Dr. G and the Animated Anthropologist
Posted by thedarwinexception on June 11, 2011
Casey is in court today – she left “sick” yesterday and closed court early for the day – guess she just had one of those 3 hour “bugs” that everyone gets, you know, when they are forced to look at the decomposing body of the child they killed and then left out in the woods to rot. I think they call it “OhMyFuckingGodI’mGoingtoGetTheNeedleForThis-itis.”
Today the judge starts with the same admonition he gave yesterday to the gallery – if you are going to have any facial expressions or emotional outbursts – leave now.
Dr. Utz is back on direct examination, identifying more pictures of Caylee’s skull and clothes and leg bones. And to me, the worst pictures have been of her clothes. I don’t know why, but I think the picture of her little shorts are more horrific than pictures of a decomposed skull that could be from any kind of animal, not just a three year old girl. The clothes are more definitively “this was a little girl” than the bones are. And therefore, a lot sadder, somehow.
Dr. Utz testifies that the shorts had been eaten away by animal and insect activity. The tag of the shorts show that they are from “Target” (we know who loves to shop at SuperTarget), and that they were sized 24 months. The letters from the shirt Caylee was wearing “Big Trouble Comes in Small Packages” had fallen away from the shirt and were found in the bag. The Dr.’s tried to reconstruct the words. The state then showed the photo from Ricardo Morales’ apartment with Caylee wearing the shirt, and put it side by side with the letters spelling out “Big Trouble”.
Dr. Utz testified that he sent the tape to the FBI lab for examination, and his involvement with the case ended shortly after. He handed the case over to Dr. G upon her return on Friday afternoon, the next day.
On Cross examination, Cheney Mason asks about the Dr’s board certifications. And asks what a Forensic Pathologist is. Dr. Utz explains that a pathologist is licensed to do autopsies and study the human body after death – a forensic pathologist investigates how death occurs -it’s the investigation of death the cause and manner of death.
Dr. Utz then testifies again that he was aware of all the “hoopla” surrounding this case. Mason asks the doctor if he knows why Dr. G took over the case from Dr. Utz. The doctor says that since he was new it he office, and hadn’t yet made the “connections” with law enforcement that Dr. G had already established, and since this case was going to require a large inter-disciplinary team, that it was probably for this reason that she took over. Mason asks “and for the publicity, right?” Utz doesn’t really contradict him, but says “there were lots of factors – that may have been one.”
Mason asks about the placement of the duct tape – he says that there wasn’t any duct tape “on” the left side of the skull- the doctor asks him what he means by “on”? The doctor explains that the tape extended on the left side of the skull past the mid-line, but it wasn’t “attached” on that side. Mason does get the witness to testify that the duct tape wasn’t on the back of the skull – and it wasn’t “encircling” the skull or wrapped around the head. Mason wants to know if this witness did microscopic examination of the tape or take swabs for DNA, the witness says no, this wasn’t his job – he gave the tape to the FBI or that. There was no human tissue on the tape at all.
Dr. Utz says he found no trauma of any kind in his preliminary examination. No fracture or closed reductions (previous fractures that had healed.) Mason acts like this is the smoking gun in this case – “You found no prior trauma, is that not true, sir?” I mean, it’s not that earth-shattering of a fact, Mason. Susan Smith’s kids didn’t have any prior abuse, either. The kid is dead – that’s pretty much an open and shut case for abuse.)
On re-direct, Ashton again goes over the tape on the skull. He shows the photo with the duct tape on the lower portion of the skull. The tape extends to the left and right of the skull.
The witness is excused.
The state call Dr. John Schultz. He is a forensic anthropologist Professor a the University of Central Florida. He has a bunch of degrees and did a 5 year internship at the Human Identification Lab at The University of Florida. He is also a forensic archaeologist. He has a Master’s Degree in Human Biology.
Ashton asks him the difference between Anthropology and Archeology. Anthropology is studying the human skeleton. As an archaeologist he collects human skeletons. He also studies taphonomy – studying the changes in human remains after death and how they become fossilized. His sub-specialty is detecting human remains.
At UCF, as a professor, he is expected to work with the community. So he contacted the Medical Examiner to help with skeletal remain cases and to continue his forensic education and work. This witness is the only forensic anthropological resource the Medical Examiner’s office has.
In December 2008, he received a phone call from Steve Hansen that his services may be needed – and he was asked if he could go to the scene to help recover the skeleton and scattered bones. Unfortunately it was finals week, and he wasn’t available that day – he went to the medical examiner’s office later that day. He helped document the skull and other items.
