Last week, under a due date requirement required by Chief Justice Perry, some of the expert opinions to be offered in the capital murder trial against Casey Marie Anthony were released.
In a highly circumstantial case, it is common for the silent witnesses to be the ones who tell us the critical pieces to the puzzle we are working on, are under the chair.
Bugs and Plants do not lie.
Arguably the Entomology and Botany evidence and their respective expert evaluations of same will likely hold some of the heaviest weight in the mind of jurors who will be charged with reaching a verdict in the death penalty trial in the murder of Caylee Anthony.
Teaching a child not to step on a caterpillar is as valuable to the child as it is to the caterpillar.
Lord of The Flies Part Deux
Dr. Neal Haskell, is largely considered the pioneer of Forensic Entomology in the United States.
In fact, he is the first individual in this country to earn Masters and Doctorate degrees in the field in 1989 and then 1993 respectively at Purdue University.
I have respectfully referred to him in earlier work as ‘The Bug Dude”.
Dr. Michael Baden and his co-author Marion Roach dedicated an entire chapter in their book, Dead Reckoning, to his work. Dr. Haskell was the “first call” choice expert of Linda Kenney Baden, former defense counsel to Casey Anthony, as stated by his former protégé and defense entomology expert, Dr. Timothy Huntington.
Dr. Haskell’s report filed October 6, 2009 contains the only peer-reviewed expert conclusions offered in the case against Casey Anthony.
In no way am I undermining it’s exhaustive and thorough contents. For the purposes of this article in order to remain respectful to the sensitivity that we are talking about medicolegal death investigation information that sadly comes from the homicide of a 34 month old child. I will largely be paraphrasing.
Dr. Timothy Huntington, the defense team’s expert witness, has been deposed by the State of Florida in this case three times to date. A final deposition has yet to be released.
(Editors Note: Although Linda Kenney Baden withdrew as co-counsel last October because she was not going to get her expenses approved and paid for by the state of Florida, she is most definitely working on this case in some consulting sort of capacity as she was present and noted in Huntington’s deposition in December)
Between his depositions dated December 28, 2010 and January 2011, Dr. Huntington produced a preliminary report that analyzed Dr. Haskell’s report and entomologic specimens. We know that he learned during the first deposition that several samples from the trunk vacuumings of the Pontiac Sunfire had not been sent for analysis to Dr. Haskell until a few days earlier. Dr. Huntington was not expected to prepare an opinion on that evidence until after it’s submission to him.
Huntingtons’ court ordered report focused solelyon the bugs in the trash originally located in the trunk of Casey’s car and omitted the bug samples from autopsy and the crime scene entirely.
Huntington was asked to review the Haskell report (b) during the second deposition “on the record”, however, and stipulated that he agreed with Haskell’s classifications found at autopsy and with Caylee’s remains. He maintained he disagrees with the fact that the entomological findings prove there was ever a decomposing body in the trunk of the car. He said as far as the bugs go, they are of no forensic value to conclude the victim was in the trunk.
Overall, Huntington and Haskell actually agree on most conclusions, and I would not be surprised to learn that his report’s omission of the bugs from the areas other than the “trash” were a tactical move by the defense.
Huntington seemed to have conceded that there was enough evidence to “assume” there was decompositional fluids that attracted the species of critters it did, but later contradicted himself by stating he feels the evidence points more strongly to there having never been a deceased person in the trunk.
Huntington’s arrival at that conclusion is actually based on what both bug dudes claim is the lack of early colonization of certain insects which are an important factor to establish what is referred to in forensic entomology as post mortem interval (pmi).
Haskell attributes the lack of the “early arriving winged things” to the trunk being cleaned by Casey Anthony and the trunk access itself during the initial stages of a corpse reaching bloat status.
Huntington says unless Caylee was refrigerated, buried, or hermetically sealed, he is not buying it. Interestingly, Ashton asks Dr. Huntington if he is aware of any evidence in this case that any of those options, staving off early colonization for a bit, occurred.
Huntington answered no, but I am reminded that it was he who took soil samples from the areas in the backyard where canines Gerus and Bones, through their handlers Jason Forgey and Kristin Brewer alerted to decomposition on July 17, 2008. Huntington stated he volunteered to take them, although he is not a “dirt dude” and is unaware if they have ever been tested.
There are only two options as to the status of those samples. Either they were never tested or they were tested and evidence of decomposition was found and is now considered work product and not discoverable. Had they been tested and no decomp was found, those exculpatory results are subject to discovery. Although soil samples from the Anthony home were also taken into evidence by the state, their analysis has not yet been released.
Given the formation of the questions by SA Ashton, it is clear that the State’s theory is that Caylee was put into the trash bags and laundry bag prior to being placed in the trunk, leaving little doubt they believe little Caylee was killed at the Anthony residence.
Dr. Huntington’s basic testimony for the defense states that scientifically Dr. Haskell makes unsupported leaps about the existence of a decompositional event or human carrion, in the trunk of the infamous Pontiac Sunfire.
