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article imageOp-Ed: Casey Anthony trial – defense attorney dices with contempt

By Alexander Baron     Jun 18, 2011 in Crime
Orlando - As the trial of "Tot Mom" Casey Anthony for the murder of her two year old daughter, Caylee, reaches a critical phase, her lead attorney is warned by the trial judge for wilfully defying a court order.
The jury were scheduled to return to courtroom 23A at 9am this Saturday morning, but the court was due to start even before that, 8.30am, because as Judge Perry revealed, he was perilously close to citing lead defense attorney Jose Baez for contempt. This was because Mr Baez had wilfully failed to disclose important evidence as instructed. Perry told him for the benefit of the cameras and the world what he had previously told him in a side bar: you cannot choose which court orders you comply with and which you don’t.
Mindful of the gravity of this case and the possibility of an appeal based on any borderline ruling, Perry said he would deal with the matter – and Baez – after the trial.
As a result of this, forensic anthropologist Dr William Rodriguez did not testify today but was replaced by forensic pathologist Dr Werner Spitz, who graduated in 1953! According to a commentator at WFTV, he took the stand at 10am and spent 21 minutes relating his qualifications to defense attorney Cheney Mason. Dr Spitz performed the second autopsy on two year old Caylee.
Yesterday, one of the TV commentators said that if the State and defense fished around enough they could find an expert witness to contradict any testimony given by the relevant expert for the other side in any criminal trial. That certainly didn’t happen yesterday when defense expert witness Dr Tim Huntington was subjected to a battering by State Attorney Jeff Ashton.
Dr Spitz though was always going to be a different proposition, having been performing autopsies years if not decades before the forensic entomologist was born! His main contribution appeared to be the suggestion that if the duct tape found at the scene of the crime had been used to gag Caylee, there would have been DNA on it. This duct tape is viewed by the State as the potential murder weapon. Dr Spitz said too there should have been adipocere present. Asked by Mr Mason what was the cause of death, he said certain conditions could be ruled out but that was as far as he could go.
From the evidence he could rule out suicide – an academic question for a two year old girl! But he said that although he could rule out skull fracture, he could not rule out accident, nor the manner of death.
After the doctor told Mr Mason he had performed or supervised some sixty thousand autopsies in his career, Judge Perry signalled a ten minute recess.
After the break, Jeff Ashton began the cross-examination; Dr Spitz said he had read the pathologist’s report and visited the crime scene, and also the Anthony home, another potential crime scene.
This cross-examination was somewhat heated, not by the State but this time by the witness, who said that the failure of the pathologist who performed the autopsy to open the skull was “shoddy”.
In response, Ashton confronted Dr Spitz with a textbook on the forensic investigation of death, he had edited and to which he had contributed. He was asked where in the book was the protocol that demanded the head be opened during an autopsy. Cheney Mason objected to this question, but was over-ruled. Dr Spitz pointed out that the book was not an autopsy instruction manual. Ashton had obviously done his homework on the witness as much as on this case, but this was an instance of an irresistible force meeting an immovable object.
The most controversial part of the doctor’s testimony was his claim that somebody – possibly the medical examiners - had tampered with the evidence, including the skull, on which the hair had been rearranged for some unspecified reason.
The jury do not appear to have been impressed by his other major claim, that the duct tape had been manipulated at the crime scene, and two members were said to have smirked at the suggestion.
WFTV commentators were also skeptical, and according to them this was yet another attempt to throw more innocent people under the bus, along with her father George Anthony; Zenaida Gonzalez – the woman whose name Casey Anthony stole to append to her daughter’s non-existent nanny; the man who found the body, meter reader Roy Kronk; and Vasco Thompson, a man who although convicted of a serious crime in 1988 had put his past behind him and was living an unobtrusive life until his name was dragged into this affair and through the mud by Jose Baez.
Indeed, such is his commitment to his client that Mr Baez may have thrown himself under the bus as well, because at the end of these proceedings he could see himself carted off to gaol along with her, she either for first degree murder or some lesser offence (which she cannot avoid), and he for contempt of court.
After the jury had been dismissed, Judge Perry told the lawyers to be prepared to work next Saturday until 3pm if necessary. The proceedings will resume on Monday morning when Dr William Rodriguez will take the stand.
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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