Schultz says that when he first saw the skull, that it was in it’s normal anatomical position, which was surprising to him being that this was a surface recovery. He says that there would have to be something to keep the mandible in place, like soft tissue, and once that soft tissue is decomposed, there is nothing to keep the mandible in place, so to find the mandible with the skull is quite unusual. The witness says that the hair and the root and vine growth was was kept the mandible in place. He says that the tape wasn’t necessarily holding the mandible in place. Schultz says there was no visible trauma to the bones.
Schultz was advising the Sheriff’s department on the recovery of the bones. The bones were not buried, but were scattered under a leaf cover. Schultz arrived on the scene on the 12th, talked with Susan Mears, the crime scene supervisor. The scene posed several problems because they were dealing with a small child. The bones were small, and because of normal growth and the age of the victim, many of the bones were still in parts and hadn’t completely formed. Schultz advised that the searchers be on their hands and knees, sifting the area. The entire process was documented through photography by the Sheriff’s Department.
Ashton goes through some of the recovery process photographs – showing the initial blue canopy that was set up at the primary crime scene. Schultz also explains the “mapping process”. The searchers would plant little flags at any point where they found a bone, and they were using a computer photo station to map the location of the bones found, and where on the skeleton that bone would be placed.
As they started in the main area, addition CSI worked South of the area, and as additional remains were located, the area they were searching would expand. It is important to Schultz to know exactly were each bone was found, because this helps him to draw conclusions about when and how different bones were scattered and by what means.
Schultz is shown a photo of the vertebra that was recovered. He explains to the jury that these bones, in a child of this age, are in “parts” that are not yet fused together. This allows for growth. Because all of these vertebrae were found together in one place, and because not only the spine, but the vertebrae and all of it’s individual pieces were found together, this means that the torso was moved while there was still soft tissue surrounding these bones.
Schultz is shown a photo of the upper leg and pelvis bones. Schultz testifies that he can tell that these bones were chewed on by animals. Casey reacts at this point, holding her tissue close to her face and sobbing into it. Well, doing a “Casey sob”, anyway, the one where her makeup never runs, her eyes never get red or puffy or swollen, and the tissue never actually gets wet. But, she reacts. I think she thinks she’s supposed to react. She’s quite adept at reacting where she thinks a grieving mother ought to react. One wonders if Casey realizes that while her daughter’s leg bones were being chewed on by animals that Casey herself was probably dancing on a table in a Hot Body contest. Because that’s the creepy fucking reality of it. Well, in this reality. One doesn’t know what was going on in Casey’s reality. In Casey’s reality, Caylee was probably at SeaWorld with Zanny and Annabelle, not laying in the woods having her legs being eaten by God knows what.
Schultz says that the entire recovery process lasted until December 20th. Schultz testifies that one of the pelvis bones – left – was found buried in the muck at the scene. The recovery was fairly successful – generally in a surface recovery where the bones have laid out for an extended period of time and been subject to carnivore activity, even in an adult skeletal recovery, where all the bones are intact, there is usually not a complete skeleton recovered, and generally the teeth are the hardest to recover. In this case, Schultz says that they were quite successful at recovery, they collected all but one tooth, most of the spine, many of the ribs, all of the long bones, many of the hand and finger bones, and many of the left foot bones, and one bone of the right foot. There was carnivore activity in the right foot area.
Ashton then asks question about the mapping and location of bones and what conclusions the doctor came to taking into account this final mapping of the location of the bones recovered. He is shown a map with some areas highlighted as to where the majority of the bones were recovered. Schultz identifies “area A” as the original depositional spot – this is the area where the bags and the skull were recovered. Schultz feels that this Is where the bags were left. This is where the initial separation of some of the body parts occurred such as the skull, the arms and the lower limbs. Schultz says that based on where various bones were later collected, he is able to follow along with that separation, and conclude how that separation occurred and when, in relation to when the body was originally placed in Area A.
In Area A, the original depositional spot, where the skull and the bags were found, Schultz and the searchers also found the arms and the hand bones and the lower legs, and the left foot
In Area B – the closest search spot to Area A, the searchers found the shaft to the upper arm bone, the humerus.
Area F – the largest area, South East of Area A. Schultz testifies that he concludes that the trunk and the lower legs, along with the pelvis, still all together in one piece. was dragged to this area, because this is where they find these bones, along with some other, smaller bones. There was carnivore damage on multiple bones in this area.
In Area D, only one bone was recovered, the one bone found of the right foot. And in Area E, only one hand bone was found.
