Casey Anthony Trial | Day 19 – Daily Updates (Thoughts & Observations)
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Day 19 – June 15, 2011 – Wednesday
The Prosecution’s List of Witnesses for June 15, 2011
The Prosecution’s Witnesses:
The Prosecution Rests & The Defense Motions for Acquittal
In short, after a few housekeeping matters, the Prosecution rested their case. First, the jury was called back, and the Prosecution submitted into evidence the can with the piece of spare tire cover testified to earlier in the trial, but which the Prosecution had forgotten to enter into evidence at the time of the testimony. Second, Judge Perry read to the jury an agreed upon stipulation by both the Defense and the Prosecution as to the meaning of Casey’s tattoo – Bella Vita or Beautiful Life – and agreement that she had gotten a tattoo on July 2, 2008. Finally, the Judge asked the Prosecution to call their next witness and the Prosecution stated that the State of Florida rested their case.
After the Prosecution concluded their case, the Judge instructed the jury, who had been present a matter of minutes, that he was sending them back to their hotel for the remainder of the day. He reminded them of his daily admonitions, to not discuss the case, to not research the case, and to not engage in any social media. Judge Perry then proceeded to call the court in recess until tomorrow morning at 9:00 a.m., when it is expected the Defense will probably call their own witnesses.
[It is important to note, however, that our justice system does not require the Defense to ever prove anything to the jury, the burden is always and solidly on the Prosecution representing the State to prove the charges brought against the defendant. The defendant can, if they wish, present their own set of witnesses and evidence that might help them prove their version of events or their claim of innocence.]
Once the jury had left the courtroom, the Defense presented their motion for acquittal, which is typically done by the Defense after the Prosecution’s case in chief. Mr. Cheney Mason made the arguments for the Defense before Judge Perry as to why the Prosecution had not met their burden of proof, citing other case law, as well as decisions by the Appellate and Supreme Courts, that favored their position that the Judge should acquit Ms. Anthony of all seven charges.
The Prosecution had their chance to rebut the Defenses arguments for acquittal, also citing case law and higher court decisions, with an obviously different interpretation than what the Defense offered. In the end, Judge Perry retired to read through all the cases that were cited and all the arguments that were made, and when he returned to the courtroom, he thoughtfully and methodically outlined and detailed how he came to his decision to deny the Defense motion for acquittal.
The Defense Motion for Acquittal
The Defense mostly focused their arguments on the Prosecution not meeting the burden of proof of premeditation, required for a first degree murder conviction, and also citing higher court decisions overturning cases that were mostly based on circumstantial evidence, in particular when it involved a death penalty conviction.
Mr. Mason argued, citing the Florida Supreme Court decision in Cerrano vs State, that there exists a “special standard of review” in capital cases where the evidence is solely or mostly circumstantial. The Florida Supreme Court stated that the circumstantial evidence should meet the following standards: (1) the circumstances upon which the evidence is based must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt; (2) the circumstantial evidence must be consistent with guilt and inconsistent with innocence; and (3) if the circumstances are consistent with either guilt or innocence, then the defendant should be acquitted.
Cheney Mason argued that there was no evidence in this case of premeditation, but cited the Smith vs State case, where the court ruled that even though premeditation can be proven by circumstantial evidence, it must be inconsistent with every other possibility. [I am not certain that the ‘inconsistent with every other possibility’ part is entirely true.]
The Defense also argued that the aggravated charges of felony murder based on child abuse and neglect, were not warranted given that the witnesses had stated that Casey was a good mother and no one ever witnessed her abusing or torturing Caylee. Cheney Mason argued that there was no evidence offered to prove culpable negligence [careless disregard as to the rights of others] and no evidence as to the cause of death.
The Defense cited a number of other cases – Cochrane, Ballard, Cox, Rengal, Cerrano – where death penalty convictions were overturned on appeal due to an unproven element of premeditation, or it was mostly based on circumstantial evidence, or hair evidence. Mr. Mason also cited a lack of history of bad blood, stating that there was no evidence of anything other than a loving mother. The duct tape evidence was more closely tied to the grandfather, George Anthony, whom Cindy Anthony testified was the primary person to use duct tape.
The Defense argued that the evidence did not exclude the possibility of an accident. The Judge asked Mr. Mason if they there was any evidence or anything on the record that proved or indicated that it was an accident. Cheney Mason looked up at the Judge and said “There is none, but the burden is with the Prosecution, not the Defense.”
The Defense summed up their argument, stating that there was no evidence to exclude “a reasonable hypothesis of accident; no history to prove child abuse or negligence… All of these cry out for an acquittal.”
The Prosecution Rebuttal to Motion for Acquittal
Lead prosecutor, Linda Drane Burdick, for the State of Florida, stated the Defense picked bits and pieces of different case law and decisions, but that the circumstances of the Anthony case are unique. She argued that the defendant had admitted to all the foundation upon which the circumstantial evidence was based. Citing the Supreme Court decision in Cerrano, Ms. Burdick argued that the court did not rule in that case that the evidence had to refute all possible theories of the evidence.
