- (Photo: Reuters / Joe Burbank/Pool)
The court was back in session Friday after ending early the day before when an emotional Casey Anthony became too ill to proceed, most likely due to the series of graphic photographs presented of 2-year-old Caylee’s skull and remains.
Unable to hold back her tears for a second day in a row, Casey broke down once again Friday morning as a witness described that animals had chewed on her daughter’s bones.
Caylee’s remains were discovered December 2008 in a wooded area near the Anthonys’ Orlando home, six months after the toddler was last seen.
Calling Dr. John Schultz, a University of Central Florida forensic anthropology professor, to the stand, prosecutors asked him to describe in detail, the remains that were dispersed and chewed on site.
“These bones were completely dry, no decomposition odor. There was some slight erosion on some of the bones, which would take time ... One bone was basically buried,” he testified, observing that this, and the root growth found on the bones could indicate that the remains could have been there for six months.
Schultz had examined the bones recovered in December 2008 when meter reader Roy Kronk found the remains. Defense attorneys claimed that Kronk had tampered with the evidence in order to obtain a reward.
Looking at the images on screen, Schultz also reported that most of the “tiny” skeletal remains were gathered.
“We collected all but one tooth. We have most of the spine, many of the ribs, all of the long bones, the tiny bones, hand, feet, left foot and we did recover one bone of the right foot. The only reason we have one bone of the right foot is because we had carnivore activity on that part of the skeleton.”
After Casey began sobbing uncontrollably while hearing the testimony, a short recess was called, before Schultz took the stand again and resumed his description.
The forensic expert also stated that duct tape was covering the mouth of the skeleton, though he was unsure what had covered the nose openings.
Dr. Jan Garavaglia, the Chief Medical Examiner for Orange and Osceola counties who in 2008 had called the cause of Caylee’s death homicide by undetermined means, also testified.
She told jurors that a portion of the right tibia was sent to the FBI for DNA testing and came back a positive match for Caylee.
Garavaglia was the medical examiner that performed the autopsy twice and sent the post-mortem samples to be tested for toxicology as well, which came back negative. She acknowledged, however, that she did not expect to find any substances like chloroform in the bones, and that the absence of positive results for toxicity did not exclude the acute use of them.
Though she could not determine the exact manner of death, she believed the method of death was homicide. She sustained that she could reach conclusions based on the condition of the 2-year-old’s remains and other factors including the duct tape wrapped around her skull.
“The fact that there’s duct tape anywhere attached to that child’s face is to me indication that it’s homicide.”
Flustered defense attorney Cheney Mason argued that Garavaglia did not have any actual scientific evidence about how Caylee died, and that her conclusions were based on the media and circumstantial evidence presented.
As a medical examiner, she stated that it was her job to take more than just the skeletal remains into consideration when she determined how someone died.
“There’s the fact that she was tossed aside to rot, there’s the fact that her death wasn’t reported. Accidental deaths are reported unless there is a reason for it not to be,” Garavaglia responded.
The defense claims that Caylee drowned in her grandparents’ pool, and that Casey never told anyone.
The celebrity witness who appears on the Discovery Health Channel show “Dr. G: Medical Examiner” also stated that several studies show that accidental drownings are reported to the authorities 100 percent of the time.
“That’s your opinion,” said Mason.
“No, that’s systematic observational studies,” she replied. “There’s also the presence of the duct tape. No child should have duct tape on its mouth when it dies.”
Chief Deputy Medical Examiner Gary Utz also was called as a witness earlier Friday to describe Caylee’s remains and the items found with her body.
A sidebar then proceeded in the afternoon in order to determine whether a video, made by forensic anthropologist Michael Warren, could be admitted as evidence.
The animated video displayed Caylee’s skull with duct tape superimposed over a past photo taken of the toddler when she was still alive, in order to show the position the tape appeared on the skull.
“The purpose of the demonstration is to illustrate that it’s possible that the width of the tape would cover both the child’s nose and ... the mouth,” Warren said.
Defense attorney Jose Baez expressed, “This disgusting superimposition is nothing but a fantasy. It’s not supported by anything that can be testified to.” He accused the state of just tossing out any idea without any conclusive evidence.
“I don’t know where we’re at, but I’ve been hearing a lot about chloroform. Today, it’s duct tape. Let’s throw everything against the wall and see what sticks.”
After a short 15-minute recess called by Chief Judge Belvin Perry to determine whether or not the video was indeed a valid piece of evidence, Perry returned and ruled to include the video, despite its potential to sway the jury based on emotions.
His decision, he stated, was based on previous court cases and further explained that there was no gore, and that the jury had already seen pictures of Caylee’s skull and remains previously.
Perry also affirmed that he would instruct the jury to understand that the video is only to show evidence that supports the expert’s testimony.
Casey, 25, if convicted, could face the death penalty. She is charged with seven counts including first degree murder, aggravated child abuse, and misleading investigators.