BY the time the searchers were in Area G, they had already found most of the spinal column, with all of the vertebrae attached. Some of the bottom of the spinal column and lower vertebrae were found here in Area G. This again, is consistent with carnivore activity and the lower spinal column with pelvis attached being dragged to this area.
In Area H is where they started seeing ribs that were dis-articulated.
Up until Area H they had not seen most of the spine. There are 24 vertebrae in the spine, they found 20 of those vertebrae in Area I. This would be consistent with the trunk being dragged through the woods, the bones that are not held on with as many potential ligaments being deposited first, then the spinal column, which is held together with more ligaments, being able to be dragged further away in one piece. There would have had to have been soft ligament and tissue holding the bones together.
Based on this dispersal pattern, Schultz opines that when the body was initially deposited in Area A, it was a complete unit – at least the trunk, lower limbs and spine were a complete unit. The body was not dismembered and then dropped at Area A – the separation that occurred was due to natural decomposition and animal activity.
When trying to determine how long the bones had been at the site and how they were disbursed, the one bone that figured into Schultz’s conclusion was the hip bone – the one that had been found partially buried in the muck. This area was a “swampy” area, and when the area was flooded and filled with water, the underwater silt resulted in the burial of this bone – this flooding of the area happened in the late summer. Many of the bones were also covered by a layer leaf, so the bones would have had to have been there before this leaf falling occurred.
The bones were dry and completely devoid of marrow. There was no tissue. There was no decompositional odor. The combination of this and the root evidence, Schultz says that in his opinion the bones were in this area for approximately 6 months.
Cross by Cheney Mason. Mason asks if as an anthropological expert if he not only locates bones, but also examines the bones himself. The witness says he does. The witness says the bones were x-rayed. And the witness found no evidence of ante-mortem trauma. No evidence of fractures or twists or torquing or breaking. (Which I still think is a stupid question. Does Mason want the jury to believe that since her mother never broke her arm while she was alive, she couldn’t have killed her?)
The witness testifies that Area A was about 25 feet from the pavement of Suburban Drive. But this witness didn’t do the mapping.
Mason asks if the witness can tell when all these disbursal of bones took place. The witness says not with any scientific certainty, no. Mason also asks if this witness can tell how the child died, and the witness says that this is not a question he would answer.
The witness says that he looked at the duct tape, but didn’t analyze it, and that the duct tape was not covering the nasal apertures.
Re-Direct – The witness explains what the nasal apertures are – the holes in the nose. The tape was covering the mouth area, The nose was not present, and this witness doesn’t know if the tape would have been covering the nose, had it been there, or not.
The witness is excused.
Next up – Dr. G, Medical Examiner, from the Discovery Channel show of the same name. Formal name Dr. Jan Garavaglia. She is the chief medical examiner for (District 9) Orange and Osceola county, where she’s been since 2004. She also worked as a Medical Examiner in some form or another, in San Antonio Texas, Atlanta, Jacksonville, and she trained in Miami.
And, you know, she has her own show. What more testimony do you need in order to judge her credibility? I mean, she’s obviously just as credible as Dr. Phil or Dr. Oz – only she hasn’t worked with Oprah – yet.
On the 11th of December she learned that skeletal remains had been found- possibly those of Caylee Anthony’s. She was just leaving on a trip and was late for the airport. She contacted Dr. Utz and told him to handle this until she returned the next day – and she told him to make sure and call Dr. Schultz – the forensic anthropologist.
She returned the following evening and she reviewed the photographs that had been taken in her absence. She continued to analyze and photograph evidence. The hair mat was sent to the FBI lab and she asked for that back for analysis.
Dr. G identifies photos of the hair mat and the plant and root growth that was intertwined in the hair. Some of the hair was “teased out” from this mat for possible toxicological examination. The hair was more than 6 inches long.
Dr. G also photographed the blanket that was found with the remains. They took close-ups of the figures on the blanket. Dr. G recognized the figures as Winnie the Pooh with Piglet on his back. The blanket had a lot of plant growth in it, as well. There were 2 plastic bags found at the scene. Vegetative root material was also growing through the holes in those bags. The canvas bag had a vinyl lining and the root material was only growing on the outside of that bag. There were roots growing in the bones, as well. The shirt was completely disintegrated, and there was really no growth seen in the shorts.
To identify the bones, the Dr. did a DNA test. They were hoping to get nuclear DNA – and at least mitochondrial DNA. Dr. G sent a bone off to the FBI lab for DNA recovery. The lab removed a piece of the right tibia for testing. The FBI lab identified the remains as Caylee Anthony.
