Casey Anthony lawyer's paternity question halts court

Reuters News
Posted: Jun 16, 2011 2:38 PM
Casey Anthony lawyer's paternity question halts court

By Jennifer Greenhill-Taylor

ORLANDO, Fla (Reuters) - Casey Anthony's lead defense attorney sprung a surprise at her murder trial on Thursday by questioning whether Casey's brother Lee could be the father of her 2-year-old daughter Caylee, who was found dead in 2008.

Judge Belvin Perry immediately dismissed the jury after defense attorney Jose Baez posed the paternity question on the first day of the defense presenting its case after 3 1/2 weeks of prosecution witnesses.

After the jury left, a testy argument erupted between attorneys over the appropriateness of the question.

Heather Seubert, an FBI expert on DNA, told the judge that both Lee and George Anthony, Casey's father, were excluded as possible fathers of Caylee.

Perry chided Baez and asked him to read up on case law on "good faith questions," before taking a recess for lunch.

Prosecutors accuse Casey, 25, of killing Caylee on June 16, 2008, storing the child's body in her car trunk, and then dumping it in woods near her home.

Caylee was reported missing on July 15, 2008, after Casey's car was found in an impound lot and her mother Cindy Anthony described it as smelling of death. The child's skeletal remains were found in woods near the Anthony family's home on December 11, 2008 after a nationwide search.

During his opening statement last month, Baez claimed that Casey had been molested by her father and that Caylee had drowned in the family's swimming pool.

Thursday had begun in calmer fashion with more testimony from experts.

Orange County sheriff's crime scene investigator Geraldo Bloise, who inspected Casey's car on July 23, 2008, testified that he found stains in the trunk.

Bloise said he also had checked out Casey's boyfriend's vehicle on the same day and detected no bad smell or garbage inside it.

Bloise said he performed fluorescent light tests on clothing from Casey's bedroom on August 6, 2008. Items that tested positive for fluids were sent to the FBI to be examined for blood and DNA.

Seubert, the FBI expert, said the items from the trunk of Casey's car were tested and no blood or DNA was detected. The pieces of clothing from Casey's bedroom also showed no signs of blood and DNA.

(Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Greg McCune)