I dislike being an apologist for Casey Anthony or any defense lawyer, but…

By now everyone still obsessed with Casey Anthony knows that Orange County police admitted yesterday that they failed to find on the Anthony family’s computer a supposedly incriminating Google search dated on the day that little Caylee supposedly died. See the ABA Journal article

I have written extensively about why I think most computer-search evidence should be barred from courtrooms, so I won’t repeat it here. What I do want to point out is how exaggerated yesterday’s media coverage of this “discovery” was and how biased.

Since I’m no longer following the Casey Anthony reality show, I first learned about this story on Fox News’ The Five. All five of the five commentators declared that the search proved Casey’s guilt, because the search was conducted after the time when George Anthony had left for work and only Casey was in the house. Apparently, this time was established by a reporter named Tony Pipitone.

Please read what Pipitone had to say in the Orlando Sentinel before you read the rest of this post.

Another Interpretation or Two

There is another way to interpret Pipitone’s timeline, and it doesn’t require you to accept Jose Baez’s statement that the search was time-stamped at 1:51 instead of 2:51.

Sidebar: Baez’s computer forensics expert is Larry Daniel, a professional for whom I have the greatest respect. If he said the timestamp was 1:51, I believe him. Please read his post on this subject on his blog, Ex Forensis.

Let’s assume that Mr. Daniels is wrong about the time stamp and the search did take place at 2:51. By George Anthony’s sworn testimony, Casey took Caylee out of the house at 1:30.

If George was telling the truth, then Caylee was alive at 1:30. To have conducted the search at 2:51 Casey would have had to wait until her father left the house, then returned, searched for a way to “sufficate” her daughter in a foolproof way, then located information about duct tape, chloroform, and plastic bags, obtained all these substances, killed her daughter, wrapped her up, thrown her in the trunk of the car, and driven away before her mother came home from work that afternoon. Quite a swift accomplishment.

After that Casey would have had to leave the body in the car trunk long enough for decomposed bodily fluids to leak out of the plastic bag, which could only have been after Casey drove her friends around in the car some 2 weeks later (I believe). Then only when the car began to stink did she abandon it.

In other words, this computer search isn’t evidence of Casey’s guilt. It doesn’t matter who searched for suffocation methods or when they did. Whoever conducted the search that afternoon could as easily have been searching for a way to make the child’s death look like a kidnapping and murder, rather than an accident, because he or she was afraid of Cindy Anthony more than the cops. This person could have been terrified that if Cindy found out Caylee died accidentally in his or her care, she would literally scream bloody murder, and that would be the end of “the happy little family,” even if Cindy didn’t have the culprit immediately charged with negligence and manslaughter. (By the way, that’s in essence what she did when she called the cops about the stinking car.)

But, like Mr. Daniels, I believe this isn’t the issue. The outrage over the incompetence of the police is in this case is entirely justified. They were sloppy. And their sloppiness did lead to the acquittal of Casey Anthony. But that’s the way the American system of justice is supposed to work. The police have to be competent and honest, because incompetence and corruption can lead to false convictions as often as acquittals based on insufficient evidence.

“Ten guilty men should go free, lest one innocent man suffer.” The Bill of Rights protects you as well as Casey Anthony. And I’m sure you would never break the law. You could be arrested, though.

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