The fundamental job of Dr. G is to determine manner and cause of death. The manner of death is based on scientific principles and the gathering of all evidence regarding the history of the case to come up with an OPINION as to the manner of death. Manner of death is the classification of death based on all of the information that is available – historic information, scene information, scientific information, anything that will help the ME in determining a classification of death, whether that is Accident, Homicide, Natural, Suicide or Undetermined. In making this determination, the ME will bring to bear all of his/her experience in the field.
In this case, based on everything that she has seen, the skeleton and the photographs, Dr. G classifies this death as a homicide. This opinion is based on three main items: First, Dr. G says that is is known from experience and observational studies to be a red flag if when a child goes missing that the child is not reported as missing immediately. This child, from history, was not reported as missing for a long time. The next thing that makes this a homicide is that the body was hidden. A child’s body is thrown out, hidden in a field, that is an indication of foul play. Often times, these bodies are found in closed containers, like a suitcase, or a plastic bag, like this child was. This, again, is from observational and systematic studies of red flags in homicide cases. The last, after the delay and the being left in a field to decompose, is the duct tape being found on the lower half of the child’s face. There is no child that should have duct tape on it’s face when it dies. There is no reason to put duct tape on it’s face after they die. Based on experience, that is something seen in homicides.
Cause of death differs from manner of death. Cause of death is the injury or the disease that initiates the chain of events that results in the child dying. In this case, based on the skeletal condition of the remains, Dr. G determined that this was a homicide of undetermined means. She can conclude that this was a homicide, but she can’t conclude how that homicide occurred.
The duct tape that was found with the body, could have caused the death. If the duct tape was over the moth and nose. There could also have been suffocation with the plastic bag. Dr. G. also is aware of the levels of chloroform found in this case, and a child of that size and age, if exposed to those levels of chloroform, could have died as a result.
This body was very decomposed, and unless there was specific trauma to those bones, it is impossible to say how death occurred. There is no injury to the bone in this case that could lead to a cause of death. There is no illnesses that the child suffered from that could have led to death.
Cheney Mason Crosses for the defense. Dr. G was aware that this was a big case – she doesn’t watch the news and she listen to NPR, so she probably wasn’t as aware as some people. She knew that there was a lot of speculation. She says she found out about the chloroform from the investigators in the sec after she got the body. Mason asks if this was then assumed int his case as a contributor to the death – Dr. G says that it was a possibility hat had to be examined. Dr. G. says that tot his end, she brought in a toxicologist who was experienced in the toxicology of bones. This was Dr. Bruce Goldberger from the University of Florida. Dr. G sent him a piece of the left femur bone, so he could test for the presence of chloroform (or any volatile chemicals, such as alcohol). He used the piece of the bone sent to him, ans well as scrapings from the inside of the bone that Dr. G provided to him, washings from the cranial cavity, and the hair and some soil that fell out of the hair. He also tested some of the items for prescription and narcotic drugs, and some of the items for Alprazolam (xanax). Dr. Goldberger found nothing. (And as Mason pointed out – he’s not a doctor.)
Dr. G was informed by her office that Jose Baez had requested that an outside source be allowed to observe the autopsy. Dr. G says that she has a statutory obligation to determine the cause and manner of death, and to preserve anything that goes into that determination and make that available to the defense after she is finished.
There was no ante-mortem trauma – there was post mortem trauma, in the form of animal activity, but nothing to indicate ante-mortem trauma. (On the bones).
Mason says , “So despite all these experts being brought in, the toxicologists, the anthropologists, there could be no determination as tot he cause of this child’s death?” And Dr. G answers “The means of the homicide could not be determined.”. Mason says “And you determined it was a homicide s opposed to an accident or undetermined?” And Dr G says “The circumstances of the death did not fit anything but a homicide – the way the body was found….” And Mason cuts in with “I know that! And also what Detective Melich told you…” Dr. G. says “Which part did Detective Melich tell me? That the child was not reported for 31 days? That’s our standard operating procedure – to get reports from investigators.” Mason says “And what you learned from the media?” Dr G says that nothing from the media would have been in her decision. She says she can’t take anything the media would say into a decision as grave as this.
Mason then asks her – “so, when you place a label of homicide of undetermined means, you are saying that circumstantial evidence, to you, says that this probably was a homicide.”
Dr. G corrects Mr. Mason by saying that no, not probably. She says that homicide is the only logical conclusion based on observational and scientific information that they have on how children die.
Mason then steps in it by asking Dr. G what the scientific information that they have in these circumstances. He really should know better. And this was one of those things you don’t do as a defense attorney – ask an open ended question that allows an expert for the other side to list facts and figures and opinions.