Prior to his depositions, he felt pretty strongly that a trunk would not render a corpse inaccessible and last fall set out to prove it.
In his role as “LOTFL, Jr.”, Huntington conducted an uncontrolled observatory experiment on decomposing pigs killed “for cause”, and recorded exterior activity “only” for 11 days without opening the trunk of completely different trunks and trunk environments in a dissimilar climate. Ultimately, this study did not make it into his report. Go figure.
His boot theory got the boot, you might say.
The fly in the ointment, if you will, with this counter-opinion is that Dr. Huntington’s report is based exclusively on the contents of the garbage bag located in the trunk of the car, which he maintains to date was all he was sent to examine. Haskell’s report specifically delineates between specimens found in the white bag with blue handles, and those found in the trunk.
What is beyond me, is how Dr. Huntington’s depositions and preliminary report does not so much as reference the fact that the garbage bag in question spent at least twelve hours in a DUMPSTER at Johnson’s Wrecker AFTER being opened by the Operations Manager Simon Burch in front of George Anthony. It is noted specifically in the timetable of Dr. Haskell’s findings, however.
I mean, I am pretty sure 12 hours is half the lifespan of some of the bugs he is examining in the first place.
How many proverbial poo poo platters could those flies order in 12 hours?
Did they take on new and different larvae? In Burch’s interview, he thought the bag was white with yellow handles; it is white with blue handles.
You know, this is a welcome (from my perspective) missed opportunity by the defense and fat technical snafu. Just imagine all that ripe fruit of that poisonous tree (dumpster metallia) floating around. You see where I am going with this…
Before anyone gets all up in my britches for pointing this out, ask Chris Darden if he regrets the decision to ask OJ Simpson to try on the glove?
Consider the dumpster the glove, and because it was not referenced in Huntington’s reports, he cannot bring it up at trial.
Let’s all be thankful we will not be hearing “If it was in the trunk and in the dump it must be junk” for months.
As an aside, this is exactly why a criminal defense attorney in his 3rd year of practice is not permitted to take a capital case on his own. Out of the gazillion motions to suppress this, that and the other thing, you would think one out of 11 lawyers might have had their hand up at a meeting and asked:
“How can we even be sure this is the bag that came from the Pontiac when there is a car in the same lot at the same time where there is no question a dead person was in it?”
“Did anyone think to ask Mr. Burch for the name and registration information of the suicide victim so we can see if he eats Velveeta Mac and Cheese?”
“Um, Ms. Baden, I know you’re all up in alleles to your elbows, but I was wondering, if someone tried to clean the trunk, why would they leave paper towels with body fluid in the trunk? There is nothing that ties our client specifically to this particular garbage found in an abandoned vehicle, maybe we should think about trying to get it tossed?”
“Has anybody had Dominic Casey or whatever his name is Hoover nab some trash from any of those friends they have been stalking for months?”
I trust my point, albeit offered in the snarktacular, outlines how the lack of the defense to prep their expert for another bite at this evidentiary “apple” is astounding.
$275K does not go as far as it used to I guess.
Dr. Huntington refers to a corpse discovered in his report. As he is a forensic entomologist, I have to say, I find this curious as a descriptor in the very report he is most specific about what he might see or might not see in a decompositional event.
Skeletal remains vs. a corpse is big deal in an experts opinion.
Because Dr. Haskell had not been sent the trunk vacumings for examination from the Sunfire until this past December, his amended report was not available at Dr. Huntington’s deposition.
You will notice the laissez faire way I just said that. Similar to the way it was released, really. Smushed in the middle pages of the most recent discovery release.
B O M B S H E L L (potentially)
In Dr. Haskell’s amended report, for the first time he has examined the vacumings from the trunk.
What is critically important in his report and is invisible to the naked eye, unless one goes “discovery diving”, is that the samples Dr. Haskell examined came from two separate and distinct intervals and collections.
J-60135 yielding a hair with a root bulb, and significant entomological finding, consistent with contact with decomposing carrion were found in the sweepings A F T E R the trunk lining was removed, months later. Analysis on the hair has not been released.
Sweeping from the trunk liner, July 2008= ZZZZZZZZZZ
Sweepings from the trunk sans liner January 2, 2009= BAM
Dr. Huntington and no-doubt THE BAEZ LAW FIRM will not be thrilled to know he has unwittingly supported the testimony of State’s witness and former PhD board member, Dr. Haskell. He says there should be dead flies and dead maggots underneath the liner.
Now we know, there are.
I’m an insect who dreamt he was a man and loved it. But now the dream is over… and the insect is awake…
Animals are something invented by plants to move seeds around. An extremely yang solution to a peculiar problem which they faced.
Not to be confused with her fictional and botanically correct character in former Denver Attorney Stephanie Kane’s book, Seeds of Doubt, Dr. Jane Haskett Bock is anything but a “tough ‘ole broad.”
