Thursday, June 30, 2011

Defense rests in Casey Anthony trial

 Casey Anthony's defense rested Thursday in her capital murder trial without calling her to testify, ending weeks of speculation about whether she would take the stand in her own defense.
Orange County Chief Judge Belvin Perry Jr. questioned Anthony to ensure the decision not to take the stand was hers. She answered, "Yes, sir," or "yes" to his questions.
Casey Anthony, 25, is charged with seven counts, including first-degree murder, aggravated child abuse and misleading police, in Caylee's 2008 death. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against her. She has pleaded not guilty.
Anthony's defense team is trying to discredit the prosecution theory that the Orlando woman rendered Caylee unconscious with chloroform, duct-taped her mouth and nose, and stored the child's body in her car trunk for a few days before dumping it in the woods.
The defense says Caylee accidentally drowned in the family pool and that Anthony and her father panicked and covered it up. George Anthony has denied those claims.
Caylee was last seen June 16, 2008, although she was not reported missing until 31 days later, on July 15. The little girl's skeletal remains were found in December of the same year near the Anthony home, with duct tape still attached to the mouth portion.
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Prosecutors began calling rebuttal witnesses after a brief tussle took place over one of those witnesses, as well as records turned over to the defense Thursday regarding another witness.
Perry refused to allow one witness to testify on the odor from Casey Anthony's trunk. Numerous witnesses have supported the prosecution's contention that it was the smell of human decomposition, but the defense has suggested a bag of trash left in the trunk for weeks was the source of the smell. Perry ruled the witness' testimony was not rebuttal.
The records are from the former employer of Cindy Anthony, Casey Anthony's mother. Prosecutors want to introduce them in an effort to prove Cindy Anthony was not home when searches for key words including chloroform were conducted on the Anthony family computer in March 2008.
Last week, Cindy Anthony testified that she searched for words including chloroform and alcohol. She said she was trying to figure out what was making one of her Yorkie dogs "extremely tired all the time." Both the dogs ate bamboo plants in the backyard, she said, so she started searching for chlorophyll to see if the plants could cause the dog's exhaustion.
She said she searched for other chemicals, including alcohol, because of a recent scare regarding hand sanitizers around small children and her concern for Caylee. She said she searched on some injuries as well, because a friend of hers had recently suffered head and chest injuries in a car accident. She told defense attorney Jose Baez that she was "looking up specific terminology that someone had asked me to look up."
When cross-examining Cindy Anthony, prosecutor Linda Drane Burdick noted that time records from her job showed she was working the days -- March 17 and 21, 2008 -- and times the searches were conducted. Cindy Anthony said it was possible she could have been home at the time, as she went home early a couple of days that week.
She told Burdick she couldn't say for sure if she was home those days unless she could access the computer at her former job. When Burdick asked why she never tried to get that information, Cindy Anthony said her work passwords would have long since expired, as she left in July 2008.
Burdick told Perry on Thursday that she and authorities obtained a subpoena for those records after Cindy Anthony's testimony. She told the judge the prosecution received the records from Cindy Anthony's work phone and computer for the dates in question on Wednesday and gave them to the defense as soon as she could.
"This is way too late," Baez told Perry. "We're right at the close of our case."
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But Perry ruled prosecutors had not committed a discovery violation.
"Everyone knew this was coming based on Mrs. Anthony's testimony," he said. "I don't think it was any big surprise" that the prosecution obtained the records.
However, the judge said he would allow the defense time to go through the records and interview the company's custodian of records.
Earlier, the alleged mistress of Casey Anthony's father took the stand, testifying that George Anthony once told her the death of his 2-year-old granddaughter Caylee was "an accident that snowballed out of control."
"I was in shock," Krystal Holloway told jurors. "By the time I looked up, his eyes were filled with tears. I didn't elaborate. I didn't ask anything further."
As she testified, George and Cindy Anthony sat stoically in the gallery.