And Dr. G, smart cookie that she is, takes “accidental drownings” as her starting off point. Apparently she watches some news, because she knows that this is the theory that the defense is going with – and she systematically dismantles that theory for the jury. And I’ll bet now that Mason knows he fucked the fuck up.
She says that they went through those statistics jurisdiction by jurisdiction, and they found that in 100% of the accidental drowning cases 911 was called. And now Mason knows he fucked up because he quickly tries to shut her up and says “Well,……yeah,,,but….that has nothing to do with this case, now does it?” And it’s kind of like “Well, yeah, Mason, it does – you’re the one saying the kid drowned!”
And now the judge rules that Dr G. can finish her answer (well, yeah, you knew that was going to happen – told ya Mason fucked up – NEVER ask an open ended question like that of an expert witness!!
And Dr G says “Oh! It absolutely has to do with this case! Every death that I investigate has to be put into the circumstances of determining death. You can never, ever, determine the circumstances of a death, in only a very few rare instances, by only looking at the body. We need to know how usually deaths occur. We need to know, and there are scientific studies in peer reviewed literature, some of the red flags that determine if a death is a homicide….”
And Mason is talking over her all the time she is giving this answer – trying to shut her the fuck up – only the thing is, he asked her the open ended question……
Dr G keeps going (after an objection by Mason himself to try and get her to shut up which is overruled….)
“….so by my experience and by what is known of the way that homicides occur, I felt that the preponderance of the evidence, and since there was no other logical conclusion that could be found, that the person who has a moral, legal and ethical obligation to care for the child not reporting that child missing for 31 days, the fact that it’s tossed in a field to rot in a plastic bag, and that this was a clear indication that body was trying to be hidden, and just being put in a plastic bag is a very large red flag for this being a homicide, I’ve never seen an accidental death where a child was put in a plastic bag, an the fact that there’s duct tape, anywhere attached to that child’s face, is to me indication that this is a homicide.”
And there you have it, ladies and gentlemen, the reason why this bitch has her own show on Discovery Channel.
And Mason, not having had enough, asks her yet again, “What about your scientific evidence?”
And Dr G says again, “In 100% of the cases of accidental death, we know that the death is reported, unless there is a very, very good reason why it isn’t. In fact, if you do not report an injury to the authorities, then you are risking that child’s life. That’s partly behavioral science….and we know because of the cases that come through our morgue, that 100% of the accidental deaths in children are reported, unless there’s a good reason not to.”
Mason then asks “So you are saying 100%, that there’s no way this death could have been accidental?”
Dr G says “no, what I’m saying is that 100% of the time, in let’s say, accidental drownings, because that’s one of the more common accidents, that when the person finds the child, 100% of the time they call 911 – because there’s the chance that that child might live. They need to report that and give them a chance.”
Mason, clinging to the defense’s theory, then asks “What if someone finds an obviously drowned body? Obviously deceased. What then? Is there some scientific conclusion you reach about their morality?”
“No, what I’m looking at is the behavior as a systematic, observational information that no matter how stiff that body is, they always call 911 on the hopes that that child can be saved.” (I was hoping she was going to mention that she’s never seen a case where someone found an “obviously drowned body” and proceeded to put duct tape on it’s mouth…..but maybe she will still say that…)
Mason then asks her – “So you are saying it’s a homicide because you can’t explain it any other way?”
“I’m explaining to you what we know as red flags, based on observational and behavioral science.”
Mason says she needs to answer his question, and Dr. G says she doesn’t understand. (and, of course, neither does anyone else, I imagine….)
Mason the says “OK – bottom line, cause of death, you don’t know, manner of death, based on the circumstantial evidence, you say is homicide.”
Dr G says “I felt that the manner of death, although the cause of death is homicide by undetermined means, although the means were unable to be substantiated scientifically, I thought the manner of death was able to be defensible scientifically, as homicide based on systematic observational scientific studies.”
“Observational studies of other things…”
“Of how homicides occur, how accidents occur, of how natural deaths occur, yes.”
“Other cases, yes.”
Mason then asks “By the way, if these remains had been fund 4 or 5 months before, would you have had a better chance at scientific evidence?”
Dr G says absolutely.
Mason then asks her if the duct tape she observed was only in the lower mandible – she says yes, it was.
Re-Direct by Ashton. He asks if Dr G attempted to keep the body in the same condition it was in when she got it for the defense’s requested second autopsy. She says she did – except for the pieces taken from the bone for the DNA and toxicological studies.
