Let's say that you were one of 19 members of the grand jury that considered the case against Casey Anthony:
It's been said that a shred prosecutor can indict a ham sandwich if he wants to. Twenty-two-year-old Casey Anthony is no ham sandwich, but a 19-member Orange County, FL grand jury has served up a seven count criminal indictment against her, including charges of first-degree murder, aggravated child abuse, aggravated manslaughter of a child, and providing false information to a law enforcement officer – yes, in spite of popular opinion, you actually can go to jail for lying to a cop. Appearing before the local judge for an initial appearance concerning these charges, Casey was held without bond or bail.
Anthony is the one and only suspect in the disappearance of her 3-year-old daughter Caylee, allegedly missing since at least July 15, but not seen by family members since mid-June. Most will recall that it was Casey's mother, Cindy, who initially tired of Casey's excuses for Caylee's absence for at least a month, critical time in any missing person investigation and in this case, time that authorities have not been able to make up in the futile search for the missing little girl.
As a member of this grand jury, imagine that the lead law enforcement investigator, the handler of an experienced cadaver dog, an FBI evidence specialist, a computer forensics specialist, Casey's father George Anthony, and others with critical information have all testified before you. In the case of Casey's father, he tells you that near the end of June Casey refused to allow him to look in the trunk of her car (this well after the last time he saw Caylee). All of this testimony, of course, is one-sided, and only a portion of the prosecution's case would have been presented to you and the 18 other local citizens who comprised the grand jury. Your job is to consider the "facts" and information told to you by this and other witnesses and determine if this information amounts to the needed legal standard for indictment, i.e., "probable cause" to believe that a crime had been committed and that the person named in the indictment (Casey Anthony) did these terrible things.
The Evidence Presented to You
Although investigation can and does continue even after a grand jury indictment is returned, the prosecution needs only to present you with enough information, and enough detail to obtain the indictment, but he does not need to present his complete case or all of his witnesses. That will come later, of course, during trial. Evidence presented would have included the missing status of Caylee; the inability of authorities and Caylee's family to locate the little girl; the many, many lies told by Casey concerning her daughter and her daughter's whereabouts (the mysterious baby sitter that cannot be located or identified, the alleged baby sitter's residence – found to have been unoccupied for the six months prior to Caylee's disappearance), as well as Casey's lies about her alleged employment, her own one person search for her daughter, and on and on. Then the forensic experts would sit before you and testify that a police cadaver dog made a positive hit in the trunk of a family car used and eventually abandoned by Casey, a car that still had Caylee's car seat in it, and then you'd hear information contained in a report from the University of Tennessee's "body farm" indicating evidence of human decomposition (perhaps even identifiable to Caylee) had been located and identified in this same car trunk, along with decomposed human hairs also believed identical to those of Caylee. Further evidence might include dirt in or on the same car and its believed significance to this case, perhaps linking the dirt to a location where Caylee's body could have been buried. Then in matter of fact detail you would likely be told about other unique and potentially damning physical evidence such as traces of chloroform that had been found in the same car trunk, the presence of which could be explained as likely having been used to "knock out" or drug a person, perhaps the individual whose decomposed body fluids and hair were found in the trunk.
The Prosecution's Possible Theory
All of the above and more would have been presented to you and the other members of the grand jury, who could, in turn, and you, in turn, could ask questions of the officials testifying before you. In this case the DA would have sought to suggest to you that Caylee was last seen in her mother's care when she moved out of her parent's residence, that Casey was last seen driving the car in question, and that she then moved in with various boyfriends and spent most of her time with a boyfriend or partying at various night clubs. Casey's statement that she had given her daughter to a babysitter who apparently "skipped town" with the child was found by investigators to be as full of holes as a hunk of Swiss cheese. The likely scenario built by investigators could have Casey using chloroform to sedate Caylee so that Casey could, perhaps, party the night away without "worrying" that her young daughter had been left someplace alone and unattended. Such a scenario would have Casey later finding her daughter dead of a chloroform overdose and then having almost a month to dispose of Caylee's body and construct a cover story for her young daughter's missing status, no matter how weak it eventually proved to be. Other media stories are far less forgiving, with one suggesting that Casey could have murdered her daughter as the need to care for the little girl had caused Casey to miss a Caribbean trip with friends. Is all of the above enough to cause you to vote a true bill?
Tomorrow: Part II
The Defense Never Rests and how they will attack the prosecution's case and what the criminal case will really rest on.
Clint Van Zandt