Friday, November 21, 2008

Attorney: Case Against Casey Difficult To Prove Without Body

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Local 6 News reporter Tony Pipitone continued his investigation into the Casey Anthony first-degree murder case by presenting the known facts to a former assistant state attorney and a prominent defense attorney.

Anthony, 22, remains jailed in the disappearance of her 3-year-old daughter, Caylee, who was last seen in mid-June.

Pipitone presented questions to former assistant state attorney Elizabeth Rahter and longtime criminal defense attorney Cheney Mason.

"First, the venue. Where the trial should be held," Pipitone said. "From the defense side, is it in your interest to move this trial out of the county?"

"Well, it may very well be. But what county would you move it to that hasn't been saturated with this story," Mason said. "Prosecutions usually -- almost without exception -- oppose a change of venue."

"Elizabeth, would you oppose it?" Pipitone asked.

"Yes, I would make the same arguments he made. You can't go anywhere," Rahter said.

Mason said seeking a change of venue could undercut another possible defense strategy, the demand for a speedy trial.

Anthony was indicted Oct. 14, meaning the state has 175 days -- until April 7 -- to start her trial, unless Anthony decides to waive her right.

"As a defense attorney, do you want a speedy trial in a case like this, where there's no body?" Pipitone said.

"That's an interesting question. Without the body, the state's going to have an enormous burden, and I don't think they can prove the case," Mason said. "I would certainly give strong consideration to moving on to trial without delay."

"As a prosecutor, why would you even go to a grand jury without a body and force yourself to try this case?" Pipitone asked Rahter.

"It's a lot better to deal with witnesses while they're fresh. And the problem with a lot of murder cases is they take years to try, and if you wait that long then their memories start to fade," Rahter said.

"They thought that by bringing an indictment, charging first-degree murder, which could potentially lead to the death penalty that that would be coercive enough to cause this defendant to start talking," Mason said.

"It's the first day of your speedy trial, Elizabeth. No medical examiner, no body. What do you have?" Pipitone asked.

"So you're missing a key witness, and so you deal with it. You work around it," Rahter said. "You have Cindy (Anthony, Casey Anthony's mother), who smelled the dead body and said it smelled like a dead body. You have George (Anthony, Casey Anthony's father), who used to be a deputy, and says it smelled like a dead body. You have K-9 dogs that alerted on the car. And so there's a dead body. The question is: How many dead bodies does Casey Anthony drive around in her car?"

Mason said it's very difficult to prove a murder case without a body.

"There's absolutely no evidence other than somebody saying they think they smelled what smelled like a dead body," Mason said. "What if they're right? What if there is a dead body? Does that prove there's an unlawful killing? The answer is no, because every homicide is not murder. This child could have accidentally died any number of ways, and they'll never be able to prove without a body or a confession."

Pipitone said the state does have scientific evidence that it could use, including chemicals indicating a decomposing human body were found in the trunk of Casey Anthony's car.

"They're going to have to present evidence to convince the court that such tests are generally accepted by the scientific community. And since you've called me, I've inquired. I'm not aware of a single case that's been admitted anywhere," Mason said.

"So this is hocus pocus science?" Pipitone said.

"Yes. I'd just have to agree with that," Mason said.

"How can I put this person on trial for her life when the scientific evidence has not been used anywhere else?" Pipitone asked Rahter.

"They have to show that it's accepted in the scientific community. It's hard, a high hurdle in Florida to pass," she said.

"So that's going to be tough for the prosecution?" Pipitone said.

"Yeah, but it's helpful that it's corroborated," Rahter said.

A hair pulled from the car trunk was consistent in length and color with Caylee's hair, showing signs of decomposition, Pipitone said. DNA tests reveal the hair came from Caylee or any of her maternal ancestors, from her mother to her great-grandmother, Pipitone said.

"Is that not evidence of death?" Pipitone asked Mason.

"I don't believe it necessarily is. They can certainly argue it, but I don't think it proves it's a death. It's proving it's an old hair with some tissue that has decomposed," Mason said.

"He's good. He's tearing apart the state's case here, and basically says there is no case," Pipitone said.