R G says that as far as the testing for the substances goes, she was not expecting to find any of these substances present in the bones. It was a long shot, but she thought she would be amiss if she didn’t try. She says that she would not expect the tests to be positive in a set of bones, even if the tests were positive at the time of death.
Ashton then asks the doctor a hypothetical scenario – to assume that Caylee Anthony’s body was deposited in the field on June16th, 2008, 6 months before it was found. Assuming Mr. Masons’ suggestion that the body was found 4 months earlier – in August – what would have been the condition of the body after 2 months. Dr. G says it would be skeletonized. The internal organs would be completely gone.
Dr G leaves the stand.
Michael Warren is next. This is the guy the other anthropologist guy studied under at the University of Florida.
The judge excuses the jury for what looks to be a proffer from the state.
The state shows the judge an animation – it shows the skull, superimposed on a picture of Caylee (next to Casey – chilling) and then shows a picture of the duct tape covering both the nose and the mouth on the picture.
Ashton says that the issue in this case – both by the defense and the prosecution – is whether or not the duct tape was the cause of death. This animation shows that a single piece of duct tape – and the testimony will show there was three – was sufficient to be placed over the nose and mouth of Caylee in order to end her life. Thus is an unfortunately graphic demonstration, but it’s the only way of establishing that. (You know, besides a ruler and a piece of the tape….)
Ashton says that he reason the skull has to be there is for scale and lining up with the picture and the tape. He says that the defense is contesting whether or not the tape is the murder weapon, and this animation is relevant to show that the tape is.
Baez argues that he thought the state was putting forth that Chloroform was the cause of death. Baez accuses the state of just throwing stuff against a wall to see what sticks. He calls the animation “disgusting” and “nothing but a fantasy” that can’t be supported by anything that can’t be testified to. Baez says that this animation doesn’t hold up in any way under 403 rules. He says that if Ashton wants to argue measurements and that this theory can be supported through measurements, he understands that, but the proper way to do that would be someone testifying as to the measurements, someone testifying as to the anatomy of this child, then do a computer age enhancement, and then have this testified to through the medical examiner and/or an anthropologist,
The judge then, as usual, gives the defense homework with regards to case law.
Baez further argues probative vs. prejudicial, and says this animation is a poster child for why this was created. (I don’t think it’s that bad….although the fact that Casey is hovering in the picture is a little troubling)
Baez says there has been no testimony, and there can be no testimony that the duct tape was in the position it is in in the video. He also cites Pierce, which states that a visual aid has to accurately and fairly reflect the oral testimony given, and Baez argues that there isn’t going to be any testimony regarding the placement of the duct tape. And Dr. Warren can’t testify to that. Baez says that there were three pieces of tape, but that one was found 9 feet away.
The judge wants to hear Dr. Warren’s testimony before making a decision.
So Dr. Warren is put on the stand for the proffer. He is the director of the human identification lab and an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Florida.
Dr. Warren worked with Dr. Schultz in this case. He helped with Schultz’s report. Then an issue came up about the duct tape and whether or not it could have caused death. This video was made by taking photos of the skull, photos of the tape and a photo that was taken from the internet of the child’s face. This particular photo was chosen because of the orientation of the face.
The reason the skull and the photo both have to be used is because the skull has a scale on it – it is of a known size. In order to match the tape to the face, first the skull is put behind the photo to line those up exactly, then the tape is put over the photo of the face. By using the skull, the Dr. is able to make certain that the face is of the right scale to the tape.
Ashton asks the witness if it is possible for him, without this skull/photo superimposition, to determine the exact distance from the bottom of Caylee’s nose to the bottom of her chin. The doctor says yes, by using the scale in the photograph. But without the scale that the skull/photo picture provides, no he couldn’t. He says there are some studies out there, but none that give the exact measurements of the landmarks that they needed. And the studies would only have rough approximations, not exact measurements. The Dr says he knows of no other way, besides this process, to show that the duct tape could cover both the nose and mouth.
Baez gets up to cross the witness – and asks about the previous questions discussing the tape being the murder weapon. The dr says he doesn’t remember Ashton calling this the “murder weapon” – he just wanted to know if the tape could cover both airways. This witness suggested the superimposition to Ashton. But the doctor wasn’t present when the duct tape was removed from the skull – he only saw a photograph. And the tape was adhered to the hair mat – not to the skull. And the hair mat was on the bottom of the skull. There’s no scale on her face in the photo – and the dr has no idea how old Caylee was in this photo – it’s just a photo they took from the internet.
