part 3 re JUSTICE for caylee HERE
and Wendy Murphy re: another rape case HERE
Before I get to the closing argument I would have given, a few technical observations about the lawyers:
Baez tried to make a big deal out of the chloroform evidence, but succeeded only in emphasizing the fact that the deadly concoction is a big part of the story. And his focus on who smelled decomposing flesh, likewise, felt like a constant reminder that SOMEONE'S flesh was decomposing in the trunk - though I have to admit, I liked that he put up and took down photographs of the various witnesses to demonstrate in numbers how many said they DID smell something and how many said they didn't. The problem of course is that many of the witnesses were people who would have had no way of noticing the smell. I liked the photograph technique anyway. He used it on a couple of issues. It's clever.
It makes sense. Which is why Baez had to name the elephant in the room and get in bed with the jurors - so to speak - on that issue. If emotion drives the deliberations, Casey is screwed. Baez had to acknowledge and respect their feelings, and help them put their feelings aside in the jury room.
On the hard evidence, Baez also got it right when he repeatedly said that reasonable doubt "lives and breathes" in the case. But he didn't showcase the spots where doubt matters most. He did what some lawyers do when they don't want the jury focused on the real evidence. He propped up a bunch of red herrings involving accidents and Anthony family dysfunction - and then talked about these themes as if they matter. This part of his closing was a profound waste of time and it's why when he FIRST brought up the nonsense about the drowning and sexual abuse stuff during his opening statement in May, I said on many news programs that it was like a "Saturday Night Live" skit. Pure folly. I also said at the time, on the Today Show, that if the prosecution's opening statement was a declaration of their best case, Casey Anthony would be acquitted. I took a lot of heat for being the first pundit to say this out loud - but I don't make statements to be popular. I call cases like I see them and this one was easy.
Prosecutor Jeff Ashton's closing has been described variously as "powerful" and "compelling", and I'll agree that he gave a nice chronological presentation, without overdoing the emotional stuff (Baez calling Ashton out for exploiting jurors' emotions was out of line. Ashton could have done MUCH more to pull at jurors' heartstrings if he wanted to). Ashton set out an orderly timeline for the jury - taking them literally day by day from the moment Caylee was last seen at George and Cindy's home on June 16, 2008 to the day her body was found in a swamp hear their home six months later. He wove lots of facts into a story about what he believes the evidence shows, and he did it in an engaging narrative style that will help the jury to see the meaning of certain evidence. The problem is - his story made no sense and the gaps in logic were gargantuan. Baez made a poignant observation about the gaps when he started his closing by reminding the jury that the trial may have raised more questions than it answered.
The closing argument is supposed to be the prosecution's best moment; the time when they get to paint a picture and fill in blanks with inferences and characterizations about the evidence. Unlike the opening statement when prosecutors can only say things like "you will hear X and Y" - the closing is the time when prosecutors can say "X and Y together prove guilt because they allow you to draw the following conclusions …."
The problem is - the evidence does not support the conclusion that Casey killed her child - by accident or otherwise. This isn't a case of manslaughter vs. murder, it's a classic "who done it" only neither side seems to care.
Inexplicably, Baez didn't even mention most of the real reasons the case is full of reasonable doubt. So here's my attempt at the closing he should have given:
Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, the state would have you believe that Casey Anthony intentionally killed her child with deliberate premeditation and that she did so in order to be free from the burdens of motherhood, and so that she could go out partying with her friends. But let's examine whether they've proved the three things that matter: motive - opportunity and intent.
Motive. The state claims Casey wanted to kill Caylee so she could live the life of a party girl. But on the last date Caylee was seen alive, Casey spent the night watching movies at home with her boyfriend. She wasn't out partying. She didn't go out to a club. She didn't go out dancing. In fact, there is zero evidence Casey wanted Caylee dead for ANY reason.
Opportunity. Casey didn't even have custody of Caylee on the day she died. The video from Blockbuster shows Casey and her boyfriend renting movies on the evening of June 16th, and Caylee is nowhere in sight. The state would have you believe Caylee was already in the trunk, but you know that's not true because Caylee didn't die on the 16th. When her body was found, it was in a bag with clothing that she was not wearing when she was last seen on the 16th. Recall that Caylee was described as wearing a pink top and a denim skirt. Her remains were found with pink and white shorts (that were too small) and a T-shirt. Whoever had the child changed her clothes. While it's possible Casey changed her outfit on the 16th, does it make sense that the child would need an entirely new outfit in the few short hours between the time she left Cindy and George's home, and the time when Casey is seen on video with the child at 8 pm? Even if she changed the child's clothes, would she have packed an outfit that the child had long ago outgrown? The bag in which the body was found contained no underwear or pull-up. Would Casey have re-dressed the child without underpants?
