PROSECUTORS in the infamous murder trial of Casey Anthony missed several chances and overlooked key evidence that may have helped convict the accused killer mom, the judge who oversaw the case says.
Anthony, now 36, was acquitted of murdering her two-year-old daughter Caylee after a highly publicized and incredibly controversial trial in Clearwater, Florida, in 2011.
Caylee was last seen alive leaving her grandparents’ home in Orlando, Florida, with her mother in June 2008.
She was reported missing by her grandmother Cindy 31 days later, who told a 911 operator: “There is something wrong. I found my daughter’s car today and it smells like there’s been a dead body in the damn car.”
Caylee’s remains were eventually found inside a trash bag in a wooded, swampy area behind the Anthony family home in December 2008. She was ruled to have died by homicidal means, but a cause of death could not be established due to severe decomposition.
Casey Anthony denied any involvement in her daughter’s death, despite cadaver dogs finding traces of human decomposition in the trunk of her car.
Instead, she offered an array of conflicting theories, first telling police the girl had been kidnapped by her nanny, before claiming at trial that Caylee had drowned in her parent’s pool and her father George disposed of her body in a panic to cover up the accidental death.
After a tumultuous six-week trial, Anthony was eventually acquitted of murder, manslaughter, and child abuse charges in a verdict that shocked the world.
Shocked too was Belvin Perry Jr., the judge who presided over the trial, who revealed to The U.S. Sun where he believes the case was lost and won.
“The prosecution made a very strong and compelling case,” said Perry, who retired from the bench in 2014.
“But even when you have a strong and compelling case, you have to be able to present the case in a way that will resonate with the 12 folks in the jury box. You have to make adjustments.
“You can’t take an audience that’s made for classical music and go and play classic rock for them.
“Hindsight is always 2020, but [Casey’s team] was able to find a way to make their case fit the jury and the makeup of that jury – they made those corrections.”
When asked if he believes the prosecution played the book in their strategy and the defense played the jury, Perry responded: “Precisely.”
“Everybody goes into a case with a game plan. But what happens is somebody has to make a course correction as the case goes on,” he added.
“I hate to use a football analogy but coaches that are able to go in and make changes at halftime or during to game to deal with what they’re facing – they’re the ones who are successful.
“I mean, if you try to run a play and you’re up against an eight-man front, you can keep trying to run it but you’re not going to get anywhere. So you have to make those adjustments.”
Throughout the trial, Perry said Casey’s attorneys – Jose Baez and Cheney Mason – did a masterful job of “littering” the case with as much reasonable doubt as possible.
The proceedings opened with the prosecution painting Casey as a party girl who had no desire to be a mother.
They revealed evidence to the jury that Casey had been out drinking and dancing in the days and weeks after Caylee’s disappearance, even getting a tattoo of the words “Bella Vita”, which means beautiful life in Italian.
Casey’s defense team hit back with a bombshell of their own, claiming for the first time that Caylee had drowned in the family’s swimming pool and that George, in a state of panic, had tried to cover up evidence of the accidental death by discarding of her remains in the woods.
Without evidence, Casey’s lawyers also accused George of sexually abusing her as a child. They would later claim he also abused Caylee.
George vehemently denied the sexual abuse claims. He also denied having any involvement in Caylee’s death.
Over the next six weeks, the prosecution would continue to paint Casey as a bad mother and a pathological liar who wanted nothing to do with her daughter any longer.
In closing arguments, lead prosecutor Jeff Ashton stressed to the jury that Casey was someone who would go to extreme lengths to achieve her wish to be young and free.
“Something needed to be sacrificed, that something was either the life she wanted or the life thrust upon her,” he says. “She chose to sacrifice her child.”
Ashton also advised jurors to use their common sense in reference to Casey’s claim Caylee had accidentally drowned and George had sought to cover up evidence of her accidental death.
“No one makes an accident look like murder,” Ashton said.
The defense, on the other hand, pointed at the lack of DNA and other hard evidence in the case, saying the prosecution failed to place Caylee’s body in the trunk of Casey’s car or prove definitively that Casey killed her daughter.
For Perry, he believes the prosecution made two key mistakes at the close of the trial.
The first mistake was failing to ask Perry for a special jury instruction prior to deliberations, which would’ve seen the judge stress to jurors that establishing how Caylee was killed was not an element for the prosecution to prove.
He explained: “There have been numerous cases before where the body hasn’t been found or has been too decomposed to determine how someone was killed or how they died, but you know they died by homicidal means, so how she died was not an element to prove.”
Almost certain the prosecution would make such a request, Perry even pre-drafted the instruction ahead of the trial.
But the prosecution never asked for it.
“The court’s job is to prepare what is known as standard jury instructions that you give in every case,” said Perry.
“It’s also incumbent any time they have a theory in the case to ask for what is known as a special jury instruction. They deal with a point of law that is not covered by standard jury instructions.
“In my preparation for this trial, one of the things I prepared was a special jury instruction just in case the state asked me for it, which was that how she died is not an element of the crime.
“But the state never asked … I don’t know if it made a difference, you’d have to ask the jury.”
Even when you have a strong and compelling case, you have to be able to present the case in a way that will resonate with the 12 folks in the jury box … the defense made those adjustments.
Judge Belvin Perry
The lack of clarity from the prosecution did appear to impact the jury’s eventual decision to acquit.
