In Part 1 we took a look at “Imperfect Justice“, written by prosecutor Jeff Ashton. To get a more complete picture, we will now look at “Presumed Guilty”, the defense attorney Jose Baez’ version of events. My final thoughts on the subject, having listened to both books, will be posted in an upcoming 3rd part.
From the opening chapter, the approach taken by Jose Baez is much different from that of Jeff Ashton. I point this out because it lays the groundwork for the difference between the two books. On the one hand, Ashton opens with the jury returning the verdict. On the other hand, Baez begins with George Anthony going to pick up the car that was abandoned by his daughter Casey Anthony. Ashton starts with the emotion and drama. Jose leads off with the evidence.
“What the prosecution had, and what I didn’t have, was the media on it’s side. What I had, and what the prosecution didn’t have, was the evidence on my side.”Jose Baez, Chapter 22
That is my favorite quote from the book. It really sums the premise up nicely. Over the course of the book, Jose Baez exposes the problems with the prosecution’s case. I’ll address those 3 major problems later. First, let me share the story you probably didn’t get from the media that is exposed through witness testimony in the book. Notice how this media video cuts the testimony off right before Simon Birch gets to the details of his encounter with the Anthonys?
What George Anthony told Simon Birch when he was picking up the car.
“The car had been at the AMSCOT for 3 days before you towed it.”
“I’m sorry. We’re having a rough time. Our daughter had the car, and our granddaughter is missing. We’ll probably get divorced over this.”
“I’ve got gas with me.”George Anthony quotes from Chapter 1
According to Simon Birch, the manager of the towing company and impound lot, he had not divulged any of the following information to George Anthony. Furthermore, the second two pieces of information were unknown to him at the time.
- The car had been picked up at AMSCOT Financial.
- It had sat there for 3 days before it was towed.
- The vehicle was out of gas.
How did George know where the car had been towed from and how long it had been there prior to being towed? Moreover, how did he know that it was out of gas? Casey claimed she had told George that she was leaving the car there, and that it had run out of fuel. This testimony seems to support her version of events.
Presumed Guilty weaves a narrative I hadn’t previously heard.
Chapter 1 starts by attacking the state’s case and bolstering Casey’s arguments. The narrative continues throughout the book. However, the most compelling arguments are made when Baez attacks the evidence against Casey. He shows it as paper thing and falling apart.
The Fantasy of Forensics: Problems with the evidence against Casey.
The 84 searches for chloroform.
Much was made of the searches for chloroform on the Anthony computer. However, the trial revealed that the State’s information was wrong. There weren’t 84 searches. In fact, there was only 1. Furthermore, that search occurred the day that her ex boyfriend posted the following meme on Myspace. Casey was on the page for 3 minutes, and didn’t print it.
The chloroform in the trunk.
Dr. Voss ran tests on the air in the trunk in Casey’s car. However, he did no quantitative analysis. In other words, he knew how much chloroform there was in relation to other chemicals. However, he didn’t know the actual amount of chloroform in the trunk. He testified that the levels were “shockingly high”. The FBI agents who tested the trunk contradicted him, saying the levels were “low” and “consistent with levels found in household cleaners”.
Cause of death.
While the Medical Examiner ruled the death a homicide, she ruled the cause of death to be “undetermined”. There was no medical evidence to back the prosecution’s assertion that the cause of death was suffocation.
Decomposition in trunk.
The notion of decomposition being found in the trunk was also from air analysis done by Dr. Voss. Carpet samples were stored in sealed cans, then heated and the air was tested. It is significant to note that his first two attempts to test the air showed no chemicals consistent with decomposition. His third attempt was successful. However, the stain in the trunk was tested for DNA and there was none. This is inconsistent with human decomposition fluids. Furthermore, the trash was dried by investigators which prevented a comparative analysis of the smell from the garbage with the smell from the trunk.
Foreign DNA on duct tape.
In Jeff Ashton’s book, he points out that the foreign DNA on the tape was accounted for when testing FBI examiners who handled it. He writes it off as contamination. However, this is a half truth. There was a second DNA sample that didn’t match any of the Anthony’s, the investigators, nor the examiners. Roy Kronk, who found the body, was never asked to submit a sample for comparison. Furthermore, none of Casey’s DNA was on the tape, making it highly unlikely that it was used to suffocate her.
