“Bombshell” #2

Thursday saw the second “bombshell” to be dropped in the Casey Anthony murder trial, on its 26th day.  As you may know, I usually laugh off the “bombshell” label when it’s applied to ho-hum developments in cases, but on Thursday, I agree that the label fit!

The first bombshell in this trial was on day 1, when the defense’s opening statement admitted Casey knew all along that Caylee was dead but claimed it was an accidental drowning followed by a cover-up engineered by Casey’s father George with a convoluted and confusing rationale rooted in his supposed childhood sexual abuse of Casey.  This second bombshell dropped when Casey’s mother Cindy testified that she (Cindy) is the one who searched for incriminating terms like “chloroform” on the Anthonys’ computer prior to Caylee’s death and then offered a similarly convoluted and confusing rationale for doing so.

As a trained observer, I can tell you that Mrs. Anthony’s testimony on Thursday was highly unbelievable to me.  It looked to me like she was clearly lying to help her daughter avoid a conviction of premeditated murder by taking responsibility for a key piece of evidence of pre-meditation.  And if you don’t want to rely on my qualitative analysis of Cindy’s testimony, here are some more specific problems with it:

1) Employment records indicate that Cindy was at work when the searches in question were performed.  She stated that she sometimes left work early even as others documented her continued presence.  I’d like to hear from some co-workers.  I know, it was a long time ago now, but in a health care workplace, perhaps a co-worker or two could recall that specific day based on the cases that they treated, including who else was present.

2) The searches in question were also interspersed between activity on MySpace and Flickr using password-protected accounts belonging only to…Casey.  Cindy explained that she and Casey sometimes took turns working on the computer.  Hmmm, that would’ve been one fast game of musical chairs in front of the computer — elapsed times between some of the implicated searches supposedly conducted by Cindy and Casey’s MySpace/Flickr activity ranged between 8 and 20 seconds.

3) Cindy also denied conducting certain searches that were implicated as evidence of premeditation — e.g., she admitted conducting a search for “chloroform,” but she denied conducting a search for “how to make chloroform” — so the question remains, “Who performed those searches?”

4) Cindy’s explanation for why she performed the implicated searches was convoluted and confusing.  She said she searched for “chloroform” when she intended to have searched for “chlorophyll,” which she supposedly wanted to learn about because she thought one of her dogs might’ve been poisoned by ingesting plant matter from the Anthonys’ backyard.  Hmmm, chlorophyll, chloroform…I’m not buying that those terms get mixed up easily during Internet searches, but I guess we can all play along at home by doing that experiment for ourselves.

5) Similarly, she said she searched for terms such as “chest injuries” because a friend had recently been injured in a car accident, and she wanted to learn more about the friend’s injuries.  Ok, but Cindy’s a nurse, so it doesn’t seem likely that she’d need to conduct such broad-based searches about injuries (it might be understandable if she searched for something narrow, like “pulmonary embolism,” but “chest injuries,” not so much).  I’d like to hear some specifics about this friend to make sure he/she exists, was really injured, etc.

6) Similarly, Cindy said that while she never searched for the term “neck-breaking,” it was mentioned in the text of a pop-up window that supposedly opened automatically while she was viewing one of her search results.  Hmmm.

7) Perhaps the most confusing thing about Cindy’s bombshell testimony, though, is this:  Cindy just now told the world that she performed these searches, after supposedly knowing for the past three years that the prosecution was going to use the searches as evidence that Casey had pre-meditated Caylee’s murder.  It seems utterly implausible to me that Cindy would’ve kept quiet all that time and much more likely that she concocted this story to save her daughter’s skin after hearing prosecution computer experts testify about the searches and watching the jurors’ reactions to that testimony.  It’s reminiscent of the implausibility of George Anthony keeping quiet for the past three years if he knew all along that his daughter was facing the death penalty for what was really an accident that happened on his watch, but Cindy’s Thursday testimony is even more implausible because conducting the implicated Internet searches isn’t a crime.  In George’s case, covering up Caylee’s death would’ve involved crimes, so there might’ve been some understandable reluctance to come forward, but in Cindy’s case, there’s none.

Two law-enforcement computer investigators were re-called to the witness stand to testify about the processes they used to catalog the implicated searches and the results.  In what may have been another score for the defense, it sounded like there was potential for error variance in the forensic computer analyses, particularly with respect to tabulating the number of times that a specific search result was viewed.  Remember, the “chloroform” search supposedly was performed over 80 times, which would indicate that someone had quite a lot of interest in chloroform, but that would become far less apparent if, in truth, the tabulation included automatic refreshes of a site accessed once and left open for a time or if what was actually tabulated was the number of times that a different site, viewed in a simultaneously-open window, had been visited, perhaps such as someone’s MySpace page).

Also on Thursday, a couple of crime scene investigators returned to the witness stand to identify some more pieces of evidence found near Caylee’s remains and to testify that certain other pieces of evidence (e.g. a child’s shoes) were not found there; a forensic fiber expert returned to the stand to testify about weaknesses in the validity of using qualitative analyses to conclude that a hair came from a dead body; and a chemist testified about weaknesses in the validity of the prosecution’s analyses of air samples taken from the trunk of Caylee’s car — more importantly, the chemist also opined that chloroform could be a byproduct of copious amounts of chlorinated water trapped inside of a hot, sealed car trunk, just as I had predicted, which may have been yet a third score for the defense.  Two more days of testimony this week, Friday and Saturday, so stay tuned!

And before I go, two other Lawpsyc news briefs:

First, Lindsay Lohan did not get thrown in jail for drinking alcoholic beverages while under home detention, just as I predicted yesterday.  So as usual, I’ll renew my prediction that we’ll be seeing her in trouble again soon.

Second, the Delaware pediatrician who was molesting kids for years in exam rooms, equipped with secret video cameras, while their unwitting parents waited outside, has been convicted — 24 counts of child rape, sexual assault, and sexual exploitation, for which he now faces life in prison, no parole.

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