In 2011, the notorious trial of Casey Anthony took place. Below is our original day-by-day update of that trial.
Jury Selection Begins in Anthony Trial, “Decomp” Evidence Allowed ~ May 10, 2011
On July 15, 2008, 2-year-old Caylee Anthony’s grandmother reported her missing. After months of investigation focusing on Casey Anthony, Caylee’s mother, Caylee’s skeletal remains were found near her house. Throughout that time Anthony lied repeatedly regarding her daughter’s whereabouts.
The legal proceedings against Casey Anthony for murder and misleading law enforcement finally began with jury selection. Due to the massive publicity associated with the case, this process took place in Clearwater, Florida rather than in Orlando where the crime took place, in the hopes of finding a jury pool untainted by the media attention. That pool of jurors began shrinking as the judge allowed many to go home for financial and family reasons–the jury could have been sequestered for months, preventing jurors from working or taking care of family.
Potential jurors’ answers to several questions would narrow the pool further–for instance, any preconceived ideas about the case based on the media attention may influence the decision, as may strongly held views on the death penalty.
At this step in a prolonged and controversial case, the selection of the jury is a historical moment, but is not the only aspect of the trial that made history in the field of criminal investigation. The judge ruled that evidence regarding decomposition should be admissible–the first time evidence of this nature will ever appear before a Florida court.
During the investigation, multiple witnesses, including a police officer with experience with decomposed remains through the homicide department, noticed a “decompositional” odor in Casey Anthony’s car. Tests were later done of the air in the trunk by experts from the University of Tennessee, the university that hosts the body farm, to show that a decomposing body had been in the car. The judge’s ruling allowed these witnesses to testify to this information before the jury.
9-1-1 Calls ~ May 16, 2011
If you’re interested in the 9-1-1 calls from Caylee’s grandmother Cindy Anthony, you can find transcripts of them here.
Body Decomposition ~ May 16, 2011
For more information about the possibility body decomposition found in Casey Anthony’s vehicle click here.
Trial Expected to Start on Monday May 23, 2011 Said Judge ~ May 20, 2011
After days of jury selection in Clearwater, Florida, sixteen jurors remained out of the far larger jury pool. Twelve are required for the trial, plus several alternates, and after a number of potential jurors were let go for reasons such as financial hardship or personal reasons the attorneys believed may bias their decisions, the number of alternates were lower than originally planned. Nevertheless, Judge Perry planned to begin opening arguments the week of May 23rd in Orlando. The trial was expected to last up to eight weeks, with the jury sequestered throughout that time.
Trial Underway ~ May 25, 2011
Casey Anthony’s trial began the week of May 23rd with opening statements from both prosecution and defense attorneys. While the prosecution stated, as expected, that only Casey Anthony could have killed her daughter Caylee, the defense had another theory. Anthony’s attorney told the jury that Caylee’s death was an accidental drowning, and that the month-long delay before her disappearance was reported resulted from Casey and her father George Anthony’s panic upon finding the body. Casey’s behavior afterwards–lying to her friends and family about her daughter’s whereabouts, as well as partying at local clubs–resulted from a lifelong habit of hiding her pain, according to her lawyer. They alleged that this habit was formed in her childhood because her father sexually abused her. George Anthony testified as the first witness of the trial, denying both the abuse and his presence at Caylee’s death.
The Trial Continued ~ May 27, 2011
The fourth day of the long-awaited trial of Casey Anthony continued with the prosecution presenting their case against Anthony with several more witnesses. In addition to continuing to emphasize Anthony’s failure to mention her daughter’s disappearance after it occurred, the testimony has begun outlining the story put forth by the prosecution.
Witnesses testified that Anthony did not act differently after Caylee’s disappearance, clubbing and claiming Caylee was with a nanny. However, these witnesses also admitted under cross-examination that when she was seen with her daughter she did not appear to be a bad mother or to mistreat Caylee.
A major witness who testified on this day was Anthony’s father, George. He described the disappearance of some gas cans from his shed, which he later confronted his daughter about. She retrieved them from the trunk of her car and returned them. This occurred about a week after Caylee was last seen, but allegedly before anyone in the family knew she was missing. Anthony’s former boyfriend Lazzaro also testified about the gas cans, saying he helped her break into the shed to take them.
