This is a tale of two drownings. The first is unbelievable. The second is unthinkable.
First, on Friday, day 15 of the Casey Anthony trial, TV’s “Dr. G,” the medical examiner who performed an autopsy on the remains of Caylee Anthony, cast further doubt on the defense’s claim that Caylee drowned accidentally. Before that though, the medical examiner who had been testifying when court recessed early on Thursday wrapped up his testimony about the remains that he received and the condition in which he received them. Then, amid more tears from Casey, an anthropologist who assisted the medical examiner testified about how some of the bones appeared to have been chewed by animals. With the stage set, “Dr. G” (Jan Garavaglia) took the witness stand and defended her conclusion that Caylee’s death was a homicide (based on the delay in the report of her disappearance, the concealment of the body, and the duct tape on the skull) while admitting that she couldn’t specify the homicidal technique that was used (e.g. drowning, poisoning, etc.), given the condition of the remains when she examined them. Then, over the defense’s strenuous objections, another anthropologist used a digital video reconstruction of the decomposition of Caylee’s skull to illustrate both how the duct tape found with the skull could’ve covered both the nose and mouth simultaneously and how the position in which the duct tape was found indicates that it was put in place prior to decomposition. Casey’s parents stayed out of the courtroom during these witnesses’ testimony. Two crime scene investigators also testified on Friday about how they collected insect evidence (maggots) from the trunk of Casey’s car. Stay tuned, court will again be in session Saturday morning.
Second, a five-year-old girl in Kansas City is believed to have intentionally drowned an 18-month-old boy who was residing in her family’s home temporarily. The drowning, which apparently occurred in a bathtub with no adult supervision, was believed to have been a tragic accident until the girl apparently told cops that she had drowned the infant because he was crying too much. If you’re a regular viewer or reader, you know that I almost never support a mental-state defense, but here’s a case where I probably will. There’s little data on murders committed by children so young because, thankfully, they’re extremely, extremely rare. What we do know, however, is that children younger than about 10 years old generally have neither enough comprehension of legal proceedings to be competent to stand trial nor enough comprehension of the finality of death to really fully, consciously, deliberately formulate the intent to commit murder. Is it possible that this girl’s a little female version of budding psychopath Michael Myers from “Halloween”? Theoretically, I guess, but I doubt it. Does that mean there’s nothing wrong with her? Of course not. That kind of violence from a child that young suggest to me that there’s something profoundly wrong with the little girl and probably also with the adult(s) who supposedly is/are “responsible” for her. While tragic on multiple levels, this hopefully is a case in which 1) the juvenile justice system, over a period of years, can restore this girl’s chance of living a productive life, and 2) child protective services can spare any other children living in that household from ending up on either the victim or the perpetrator end of a similar tragedy. If you’re interested in reading more about cases like this, there was a case back in 2008 in which an eight-year-old shot his father and his father’s friend in what appeared to be a pre-meditated ambush. I wrote about that case here and talked about it repeatedly on TV — see my original post about it, dated 11/8/08, with follow-ups dated 11/12/08 (the boy’s home life), 11/28/08 (evidence of premeditation), 2/11/09 (competency to stand trial), and 2/27/09 (the plea deal).