The judge asks the dr what the purpose is of the illustration. The doctor says the purpose is to show that the tape could cover both airways. The judge wants to know why the skull is necessary. The doctor says that the skull provides a photographic scale. By using both the skull and the tape using the enclosed scales, they can superimpose the skull to the skull to know exactly how large that face needs to be, they can superimpose the tape onto the face.
The skull that was used was the actual skull of Caylee. This animation will help him explain his testimony to the jury. Without this animation he would not be able to testify that the tape would cover both airways. Without this animation, the jury would simply have to take his word for it.
The judge rules that the state can use the animation. He cites case law. The witness testified that the animation would illustrate his testimony – the jury has seen the skull now many times, it doesn’t depict blood or gore, the photo is nondescript, and there is no unfair prejudicial value that is not outweighed by probative value to determine a material fact. There will be a limiting instruction. The defense still objects.
The State calls Dr. Michael Warren. He is the director of the human identification lab and an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Florida. He explains what the C.A. Pound Human Identification Lab is. They identify people from bones. He was a paramedic for 15 years. He has a Master’s from the University of Florida. He has been accepted as an expert witness 16 or 18 times.
Now 17 or 19.
He became involved int his case on December 15th, 2008 when Dr G and Dr Schultz called him to help with the analysis of the remains. He also looked at the photographs taken of the bones as they were found. When the mandible and skull were found they were still together. This was noteworthy because that particular joint has nothing to hold it place once the soft tissue is gone. The only other time he has seen these bones found together was when he was working in the Balkans and the bodies had had tape put over their mouths before death.
The doctor says that he is familiar with the photographs that show the positioning of the tape with reference to the mandible and the nasal apertures. He says that from these photos it is impossible to tell if the tape would have been over the nose and the mouth in life because the tape had moved. The doctor says that he tried to determine if it was possible for one piece of tape could have covered both the nose and the mouth. He tried to figure out the various distances from nose to mouth through the various literature and research that was available at the time. He found some estimates and ranges based on Caylee’s age.
He also tried video superimposition. Normally, this is used to exclude the possibility that the skeleton of an unknown decedent is a certain person. They take a photo of a person and superimpose that photo over the skull of the unknown decedent. They compare anatomical landmarks – various points on the skull such as the bottom teeth, the edge of the eyes, the point of the nose, the contours of the skull.
In this case, he utilized this technique to scale the photograph of the skull and a photograph of the tape provided by the FBI. In order to determine where the nose an mouth were in life, he took a photograph of the decedent to scale the tape to the soft tissue of the nose and mouth.
The limiting instruction is read, and Baez renews his objections. Then the video animation is shown.
The tape in the animation is shown in several different positions, only because the doctor does not know exactly where the tape was. But a single piece of tape would have been sufficient to cover the nose and mouth making breathing impossible.
Cross: And Baez drags out his big easel table paper again.
Baez asks if he was consulted early in the case – he was, but the doctor never saw the tape attached to the hair matte. The photo that he used to create this quick time movie of Caylee he just grabbed from the internet – and there is no scale on this photo. In fact, he has no idea how old this photo was. The only reason he is showing it to the jury is to demonstrate that this is possible. Not that this is what actually happened. This doctor can’t testify that this tape caused Caylee’s death.
Baez does a little drawing to show that the hair mat was on the bottom of the skull as it lay on the surface of the ground – the mandible was on top of the hair and the skull sat on top of the mandible. And hair generally isn’t on the bottom of one’s skull – usually it is on top. And the duct tape was across the front of the skull, with hair mat intertwined in it. And at one point, this skull was inside of a bag.
Baez asks if the witness If he knows where that duct tape was originally placed – and the doctor says that it was across at least the mandible of the skull. But see, Baez is trying to put forth that the duct tape was used to…..close the bags, maybe? Like the duct tape was used to cover the opening left on the top of the plastic bag, and then got stuck in Caylee’s hair and migrated to the mandible at some later point? I don’t know, I think that is what he is alluding to. But the doctor is only willing to accede to the fact that the duct tape was on the mouth. He won’t speculate as to where it was originally.
Baez asks if the video was to appeal to the juries emotions. (He has to ask this to get this on the record for later appeal).
But this gets the jury another break…..
The defense gets a proffer.
Baez asks the doctor since it was his suggestion to make this video, was it his purpose to inflame the jury or appeal to their emotions, or get their sympathy – and all the other things listed in the 403 evidence code of “probative versus prejudicial.”
The jury comes back in. This wasn’t time enough for a “special break”.
Baez again asks the witness if this was just one possibility – there could be other possibilities that he doesn’t have quicktime movies of. The doctor says yes.