Caylee Anthony’s hair was tested for drugs and chloroform. Both tests were negative.
Flies in the trunk.
The prosecution argued that the flies in the trunk were evidence of a decomposing body having been there. However, all of the flies found were collected from the garbage, not from the trunk.
No evidence of abuse.
The medical examiner found no broken bones, and no evidence of old unreported injuries to the body. Furthermore, prosecutors were unable to find a single witness that had ever seen Casey even mad at the child, let alone abusing her.
What was in the skull?
The defense’s examiner claimed to find decomposition residue in the left inside of Caylee’s skull. However, the prosecution’s expert argued that it was merely dust. Either way, it had to have collected in that spot inside the skull after decomposition had occurred. This establishes that decomposition had occurred with the skull laying on it’s left side, not upright as it was found. This establishes that the crime scene was tampered with.
The curious case of Roy Kronk.
Roy Kronk found the body. He reported it 4 months before police discovered it. Moreover, it was he who reported it the day the body was discovered. Yet he failed to tell the police about his earlier calls. Meanwhile, he also told police that the skull was inside the bag and that it fell out when he lifted it.
Where does all of that leave the case against Casey?
This is devastating to the prosecution’s case. Their own expert testified that chloroform levels were low, and could have come from cleaners used in the trunk. There was none of the victim’s DNA on the alleged murder weapon. Furthermore, there was no evidence that Caylee had been in the trunk of Casey’s car as they alleged.
In the end, you had a bad smell in the trunk that could’ve come from garbage that was known to be in the trunk. That garbage was intentionally dehydrated by law enforcement, which prevented comparative smell analysis. The crime scene where her body was found had clearly been altered, making any evidence found there unreliable. Furthermore, the trunk of the car crime scene had been altered when George Anthony had removed the bag of trash. It was later further altered when Cindy Anthony used chemicals including air freshener and a dryer sheet to try to remove the smell.
Evidence that supported Casey’s version of events.
- On the day after Caylee died, Cindy Anthony told her coworkers that she had returned home from work to find the ladder up to the pool. Furthermore, she told law enforcement this same story the day after they were notified that Caylee was missing.
- The shorts found with Caylee’s body no longer fit her. According to Cindy, she hadn’t worn them in over a year. Furthermore, defense experts found rips in them consistent with them being forced onto a body that didn’t fit inside them. This makes it plausible that they were put on by someone unfamiliar with dressing her. For example, George.
- George Anthony told his girlfriend that “it was all a terrible accident that spiraled out of control.
- Casey’s father also cleaned out the trunk of the car before law enforcement was able to examine it.
- He also lied about putting duct tape on the gas cans. The same cans he reported stolen when Casey took them.
- As seen in the image below, Caylee Anthony was able to open the sliding glass door which leads to the pool.
Then there was the incident reported at the jail when the Anthony’s were visiting Casey. George was obviously upset, and Casey asked why. Cindy informed her that a reporter had asked what George thought about media speculation that Caylee had drowned in the pool. However, the reporter had actually asked about media speculation that the death was an accident.
Presumed Guilty: The search off of Suburban Drive.
While that statement implies foreknowledge, it does so less emphatically than the search. Below is a video of a private investigator named Dominic Anthony Casey. He was hired by Cindy Anthony. On the occasion in the video, he is searching the area off Suburban Dr. where Caylee’s body would be found a month later. He was sent there by Cindy Anthony to search for Caylee’s remains.
This was the only occasion Cindy sent him to search for the remains, and this was the only location she sent him to. Moreover, Cindy was still publicly claiming to believe Caylee was alive at the time of the search. It was this search that precipitated the argument with Cindy that Lee would later testify to. According to him, at that time she told him that Caylee was dead.
Casey Anthony was in jail at this time. All of her communication (phone calls, letters, and visits) with her family was monitored. Therefore, she could not have given Cindy this location. However, Cindy was married to George Anthony. Is it possible that he knew the location because he had placed the body there?
