Family Dynamics and the Casey Anthony TrialPosted: June 25, 2011 | |
Since it’s Saturday night on a slow news day, I thought I’d share some of my impressions about Casey Anthony and her family. I’m by no means an expert on this case–I only began following it right after the trial began. I’ll try to briefly summarize the story behind the trial as I understand it, but I’m going to assume that readers have a basic knowledge of the Anthony case.
This case has been covered so extensively in the media for the past three years that it might even outdo the media circus around the O.J. Simpson trial. This is one reason I never read about the case until recently. I thought the public reaction was kind of repulsive and hysterical. But once I started reading about what happened, I was drawn in by the fascinating story and its psychological aspects.
Casey Anthony, 25, is on trial in Orlando, Florida, for first degree murder in the death of her daughter Caylee, who was nearly 3 years old. If convicted, Casey could be sentenced to life in prison or death. She is also charged with second degree murder and aggravated child abuse–both of which carry a life sentence.
The story began when Casey became pregnant at age 19. Casey supposedly did not realize she was pregnant until she was 7 months along. Casey’s mother Cindy, a registered nurse, also claims she never realized her daughter was pregnant until then. Casey’s father George went along with the charade too. Once she faced the fact that she was going to have a baby, Casey told friends she wanted to give the child up for adoption; but Cindy pressured her to keep the child, and provide for both of them. The child, Caylee, was born on August 8, 2005 and the mother and child lived with George and Cindy.
No one knows who the father of the child is. Casey named various men as the father, but none has been identified. The FBI tested the DNA of both George Anthony and Casey’s brother Lee Anthony to find out if either had fathered the child. Both have reportedly been eliminated as the father.
Casey has shown herself to be pathological liar, and I assume that behavior must have started long before the pregnancy. She never informed her parents that she wasn’t going to be able to attend her graduation because she was missing one credit. Cindy arranged a party for the event and only found out at the last minute that Casey wouldn’t be able to participate the ceremony.
For a time, Casey had a job working for a photography business on the lot of Universal Studios Orlando. Sometime in 2005–a few months after her daughter Caylee was born, Casey was fired from her job. Instead of informing her family and friends that she was unemployed, she continued to go out to “work,” while claiming to actually be working for Universal as an events organizer. She wove complex fictions about people she worked with, friends, boyfriends, and a babysitter who didn’t exist.
Casey’s lies were so detailed and complex, that this behavior has frequently been compared to Verbal Kint’s lies about Keyser Soze in the 1995 film The Usual Suspects. She was able to maintain an unruffled facade while lying and thus was very convincing.
Casey’s parents accepted these lies, although–at some level–they must have suspected something was wrong. At some point, Casey began stealing money from her mother by forging her name on checks and running up her credit cards. It appears that Cindy and George didn’t do much about this. I’m guessing they probably yelled and screamed and fumed. Casey says her mother constantly told her she was “an unfit mother.”
On June 15, 2008, Casey and Cindy had a fight, reportedly about Casey stealing money from Cindy and Cindy’s mother and father. Casey abruptly left home, taking Caylee with her. Until that time, Cindy had seen Casey every day of her life. Sometime on June 16, Caylee Anthony died, but the cause and manner of death are still mysterious.
For 31 days, Casey did not return home and put off all her mother’s request to see or talk to Caylee. She often told her parents and friends that Caylee was being cared for by a “nanny,” Zenaida Gonzalez, and now she just continued to tell everyone that Caylee was with the nanny. During these 31 days, Casey’s friends thought she was very happy. She spent her time with boyfriends or in clubs, drinking and dancing. She even got a tattoo on her shoulder that read “Bella Vita,” or beautiful life.
Caylee was not reported missing until July 16. George and Cindy had learned that Casey’s car had been abandoned and towed to an impound lot. When they picked it up, the car smelled of human decomposition–an odor that was familiar to both parents, since Cindy was a nurse and George was a former homicide detective. That’s when Cindy finally took action and located Casey and brought her home.
Casey’s fabrications didn’t work as well with the police, and she was soon arrested for child endangerment. Caylee’s bones, clothes, blanket, and other items were found in a wooded area not far from the Anthony home on December 11, 2008. Caylee’s body had been wrapped in a blanket and put inside two plastic garbage bags. Worst of all, several layers of duct tape had been wrapped around Caylee’s face. Her death was declared a homicide because this apparent attempt to hide the body, but no cause of death could be determined. So what happened?
Casey did computer searches for how to make chloroform, neck breaking, household weapons and other sinister things. Chloroform was found in her car trunk and at the scene where the body was found. In addition, Ketamine (date rape drug) and chloroform were found in the air from the trunk.
The prosecution argues that Casey was using these and maybe other drugs to knock Caylee out when she wanted to go out and have a good time. It’s not clear where she left Caylee on these occasions though. The death happened either by overdose or by asphyxiation from placing duct tape over the child’s nose and mouth. Casey’s was happy and nonchalant for 31 days because she was happy to be rid of the responsibility of caring for a child.
Someone left the ladder on the Anthony’s backyard swimming pool, and Caylee got outside, climbed in and drowned. George found the child and screamed at Casey, saying “your mother will never forgive you! You’ll go to jail for the rest of your life!” George told Casey they should hide the body. It’s not clear why a former homicide detective would put the body in a car truck for 3-4 days, but that’s the defense story.
