Prosecutor questions defense version of Caylee Anthony death

Reuters News
Posted: Jun 22, 2011 3:53 PM
Prosecutor questions defense version of Caylee Anthony death

By Jennifer Greenhill-Taylor

ORLANDO, Fla (Reuters) - Prosecutors said on Tuesday that a woman housed in a jail cell next to Casey Anthony had a child who drowned in a pool, a story similar to that given by defense lawyers for the death of Caylee Anthony.

The new information came in a phone call from a citizen at the end of last week and is still being investigated, prosecutor Linda Drane Burdick said.

The state sent investigators to speak with the woman from the neighboring jail cell, and she told them that she did not talk to Casey, Drane Burdick said. It was unclear from court testimony whether the woman remains in jail.

Casey, 25, is accused of using duct tape to suffocate her 2-year-old daughter Caylee on June 16, 2008, then storing her body in the trunk of a car. Defense attorneys maintain Caylee accidentally drowned in the Anthony family's backyard pool, and no one reported her death.

Caylee's skeletal remains were found in woods near the family's home in the Orlando area on December 11, 2008, following a nationwide search.

The highly publicized Florida murder trial is now in its fifth week.

A forensic botanist testifying for the defense on Tuesday said Caylee's remains could have been in the place they were found for as short a period as two weeks, based on leaf litter present at the time.

A photo of the child's skull as it was found in the woods showed leaf litter and dirt covering the eye sockets, leaving only the top of the skull visible.

Jane Bock, an expert in the application of plant science to legal matters, said the depth of the litter on the skull was not particularly important, as the skull could have sunk down into the soft, damp debris.

When prosecutor Jeff Ashton said a hip bone had been found nearby under four inches of leaf litter, Bock said, "it could have been buried by a dog." When Ashton sniffed at that possibility, the witness said "that's what dogs do."

The testimony followed a morning spent by lawyers once again wrangling over allegations of violations in the sharing of evidence.

Defense attorney Jose Baez protested the lateness of two new pieces of prosecution evidence -- the jail inmate testimony and information from the Anthony family's computer hard drive -- after being admonished by Judge Belvin Perry for again failing to follow the rules on expert witness reports.

Baez complained he had just received a CD with data detailing activity on the family computer from June 16, 2008. Casey and her daughter lived with Casey's parents, Cindy and George Anthony.

Prosecutors said they had recently culled computer evidence from that specific date to rebut the defense's case.

Perry noted that the defense had been in possession of the entire hard drive for years.

"Since June 16, 2008 was a day of great importance in this investigation, a timeline setting up how everyone involved -- Cindy, George, Lee (Casey's brother) and Casey -- spent their time on those days would have been a minimum requirement," Perry said.

The judge asked whether a search of the hard drive had been done on those days, and Baez said it had.

Testimony of a defense DNA expert was delayed again by Perry due to discovery violations by the defense team.

Richard Eikelenboom, an expert witness from the Netherlands, was told he could not testify about DNA in decomposition fluid from Casey's trunk until next week because a full report of his opinions was not submitted in time, despite continued warnings.

Eikelenboom did testify on Tuesday about creating DNA profiles from tiny amounts of skin cells.

(Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Greg McCune)