Admittedly, I am pro prosecution in the case against Casey Anthony, so when I review or analyze expert depositions or what I would call “case critical” witnesses, I find it helpful to dislike them, hopefully, intensely.
Dr. Bock is an uber accomplished retired professor, gifted researcher, scientist and educator. Not only do I NOT dislike her, under normal circumstances, I would call her for consults on cases and take her classes.
Candidly, I have no idea why she is sitting in the pews at the wrong side of this wedding.
In an article published in 2008, she is described as a “Crime Fighter”, with very good reason.
Not long after the body was found, Bock’s phone rang once again. Could she use scraps of plants from a suspect’s car to determine his recent whereabouts? The police had combed the Toyota belonging to Mirabal’s husband, Matthew, and collected fresh plant material from the carpet, pedals, windshield wipers, and wheel wells. Bock visited the crime scene in Left Hand Canyon, where she skirted the still-visible gore to collect samples of plants from the surrounding forest. Back at the university, she identified both sets of samples, looking for common species.
Although Dr. Brock is a “grass roots”(pun intended) participant in Necrosearch International, some of her recent depositions as an expert witness for the defense, seems to belie the organization’s protocols.
Utilizing the multidisciplinary approach to scientific specificity as it relates to finding clandestine graves would seem to me to be necessary.
What the hell did I just say?
I said, the bone person, the plant person, the bug person, the investigator, and yes, the canines on her team, and frankly on any team, work in tandem. In her deposition, Dr. Bock explains she prefers that scientists work independently in their field of expertise.
What was particularly troubling to me about Dr. Bock’s observations and assertions was that she openly admitted she has never reviewed the Crime Scene Technicians Field Reports nor has she reviewed any of the FBI analysis reports from the crime scene, the trunk, or the Anthony home.
(pppppsssst, there is botanical evidence and analysis from all 3 of those I think someone might want to * p e r u s e* prior to testifying)
Here are just a few notes from the field that may help:
In fairness to Dr. Bock, she has stated that her findings would not enable her to offer an opinion as to how long Caylee Anthony’s remains were located in the 8900 block of Suburban Drive.
However, I sincerely wonder if that is not the defense’s goal in the first place.
What would be the point of that Blink?
Necessity, for starters. They need a counter to Dr. Hall, who literally on-site at the recovery scene identified several non-indigenous trees, plants and vines without so much as a protractor.
(Yes, I know a Forensic Botanist is not identifying the green stuff with a protractor, hopefully you got a chuckle and can identify with my angst whilst I am swinging through the vines of this subject matter.)
For the most part, Dr. Bock agrees with Dr. Hall’s classifications, and what she is unsure of she laments she wishes she could have been able to visit the recovery scene intact, prior to removal of a substantive amount of vegetation; no doubt from her days of working for the criminal prosecution team in the bulk of her previous casework as an expert witness.
What was staggering to me, was that Dr. Bock was given very little to work with from The Baez Law Firm, in the first place. I was also struck that during her deposition where defense team member Dorothy Clay Simms attended and was apparently under the impression she gets paid “per objection”; Ms. Simms admitted she herself had never before seen the photo evidence being reviewed and asked to have copies sent to her. WOW. Perhaps that explains the recently installed turnstile at the firm’s front door.
One of my favorite exchanges during a deposition of a witness in this case to date:
In over thirty years, Dr. Bock admits she has never observed roots growing though a skeleton or actual human remains recovered outside, unburied.
None of which were of a child, and none were scattered over a “dank” and densely vegetated swamp of over 75 sq ft area, with variances in elevation and soils where bones were found in up to 4′ of muck and leaf litter.
I admit I cannot keep a poinsettia alive past January, but it would seem to me that it is reasonable to conclude that Caylee Anthony’s remains did not dig themselves into varying levels of silt, soil and vines the week prior to their discovery.
In August 2008, Fay, the first tropical storm in history to make landfall four separate times from August 18th through August 20th more than likely concealed little Caylee’s remains which Roy Kronk feared he had discovered a week earlier. It was clear from Dr. Bock’s deposition that she was either unaware of this information or did not find the relevance of the swamp being deeply flooded in certain areas from August through November of 2008 to be relevant to the fact that there appeared to be only one season of leaf litter on surface areas.
Dr. Bock went on to say that a great deal of her case knowledge has been supplemented by her daughter’s addiction to TruTV. It would be my sincere pleasure if someone that is close to Dr. Bock, who in my opinion is a fantastic example of an extraordinary scientist and educator with an impressive body life-long body of work, would pretty please tell her this is not the hot house for her species.
In theatrical terms:
Seymour Krelborn, Jose Baez may be Mr. Mushnik, but Casey Anthony is no flower, although she could play the role of Audrey II without needing a script. Don’t feed her.
Copy Editor: Madeline Tanner
Contributing Editors: Madeline Tanner, Jaqueline Beaufort