CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Monday, October 20, 2008

Experts: Fla. conviction possible without toddler's body

Anthonyx  Prosecutors have DNA tests and hair samples. They have testimony about "the smell of death" in the trunk of the suspect's car.

What they do not have is a body.

Prosecutors building a case against a single 22-year-old Florida mother accused of killing her young daughter will have to rely on forensic evidence and convince a jury that Casey Anthony lacks credibility and had a motive, legal experts say.

To help build the case, the prosecutor will be using what he described as cutting-edge forensic tests, including air testing for compounds released when a body decomposes.

Prosecutors have not been specific about how the evidence led to charges against Anthony, but experts say it is possible to get a conviction without a body, with several cases, including some in Florida, as examples.

"Sometimes circumstantial evidence is as powerful, or more powerful than the body itself," said Donald Jones, a professor of criminal law at the University of Miami law school.

Since 3-year-old Caylee Anthony's disappearance was reported in July, investigators have taken air samples from her mother's car trunk and tested for the presence of her DNA. Hair samples also have been analyzed. The FBI and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory at the University of Tennessee performed the tests.

"The investigation contains intricate forensics that are on the cutting edge of science," said Lawson Lamar, State Attorney in Orange County.

It's not known how the forensics will play in court or for a jury. [Mark Godsey]

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