Friday saw the long awaited release of the forensic evidence found by the FBI and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in mother Casey Anthony’s car. Certainly there was no new news, the vast majority of the findings were leaked to the press weeks ago.

What caught my attention was not what was said, but the manner in which it was said. The English language is full of nuances and subtleties that put spin on what is being said. In some ways you can compare it to the glass half full, or glass half empty situation, optimism versus pessimism. Note the very subtle difference between the following two phrases “is consistent with” and “is not inconsistent with”. At first sight these phrases have the same meaning, but they don’t, the first one is the upbeat optimistic and positive phrase, the second is the double negative pessimistic version.

So what did the prosecutors say yesterday?

About the hair found in the car trunk –

“This hair is microscopically similar to the Caucasian head hair recovered from the q15 hairbrush, however a more meaningful conclusion can not be reached as this is not a suitable known hair sample.”

“Therefore, neither Casey Anthony nor Caylee Marie Anthony can be excluded as the source of the Q12.1 hair.”

About the hair sample on the shovel –

“Therefore, both Casey Anthony and Caylee Marie Anthony can be excluded as the source od the Q46.2 hair.”

About the odor analysis –

“It is important to note that gasoline was found in the vehicle trunk which presented a significant chromatographic signal and overlapped with approximately 41% of the chemicals typically observed in decompositional events.”

“….indicates that a portion of the total odor signature identified in the Florida vehicle is consistent with a decompositional event that could be of human origin.

Note the use of the words ‘could be’ rather than ‘is’.

“These results still do not rule out the remote possibility that an unusual variety of products or materials (not present at the time of vehicle discovery) may have had some contribution to the overall chemical signature.”

A seasoned trial lawyer will make mincemeat out of these reports in a courtroom. Jose Baez et al must be rubbing their hands with glee! For the prosecutors to make a murder one wrap stick they better have an ace or two up their sleeve. While few of us doubt her guilt, this evidence doesn’t stand a cat in hells chance of getting a conviction. Juries are notorious for disliking cutting edge scientific methodology, the evidence becomes an acronym soup of mumbo jumbo far beyond high school biology classes. When you combine that with the scientists own disclaimers it is no wonder that often scientific evidence becomes a hindrance rather than an asset in obtaining a conviction.

All quotes taken directly from the released documents, they are available here.

Simon Barrett

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