I wouldn’t think that it’d be a death penalty case.  I still think that the prosecution may have put the death penalty on the table early on to pressure Casey to admit to whatever she did do to Caylee in a plea deal but that Casey may have rejected it, believing she’s a good enough liar to lie her way out of any guilt whatsoever.  In any case, if Casey was sexually abused by George and/or Lee and/or anyone else, which I think is a huge “if,” I still don’t see how that’s relevant to Casey’s guilt or innocence in this case, and if she’s guilty, I still don’t see why it would justify a lesser punishment (keep in mind, Casey’s not presenting an insanity defense — she’s not even claiming, due to residual effects of sexual-abuse trauma, grief-related trauma, or any other condition, that she ever didn’t know what she was doing or that it was wrong).  Testimony in the case is scheduled to continue tomorrow (Saturday) morning, with no court on Sunday nor Monday due to the Memorial Day holiday.  I’ll keep the updates coming throughout the trial, sometimes daily, sometimes every couple of days, as developments warrant!

Now, on a lighter, but still serious note, did you hear about the new gender-identity “education” program for five- and six-year-old public schoolchildren in — surprise, surprise — California?  “Educators” bring in “genderless” animals and talk with the kids about how their anatomy doesn’t make them either boys or girls, and how they can choose to be whichever gender they want, and how whichever gender they choose is equally wonderful.  As I said recently when retailer J. Crew ran an ad in which a little boy’s toes were painted pink, I think this stuff is way, way misguided.  It’s one thing to try to help an individual child whose tendencies, interests, etc. aren’t in line with his/her physiological gender, and it’s certainly appropriate to instruct children not to mistreat one another for any reason, but the vast, vast majority of five- and six-year-olds aren’t thinking about gender, wanting to be the other gender, etc.  I think it’s utterly misguided for adults to cause and encourage these kids to be thinking about such things at such ages, and if I were one of their parents, I’d be furious!  Sure, one child in thousands may be confused about his/her gender, but that’s no reason to confuse everyone.  Life poses extra challenges and difficulties for people with gender identity confusion, and when an individual child shows signs of such confusion, that child can be compassionately and professionally helped to address/resolve it, on an individual basis.  We absolutely should not, however, be doing things that might actually promote that kind of confusion in more children than would otherwise experience it.  By the way, check out the story posted on http://www.facebook.com/exquisite.minds about a couple reportedly attempting to raise a gender-free child.  It strikes me as abusive toward the child.  It’d be unethical for an academic researcher to conduct this kind of gender-identity experimentation on someone too young to comprehend and consent to its potential long-term implications, and I don’t think it’s any more ethical for the child’s parents to do it.  No matter how much anyone would like to pretend otherwise, there are important biological and role-identity differences between the sexes that are adaptive to the survival and advancement of our species, and basic identity development is an important developmental process that these parents appear to be intentionally stunting.  I’d predict that even the most resilient of children has sub-optimal chances of leaving that situation psychologically-healthy and well-equipped to function in mainstream America.

As we head into a patriotic national holiday weekend amid the (former senator) John Edwards and (former governor) Arnold Schwarzenegger cheating scandals, some have actually opined that we need to be careful about the extent to which the media covers politicians’ “personal lives” because “good people” supposedly will be afraid to run for office.  What?  In a nation of 300 million people, we have plenty of truly “good people” to fill our public offices.  I don’t have any skeletons in my closet, and you probably don’t either.  Dishonest individuals should be afraid to run for public office, and if they are, then that’s a good thing for the country.  As a psychologist, though, I can tell you, unfortunately, that not all dishonest people will be afraid to run for public office, regardless of what the media does or doesn’t cover.  Narcissists, even with skeletons in their closets, will still run, thinking that they can talk their way around the skeletons, not unlike…perhaps…Casey Anthony.  By the way, it’s been eclipsed by the Anthony trial, but former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich’s retrial on corruption charges is underway (remember he was convicted last year on one charge of lying to federal investigators, but the jury couldn’t reach verdicts on the other charges), and Blagojevich isn’t just proclaiming his innocence to the media this time around — he’s testifying, so stay tuned for the outcome of round two!

I hope you have a great Memorial Day weekend, and if you celebrate with alcoholic beverages, be responsible.  A woman appeared on the Dr. Drew Pinsky show on HLN this week whose 15-year-old son died of alcohol poisoning — at a concert to which she had driven him, by the way — and who’s now blaming, and suing, the company that produced the alcoholic beverage that her son drank.  Legally, the convenience store that sold him the liquor should bear some responsibility, if the employee who sold it knew or should’ve known that the buyer was underage, but the manufacturer?  What?  Dr. Drew appeared to be all for this lawsuit, which once again illustrates the difference in his and my concepts of personal responsibility.  Unless someone puts something into your body without your knowledge, you, and you alone, are responsible for what gets in there and for any negative consequences thereof.  Other than this woman’s son and the convenience store, if anyone’s to blame for what happened to this poor kid, it’s her, the mother, on whose watch the underage drinking happened.  I feel sorry for her, but I’m sick of people always looking for someone else to blame for their, and their kids’, bad behavior.

And before I go, on this Memorial Day weekend, a big thanks to everyone who has served the United States of America in our armed forces, past and present (including my brother and my late father)!

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