Before the gas cans were taken, George Anthony had left duct tape on one of them, and according to him, the returned cans had no duct tape. This is a relatively rare type of tape that was apparently found on Caylee’s remains six months later, according to the prosecution.
The Scent of Decomposition and Motive for Murder ~ May 28, 2011
The prosecution continued to present testimony against Casey Anthony. They focused on Anthony’s car, as the jury heard George Anthony describe the smell of decomposition in the car as he drove it home from impound. It had been found abandoned in a parking lot and towed two weeks earlier. The towing company’s manager also testified to the smell, saying it was detectible even with the car closed but far stronger when the doors and trunk were opened. The decomposition of a human body is a very unique and recognizable smell to anyone with experience with it, and the manager testified that he has had that experience. George Anthony also claims familiarity with the stench through his time as a detective.
The prosecution began addressing Anthony’s motive by attempting to present text messages they say show Anthony’s true feelings about her daughter–that Caylee stood in the way of her desire for a party-filled lifestyle and her relationship with her boyfriend Lazarro. Judge Belvin Perry questioned the probative nature of these messages, and suggested they would be excessively prejudicial, so the prosecution withdrew their attempted introduction of them.
For the full story of this testimony, go here.
Caylee’s Grandmother Testifies ~ May 30, 2011
Saturday May 28th’s session of the Casey Anthony trial was short, focusing on the testimony of Cindy Anthony, Casey’s mother. It was Cindy who finally reported Caylee missing a month after she last saw her, and her testimony focused on that month. Cindy described her repeated attempts to see her granddaughter, and her daughter’s varied explanations for the child’s absence. The explanations involved a nanny named Zanny who was taking care of Caylee while Anthony attended work meetings, as well as a car accident during an outing in Tampa. Another explanation was that they were staying in a hotel with a wealthy suitor. These stories conflict with previous testimony, and Anthony’s lawyers have suggested Anthony’s lies during this period were due to a habit of hiding her pain based on a history of abuse.
Casey’s Claims Disputed ~ June 2, 2011
Testimony in the Casey Anthony trial brought out evidence of Anthony’s deception regarding her job and her boyfriend. Having heard testimony that Anthony told friends and family that she had a wealthy suitor named Jeffrey Michael Hopkins, and that she had a job at Universal Studios; on this day, the jury heard from an acquaintance of Anthony’s named Jeff Hopkins and from an employee at Universal. Hopkins said he knew Anthony from school, but had no children and had not introduced Anthony to a nanny for Caylee, as she had claimed. Several other aspects and details of her stories about him were also untrue, including their relationship, his job, and where he lived. Leonard Turtora, the Universal Studios employee questioned by police about Anthony’s job, also testified, explaining that she had not worked at Universal during the time she claimed.
Testimony included a description of a statement and interview given by Anthony after Caylee was reported missing, in which she claimed Caylee had been kidnapped by the nanny introduced to her by Hopkins. Investigators were unable to find the nanny described by Anthony. Anthony claimed she did not come to the police after the kidnapping out of fear. The defense’s claim that Caylee died in an accidental drowning clearly conflicts with this original statement.
Hair-Like Caylee’s Found in Car ~ June 4, 2011
After multiple witnesses testified to smelling a decompositional odor coming from Casey Anthony’s car, evidence was presented suggesting it was Caylee’s body creating the smell. A hair found in the car resembles one taken from Caylee’s brush, according to a trace analyst from the FBI. She also said the hair from the trunk of the car contained a mark she had only seen in hairs from decomposing bodies–that is, hairs still in the scalp when the body started decomposing. The resemblence to Caylee’s hair was not an absolute identification, since hair comparisons are never absolute to the individual, and consists primarily of color similarities. The DNA present in the hair shaft was also tested, but this was not DNA that can be linked to a single individual either.
While hair ripped by the root can still contain nuclear DNA, the shaft of hair such as that found in the car contains only mitochondrial DNA. Unlike nuclear DNA, mitochondrial DNA does not change between generations, but is passed directly and intact from the mother to the child. This means the DNA analysis of the hair shows only that it belonged to someone in Caylee’s maternal line, such as Caylee, Casey, or Cindy Anthony.
The analyst described a particular band on the hair as consistent with decomposition, but this observation is based only on her experience, and is not a proven correlation.