Juror no.3, Jennifer Ford, told ABC News in 2011 that she and the other members of the jury were “sick to their stomachs” after voting to acquit Casey.
She said: “I did not say she was innocent. I just said there was not enough evidence.
“If you cannot prove what the crime was, you cannot determine what the punishment should be.”
Ford told the outlet she thought Casey Anthony’s claim that her daughter accidentally drowned was more believable than the evidence the prosecution presented.
While insisting she didn’t necessarily believe the defense, Ford said that she couldn’t make out “logically” the prosecution’s argument because there were too many unanswered questions about how Caylee died.
“If there was a dead child in that trunk, does that prove how she died? No idea, still no idea.” Ford said.
“If you’re going to charge someone with murder, don’t you have to know how they killed someone or why they might have killed someone, or have something where, when, why, how? Those are important questions. They were not answered.”
Another faux pas on the part of the prosecution, Perry says, was focusing too heavily on the first-degree murder charges in their closing arguments.
“The prosecution chose to hammer home ‘first-degree murder.’
“Usually what you would do is say if you do not believe we’ve proved murder in the first degree, this is why we’ve also proved manslaughter, or second-degree murder or regular manslaughter.
“You give them the evidence to support those, which are known as lesser included crimes.
“But again, that wasn’t done.”
More than a year after Casey’s controversial acquittal, a report by WKMG would reveal that both police and prosecutors had overlooked some potentially key evidence against the then 25-year-old.
The digital evidence – that Anthony’s defense team anxiously waited for the prosecution to drop – showed that someone using Casey’s password-protected account researched how to kill with poison and suffocation on the same afternoon her daughter was believed to have been killed.
However, the bombshell never exploded.
“We were waiting for the state to bring it up,” defense attorney Baez told the outlet in 2012. “And when they didn’t, we were kind of shocked.”
The existence of the search was first revealed in Baez’s book, but he blamed George Anthony for the computer activity.
However, a WKMG investigation found it was most likely Casey who searched the material, the outlet said.
At 2.49pm on June 16, 2008 – the last time Caylee was seen alive – the Anthony family’s desktop computer was activated by someone using a password-protected account Casey Anthony used.
George Anthony claimed to have already left for work by that time and Casey’s cell phone pinged a tower nearest the home.
Two minutes later, on a Firefox browser, a Google search for the term “fool-proof suffocation [sic],” was made on the account.
Five seconds after, the user clicked on an article criticizing pro-suicide websites that include advice on “foolproof” ways to die.
“Poison yourself and then follow it up with suffocation [by placing] a plastic bag over the head,” the writer quotes others as advising.
Then at 2.52pm, the browser recorded activity on MySpace, a website Casey Anthony used frequently and George Anthony did not.
The contents of the search aligned with the theory the prosecution put forward for how they believed Casey killed her daughter: poisoning her with chloroform, suffocating her with duct tape, then placing her body in two plastic bags.
But following a mishap from the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, the prosecution never actually saw the potentially damning evidence.
Before the trial, prosecutors had asked the Sheriff’s Office to produce an Internet history of the Anthony family computer for June 16, 2008.
But the request came relatively late, less than two months before proceedings began.
Instead of providing the complete records, deputies handed over only the Internet Explorer browser history for that day – a browser Antony had stopped using in favor of Firefox months earlier.
The mishap, according to WKMG, meant prosecutors went to trial unaware of 98.7 percent of the browser history records created that day.
MADE A DIFFERENCE?
Perry said it’s “hard to say” what impact the evidence may have had on the case, though said it would’ve likely been admissible due to its precedential value.
He said he wasn’t aware of the oversight until being informed by The U.S. Sun.
“This was a crab bones case – which means there was no tissue or traditional thing that you could’ve used to confirm the cause of death – you don’t know if they were stabbed, strangled, shot, or whatever,” he said.
“In that context, it may have been admissible to show that she did a search for suffocation as the state made the argument she died that way.
“Researching how to murder someone goes to the element of premeditation.
Researching how to murder someone goes to the element of premeditation.
“It definitely would’ve added to the equation but for whatever reason, they chose not to do it.
“As I say, the state had a compelling case already. In the court of public opinion, everyone thought she’d done it.
“So would it have made a difference? I don’t know.”
‘SAME OLD CR*P’
It took the jury of seven women and five men less than 11 hours to reach a verdict of not guilty on Casey’s charges of murder, manslaughter, and child abuse.
She was, however, found guilty of four counts of lying to police. Casey was sentenced to time served and handed a $4,000 fine.
In the years since her acquittal, the once “most hated woman in America” has mostly stayed out of the spotlight.
That was until the release of a new three-part documentary series that aired on Peacock this week, Casey Anthony: Where the Truth Lies.
The docuseries marks the first time Anthony has spoken to the media since her shocking acquittal.
In the series, she once again accuses her father of being involved in Caylee’s death and alleges he sexually abused her as a child.
Perry called the claims the “same old cr*p”, and said they were “not very believable.”
Refusing to speculate on what he believes happened, Perry said: “There are plenty of theories as to what happened. The prosecution’s argument of who would ‘make an accident look like a murder’ was compelling.
“Who takes an ordinary drowning – which happens quite frequently in the state of Florida – and then turns that into a criminal offense?”
https://www.the-sun.com/news/6824207/casey-anthony-trial-murder-prosecution-missed-evidence-acquitted/ Casey Anthony judge says defense team triumphed as they had game plan & prosecution played by the book & missed chances