June 16, 2011 -- An FBI forensics expert appeared to cast doubt today on evidence that the outline of a heart sticker was detected on duct tape found on the decomposing skull of 2-year-old Casey Anthony.
The heart stickers are a key piece of the prosecution's case against Casey Anthony, the Florida woman accused of murdering her daughter Caylee in 2008.
The prosecution claims that the outline of a heart sticker was found on duct tape on Caylee's skull and another heart sticker was found near her remains. The duct tape, they contend, was placed over Caylee's mouth and nose. They argued that these stickers are similar to stickers found in Casey Anthony's bedroom and link Casey Anthony to her daughter's death.
Forensic expert Lorie Gottesman said that she was unable to find any trace of a heart shaped sticker on the duct tape found on Caylee's skull.
"I was unable to see any sticker or sticker fragment with the naked eye...After trying all the different lights and different filters I was unable to detect any sticker or sticker fragment," said Gottesman.
Earlier in the trial another FBI forensics expert, Elizabeth Fontaine, told the court, "During my examination... an outline of a heart appeared in one of the corners on the edge of that piece of duct tape... The outline of the heart resembled that glue or debris that if you had been wearing a band aid for an extended period of time."
Fontaine examined the duct tape first, looking for latent prints. She found no prints on the tape and unexpectedly found the outline of the heart. Gottesman looked at the tape after Fontaine and was tasked specifically with looking for the heart shape
Defense attorney Jose Baez also appeared to suggest today that any stickers found near Caylee's remains may have simply been part of a great deal of trash found in the area and had no connection to the body.
Another forensic expert testified that a heart shaped sticker found on a piece of cardboard was 30 feet away from where Caylee's skull was found.
Gottesman also testified that black plastic bags found with Caylee's remains were not the same as plastic bags found at the Anthony home.
Defense Attorney Jose Baez Asks About Caylee's Paternity
This afternoon's scientific testimony was a departure from the explosive subject of Caylee's paternity, which Baez briefly touched upon before lunch.
Baez asked FBI analyst Heather Seubert if she had conducted a paternity test to see if Lee Anthony, Casey Anthony's brother, was the father of Caylee Anthony.
The prosecution immediately objected and Judge Belvin Perry quickly sent jurors to lunch.
Casey Anthony's father and brother were tested by the FBI to see if they were the father of Caylee, the 2-year-old, Seubert said today.
With the jury out of the room, the prosecution and defense argued over the appropriateness of this line of questioning about Caylee's paternity and whether it could continue.
Seubert, a DNA analyst at the FBI laboratory in Quantico, Va., told the court that both George Anthony, Casey Anthony's father, and Lee Anthony had been tested and excluded from being Caylee's father.
Perry also warned Baez, "You are not to ask questions that will lead to an inference... I'm not even going to venture a guess... as to your motivation."
When the jury returned from lunch, the questioning continued and the jury heard that Lee Anthony's test came back negative. The defense did not ask the witness about the testing of George Anthony. So jurors still don't know that George Anthony was also tested and excluded from being Caylee's father.
The defense claims that Caylee accidentally drowned in the family pool and that Casey Anthony hid her daughter's death in a bizarre coping mechanism she'd learned from suffering years of sexual abuse at the hands of her father and brother.
George Anthony has denied the accusation.
The defense at first seemed to downplay the emotion of today which marks the third anniversary of Caylee's disappearance by calling expert witnesses to discuss DNA and blood testing of Casey Anthony's clothes, car, a shovel and Caylee's remains.
Seubert testified that Casey Anthony's DNA was not found on the duct tape that covered the remains of her daughter's decomposed skull. Caylee's remains were found in a wooded area near the Anthony family home on Dec. 11, 2008. She was reported missing July 15, 2008, 31 days after she was last seen alive.
Seubert testified that she did find DNA on the silver, non-adhesive part of the duct tape found on Caylee's skull, but was unable to identify it. The DNA did not match anybody in the Anthony family home.
DNA that was found on the sticky part of the duct tape was contaminated by a lab assistant, Seubert testified.
Baez questioned Seubert about what can hinder a DNA test and asked specifically if it's possible to find DNA on something that's been submerged in water.
Seubert said that elements degrade DNA over time, but it was possible to find DNA submerged in water.
Going through numerous pieces of forensic evidence, Seubert testified that pieces of Anthony's car did not test positive for blood and neither did any of her clothes. Previous witnesses called by the prosecution have testified that Anthony's Pontiac Sunfire did test positive for chloroform and human decomposition.
Seubert also said that the "possible presence of blood" was detected on the Winnie the Pooh blanket and tattered shirt found with Caylee's remains, but there was not enough to be able to be certain.
Upon cross examination, Seubert testified that finding DNA on Caylee's bad decomposed remains was highly unlikely and that just because there was no presence of blood does not mean that a crime did not occur.
"The likelihood of obtaining a DNA result does start to diminish as the body starts to decompose," she said.
Baez called crime scene investigator Gerardo Bloise as his first witness. Bloise discussed blood testing done on the car of Tony Lazzaro, Anthony's one-time boyfriend. Lazzaro's car did not test positive for the presence of blood.
Explosive Question by Defense at Casey Anthony Murder Trial
Jurors also looked at photos of Casey Anthony's bedrooms and pictures of clothes from her closet that were taken by Bloise and later tested by the FBI lab.
A pair of size 5 charcoal gray pants that were worn by Anthony on June 16, 2008, the day the defense claims Caylee accidentally drowned in the family pool, did not test positive for blood.
Upon cross-examination, Bloise acknowledged that Cindy Anthony, Casey Anthony's mother, had washed the pants between June 16, 2008 and the day they were collected by Bloise.
The largely technical grillling came a day after Casey Anthony's father angrily issued a statement against the tactics of his daughter's legal team. In the statement, George Anthony's lawyer referred to his daughter as "the Defendant Casey Anthony," and insisted he had nothing to do with her actions "established by the State of Florida in the presentation of their case."
What prompted George Anthony to publicly break with his daughter during her Florida murder trial was an attempt by her lawyers to introduce a surprise witness to their list of people who will take the stand.
The witness list included Vasco Degama Thompson, an ex-convict who served time for kidnapping, ABC affiliate WFTV reported. The defense alleges that Thompson had phone conversations with George Anthony on July 14, just days before Caylee was reported missing, according to a statement issued by George Anthony's lawyer.
The reason for having Thompson as a witness was not explained by the defense, but it prompted an angry statement by George Anthony's lawyer Mark Lippman in which he denied his client ever knew or spoke with Thompson.
"This simply appears to be another attempt by the defense to attack my client," Lippman's statement said.
"Mr. Anthony has and will continue to maintain the position that he had nothing to do with the death of Caylee Marie Anthony or any of the events that occurred afterword regarding the actions of the Defendant Casey Anthony established by the State of Florida in the presentation of their case," the statement read.
The harsh language and the family split came a day after Casey Anthony's mother Cindy left the witness stand and mouthed the words "I love you" to her daughter across the courtroom. Casey Anthony looked away and rolled her eyes.