"Every case is circumstantial," Rahter said. It has to be caught on videotape, right? Otherwise, it's circumstantial. Right? So here you have the smell of a dead body, you have chloroform in the trunk, you have somebody who's continually covering stuff up, making up lies, spewing stuff forth and somebody that's missing. You prove it like every other case."

"Without the body, the state is really in a hole," Mason said. "Really, really bad without the body."

A challenge but not impossible, the former prosecutor said.

Anthony Book Deal

Local 6 News confirmed that George and Cindy Anthony are planning to write a book, but a deal is not yet in place.

The book will not be a tell-all about the case involving their missing granddaughter, Local 6 News reported.

The book will focus on what families should do if their child is missing.

Tour Of Anthony Home

Local 6 News reporter Jessica D'Onofrio was granted an exclusive tour of the home of Casey Anthony's parents, who say they have proof that their granddaughter, Caylee, is still alive.

Casey Anthony and her daughter lived in the Orange County home of George and Cindy Anthony, although Casey Anthony often stayed elsewhere, sometimes with Caylee.

"Having Thanksgiving come, it's not going to be our normal, you know, our normal Thanksgiving," Cindy Anthony said.

"A lot of people want to say, 'Cindy and George are in such denial. Why can't they see it the way we see it?'" D'Onofrio said.

"Until I know 100 percent, I am not going to give up," Cindy Anthony said. "There's no concrete evidence. There's only circumstantial evidence."

Cindy Anthony told D'Onofrio that Orange County sheriff's detectives admitted to her that the evidence found in Casey Anthony's car -- the smell of death, a stain, decomposition of human remains -- does not prove that Caylee is dead or that Casey Anthony killed her.

Cindy Anthony said she's upset that the sheriff's office has apparently rushed to judgment by not searching for Caylee.

"Elizabeth Smart. The police department there thought she was dead, but yet they followed up and brought Elizabeth home to Ed Smart," Cindy Anthony said.

Elizabeth Smart was found alive nine months after she was kidnapped from her Salt Lake City home in 2003.

Cindy Anthony recounted the days when her daughter was first bailed out of jail.

"Casey didn't want to come in (her bedroom) at first because this is where she and Caylee spent most of their time," Cindy Anthony said. "We got an air mattress and she wanted to stay in our room -- and we have a big enough bedroom that she had a big enough space -- for the whole first week."

Casey Anthony's bedroom is covered with pictures of Caylee, from ultrasound images to her birth and several pictures of them together.

"It became more comforting for her to be here. She'd sleep with (her) Teddy (bear). And it was hard. Very, very hard," Cindy Anthony said.

Cindy Anthony said her daughter watched TV while she was home, including local news the day stories were being aired about tests indicating that a dead body was likely in her car trunk.

A woman who was staying with the family and monitoring Casey Anthony's release from jail said Casey Anthony reacted to the stories by saying, "Several people borrowed my car in the past."

Protesters were camped out in front of the Anthony home at that time, and Cindy Anthony said Casey Anthony peered out of a window the night her father got into a heated argument. Casey Anthony called 911, urging authorities to arrest the protesters.

Cindy Anthony said going into Caylee's room is not easy to do.

"This is Caylee's room. It's very hard to come into now. And people are going to start to send Christmas presents already to Caylee," Cindy Anthony said. "I open the door a couple of times a week. I was in her room earlier today, sitting and reflecting and crying."

Cindy Anthony said she will likely go Christmas shopping for Caylee, too.

"I think about the days she'd go into her little cottage and she'd ring the little doorbell and she'd go, 'Ding dong," said George Anthony from his back yard.

Casey Anthony's brother, Lee, 26, who was visible when Caylee first went missing, has not been seen as much lately.

"He's trying to sustain his income for himself. I mean, he hasn't worked for two-plus months. It's hard for him to work every single day," George Anthony said. "This can tear a family apart if you let it."

The Anthonys said they have proof that Caylee is alive, and they plan on holding a news conference later this week to discuss the details.

"Meanwhile, investigators are still trying to get more information out of George and Cindy with little success," D'Onofrio said. "They believe they have a lot of information they're keeping from them. Detectives still want to talk to Cindy about the smelly clothes in Casey's car she washed. They also believe George and Lee know more than they're willing to share."

