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Fireworks, Tears in Casey Anthony Trial

5:49 PM, Jun 29, 2011   |    comments
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MORE: The Trial of Casey Anthony

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Casey Anthony's father cried on the witness stand Wednesday in his daughter's capital murder trial as he was questioned about his slain 2-year-old granddaughter, Caylee, and his suicide attempt that followed the discovery of her remains.

Later in the day, Casey Anthony also wiped away tears as a grief expert testified that the reactions to grief vary widely, and that sometimes young mothers who lose their children engage in "risky behavior." Proceedings wrapped up for the day shortly after that testimony.

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."

He recalled calling his family members from a Daytona Beach, Florida, hotel room, in an effort to say goodbye, and writing a suicide note for his wife, Cindy Anthony, to read after his death.

Earlier, George Anthony squared off again with his daughter's defense attorney, bristling at questions from Jose Baez.

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 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.

"My emotional state, even through today -- it is very hard to accept that I don't have a granddaughter anymore," George Anthony told Ashton.

Under Baez's questioning, George Anthony agreed that he told police in a July 24, 2008 statement that his daughter's trunk smelled like human decomposition -- a smell he was familiar with from his own law enforcement experience in Ohio. He testified Wednesday he was 100% sure he had recognized that smell.

He also said he told law enforcement that day that his daughter "lives on the edge," and "takes things as far as she can take them." He acknowledged that, just after Caylee went missing, he told police something had happened to the little girl and that his daughter was lying. Baez attempted to suggest that George Anthony was "throwing (Casey Anthony) under the bus" to police through his statements.

Obviously, George Anthony replied, something had happened to Caylee, as she was missing. "Casey was the last person I saw with Caylee," he said. "One and one adds up to two ... For you to say that I was doing something wrong, sir, you're wrong."

During the month her daughter was missing, numerous prosecution witnesses including Casey Anthony's former boyfriend, acquaintances and friends testified that she was attending parties, nightclubs and shopping, but never mentioned her missing daughter and they noticed nothing different in her demeanor.

Baez said in his opening statement that Casey Anthony behaved as she did because years of sexual abuse by her father had conditioned her to conceal the truth and hide her pain.

George Anthony has denied abusing his daughter, and did so again Wednesday. "I would never do anything like that to my daughter," he said. "... I would never do anything to harm my daughter in that way."

Grief expert Sally Karioth testified Wednesday that people's reactions to grief vary widely. Young people, in particular, are "reluctant grievers," she said, and may engage in "very risky behavior." That could include visiting bars or getting a tattoo, as Casey Anthony did. "They might say nothing has happened."

Denial is one type of coping mechanism, she said, and people can develop "magical thinking" and convince themselves of something else.

Lee and Cindy contradict each other "We call it survivor guilt," she said as Casey Anthony wiped tears from her eyes. But, said Karioth, "I've never had a single patient do it exactly like another single patient."

She said for someone who has grown up in a family where there is a "conspiracy of silence -- don't talk, don't feel, don't share" -- it would be likely that someone would not discuss their grief.

Karioth, who has never interviewed Casey Anthony, testified over prosecutors' objections. Under questioning by Ashton, she acknowledged, "I have to say anything could happen when someone has a great grief." She also said she knew nothing about the facts of the case other than it was about a young woman who had lost her daughter.

Asked by Ashton if it would be unusual for a mother to tell no one her child has died and tell different stories about the child's whereabouts for a month -- including telling her parents that she is in another city with the child -- Karioth said, "I would agree that's a young woman in crisis who is unable to figure out how to make things better." Casey Anthony nodded.

When Ashton asked Karioth her thoughts if all those things happened and the mother had killed her child, defense attorney Dorothy Clay Sims objected, saying, "There is no evidence of that."

"I disagree with counsel," Ashton responded, "and that's for the jury to decide." Perry called a sidebar conference and then a recess. Ashton did not continue the line of questioning.

Baez also asked George Anthony about his suicide attempt, suggesting that he had left a note that "expressed some guilt." Ashton objected, saying the document itself should be entered into evidence, but instead Baez withdrew the question.

After hearing arguments from both sides, Perry said he wanted "some time to contemplate and read a few more cases" before deciding whether the suicide note could be introduced into evidence -- something Ashton said he would do after the defense rested. But, Perry ruled, questions about the suicide attempt were fair game for prosecutors.

Baez pointed out to George Anthony that he made negative statements about his daughter to police on July 24, yet visited her the following day in jail and is seen "saying nice things" on video. George Anthony replied that he was cooperating with law enforcement in an effort to find his granddaughter, but was still trying to keep his daughter's spirits up while she was jailed.

Baez attempted to show that George Anthony's statements on the human decomposition odor had been inconsistent. "I could smell it 3 feet away on the passenger side," George Anthony replied. "When I opened up that door, it smelled like decomposition. Human decomposition ... not the garbage that was in it."

The defense has suggested a bag of garbage left in Casey Anthony's trunk for weeks during a hot Florida summer may have been the source of the odor, although a cadaver dog alerted to it and several witnesses have identified it as the odor of human decomposition.

Baez also peppered George Anthony with questions regarding his media appearances, including those in which he advocated his daughter's innocence in his granddaughter's death. "I didn't want to believe back then that my daughter could be capable of taking the life of her daughter," he replied.

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.

After lunch, Baez asked George Anthony whether the suicide attempt came because "the pressure was getting to you ... you knew you were being investigated." George Anthony answered that a lot of people were investigated in connection with the case, not just him, and maintained it was a "tumultuous time in my life," along with that of his wife, son and others.

Following George Anthony to the stand was Brandon Sparks, son of former Orange County meter reader Roy Kronk. The elder Kronk found Caylee's remains December 11, 2008. Sparks testified that his father, in a November phone call, told him he had found the remains, but Sparks said he did not realize the significance of that until December 11. His father also told him he was going to be rich and famous, Sparks said.

The defense claims Kronk found the remains months earlier. In his opening statement, Baez called Kronk "a morally bankrupt person who took Caylee's body and hid it ... he thought he had a lottery ticket. ... He can't be ignored in this."

Kronk denies Baez's allegations, according to his attorney, David Evans. Testifying Tuesday, Kronk denied the phone call with his son occurred, saying Sparks was mistaken.

Also called were two officers, including Orange County Detective Yuri Melich, the lead investigator on the case, both of whom testified Kronk did not tell them on December 11 he had called law enforcement several times in August in an attempt to report seeing something in the same wooded area.

Kronk said Tuesday he dropped those efforts after a deputy responded to the scene and "chewed me out," saying he was wasting the county's time. Melich said he found out Kronk had called previously a few days later, on December 17.

Earlier, Casey Anthony spoke in court for the first time, outside the presence of the jury as Perry heard arguments on a defense motion requesting that he declare Florida's death penalty law unconstitutional in light of a recent federal court decision. Perry said he would rule on the motion later.

The judge asked defense attorney Ann Finnell, who argued the motion by telephone, whether she had consulted with Anthony and if she agreed with the motion. Finnell said she had not, but believed Baez and defense attorney J. Cheney Mason had. Neither Baez nor Mason was present for the arguments Wednesday, and Perry asked Anthony if she wanted to answer the question or wait for them to arrive.

"I can answer that now," Casey Anthony said, getting to her feet as she spoke to Perry. "I agree with Ms. Finnell."

This is the sixth week of testimony in the trial. Opening statements began on May 24. Perry originally told jurors, who are being housed in an Orlando hotel shielded from media coverage of the trial, that it could last six to eight weeks.

 

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