Anthony Defense Denied Access to 'Mounting Evidence'

Casey Anthony's defense team says it has been denied access to evidence

December 11, 2008, 1:25 PM

Dec. 16, 2008 — -- In an emergency court hearing today, Casey Anthony's attorney was denied access to a crime scene where the remains of a small child believed to be Caylee Anthony were found last week.

A similar motion was previously denied by Judge Stan Strickland on the grounds that the remains had yet to be positively identified as the missing Orlando, Fla., toddler and that the crime scene had not "wrapped" -- sentiments he echoed today.

"I can't assist you with interfering in a murder investigation," Strickland said while handing down today's ruling. "The simple fact is there's no time clock on an investigation."

Jose Baez, Casey's lawyer, argued that the days of police searching had undoubtedly altered evidence that was important to the defense and to getting his client a fair trial.

"It's no longer a crime scene. It's more of an excavation site," he said.

Stickland also denied Baez's motion for a second autopsy and said the point is moot until the remains are positively identified.

While segments of bone found at the scene have been sent to FBI labs for DNA testing, last week Orange County Sheriff's Department spokesman Carlos Padilla told ABC News that police were "somewhat confident" the remains were Caylee's. In the hearing, an attorney for the Orange County Sheriff's Office described the skull that was found in the remains as that of a "little girl."

Caylee, who was 2 years old when she disappeared in June, was not reported missing by her mother, Casey, until a month later. Casey Anthony was charged with the murder Oct. 14.

Casey Anthony was not present for the hearing today.

Strickland urged authorities to share evidence with the defense "under the normal course of discovery." Police estimate they will open the crime scene to the defense Thursday, Padilla told ABC News.

Today's hearing revealed tensions between the defense and investigators over the handling of evidence related to the new crime scene that was uncovered last week after a city maintenance worker found the remains of a small child in a plastic bag in the woods less than a half mile from the Anthony home.

Baez claims to have been repeatedly denied access to the scene, despite the state's agreement to "work it out."

According to the motion, Baez flew in six experts to prepare to examine the site, but "after repeated efforts to resolve the matter with law enforcement, the defense was forced to fly their experts out without having had the opportunity to process or at the very least view the crime scene."

"We kind of went through this dance every single day," Baez said in the hearing.

"The authorities haven't done one thing to cooperate," Todd Black, a spokesman for Baez, told ABC News in a telephone interview before the hearing.

The motion also shows a concern by the defense that evidence will have been "irretrievably altered" or destroyed by the time it is allowed to examine it.

At least 3 inches of bone will be destroyed in the pursuit of identity and toxicology testing, Robert Guthrie of the county attorney's office said during the hearing.

In response to the motions, Padilla said investigators are "doing what protocol calls us to do," and that allowing Baez and his team in before the scene was wrapped would be "irresponsible."

"Every single day they've found significant evidence," Padilla told ABC News. "Is that what's bothering him [Baez]? That we're finding evidence? Evidence is mounting. We're continuing to find evidence that will tell the full story, because his client's not going to.

"If you want to talk about no cooperation, talk to Mr. Baez, who didn't allow law enforcement to talk to Casey Anthony in the beginning," he said.

Echoing Strickland's concerns, Padilla said leaving before completely investigating the site would "be nothing short of neglect."

At 9:30 a.m. Thursday, an Orlando utility worker stumbled upon a plastic bag. Inside were remains, including the skull, of a small child authorities believe to be Caylee Anthony. Police sources said the skull still had duct tape attached to the mouth.

Click here to hear the 911 call.

The bag was discovered in a wooded area less than half a mile from the Anthony home in Orlando, Fla., prompting authorities to execute a search warrant on the home.

Orange County Sheriff Kevin Beary told the Associated Press last week that "some clues that came out of the remains ... linked it to the [Anthony] house."

The area around the remains has been the subject of extensive police search since, and police have uncovered more evidence, including dozens of bones nearby.

The area had been searched by police months before, but the spot where the skull was found had been flooded at the time of the search.

DNA samples were sent to FBI labs, but it could be days before tests conclude.