Other interesting forensic evidence brought up included air samples taken from the car, which showed signs of gases consistent with decomposition, as well as chloroform, which is what the prosecution says Anthony used to kill her daughter.
Decomposition Evidence ~ June 7, 2011
Testimony focused thus far on forensic evidence of decomposition in Casey Anthony’s car, where the prosecution alleged she kept her daughter’s decomposing body in the trunk. After hearing from multiple witnesses describing an odor of decomposition in the car, the jury heard evidence from experts regarding the same odor.
Several aspects of the trunk’s smell were presented. A trash bag was found in the trunk and ruled out by technicians as being the source of the odor recognized by witnesses; a highly trained cadaver dog alerted on the trunk, indicating that a body had been stored within; and the jury heard from Arpad Vass, a forensic anthropologist conducting research at the body farm on decomposition.
Vass performed chemical tests on air samples from the trunk, carpet samples, the spare tire cover, and scrapings from the wheel well of the car. Of the 30 or so chemicals he has found in his research to be significant to human decomposition, the samples from Anthony’s trunk contained seven, although only five were counted as two were trace amounts. He testified that these results indicate only decomposing remains could account for the odor in the trunk. He also testified that there were high levels of chloroform present in the samples–an important fact to the prosecution, which claims Anthony used chloroform on her daughter before smothering her.
Caylee’s Skeleton and Duct Tape Discussed at Length ~ June 10, 2011
While earlier testimony focused on the signs of decomposition from a body in Casey Anthony’s car, later testimony focused on the remains themselves. Caylee Anthony’s skeleton was found on December 11, 2008, having decomposed in a field among garbage bags for up to six months. Duct tape was found over the mouth, holding the jaw bone to the rest of the skull. The placement of the duct tape was key in the prosecution’s case for foul play.
Chief medical examiner Dr. Jan Garvaglia testified today that the way the body was left “to rot” indicated foul play, along with the duct tape and Anthony’s failure to report her daughter’s disappearance.
Further evidence would include a superimposition of Caylee’s skull over her face, to show the placement of the duct tape as it would have been before decomposition. While potentially disturbing, and therefore prejudicial to a jury, Judge Perry allowed this evidence because of its importance in the case.
Day 16 Brings out the Bugs ~ June 12, 2011
The Casey Anthony jurors saw testimony from a forensic entomologist, Neal Haskell, regarding insect evidence. He explained that the insect species present at the body site indicated the body’s long-term presence, that it had been there since June or July before being discovered in December 2008. He also explained that insects collected from the trunk of Anthony’s car indicated the presence of a body for a short time before being removed–an implication previous witnesses had suggested throughout the week. Entomological evidence is the most accurate indication of time of death once the body has decomposed.
The video showing a superimposition of Caylee’s skull with duct tape over the mouth over a picture of her alive and smiling was shown the day before, adding to the decomposition testimony to make week three of the trial a very gruesome one.
Prosecution Planning to Rest ~ June 15, 2011
The prosecution in the Casey Anthony trial announced that they plan to finish presenting their case. The day before this announcement, testimony included Cindy Anthony, Caylee’s grandmother, discussing items such as a Winnie the Pooh blanket and pieces of a canvas laundry bag found at the scene where Caylee’s remains were found. The day finished with testimony from Casey Anthony’s tattoo artist describing a tattoo Anthony got saying “bella vita“–Italian for “beautiful life.”
Motion for Acquittal Denied ~ June 16, 2011
After the prosecution finished presenting their case, the defense moved to acquit Casey Anthony on the grounds that the prosecution had not met the burden of proof–they claimed there was no evidence that Caylee Anthony was murdered or that there was premeditation. Judge Perry denied the motion and the defense would begin presenting their case that today.
Defense Begins with DNA Evidence ~ June 16, 2011
Forensic scientists, who worked the Caylee Anthony case were questioned before the jury by the defense. A crime scene investigator explained that he had found no stains on Casey Anthony’s clothes when he used an alternate light source to check for bodily fluids. A forensic DNA examiner then testified that no blood was found in Anthony’s trunk; this is to be expected in a situation where no blood was shed, such as smothering, the cause of death proposed by the prosecution. Blood might have been found from the decomposition of the remains in the trunk among the fluids released, if there was a hole in the bags the prosecution claimed the remains were wrapped in. The examiner also described the lack of conclusive DNA evidence on the duct tape found on the remains.