Cindy Anthony refused to talk about pictures showing her daughter partying at clubs while Caylee was missing.

Witness List Released

The state's witness list in the first-degree murder case of Casey Anthony was released on Tuesday.

The list of potential witnesses who could be called to testify in the trial, which is scheduled to begin in January, contained 82 names, including Anthony's parents and her brother.

The state also named Casey Anthony's most-recent boyfriend, Tony Lazarro, several of her friends and the Anthony's neighbor from whom Casey Anthony borrowed a shovel.

Several workers were listed as well, including the manager of the Orange County Amscot where Casey Anthony abandoned her car, employees of the impound lot who towed the car, which was described as reeking of death, and employees of the Sawgrass Apartments, where Casey Anthony claims she left her daughter with a baby sitter.

Zenaida Gonzalez, a woman who has the same name as the baby sitter with whom Casey Anthony told investigators she left Caylee with, has also been named as a potential witness.

Although Caylee's great-grandfather was not named as a witness, his wife is on the list. She and two employees of the great-grandfather's nursing home could be asked to testify about seeing Caylee the day before she was last seen.

The manager of the Altamonte Springs Chuck E. Cheese's is also named. A possible Caylee sighting was reported at the restaurant, although surveillance video proved differently.

Local 6 News reported that some names not appearing on the potential witness list came as a surprise.

Numerous Orange County sheriff's investigators are on the list, but no one from the University of Tennessee "body farm," the Oak Ridge National Laboratory or the FBI -- all of whom analyzed key evidence from Casey Anthony's car and concluded that a dead body had been in the trunk -- were listed.

The state could add witnesses later, however.

Anthony has pleaded not guilty to charges of first-degree murder, aggravated child abuse, aggravated manslaughter and four counts of lying to investigators.

Gag Order Hearing Reset

A hearing on a prosecutor's request for a gag order in the case has been reset.

On Nov. 25, an Orange County Circuit judge will also hear requests from the defense to reveal evidence and from the Orlando Sentinel, which opposes the gag order in the first-degree murder case against Casey Anthony.

Casey Anthony's attorney, Jose Baez, also wants more tips of Caylee sightings that were phoned into law enforcement, more information about the hair found in Casey Anthony's car trunk and the name and work schedule of every employee of the Amscot.

Caylee Follower Gains Fame

A man obsessed with missing child cases has become an Internet celebrity after purchasing an old TV news live truck, mounting cameras to its mast and broadcasting live images from areas involved in the search for Caylee on his Web site.

William Murtaugh, known as "Murt" on the Internet, said he is not alone in his thirst for coverage about Caylee.

"There are people out there who are literally addicted to Caylee," Murtaugh said. "The commercial media cannot provide everything we want. We want more. We're addicted to it," Murtaugh said.

Murt's Web site -- -- serves as a home for armchair cybersleuths, and he said the TV truck he purchased has made a big difference.

"It looks neat. It gets me in with you guys. Instead of pulling up in an old Cadillac, I can pull up in this thing and you're more or less accepting of it," Murtaugh said.

Murt has mounted surveillance cameras to the truck's 60-foot-tall mast, allowing him to send images to his Web site, which also contains a chatroom for his users.

"They'll say, 'Murt, move the camera. Jesse Grund (Casey Anthony's former boyfriend) is over here' or they'll say, 'Murt, there's a lady with a sign over there,'" Murtaugh said.

When Murt is not at a search scene involving the case, he takes his truck to places like the Anthony family home, the Sawgrass Apartments and other Caylee-related locations.

Murt, who is a professional truck driver and car dealer, said his Web site is only a hobby.

"It's not about me. It's about Caylee," Murtaugh said.

Murt said about 3,000 users visit his Web site, but he also has detractors, who say it's strange that a man follows a case so closely or believe that he will try to profit off the case.

Murt also once claimed online that he knew the abductor of Trenton Duckett, the boy in an unsolved missing child case in Central Florida. Murt apologized for the stunt, calling it an amateur attempt to crack the case.

Watch Local 6 News for more on this story.


Anonymous said...

It's not that difficult to prosecute a no body murder case. Check out this website which lists nearly 300 no body murder trials in the US:

Anonymous said...

Murt is a huge loser