A renowned forensic expert testified Saturday that the autopsy done on 2-year-old Caylee Anthony was "shoddy" and that the duct tape Florida prosecutors contend suffocated the child was not applied until after her body had decomposed.
Dr. Werner Spitz offered his opinion on the third day of the defense's case in the murder trial of Casey Anthony, the Florida mother charged with murder in Caylee's death. The state rested its case earlier in the week.
Spitz has been an expert witness in several high-profile cases, including that of O.J. Simpson and record executive Phil Spector. Spitz also testified it was a failure that Caylee's skull was not opened during the official autopsy. Spitz conducted a second autopsy later.
"The head is part of the body and when you do an examination, you examine the whole body," Spitz said. "... That to me is a signal of a shoddy autopsy."
Casey Anthony, 25, faces a possible death sentence if convicted in her daughter's summer 2008 death and has pleaded not guilty. The defense says the girl drowned in her grandparents' swimming pool.
Spitz said he had intended to attend Caylee Anthony's original autopsy after her remains were found in a wooded area in December 2008. He was denied. He eventually came to Orlando to conduct his own exam and visited the crime scene, reviewed photos and read the official autopsy reports.
There were "specks" of decomposition sediment inside the left side of Caylee's skull, which Spitz said indicated the girl's death was not necessarily a homicide. Orange and Osceola County medical examiner Jan Garavaglia determined that Caylee was killed "by undetermined means."
If the tape had suffocated Caylee, evidence of skin would have been on the sticky side of the tape, he said. But there was no such evidence on the tape.
"I had problems with (the manner of death finding)," Spitz said. "When a body decomposes ... the tape comes loose on the skeletal structure. In this case, the only thing that held the tape there was hair and roots.
"My strong opinion is duct tape was placed there to hold the (decomposed) lower jaw in place."
Prosecutor Jeff Ashton attacked Spitz's assessments on cross-examination, arguing that Spitz didn't have nearly as much information as Garavaglia did when she made her evaluation. Ashton also challenged Spitz to cite a particular written protocol that said the skull must be opened in every autopsy.
"I'm not aware of where you can find a protocol, but I can assure you it is part of a complete autopsy," Spitz said.
Later, Spitz suggested that the position of hair found with the child's skull might have been staged when it was photographed in the medical examiner's office.
"It wouldn't be the first time, sir," he said. "It's my opinion that somebody did."
The testimony of the defense's first witness of the day, forensic anthropologist William Rodriguez, was interrupted after prosecutors said he testified about information not previously disclosed to the state.
The objection came after Rodriguez said it would be impossible to determine the exact position of duct tape on a corpse. Because tape loses its stickiness, it may be shifted, and animals could have come in contact with the body, he said.
With the jury sent out of the courtroom, Judge Belvin Perry questioned Rodriguez about his planned testimony.
Rodriguez told him that he initially told lead defense attorney Jose Baez the information in February.
Baez told Perry the non-disclosure was not intentional. He said prosecutors had declined an opportunity to further question Rodriguez before trial and only asked for the pre-testimony report all witnesses were to submit. Perry said Baez's conduct seemed to have violated a pretrial order he issued.
"What you are basically saying is you can pick which orders you will comply and not comply with," Perry told Baez. "... It appears to me this was quite intentional. It was not an inadvertent slip."
Perry decided to have Rodriguez step down from the witness stand Saturday, allowing the state an opportunity to question him outside court. He said he would consider a special instruction to jurors about the non-disclosure and would reserve the right to hold Baez in contempt of court after the trial ends. Perry also warned Baez about further infractions that could end in witness exclusion.
"Lightning does not strike twice in one place," Perry said. "... I'm not making any promises of warranties if this happens a second time with this witness."