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Week 5: Anthony's defense works to weaken alleged ties to crime

By Cara Hutt, In Session
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Casey Anthony trial: Week 5
  • Judge abruptly calls recess in the Casey Anthony murder trial on Saturday
  • Cindy Anthony testified this week that she searched for "chloroform" on the computer
  • Jurors heard testimony rebutting the state's key forensic evidence
  • Defense says Caylee accidentally drowned in a pool

(CNN) -- Mark Lippman, attorney representing Casey Anthony's parents, told reporters at a press conference this week that his clients just want to know the truth.

"They have no idea what happened," Lippman said Thursday. "They just want both the state (prosecutors) and the defense to do their jobs."

The press conference was held after CNN's Gary Tuchman reported that Lippman told him that Anthony's parents don't think their daughter is innocent, but they also don't want her to receive the death penalty.

Prosecutors allege that Casey Anthony, 25, killed her daughter Caylee in 2008 by rendering her unconscious with chloroform, putting duct tape over her nose and mouth so she would suffocate, or a combination of the two acts. They also allege that Anthony stored the body in the trunk of her car for days, before dumping it in the woods.

Trial delayed over legal issue

Anthony faces seven counts, including first-degree murder, in the death of Caylee, whose remains were discovered in a wooded field in December 2008. If convicted, she could face the death penalty. Anthony pleaded not guilty, and her defense team asserts Caylee accidentally drowned in a pool in June 2008 at the Orange County home that Anthony shared with her parents.

The defense team has argued that Anthony and her father, George Anthony, panicked on discovering the body and covered up her death, though George Anthony has denied that scenario. Caylee was not reported missing to police until July 15, 2008, when Cindy Anthony tracked down her daughter and demanded answers regarding Caylee's whereabouts.

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Cindy Anthony testified on Thursday that she, not Casey, searched for "chloroform" on the Anthony family computer in March of 2008. She said she began by searching "chlorophyll," because she feared her dogs were getting sick from eating plants in the yard.

"Both the dogs would eat the bamboo leaves in the back so I started looking up sources from the back yard that could potentially cause her to be more sleepy," Cindy Anthony said. "I started looking up chloroform -- I mean chlorophyll and then that prompted me to look up chloroform."

Computer experts testifying for the prosecution say someone in the Anthony home made searches for "chloroform," "how to make chloroform," "neck breaking" and "shovel," among other terms. The prosecutors allege the searches prove premeditation and that records prove Anthony is the only one who could have made the searches.

Prosecutor Linda Drane-Burdick questioned Cindy Anthony on her work records, which indicate she was at work during the searches.

"It could have been an error if my supervisor filled out my time card in my absence if it came on a day that our time cards were turned in," Cindy Anthony explained.

Cindy Anthony conceded she does not remember specifically searching for "how to make chloroform," "shovel" or "neck breaking," though she remembers seeing a pop-up, which included the words "neck-breaking." Cindy Anthony also said this testimony does not differ from her 2009 deposition.

"I remember looking up chlorophyll back in March of last year, and I am not sure if I looked up chloroform as well," she said in the deposition. "I looked up alcohol and several other things like that -- like ethyl alcohol and peroxide, too."

On Friday, Cindy Anthony also testified that she came home to find her pool ladder was up on July 16, 2008, the day the defense alleges Caylee drowned. Cindy Anthony tearfully recounted how she would swim frequently with her granddaughter and that the 2-year-old required minimal assistance to get in the pool.

"My hands are on her but not firmly, just like a light touch," Cindy Anthony said as she tearfully referred to a picture of her helping Caylee into the pool. "Even at that point she could climb into the pool by herself."

Cindy Anthony acknowledged during cross examination that she initially said the incident with the ladder could have been on June 17 or subsequent dates.

Lee Anthony's emotional testimony

Also on Friday, Lee Anthony, Casey's brother, provided tearful testimony for the defense. He said when he first noticed Anthony's pregnancy, he confronted her and Cindy Anthony but was brushed off.

Lee Anthony cried on the stand as he acknowledged that he "regrettably" did not go to visit Anthony in the hospital when Caylee was born.

"I was very angry at my mom, and I was also angry at my sister," Lee Anthony said as he began to break down. "I was just angry...that they didn't want to include me and didn't find it important enough to tell me especially after I'd already asked."

During cross examination, prosecutor Jeff Ashton questioned Lee Anthony's emotional testimony, noting he was not emotional during his 2009 deposition, which covered the same topics. Ashton also noted Lee Anthony's unwillingness to meet with prosecutors before testifying.

Ashton asked him why he ultimately chose to contact defense attorney Jose Baez and meet with the defense instead.

"The last time I was in court," Lee Anthony said, referring to his June 1 testimony, "I was present during a discussion where information came out that I thought it was important for Jose specifically to be made aware of...I took it upon myself to do that."

Lee Anthony did not say what the information was but confirmed it has not been brought into the case thus far. Lee Anthony's testimony supports the defense's allegations that the Anthony family was dysfunctional and secretive, which Baez says drove Anthony to lie about Caylee's death.

Lee Anthony and Cindy Anthony also testified this week that Anthony's Pontiac Sunfire, which the family bought used, had numerous stains in the trunk when it was purchased. The prosecution alleges the stains indicate a body could have been in the trunk.

Loosening ties with forensic evidence

This week, jurors also heard testimony rebutting the state's key forensic evidence. On Monday, botanist Jane Bock testified that leaf debris found in and on the defendant's Pontiac Sunfire was not consistent with the leaves at the place where the body was found. She also testified to the defense's theory that the body had been moved, saying it could have been at the spot where it was found for as little as two weeks. She said during cross examination that it could have been there much longer.

Wednesday brought four scientific experts, including FBI forensic examiner Maureen Bottrell. She said she was unable to match soil from Anthony's shoes with soil from the scene where the remains were recovered. She could not say whether soil could have been present on the shoes at an earlier time.

FBI forensic chemist Madeline Montgomery also testified Wednesday. She tested the hair mass found with Caylee's remains for depressants, including Xanax and Klonopin, sometimes referred to as a "date rape" drug. The results were negative for those drugs, but she was unable to test for chloroform.

Michael Sigman, a chemist who helped take air samples from the trunk of the defendant's car, testified Wednesday that he cannot conclusively say if decomposition had occurred inside Anthony's trunk. This contradicts the prosecution's forensic expert, Dr. Arpad Vass, who testified that there was likely a decomposing body in the car.

Karen Lowe, a FBI hair and fiber analyst, testified Wednesday that the duct tape found with the remains was dissimilar to a piece of duct tape coming from the Anthony house.

Court came to an abrupt end on Saturday after the defense and prosecution argued about forensic witness Kenneth Furton. Furton was expected to testify about decompositional odors. Judge Belvin Perry called attorneys into his chamber for a conference, then announced a recess until Monday morning. However Perry indicated that the recess was unrelated to Furton.

Prior to Saturday's early recess, Perry anticipated the jury could have the case as early as next Friday evening with the defense resting on Wednesday. The judge has not offered an updated timeline.

In Session's senior field producer Michael Christian contributed to this report.