Defense Opens, Attacks Forensic Evidence in Casey Anthony Trial

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Red Huber / Pool / Reuters

Casey Anthony, standing with her attorney Jose Baez, looks back at her parents at the end of court during her first degree murder trial at the Orange County Courthouse in Orlando, Florida May 26, 2011.

The day after the prosecution rested in the Casey Anthony murder trial, the defense came out swinging, attacking crime lab procedures to try and discredit one of the most potentially damning pieces of evidence: duct tape found on the skull of her daughter, Caylee.

Anthony is accused of killing her 2-year-old daughter by knocking her out with chloroform, then suffocating her by putting duct tape over her mouth and nose. The duct tape is a crucial piece of evidence, because it proves that Caylee’s death was not an accident and that her killer acted intentionally.

(MORE: Why the Forensic Evidence May Not Be Enough to Convict Casey Anthony)

But the duct tape in question was never a smoking gun. “Duct tape in general is great physical evidence in criminal cases,” explains Dr. Lawrence Kobilisky, head of the forensic sciences department at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York. But Casey’s DNA and Caylee’s DNA were not found on duct tape, which is often found on the tape’s sticky surface.

During the first day to present his side of the case, Anthony’s defense lawyer Jose Baez doubled down on the duct tape, calling FBI technician Heather Seubert to the stand. Seubert, who examined the tape at the FBI lab, testified that there was DNA on the tape, but that it didn’t match Casey or even the victim, Caylee. The only DNA on the duct tape belongs to a forensic examiner who conducted some of the analysis.

Baez’s legal strategy appears to be convincing the jury that the contamination only adds more suspicion to the fact that neither Casey’s nor Caylee’s DNA was on the tape. To gain a conviction, the prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt that Casey Anthony committed the crime. Baez appears to be counting on today’s testimony to introduce reasonable doubt about the prosecution’s case.

(MORE: Casey Anthony: The Social Media Trial of the Century)

As the defense presents their side of the case over the next few days, they have the option to put Casey on the stand. But this will allow prosecutors to cross-examine her, potentially highlighting her erratic behavior before and during the trial and the fact that she lied to investigators in 2008. Baez appears to be trying to avoid this tactic, but if he cannot cast enough doubt on the forensic evidence, it’s one he may have to take. Either way, stay tuned.

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