The doctor says the duct tape had to have been placed before decomposition. Because the mandible was still in place with the skull. There was nothing else that would have kept it in place.
Ashton asks how the hair ends up under the base of the skull – what happens to the hair as the body decomposes. The doctor explains that he hair is attached to the skull tissue – that as that tissue decomposes, the hair tends to slide down the skull. He says that as the body skeletonizes, it is not uncommon to find a “bird’s nest” of hair underneath the skull. Hair preserves fairly well and lasts quite a while.
Baez re-crosses – this time without the easel paper. He gets the witness to testify that it’s possible the root growth could have kept the mandible in place, as well.
Ashton asks if active decomposition inhibits plant growth – the doctor says no. Ashton asks if those plants could have grown into the hair before the hair had fallen off. The doctor says no.
Re (re?) cross – Baez asks if he is a botanist. He says no. The doctor says that h ealso cannot opine on the tracking of the tape or the positioning of the body or where the hair was at one time or another. And all he has is photos of duct tape stuck to hair.
He is excused. He leaves – animatedly. (ha! I slay me).
Michael Vincent takes the stand again. He is a crime scene technician. He collected the bugs and maggots from the trash and the car. He identifies a vial full of maggots from the trash in a preserving solution. I hope the jury doesn’t have to smell them. He testifies that he sent this vial to Dr. Haskell for analysis. He also identified another vial full of the pupae in the late stage of their life cycle that he sent to Haskell.
Cross by Baez – Baez asks if these were taken from the bag – he says they were. These were collected on August 28th. Baez asks if Vincent processed the car – Vincent says yes. And Vincent says that entomology is a useful tool – but Baez wonders how Vincent knows about “late stage” life cycle. Vincent says he has some training in entomology. Baez wonders, if the witness knew this, why he didn’t collect the bugs in July. Vincent says he didn’t see insect activity in the trunk then – only in the garbage bag.
Next witness: Robin Maynard, another Crime Scene Investigator. She collected bugs from Suburban Drive in December of 2008. (I guess the job isn’t always as glamorous as it looks on TV.) As she collected the items, she was n contact with Dr. Haskell, and documented the location of the samples, and sent them all off to him.
This is also the witness who collected the “heart shaped” sticker on a piece of cardboard.
On Cross, Baez asks her if her bug collecting was under the direction of Dr. Haskell. She says it was. The heart shaped sticker was found in one of the :lanes” – which were the grids that marked off each section of the field area. In these lanes lots of items of no evidentiary value were found – beer bottles, tires, cans. This witness says she doesn’t know a lot about the items, since she was in charge of sifting – and probably not too many tires went through the sifters. Baez asks if this looked like a common dumping area. The witness says she doesn’t know how she would characterize the area.
Baez also points out that this area was next to an elementary school. She agrees “near” but not to “next”. Baez asks if kids walked by this area to go to school. She says she didn’t see any kids walking to school. The judge asks her if she has any personal knowledge of whether or not kids walked to school. She says she doesn’t. Baez asks a little patronizingly “You have no knowledge of whether or not kids walk to school?” Then he withdraws the question and says he is done.
The witness is excused.
After the jury leaves, Baez renews his motion for a mistrial based on the highly prejudicial superimposition animation. This is based on the proffer that this was only a “possibility” and “speculative”. The judge has one question: Has not both the state and the defense advanced various theories based on the location of the duct tape? Baez says yes. “And did not the witness testify that this was one possible scenario?” “Yes”. Baez says this is not outweighed by the prejudicial nature. It served only one purpose – to prejudice the jury by showing this beautiful child’s face with duct tape wrapped around it. The judge pints out that the video didn’t show the tape “wrapped around” anything.
Ashton says that the testimony from the witness indicated that at one time this “beautiful child” did have duct tape wrapped around her face. The exhibit was necessary to demonstrate the state’s theory. The video itself showed different possibilities. It was a fair but necessary demonstration.
The judge denies the motion – and says that in the future he may hold all rulings on mistrial motions until before the verdict is read. This is probably simply for the judge’s convenience (judicial expedience). He is such a thorough judge – always backing up his rulings with case law (and giving the attorneys homework to read different case law) that he’s probably getting sick of looking up prior rulings and citing’s. In holding his rulings, he can look at a verdict, and then, and only then, decide if a ruling even needs to be made. The judge would only have to elaborate on rulings in post verdict filings, rather than taking up time at the end of court once a week to deal with Baez’s stupid mistrial motions. (Only in this particular case I think he’s right to file one…but I would have also pointed out the prejudicial value of having Casey’s face in the photo.)