Defense Brings out Prominent Experts to Attack Forensics ~ June 20, 2011
After testimony from the defense’s forensic entomologist disputing the previous claims of the prosecution’s entomologist, Casey Anthony’s defense brought out two prominent forensic experts. First, forensic anthropologist William Rodriguez came forward to testify about the duct tape found near Caylee Anthony’s remains, but this opinion had not been shared with the court ahead of time. The omission by the defense was in violation of a court order, and led to Judge Perry threatening defense attorney Baez with contempt for “game-playing.” Rodriguez is the co-founder of the body farm, so his testimony carries quite a bit of weight in court proceedings.
The trial continued with testimony from forensic pathologist Werner Spitz, author of what many consider to be the authoritative text on medicolegal death investigation. He criticized the performance of the medical examiner in her investigation of Caylee Anthony’s death, particularly her autopsy, saying she should have opened the skull. He also rejected the prosecution’s claim that the duct tape was used to kill Caylee, saying that rather than placed on her nose and mouth at the time of her death, it was most likely added after decomposition. One reason to place duct tape on the skull at that point might be to hold the jawbone on while the body is moved.
Forensic Botanist Testifies ~ June 21, 2011
The Casey Anthony trial continued its pattern of presenting evidence from fairly obscure fields within the forensic sciences when a forensic botanist testified. She discussed the plant evidence present at the site where Caylee’s remains were found, saying the roots growing in the hair mass could be as young as a few weeks old. That plant evidence, therefore, does not suggest the body was there for six months, as the prosecution alleges–however, it also does not exclude the possibility. She also explained that the plant evidence found in Anthony’s car did not appear to have come from the scene where the remains were found.
After this, a session was cancelled by Judge Perry after arguments between attorneys and a scramble on the part of the defense to produce a witness after their first two were rejected. The next session was expected to be short.
Chloroform in Anthony’s Car; Cindy Made Online Chloroform Searches ~ June 24, 2011
A possible new lead for the prosecution turned up, in the form of a woman who shared jail time with Casey Anthony. April Whalen had a toddler close in age to Caylee, who died in a drowning accident conspicuously similar to the one Anthony’s defense has put forward as Caylee’s cause of death—including the child being discovered by the grandfather. The prosecution explored if Whalen was a possible inspiration for Anthony’s story.
In addition to this possible blow to the defense’s case, one of the defense’s witnesses appeared to have backfired. The defense called a researcher who works with Vass, the forensic anthropologist who testified for the state regarding the decomposition chemicals he found in Anthony’s car. This witness explained the chloroform they found in the trunk was surprising in a location like that, and that he and Vass were unable to find an explanation for its presence in the test. Since the presence of chloroform could only support the prosecution’s case, this testimony was a blow to the defense.
As the trial continued quite a bit forensically was introduced. A chemist testified that the air samples from the car contained mostly gasoline, and that the other chemicals were not positively associated with decomposition because other natural sources exist. A forensic geologist discussed soil samples from shoes taken from the Anthony home, saying no evidence was present linking any of the shoes to the site where the remains were found—however, such soil evidence can easily fall off, so this lack means little. A toxicologist explained that the hair mass found with the remains did not show evidence of drugs, but that it was not tested for chloroform. Still more witnesses testified about chloroform and hair samples. For more information on the forensics from the trial go here.
The testimony, however, that was most in the defense’s favor: Cindy Anthony came forward saying she made the computer searches for “chloroform” that had previously been attributed to her daughter. She claimed she’d been looking up “chlorophyll” out of concern for the health of a pet that was eating plants in the backyard, and that she searched for information about chloroform because of its connection to chlorophyll. There was some discussion of her records from work, however, which showed she was working at the time the searches were made, so it was up to the jury whether they found her testimony convincing.
Sudden Competency Question ~ June 27, 2011
In late June, Judge Perry called a sudden recess in the Casey Anthony trial before the jury even entered the courtroom, and cancelled any testimony that would have otherwise been presented. At the time he gave no explanation beyond a “legal matter” arising. A possible reason for the recess was revealed: Anthony’s defense claimed Anthony wasn’t competent to stand trial. The motion was filed, and Perry immediately had Anthony examined by three psychologists. He announced that, having reviewed the reports of the experts, Anthony was competent and the trial would continue.