Casey’s behavior is explained by the fact that she was sexually abused by her father beginning at age 8 and her brother was showing signs of following in his father’s footsteps. Casey learned to lie and obfuscate because of the need to protect family secrets and put on a “normal” face to the world.
The prosecution case against Casey Anthony was well organized and well presented, and thus fascinating to watch. I believe they demonstrated to any reasonable person that no one but Casey could have done the crime.
Since the defense case began, the testimony has been deadly dull. Jose Baez, a third year lawyer with very limited trial experience, called numerous forensic experts, and tried and failed to elicit from them testimony favorable to the defense. Prosecutor Jeff Ashton, who is a bit of a bully, repeatedly destroyed Baez’s efforts.
Starting Thursday, Baez began calling Anthony family members; and the testimony has been absolutely riveting, and has brought together many puzzling aspects of the Anthony family dynamics. On Thursday, Casey’s mother Cindy was called to the stand and she repeatedly lied, apparently in an effort to save her daughter’s life. She claimed that she had made the computer searches for chloroform, and made other efforts to modify her previous statements in depositions.
Yesterday, Casey’s brother testified. There were rumors that the defense would have bombshell testimony today, and it seems pretty clear that Jose Baez expected Lee Anthony to talk about his or his father’s sexual abuse of Casey, but Lee stopped short of revealing what he knew.
Baez took Lee through his observations of Casey’s pregnancy. Lee said that he had first noticed Casey was pregnant late one night when she came out of the bathroom as he was waiting to go in. He said he asked her in so many words, “what is that?” but she blew him off, saying it was nothing. Cindy had told Lee he should stay out of it, so he did. This sounds strange, but knowing how much denial there was in this family, I believe him.
Some time later when Casey picked him up at the airport, she was obviously pregnant, but she still denied it. In talking about this, Lee broke down crying on the stand, and for the first time I also saw Casey cry real tears. Reportedly these two were once extremely close, and what I saw in the courtroom today seems to validate that. Below is video of the end of Lee’s direct testimony. The relevant part ends at around 5:57.
I have seen “experts on TV claiming that Lee faked his crying episode, but to me it looked genuine. A blogger who was present in the courtroom had this to say:
For the first time since the trial began when Baez asked Lee why he didn’t go to the hospital Lee said he was upset and hurt that he’d not been included in the news. Before he answered he looked at Casey and they both broke down in tears. If you were watching, this is not the behaviors of a brother and sister that had sexual abuse in their past. These two were obviously close. Secrets were a family business but I will never believe the abuse unless Lee admits to it on the stand.
The jury was also affected by this tearful testimony and the pain of Lee. You could tell that there is so much more there though and the jury is going to question that. Lee got just outside of the courtroom and had a pretty severe breakdown. He along with George, Cindy and their attorney Lippmann were ushered into a room (I think the State’s) just outside the court until he could regain composure and the crowd leaving the court had passed to go to lunch. It was gut wrenching to see.
Below is a video of some attorneys discussing the events of yesterday.
It’s obvious that Baez expected Lee to talk about sexual abuse. Lee had recently met with Baez to tell him something. At the end of his testimony, Baez and the other two attorneys on his team had a brief discussion, and probably decided they could call Lee back to the stand later and try to get him to come clean.
Frankly, I think it’s quite likely that Casey was sexually abused. Her bizarre and irresponsible behavior did not come out of nowhere. Most commentators have labeled her a sociopath, and that certainly seems possible. But she didn’t get that way without environmental input.
She is the product of a highly dysfunctional home. Her father may have sexually abused her, and her mother is so narcissistic and controlling that I doubt if Casey was ever permitted to have any real ability to develop a separate identity. I’m not in any way trying to minimize what Casey did, just trying to understand it.
In my opinion, Casey killed Caylee in order to punish her mother. Cindy had transferred much of her loving, doting attention from Casey to Caylee. Cindy was the one who took care of Caylee, who bought her clothes and food, and Caylee loved Cindy in return.
While Cindy played the role of Caylee’s doting mom, she lashed out at Casey at times then turned around and lavished her with love. Most of all, she constantly criticized and manipulated Casey in passive aggressive, guilt-inducing ways. Casey felt she could never be good enough to satisfy her mom. So Casey took away the one thing she knew her mother loved. At the same time, in her mind, she “saved” Caylee from coming under Cindy’s influence and control and turning out the same way Casey did.
I think the reason people are so fascinated by this case is because the story behind it is stranger than fiction. It has all the elements of a suspenseful novel that you just can’t put down. There have been innumerable twists and turns in the story, and there are likely more surprises to come.
Today ended in a cliff-hanger. The judge called the attorneys and the defendant into his chambers, leaving the court stenographer outside. After about an hour they emerged and the judge announced there would be no testimony today because of a “legal issue.” It must be something big, because he sealed the discussion that took place in chambers. What happened? Is Casey asking for a plea deal? Did she recant her charges against George and Lee? Will there be a mistrial? Who knows? We’ll have to wait until Monday to find out.