The far more rational explanation for the change in clothing is that someone other than Casey had custody of Caylee on the night of the 16th; someone who had cared for the child in the past and a few of the child's old clothes at her home. Clearly, it was someone Casey was not worried about as she appeared calm on the Blockbuster tape. She told police that when she went to pick up Caylee from the caretaker the next day, the child and the babysitter were gone.
At some point on or about the 17th, Casey didn't have her car. Her friend Christopher Stutz told police Casey visited him while driving a borrowed Jeep. Who had her car? Who had her child? Whatever the answer, the fact that Casey had neither car nor child at various times on the 16th and 17th means there is much doubt about whether Casey had the opportunity to kill Caylee.
Intent. It's easy to infer intent in a case where a woman charged with murder admits that she failed to report her child missing for one month. But, recall that Lee Anthony testified Casey told him someone took Caylee to "teach her a lesson" and that Casey was warned not to call police. Whatever "lesson" Casey needed, the fact that she didn't report Caylee missing for a month makes sense in light of Lee's testimony. The only way Casey could get Caylee back was to stay quiet and NOT talk to cops. That she then went out partying may seem creepy - but remember, she knew the person who had Caylee (it's clear she'd been bringing the child for months to SOMEONE for "babysitting", whether she needed a real sitter or not, because lots of witnesses described Casey as being alone at times when the child was with someone else, and it wasn't Cindy or George because they were often at work). In other words, Casey was comfortable believing she'd dropped Caylee of with a person she could trust to give her back - because she'd given her back so many times in the past.
Whoever took Caylee was no nanny - but there was a someone to whom Casey regularly brought her child for some purpose. Maybe the purpose was something about which Casey feels great guilt and shame. Remember that Ricardo Morales told police that in the weeks before Caylee died, Casey would deliver Caylee to unknown persons after receiving phone calls in the middle of the night at their apartment. Casey would rouse her sleeping toddler to bring her to an unknown location - then return to Ricardo's apartment, alone, and go back to sleep. Whatever was going on with the "babysitter" and the middle of the night deliveries, Casey was involved in activities that made her very reluctant to tell cops the truth. You can judge her harshly for this decision - and even hate her for it - but it's not proof of intent to murder.
Ladies and gentlemen, there are far too many questions about the untold story in this case for you to fill in all the banks in the prosecution's case with anger toward Casey and sadness for Caylee. As much as you might want to know more about what was going on with the mysterious babysitter and latenight "deliveries" of the child to unknown locations, the fact is, I can't tell you certain things because this is a trial where the rules of evidence prevent me from giving you a fuller explanation. For example, lots of evidence in this case is under seal, including photographs of Caylee that have been deemed too prejudicial.
I empathize with your frustration - and wish I could reveal what I know about some of the unanswered questions in this case but please know that when you don't have all the evidence that you need to feel certain about what really happened, you have no choice but to vote "not guilty". Who knows, after an acquittal, the state might bring new charges that will resolve some of the mysteries in this case.
Until then, know that your discomfort with the leftover questions you have after being her for so long is not only reasonable - it's reasonable doubt.
If you're wondering whether there is more to the story - rest assured - I agree with you. And if you don't want to believe what I've said her today on behalf of a woman you might not like, then heed the words of little Caylee.
Recall that Geroge Anthony testified it was CAYLEE who told him, on June 16, 2008, that she was going to "Zani's". Little Caylee was not quite three years old, and while she was very verbal and super smart, she was not old enough to be a co-conspirator in what some have called the completely fictitious nanny that Casey made up out of whole cloth. Caylee was telling the truth when she told her grandfather she was going to Zani's. Whether or not there's a real person named "Zenaida Gonzales", Caylee was innocently telling George she was going to see a person she knew, at a place where she'd been before. Casey told cops this was the person who took Caylee away because she never gave Caylee back. Lee said it was to teach Casey a lesson.
We may never know what lesson Casey needed - or who it was exactly that believed it was necessary to kill a child to make a point. And I'll go so far as to say it's reasonable for you to believe that even if Casey Anthony did not kill her child, she deserves to spend the rest of her life behind bars because she was engaged in nefarious business that exposed her child to dangerous people. But you cannot find Casey Anthony guilty of murder unless you have EVIDENCE that shows she actually killed the child herself. There is no evidence of that in this case because she did not kill her child.
Casey Anthony may well deserve your scorn and disdain for the things she did that exposed Caylee to harm. If she were on trial for being a bad mother, or for pimping her child for sex and porn, I would find her guilty myself. But she is on trial for murder - and in this country, she is entitled to be judged only on the facts that relate to the state's allegations of murder. The state has failed to prove motive, opportunity and intent to kill beyond all reasonable doubt, laving you with the only morally appropriate verdict -- "not guilty".
for more on the epidemic of child abuse:
and human trafficking: