By: Amy Singer PhD., Kristina Denius, JD. & Dan Reyes
It has been five and a half years since a jury found Casey Anthony not guilty of first-degree murder in the death of her three-year-old daughter, Caylee. From the moment little Caylee’s body was found, wrapped tenderly in a blanket in a marshy area not far from her grandparents’ home, there has been much speculation about what happened to cause the toddler’s death. At trial, the Prosecution argued that Caylee was killed when her mother chloroformed her and placed duct tape over her mouth, suffocating her.
Earlier this week, Former Judge Belvin Perry, Jr., who presided over the case, spoke out about what he now believes was the cause of Caylee’s death—an accidental chloroform overdose. With all due respect to Judge Perry, he got half of it right, in that it was an accident. However, not by chloroform overdose. The Defense team has always maintained that this was a tragic accidental drowning. When comparing the Prosecution and Defense differing scenarios, there are compelling reasons the Defense argument simply makes more sense.
Occam’s Razor posits that the simplest explanation or solution to a problem is usually right. Here are some of the more confusing and complicated aspects of the Prosecution arguments in this case:
The Prosecution presented evidence that Casey Anthony was conducting her own Google investigation into discovering the formula for chloroform. This is a red herring. The truth is, at that time, Casey was concerned (rightly so) about an alarming posting on her boyfriend’s MySpace page proclaiming, “Win her over with Chloroform.” I would be investigating what that meant and what it meant about the person I was dating as well.
Hollywood paints an unrealistic, fantastic picture of how chloroform works. It isn’t as simple as sneaking up behind a targeted person, covering their face with a chloroformed rag, and immediately the prospective victim is rendered unconscious and collapses into a comatose heap. The Chloroform Theory requires magical thinking about with how easy and simple it is tomake chloroform. There is no simple recipe for creating chloroform wherein a person waves a magic wand and a bucket of chloroform appears. This is not like making chocolate chip cookies out of frozen Pillsbury Cookie Dough. Chloroform is an extremely dangerous, highly toxic compound. It attacks the nervous system, the respiratory system, the liver and kidneys, and can be deadly to anyone trying to create it. Imagining that a novice like Casey Anthony could effortlessly whip up a batch of chloroform without killing herself or anyone near here is like imagining that she could manufacture Benadryl or methamphetamine in her nonexistent pharmaceutical warehouse.
Speaking of Benadryl, if Casey’s motive in supposedly researching the formula for chloroform was to quiet a boisterous child for a little while, why not drive to the corner pharmacy and pick up some over-the-counter Benadryl or Nyquil and follow thedosing instructions for children under the age of twelve? Why not a tablespoon of whiskey in her sippy cup, the method favored by some of our grandmothers back in the day?
How do you make chloroform, anyway?
The Prosecution made a big deal about the fact that there was chlorine present in George’s car. In fact, there is a very elementary, non-sinister explanation for the presence of chlorine chemicals in George’s car. And, it has nothing to do with Casey placing a chloroform-soaked rag over her daughter’s nose and mouth. There is no evidence that directly connects Casey to chloroform or any chlorine product for that matter. The car smelled liked chlorine because when Casey’s father George picked his car up from the impound lot; it had a bag of garbage in it that had been baking in the hot Florida sun for days and had understandably created a terrific stink. George did what anyone would do under those circumstances; he cleaned the car with a strong odor-killing cleaner agent to rid the smell of rotting garbage from his vehicle.
What is the simplest way to explain what happened in this case? In the summertime in Florida, children tragically drown almost every day. When is the last time you heard of a child, or anyone for that matter, dying due to a chloroform overdose? Anywhere?
As the head Trial Consultant for the Defense in this case, I asked members of the American Society of Trial Consultants Association (ASTC) and my interns, to look over the comments and feedback garnered from the video stream of the trial which included the comments to the trial action in real time.
The experience our team had in and through the Casey Anthony trial spawned what soon became a breakthrough in the Jury Research space. We created our own patented Wizpor® technology. In the early days, we experimented with Dan Reyes, CEO of Trilogy Trial Consultants on the AV technology. Eventually Trial Consultants, Inc created software for analysis of this qualitative data. This ground-breaking tool in the area of jury research and the collection of litigation intel on facts, issues, arguments, witnesses etc utilizes any type of participant focus group.
Interestingly, the ASTC members monitoring the video stream of the trial and simultaneous reactions to witnesses, arguments, and testimony found that folks watching the trial were curious about chloroform and started looking it up on Google themselves. They sought information and communicated about chloroform. They were wondering, “How do you make chloroform, anyway?”
What we uncovered was that while there was a great deal of information about the ingredients for chloroform, there was no set formula that could lead a lay person to concoct a chloroform cocktail. They discovered that attempting to make chloroform is not a simple process and is in fact highly dangerous, particularly to the kidneys, and can be deadly simply by inadvertently inhaling the product or spilling it on the skin. Furthermore, they noted, there was no chloroform located in the Anthony household. If the goal was to put Caylee to sleep, than using chloroform would be similar to using a nuclear bomb to swat a fly.
If Casey’s motive in supposedly researching the formula for chloroform was to quiet a boisterous child for a little while, why not drive to the corner pharmacy and pick up some over-the-counter Benadryl or Nyquil and follow thedosing instructions for children under the age of twelve? Why not a tablespoon of whiskey in her sippy cup, the method favored by some of our grandmothers back in the day? There are much easier, less dangerous ways to go about this, and all it takes is a few dollars and a trip to the local pharmacy. Ultimately, our analysis mirrored with the same conclusions as the jury in Orlando.
Finally, the camera captures what the camera wants to capture. But what the jurors in the Orlando courtroom were focusing on was Casey’s father George, because his role in this sad case is rather mysterious. The Prosecution Expert asks, “who doesn’t report an accident?” The answer, for whatever reason, is Casey Anthony. The defense maintains that on the day Caylee most likely drowned, George was supposed to be baby-sitting. The only witness to what happened never came forward. In the end, however, the simplest solution screams that it IS the answer. Even the presiding Judge agrees this was an accident. Although, not by chloroform overdose, not by chloroform at all.
Ask yourself what is more likely, that as Casey and the Defense have been saying all along, there was a tragic accident and a little girl drowned accidentally in a pool on a simmering hot Florida summer day; or that there was some sort of complicated chloroform conspiracy gone terribly awry? Cut to the chase simply, and Occam’s Razor has the most sensible answer.
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