Casey Anthony Case: Father Breaks Down and Grief Expert Testifies

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Red Huber / AP

George Anthony reacts during his testimony in the murder trial of his daughter, Casey, in Orlando, Fla., Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Dramatic arguments erupted again during the afternoon session of the Casey Anthony trial, this time between prosecutor Jeff Ashton and one of the defense’s expert witnesses. Judge Perry called for several sidebars and sent the jury out of the room for a short recess.

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Earlier in the day, George Anthony testified about his experience during the search for Caylee when he thought she was still alive. George said that after Casey was released to house arrest, he bought a gun, intending to confront Casey’s friends and find out what happened to his granddaughter. Once he found out that the firearm violated the terms of Casey’s house arrest, he got rid of the weapon. George then described his grief and his suicide attempt after he learned definitively that Caylee was dead. Defense attorney Jose Baez objected to George’s testimony and the introduction of his suicide note, but Perry said that Baez had opened the door by asking George, “You expressed some guilt, did you not?”

The testimony was good for the prosecution and bad for Casey’s defense. Baez has said that Caylee drowned accidentally and George disposed of the body and tried to hint toward that with George on the stand. But when it was the prosecution’s turn, they used the opportunity to show that George had no idea of Caylee’s whereabouts and was willing to resort to threats to find her. It also didn’t help that at one point George burst into tears. When asked by Perry if he needed a break he said, “I have to get through this.”

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Late in the afternoon, the defense called Florida State University professor Dr. Sally Karioth to the stand. Karioth teaches at the FSU School of Nursing about death and dying. In one of the most awkward exchanges in a trial full of awkward moments, the defense asked Karioth about her education and background. When Karioth began to ramble on about her educational journey from studying theater arts to finally nursing, Judge Perry had to ask her to simply list her degrees. She has four: a bachelors degree, two masters degrees and a PhD. Listing these took Karioth more than a minute.

For the next half hour, the defense sought to establish that Karioth is an expert in grief, which would allow them to ask her hypothetical questions about people’s reactions to death. Ashton repeatedly objected and when it was his turn to ask questions, he asked if Dr. Karioth had ever published in peer review journals. Karioth said that she had, but could only name one, which it appears is obscure.

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After Karioth was finally classified as an expert witness, the defense asked about a hypothetical case in which a mother around 22 (Casey’s age when Caylee disappeared) loses her child. How would she react and what would her grief be like? Karioth explained that grief may take many forms, and the point the defense hoped to convey was that Casey Anthony’s erratic behavior right after her daughter disappeared was somehow related to grief.

When he had his turn, Ashton pounced. He asked his own hypothetical idea about the grieving process if a mother had killed her daughter. When the defense objected, saying there was no evidence of this, Ashton said he begged to differ, and that was for the jury to decide.

With the battle lines coming into shape, Perry asked Baez when he could be expected to wrap up his case. Baez said that will almost certainly be tomorrow. It will be his last chance to put his client on the stand or go with what he has. Either way, it promises to be a long weekend. The prosecution can call rebuttal witnesses, then closing arguments may happen as early as Saturday. Either way, Perry reminded everyone, “I wouldn’t make plans for Sunday or Monday.”

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