Trial Winding Down ~ July 1, 2011
The defense spent their last few days on testimony from various players in the case including the meter reader who found Caylee Anthony’s remains in December 2008. The defense claimed he found the body far earlier and moved it to its final location to get a reward, a claim which he denied on the stand.
The theory of the case put forth by the defense involved Casey Anthony being molested by her father, a history that led her to lie about her emotions and hide her daughter’s death for the month before her absence was reported. They had a difficult time proving this history, however, as the only witness who connected Anthony to any molestation was her ex-fiancee, and his testimony was not allowed by Judge Perry. Even that witness would only have testified to Anthony claiming she was “groped” by her brother, and the defense never questioned her brother on the stand regarding that claim.
The defense also questioned George Anthony, Casey’s father, bringing up a suicide attempt he made after Caylee was found. This opened the door for the prosecution to bring in his suicide note as evidence during rebuttal, and that is exactly what they did. His reasons for attempting suicide did not include his granddaughter’s accidental drowning as alleged by the defense.
On June 30th, the defense in the Casey Anthony trial rested its case, and July 1st the prosecution began its rebuttal, expecting to finish by the end of the day. Perry declared there would be no court on July 2nd, and closing statements would be made on Sunday July 3rd, allowing the jury to begin deliberation by the holiday.
Closing Statements ~ July 3, 2011
On July 3rd, the state and defense in the Casey Anthony trial gave closing statements, bringing together their arguments before the jury began deliberations.
The state focused on Anthony’s many lies throughout the period her daughter was missing, then discussed the items found with the body, claiming they showed that a stranger could not have killed Caylee. They argued that the defense theory of the case–that Caylee died in an accidental drowning covered up by her grandfather–was illogical.
The defense emphasized holes in the prosecution’s case, claiming they did not explain how Caylee died and were trying to play up the lying and partying on Anthony’s part to play on the jury’s emotions and turn them against her. They dismissed the explanation of Anthony’s motives alleged by the prosecution–that she felt her daughter was in the way of the lifestyle she wanted.
Once the statements were completed the jury began deliberations.
Deliberations ~ July 5, 2011
On the morning of July 4th, the jury in the Casey Anthony trial began deliberating. On July 5th, they pick up where they left off after six hours the day before.
Casey Anthony Found Not Guilty ~ July 5, 2011
After ten hours of deliberations, the jury in Casey Anthony’s trial came back with a verdict: not guilty on all major charges. They found her guilty of the four counts of giving False Information to Law Enforcement with which she was charged, but not guilty of the murder and child abuse counts.
Less Than a Week Left in Casey Anthony’s Sentence ~ July 7, 2011
After her conviction of four counts of lying to law enforcement, Casey Anthony was sentenced by Judge Perry to one year per count–four years in all. Since she has spent approximately three years in jail already, and has had good behavior, Anthony will complete her sentence in a week on July 13. Perry also fined Anthony $1,000 for each of the four counts.
DCF Concludes Casey Anthony is Responsible for Caylee’s Death ~ August 12, 2011
While Casey Anthony was acquitted of criminal charges of murder and aggravated child abuse by the jury in her trial, Florida’s Department of Children and Families came to another conclusion. They released a report saying Anthony was responsible for her daughter’s death. While not claiming she physically harmed Caylee, the report concluded that her failure to act for a month after the child went missing was not in her best interest–if nothing else, it delayed investigation that could have led to Caylee’s recovery. The report is simply the conclusion of the department’s investigation and will not lead to any further charges against Anthony. For more on the story, go here.
Casey Anthony’s Probation ~ August 15, 2011
Judge Perry from Casey Anthony’s murder trial made one more ruling regarding Anthony–she is to report for supervised probation in Orlando. This probation is for her check fraud conviction, unrelated to the murder trial that made her famous. Among other things, her probation forbids her to consume drugs or alcohol, associate with known criminals, or own a firearm, and she must report regularly to a probation officer. The only difference in her probation from the standard for this type of crime is that Perry’s withholding her address for her protection. Since her acquittal in July, Anthony was being called America’s most-hated person, and throughout her probation the Department of Corrections will do their best to keep her safe from an angry public.
