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air tests done and ordered – maybe

Is there a more frightening gaze than this?

It was a big day in the State v. Casey Anthony trial (yes, it’s a trial now!) in Clearwater, Florida.

Clearwater is on the west coast of Florida, in the central area of the state.

The day started (and ended) with news that Judge Belvin Perry both denied and then questioned the defense motion to strike testimony of the air tests conducted by Dr. Arpad Vass, Senior Scientist at Oak Ridge Laboratory.

In short, the Court ruled in favor of the Prosecution, letting the Air Tests for Decomposition into the trial.  At the end of the day, however, they came into question and Judge Perry has grave concerns with regards to allowing the testimony regarding the air tests.

Judge Perry, after hearing the concerns of Mr. Baez that a database used by Dr. Vass contains some compounds that both the Defense, the State, and the Court have no knowledge of, is reserving his final decision until more information can be gleaned.

The conundrum is: Why did the Defense wait until the final hour to bring this up?  To delay the trial? Or had Mr. Baez been asking all along for this database?   I must say, I remember the defense requesting this database – I believe I read this in Dr. Vass’ deposition.

At any rate, Mr. Baez tried twice today to get a continuance, once after the Air Test ruling; and another time after the initial jury pool was presented in the courtroom.  Mr. Baez (assisted by Ms. Finnell) attempted a  continuance due to the racial make-up of the jury. There were an inordinate amount of Caucasian prospective jurors versus Hispanics or African Americans.  This did not suit the defense team, as they clearly prefer a more diverse jury panel.

One cannot blame the defense.  The defense would prefer an anti-government, anti-police juror.  Do minorities tend to fit that profile?  I cannot begin to say with any certainty, though I would contend they would.

With regards to the Air Test ruling, you may read the document here.

The ruling is 23 pages long, and one of the first issues it raises are concerning a database of chemical compounds, which are known only by the FBI. The fact that there are chemical compounds unknown to the court is troublesome, but when Judge Perry wrote the ruling, he pointed out that the defense did not challenge these unknown compounds at the time.

Judge Perry writes in the ruling:

Finally, the defense contends the Defendant’s right of confrontation was violated because the Oak Ridge National Laboratory refused to provide its database of chemical compounds relating to human decomposition to the defense.  The defense states the Laboratory contended its database was proprietary to the Federal Bureau of Investigation which is the agency that funded the database research.

The Judge writes a footnote with regards to this statement as follows:

It must be noted that the defense never filed a motion before the Court seeking to compel the production of the Laboratory’s database.

It very well may be that the defense is now making their argument about the database as a result of the Court’s observation.   Regardless, when Mr. Baez raised this issue, the Judge asked repeatedly: why-oh-why did the defense wait so long to raise this issue?

At the end of the day, Judge Perry expressed his very grave concerns about these unknown chemicals and believes, should he allow Dr. Vass’ testimony about the decomposition air tests in to the case in chief, the trial outcome could be reversed on appeal, and they’d all be back again to retry the case.

The issue was tabled until such time as the Court can obtain the database information.  If the chemicals – all 478 of them – are not identified to the Court, Dr. Vass will not testify with regards to the Air Tests for decomposition.  But, my interpretation, from what Judge Perry said, is that he would have no problem with Dr. Vass identifying what the smell was – from his expert opinion, and experience working with decomposing human bodies.

This would be a great alternative in my view.  In fact, Judge Perry makes this very important observation in his order.  The following can be found on page 19 of 23 in the ruling:

Before discussing whether Dr. Vass may render an expert opinion concerning his analysis of the results of the GC-MS, it must be noted Dr. Vass testified that when he opened the sealed container containing the carpet sample, he smelled a very strong odor of human decomposition.

As pointed out in Dr. Statheropoulos’ article, the odor of putrefaction is characteristic and familiar to the front line criminal experts such as police investigators, forensic pathologists, anthropologists, crime scene technicians and other medical and non-medical professionals. It is simply common sense that, to some extent, all of us have organoleptic expertise.  Generally, we all exercise the powers of sight, smell, taste, and feel in our daily lives to detect certain odors and smells.  This fact has been recognized by the Supreme Court of Oregon in State v. Lerch.  (1984)  There, the court allowed a lay witness to testify that the odor he smelled from a garbage drop box behind his fish market was that of a dead human body because it was rationally based upon his perception.

It appears clear to me that the above is the Court’s way to ensure that, by hook or by crook, Dr. Vass’ testimony about the smell will come in and will be absolutely reliable given his years of experience in the study of decompositional events in human beings.

It is especially wonderful that the Judge references, in the above, the difference between garbage and human decomposition!

Incidentally, Judge Perry, when addressing the defense expert in his ruling – Dr. Furton’s testimony on human decomposition, pointed out, just as I had pointed out, that one cannot compare the decomposition of a body PART with the decomposition of a whole body.  Dr. Furton and the defense would have liked us to believe otherwise.  Fortunately, this was not lost on the Judge.

All, therefore, is far from lost on this topic for the State, in my humble opinion!

The last thing I wanted to point out is the booking photo of Casey Anthony at the Pinnelas County Jail.  I don’t know about you, but the photo is very frightening of Casey – her steely-eyed gaze into the camera lens with that flat-look is full of hate and anger, in my opinion.  I had to turn away from it at first.

I kept thinking that was the face Caylee saw in the end.

So, we can today thank Heaven that justice for a beloved little girl – Caylee Marie Anthony – is coming, at long last.


a new circus is coming to clearwater

The location for the Casey Anthony Trial  jury selection location is clear now.  The city of  Clearwater is the location.  Clearwater is an area of Pinellas County, very close to St.Petersberg, Florida – which is home to the Dali Art Museum, (my favorite in all of Florida!).

It didn’t take long for the media to descend on the location.  In truth, the news in Palm Beach last night was curiously solemn as they realized it was not the location for jury selection.

Credit: Orlando Sentinel; Joe Burbank

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