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article imageOp-Ed: Casey Anthony trial – June 6

By Alexander Baron     Jun 6, 2011 in Crime
Orlando - A report on the examination and cross-examination of Dr Arpad Vass, an expert witness in the Casey Anthony murder trial that is continuing to receive saturation coverage by the US media.
The first and only witness to testify on Monday, June 6 was Arpad Vass PhD, a senior researcher at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Tennessee, who was examined by Assistant State Attorney Jeff Ashton. Among other things, Dr Vass was questioned about the air samples from the car, which had included chloroform. Casey Anthony is believed to have disposed of her two year old daughter's body using her car; the decomposed remains were found six months after Caylee was last seen alive.
Much of the testimony elicited from Dr Vass was highly technical, and illustrated with charts. Of chloroform, he said this is produced when a human body decomposes but added that in this case the level was shockingly high, the highest he had ever seen. The obvious inference is that Anthony had used the substance on her daughter, and in fact evidence found near the crime scene indicates that Caylee was actually injected with the drug.
The defence objected repeatedly that Dr Vass was testifying outside his area of expertise, and was just as repeatedly over-ruled. These continual objections led eventually to Judge Perry taking time out to explain at some length the validity of expert witnesses quoting from reports outside their particular fields of expertise quoting from case law and from a specialist legal text book.
In the absence of the jury, Perry even gave the defence some “homework” to do over the lunch time recess, directing lead defence counsel Jose Baez to pay special attention to two paragraphs from said text book.
After lunch there was a “house-keeping” matter as the judge said, which appears to have been a list of films the jurors had asked for!
Then Dr Vass continued with a fascinating discourse on decomposing compounds. Fascinating for a chemistry class, that is. He said there was no clear and specific odour for human decomposition, ie the smell of death, although the odours they had found in the car were consistent with it, and it was his professional opinion that there had been a decomposing body in the car; stressing he could think of no other explanation that was consistent with everything they’d found.
Baez elicited from him the fact that his PhD was in anthropology, and seemed also to be trying to impugn the witness by alluding to an invention he’d helped devise, something called a Labrador, the purpose of which is to discover clandestine graves.
He suggested too that Dr Vass had a financial interest in the trial, to which he responded “Not in my opinion”. Although this can be a valid point if there is a suggestion of bias, it is one that can be taken to absurd extremes, for surely the judge has a financial interest in the case, the jurors, the court security staff, and not least, Baez himself. Should he somehow manage to secure his client’s acquittal in the face of what has looked like overwhelming evidence virtually since her arrest, he will surely write a book and be in heavy demand, as well as possibly the most hated lawyer in America.
Not content with attempting to cast aspersions on a salaried employee of the US Government, Baez appeared too to suggest that Dr Vass had leaked information to the media during the course of his investigation.
The contrast between the American and the British approaches are stark, as can be evinced from a comparison with the parallel trial of Levi Bellfield at London’s Central Criminal Court. Granted, Anthony’s trial is much more sensational, but even without its being broadcast live on the Internet, the police and especially the media could not make a fraction of such pronouncements in the Bellfield case as they have in that of “Tot Mum” until after the trial, when in Britain, in the event of conviction, anything goes.
Away from the case, Fox News interviewed Mark Fuhrman, who at one point offered his help to the Anthony family. Those with longer memories will remember him as the much maligned investigating officer in the OJ Simpson double murder case. Fuhrman said he believed Casey Anthony to be guilty – a comment that might conceivably have landed him in court in Britain – but said too he believed there was a lack of premeditation, and that this would save Anthony from the death penalty. It remains to be seen if the jury will consider the duct tape, the chloroform and the on-line research Casey did into the mechanics of murder to be consistent with a lack of premeditation.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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