Casey Anthony Fights Reimbursement Motion ~ September 2, 2011
It’s unlikely to surprise anyone that the dramatic, very public and drawn-out trial of Casey Anthony cost Florida a great deal of money–as did the investigation into Caylee’s disappearance. While Anthony was acquitted of the murder charges, the jury did convict her of lying to authorities about her daughter’s disappearance, which arguably increased the cost of the search (especially since she admitted later to knowing Caylee was dead the whole time). Based on this, prosecutors are moving to have Anthony cover these costs–which total over $500,000. Her lawyers are fighting the motion in court.
Casey Anthony Ordered to Repay Nearly $100,000 in Investigative Costs ~ September 18, 2011
This may seem like a small price to pay considering the total cost of the investigation. However, the defense attorneys argued this was an unfair amount to expect her to pay especially since she was only charged with four counts of lying to the police. The prosecutors argue that since the lying was “intertwined” with the rest of the investigation, Anthony should be forced to repay these charges.
Judge Belvin Perry stated that under Florida law Anthony can only be charged for costs that were “reasonably necessary” to prove the charges for which she was convicted. This limitation restricts her from being billed for any murder investigation or prosecution costs. A hearing determined that Anthony cannot be charged with any costs after September 29, 2008 since that marked the end of the missing person phase of the investigation.
Judge Perry gave Anthony orders to pay the total of $97,676.98, which includes:
- $61,505.12 to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement
- 10,283.90 to the Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation
- $25,837.96 to the Orange County Sheriff’s Office
- $50.00 to the Office of the State Attorney
Some of the expenses of the sheriff’s department couldn’t be broken down to determine what work was performed prior to September 30, 2008. The judge gave investigators until September 18, 2011, to submit revised reports and the total costs could then be raised accordingly.
Anthony’s Bill More Than Doubles ~ September 24, 2011
Casey Anthony now officially owes $217,449.23, over twice the amount decided on during the previous ruling but still less than half of what the state requested. The increase followed a new set of expense reports regarding the costs of the investigation, providing an additional $119,822.25 for the sheriff’s office costs.
Casey Anthony Still Unemployed ~ October 5, 2011
On Monday, October 3, Casey Anthony reported to her monthly meeting with her probation officer in Florida. According to the Florida DOC report, she had no violations this month to the terms of her probation. She reported she still has no job or source of income. The DOC report can be found here. Some of the terms of her probation include finding a job, not doing illegal drugs, and reporting to a probation officer monthly.
Casey Anthony Pleads the Fifth ~ December 8, 2011
One of the lies Casey Anthony told early on in the investigation of her daughter’s disappearance, a lie she was convicted of telling in her criminal trial, involved a nanny name Zenaida Fernandez-Gonzalez. While the nanny was revealed to be fictitious, a woman named Zenaida Gonzalez has since claimed that Anthony’s story has led to extreme difficulties in her life, including loss of a job and apartment. As a result, she’s suing Anthony for defamation. Anthony was deposed for the civil suit in October, and used the fifth amendment (the right against self-incrimination) 60 times to avoid answering questions. On December 8th, 2011, a hearing took place to decide whether she will be forced to answer these questions. The judge has reserved ruling on the issue. For updates on this go here.
A Florida’s Fifth District Court of Appeals threw out two of the four charges against infamous mother, Casey Anthony, for lying to police in regards to the disappearance and death of her two-year-old daughter, Caylee Anthony, in 2008. Though tried and acquitted in 2011 for the first degree murder of her daughter, the courts found her guilty of four counts of, “Providing false information to a law enforcement officer during a missing person investigation,” and sentenced to four years including time served, as she had already spent three years awaiting trial.
However, the courts struck two of these charges, arguing that they constituted double jeopardy. Double jeopardy insinuates being convicted twice for a single crime, and is not permitted under the law. Additionally, lawyers for Anthony argued that the four lies should be counted as a single offense. This was not accepted by the court, as there was a sufficient break in time between the two lies making them separate criminal acts. Anthony has the right to appeal the remaining two convictions.
Additionally, states have begun passing “Caylee’s Law”. For more information go here.