The Prosecution argued that Ms. Anthony’s statements that Zenaida Gonzalez kidnapped the child, that she had no contact with the child, and had no idea what happened to the child, refuted the Defense theory of an accident or any other innocent explanation for Caylee Anthony’s death.
Ms. Burdick stated that the medical examiner’s testimony was that the death was unequivocally not an accident. Further, the reputed witness to this alleged accident, George Anthony, has refuted that theory by the Defense.
The prosecutor cited a Florida Supreme Court decision in Jackson vs. State, where they upheld the conviction even though the Defense challenged that the State had provided sufficient evidence that the victim died at the hand of another, hence, homicide by undetermined means – just like in this case. There were numerous hypotheses of innocence that were rebutted by the Medical Examiner based on common sense, burial site, and the information surrounding the incidents.
A reasonable jury can conclude, Ms. Burdick argued, that Caylee died by application of the duct tape to the nose and mouth; or by poisoning with chloroform; or a combination of the two; including the evidence in the trunk; and how her remains were found in the woods.
The Prosecution argued that Mrs. Anthony and Casey Anthony had provided a motive for Casey to want to “eliminate her child” that a reasonable jury could conclude was a motive for murder. A reasonable jury could also conclude that the plan for the “elimination of the child” could have begun as early as March, when Casey conducted the computer searches for chloroform and other means of getting rid of someone.
Ms. Burdick also cited another case from 2004, where the conviction of death was affirmed even though the cause of death was not proven or determined, nor was the body produced.
Next, the prosecutor argued that a reasonable jury can conclude that the death of Caylee could have been caused by multiple pieces of duct tape to the mouth and nose, or the administration of poison for whatever purpose. These acts would not be considered a single act, citing previous case law where the requirement for more than a single act be present.
[Of note, while the prosecutor was describing a case (State vs Lewis) where the defendant was accused of drowning her daughter by holding her under the water in a pool, Casey Anthony, who up to this point had had no reaction, wearing a blank look on her face, blinked repeatedly and quickly a few times, looked down for a second, before returning to her blank look.]
The prosecutor felt that a reasonable jury would conclude that there was premeditation based on Casey Anthony’s computer searches, showing that this was an intentional act the defendant planned on committing. Ms. Burdick argued that the multiple applications of duct tape, the three pieces of tape, would have given the defendant sufficient time for her to understand the result of her actions and what she was doing, hence, a reasonable inference of premeditation.
The Judge’s Decision
Judge Perry gave a thoughtful explanation as to how he reached his decision to deny the Defense’s motion for acquittal. He cited Doriso vs State, a December 2010 decision where the higher court advised that the State is not required to rebut conclusively every possible theory of evidence in a circumstantial case, but simply to offer a “competent theory” of the circumstantial evidence, in which case the Judge must deny the Defense’s motion for acquittal, as it is the jury’s duty, as the trier of fact, to make such a decision.
In Pierce vs State, a 2004 case, the Florida Supreme Court determined that evidence of premeditation can include the nature of the weapon used, as well as the manner in which the homicide was committed, when the elements of premeditation are established by circumstantial evidence.
The Judge also cited numerous other cases where the higher courts upheld the convictions where the defendant offered inconsistent statements and was the last person seen with a victim as sufficient evidence.
The issue of felony murder as a result of child abuse or neglect was another point the Defense brought up, given that there was no evidence of prior acts of child abuse. However, the Judge explained that the felony murder statute provides that a person who kills a child, by the very nature of killing a child, has committed child abuse and, hence, felony murder can be charged, regardless of how many prior times there may have been acts of child abuse.
As far as Judge Perry was concerned, the key argument was really whether there was more than one single act – the criteria required – and the Judge felt that the criteria had been met with the duct taping of the nose and the mouth with three separate pieces of tape; the presence of chloroform in the trunk; the fact that there is evidence that the child was placed in trash bags; and the fact that Ms. Anthony lied for 31 days, stating that the child was alive doing other things.
In the end, Judge Perry denied the Defense’s motion for acquittal on all seven counts, saying, “These are questions for the jury to decide, they are the trier of fact.”
It is hard to explain how it felt to hear the Prosecution say those three words, “The State rests.”
Disappointed? I’m not sure.
It was a bit like going on a long hike, which you fully expect to be steep and difficult, but completely worth the view at the end of the trail. You trek along waiting for the really tough sections to come along and, before you know it, there you are at the end of the trail. It was neither difficult nor steep, and you are staring at fog enveloping what you know must be the Pacific Ocean, but the view is just not what you expected.
Perhaps, I was expecting a more powerful presentation, or more direct evidence, or a perfectly clear view of guilt, but it was none of those things.
There is a lot of circumstantial evidence that in your gut, in what comprises your common sense, you know points to only one person. Sadly, the person responsible for what happened to Caylee Marie Anthony appears to be her mother.
But this is a capital punishment case, the death penalty, did the Prosecution do enough to convince 12 jurors to convict someone to death?
What can the Defense possibly offer to make the jurors forget 31 days of lies, and nightclubs, and living the Bella Vita?
What are your thoughts?
Casey Anthony Trial | Day 20 – Daily Updates (Thoughts & Observations) – Coming Soon
Martie Hevia (c) 2011 – All Rights Reserved