Consider the following facts about George Anthony.
- George knew where and when the car had been abandoned, and that it was out of gas at the time,
- A former police officer whose granddaughter was missing, George removed trash from the trunk of the car he had last seen her in. The same car which he reported to have smelled of a dead body.
- The duct tape at the Anthony home which would later be connected to the crime scene was also used by George to cover the vent hole on the gas can. Yet he denied having placed the tape there when questioned by investigators. Furthermore, photographic evidence showed him using this same tape to hang missing person posters.
- George told a woman he was allegedly having an affair with that Caylee’s death was an accident while he was still leading the search for his living granddaughter.
All of this is speculative, and it presupposes that George Anthony would have some motivation to dispose of his granddaughter’s dead body. What would that motivation be?
More damning evidence against George.
While Jeff Ashton mocked the notion that Casey may have been molested by her father, the FBI apparently had their own suspicions. Before the trial began when Baez “dropped the bombshell”, they obtained DNA from George and Lee Anthony to do a paternity test using Caylee’s DNA.
When Baez found out about the DNA test, he filed a motion requesting the results. The Judge gave prosecutors 20 days to turn them over. In the three weeks between the time when the motion was filed and the court imposed deadline, George Anthony attempted to take his own life.
If George Anthony was sexually abusing his daughter, then he would have reason to be concerned that he was the father of his won granddaughter. Assuming the child accidentally drowned, if reported that would lead to an autopsy. The autopsy would doubtlessly include a DNA test to confirm the identity of the deceased child. That DNA test could potentially reveal who the father was.
Should George Anthony have been presumed guilty?
Again, the argument is speculative. However, George did attempt suicide while awaiting a known DNA test result. It’s reasonable to think that he may have improperly disposed of a body to prevent a potential one.
In Presumed Guilty, Jose Baez lays out this alternative theory of the case. He doesn’t prove it, of course. However, he does raise plenty of reasonable doubt. In fact, I would argue that he creates enough evidence to raise the following question. If the prosecutors had focused on George instead of Casey, would he likewise have been presumed guilty in the court of public opinion? The case against George is seemingly as strong as the one against Case.
My thoughts on Presumed Guilty by Jose Baez.
Until listening to this audiobook, I had never really considered the possibility that Caylee Anthony had died accidentally. I had always assumed that either Casey or her father had killed the child. My problem with the case was that the state did a poor job of proving that it was her.
Presumed Guilty by Jose Baez was able to make me look at a known case in a new light. For that reason alone, I recommend that you read it as well. However, the book goes further than that. It totally changed the way I viewed Jose Baez. I’d always seen him as arrogant and a bit condescending. I didn’t dislike him, mind you. He just came off that way to me.
He tells a story that I would like to relay in his own words. The setting is after the trial and before the verdict. Jose has gone to a church to pray and meditate.
He recounts the incident as follows.
“I was thinking about wanting to save Casey’s life, and praying for my family. Right then and there, I realized how much I had sacrificed for Casey. How much this case took me away from my family, and how it took away some things that I may never be able to get back. Including my life savings, my home, and nearly my practice. ‘I gave everything I had in this case’ I said to myself. Maybe I gave too much of me.
I prayed about that, asking God to make me a better person, a better father, and a better husband. Because I knew I hadn’t been any of those.”Jose Baez, Chapter 33
There’s a lot of humility in that statement made for all the world to see. This is a side of Baez I hadn’t seen the slightest hint of. It best encapsulates the man you come to know in this book.
I no longer see him as arrogant. Rather, he had the confidence of a man who had the facts and knew where they would lead the jury. He believed so firmly in sparing Casey’s life that he ignored the threats to his own well being. As a father, he realized the jeopardy that put his family in. He was humble enough to admit it, and a good enough man to desire to change the way he conducted himself.
In my opinion, Jose Baez clearly makes a better case than did Jeff Ashton. Upon completing both books, it is easy to see why the jury reached the decision that they did. Moreover, it is evident that they reached the appropriate conclusion. Jose Baez makes a strong argument for Casey Anthony’s innocence, despite her being Presumed Guilty.