Caylee Anthony disappeared in mid-June when she was 2 years old, but she was not reported missing by her mother, Casey Anthony, 22, until a month later. Anthony was arrested the next day on charges including child neglect. But she became a person of interest in the little girl's disappearance after police found traces of chloroform and strands of hair similar to those of the Caylee's in a car last driven by Anthony.

Casey was officially charged for first-degree murder Oct. 14. She has pleaded not guilty to charges ranging from first-degree murder to lying to investigators. She faces life in prison if convicted.

Frustrating, Curious Investigation

The case began with an emergency call from Casey Anthony's mother, Cindy Anthony in mid-July.

On the tape, she is heard frantically telling emergency operators, "I can't find my granddaughter. ... There's something wrong. ...I found my daughter's car today and it smelled like there's been a dead body in the damn car." Casey Anthony then got on the phone and reported she may have a missing child.

Cindy Anthony later retracted that statement, saying that the smell in the car could have been from garbage.

As investigators would quickly learn, this would only the be first of many twists and story changes in the curious case. CLICK HERE for a timeline of the case.

Lies, Half-Truths and Incomplete Information

Since their investigation was launched on July 15, some Orange County officers have become well acquainted with the frustrations of following leads based on incomplete information, half-truths and what one officer said were "smoke bombs."

In the original version of events, Caylee's mother reported her missing to police, saying she had dropped the child off at a baby sitter's house on June 9. When she went to pick the child up, both the child and the baby sitter had disappeared.

Casey's parents both corroborated the story until a bond hearing on July 25 when Cindy Anthony said that the last time she saw the child was not on June 9, but on June 15, and that she had just been confused.

When police questioned Casey Anthony about her daughter prior to her arrest, they say Anthony misled them multiple times.

When she took police to the apartment where she said the baby sitter, Zenaida Fernandez-Gonzalez, lived, they found that no one had lived in the apartment for five months.

At that time, lead investigator Yuri Mellich said, "I am not disregarding that this person may or may not exist, but Casey Anthony's friends and family have never met this person."

After an extensive search for Gonzalez, a woman with the same name came forward in September to tell authorities she had never met Casey or Caylee. Police cleared her of any involvement.

Casey also claimed to have worked for Universal Studios, but admitted later that that was not true.

Scientists found evidence of body decomposition and traces of chloroform in Casey Anthony's car trunk, according to forensics reports released in October.

Lab reports from the FBI found that a hair strand in the trunk showed "characteristics of apparent decomposition." The hair is "microscopically similar" to hair strands found on Caylee's brush, but the report said it could not conclusively say the hair in the trunk came from the missing girl.

Casey had been considered a "person of interest" in her daughter's disappearance since mid-July after police reported in a bond hearing that they believed they found that evidence of decomposition in the car.

But what unsettled investigator Padilla more than Anthony's imprecise information is her overall attitude.

"She has shown no emotion," Padilla told ABCNews in July. "That's unusual. At the time of the interviews ... she didn't seem concerned and that made this case much stranger."

"She spoke to deputies like she was talking about baseball. How do you get through to someone like that?" he added.

But Anthony revealed the entire range of emotion in videos of jailhouse conversations between her and her parents which were released last week.

In the more than 300 minutes of video released by the Orange County Sheriff's Department, Casey Anthony is shown laughing, crying and growing frustrated with the investigation and her family's questions.

When her mother, Cindy Anthony, confronted her with lead Detective Yuri Mellich's suspicions that she had had something to do with Caylee's disappearance, her daughter dodged the issue.

"Yuri [Mellich] has it set in his mind. He thinks you've done something to Caylee," Cindy Anthony told her. At that point, her daughter got up and, when she returned, steered the conversation in a different direction.

Casey Anthony also said that she knows the conversations are being recorded and said,"there are things [she] directly needs to say" to each of her parents.

And to her missing daughter, Caylee, Anthony asked her mother to pass along a message that "Mommy loves her very much, and that she's the most important thing in this entire world to me. And to be brave."

Padilla said Thursday that the discovery of the skull may provide some certainty in such on uncertain case.

"Time is on the investigation's side now," he told ABC News. "The Anthonys have tried to throw smoke bombs. Now we have the luxury of taking our time. We're going to be methodical."

"Should it be Caylee, we're going to do whatever we can to do it right," he added.

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