Holloway said she met the Anthonys at their tent -- the headquarters in the search for Caylee -- in July or August 2008. She said her relationship with George Anthony lasted for months, but she was also in a relationship at the time with someone else.
George Anthony has denied having an affair with Holloway. He did testify that he visited her, but said that she had told him and his wife that she had a brain tumor and was dying, and since she had donated her time to help his family find Caylee, he felt comforting her was "the least I could do."
Baez introduced into evidence a text message sent by George Anthony to Holloway on December 16, 2008, which said, "Just thinking about you. I need you in my life."
Holloway, who also uses the name River Cruz, testified that after the relationship ended, she had to instruct the guard at her apartment complex not to let George Anthony in anymore.
She said she kept quiet about the relationship for years, and when police first approached her and confronted her with text messages, she denied the relationship at first but later set the record straight.
On cross-examination, she acknowledged to prosecutor Jeff Ashton that she was paid $4,000 for an interview with the National Enquirer about the time she admitted the alleged affair to police. Holloway grew defensive after Ashton asked how the interview related to the change in her story, saying, "I had no choice but to tell the truth."
She said she was being "trashed" in the media and wanted to speak to the Enquirer because she felt other media would selectively edit her story.
She also acknowledged that, in another part of her statement to police, she said that George Anthony told her, "I really believe that it was an accident that just went wrong and (Casey Anthony) tried to cover it up."
Holloway hotly maintained that George Anthony did not actually say that, but Ashton pointed it out in her statement.
"He didn't tell you that he was present when this occurred, did he?" Ashton asked. "No," Holloway said.
"He never told you that he knew it himself, that he knew it to be the case?" the prosecutor questioned her.
"I just told you what he said," she replied.
Ashton asked her to read her statement, and asked her if it wasn't true that George Anthony made it clear he had no firsthand knowledge of what happened to Caylee. She admitted that was true.
Ashton also pointed out that in a letter to Holloway from George Anthony, he writes that he has been trying to send messages to her through her daughter, the security guard and her husband. Holloway said she was not married and did not believe George Anthony thought she was. George Anthony said in the letter how much Holloway's friendship meant to him and his wife, she admitted, and signed the letter with both of their names.
She also acknowledged George Anthony sent the text message five days after Caylee's remains were found.
Holloway was one of the defense's final witnesses as they presented their case.
After Holloway's testimony, Perry told jurors her testimony may be used to impeach George Anthony's credibility, but told them that her testimony is not proof of how Caylee died and is not evidence of Casey Anthony's guilt or innocence.
George Anthony, who offered some of the trial's most dramatic testimony on Wednesday, was recalled to the stand Thursday along with his wife and son to answer questions about the manner in which various family pets had been buried over the years.
Some of them, they testified, were buried with blankets in a black plastic bag and secured with tape. Cindy Anthony noted that some of the pets were secured that way by the veterinarian after they died. She said she didn't think it was duct tape, but Lee Anthony recalled using duct tape to secure a plastic bag on one occasion.
"I take it that you did not euthanize your own pets with chloroform?" prosecutor Linda Drane Burdick asked Cindy Anthony. She also asked whether duct tape was put on the animals' faces and Cindy Anthony said no.
"Have you ever taken a dead pet and thrown it in a swamp?" Ashton asked George Anthony, who said no.
Private investigator Dominic Casey was also recalled to the stand to answer brief questions about where he searched in November 2008 for Caylee in the same area where her remains were found a month later.
On Wednesday, George Anthony bristled at Baez's questions and at one point broke down and sobbed on the stand as he was questioned about his granddaughter and his suicide attempt that followed the discovery of her remains.
On January 22, 2009, the date of his attempt at suicide by drinking and taking pills, "It just felt like the right time to go and be with Caylee," George Anthony told prosecutor Jeff Ashton, his voice breaking. "... I just decided it was time for me to get away from all this, to spend time with Caylee."
As her father testified, Casey Anthony scribbled notes and occasionally shook her head angrily or whispered to her attorneys. No expression was visible on her face as she watched her father cry on the witness stand.

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