ORLANDO, Fla. >> Casey Anthony is competent to remain on trial for murder in the death of her 2-year-old daughter, a judge ruled Monday after examining reports by three psychologists who examined her over the weekend.
Also on the 29th day of testimony, Anthony’s attorneys asked Judge Belvin Perry to declare a mistrial and select a new jury, citing a ruling on Florida’s death penalty.
Attorneys told the judge they did not believe their 25-year-old client is competent, based on privileged discussions with her. They did not elaborate what led them to that conclusion in a motion filed Saturday and sealed until the judge’s ruling.
Perry asked the psychologists to determine whether Anthony could comprehend the charges against her and the possible penalties, and if she could testify relevantly if called to the stand. If convicted on the first-degree murder charge against her, Anthony could face the death penalty.
"Based upon the reports that the court has reviewed, the court will find that the defendant is competent to proceed," Perry said at the start of Monday’s hearing.
Prosecutors have argued that Anthony placed duct tape over Caylee Anthony’s mouth, suffocating the toddler in summer 2008. Her skeletal remains were found in December that year in the woods near her grandparents’ home and much of the forensic evidence produced at the trial has been about what the body revealed.
Defense attorneys claim Caylee Anthony accidentally drowned in the family’s swimming pool and that Anthony and her father, George, covered it up. George Anthony has denied any such theory.
In the motion to dismiss, the defense said the new jurors should not be asked before being selected whether they would be qualified to consider the death penalty.
Attorneys sought the motion based on a federal judge’s ruling in Miami last week. It declared Florida’s death penalty unconstitutional because jurors are not required to say what aggravating factor or factors led them to recommend death.
Judges, though, are required to explain why they impose death sentences. They aren’t required to follow jury recommendations but must give them great weight.
The ruling does not automatically void Florida’s death penalty law. Anthony’s attorneys have asked for a hearing on the motion but it had not been scheduled as of Monday evening.
The first witness to testify Monday was Detective Yuri Melich of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office.
Under questioning from Anthony’s attorney, he conceded that he had never examined George Anthony’s cell phone records and that a cadaver dog never sniffed out cars driven by George Anthony and his wife, Cindy.
Melich also said he had mixed up the dates he gave the jury for when he took the deposition of the meter reader who found the girl’s body. Melich also said he never asked for Roy Kronk’s cell phone records or confiscated his computer. Melich said it was not intentional but he had the dates mixed up.
Also testifying for the defense Monday was Kenneth Furton, a chemistry professor at the International Forensic Research Institute at Florida International University and an expert on chemicals and human decomposition.
Furton told the jury that the same chemicals found in human remains were also in the trash found in Casey Anthony’s trunk. He said fatty acids in Velveeta cheese and salami, both found in the trunk, are identical to the compounds found when a human body decomposes. He also said that chloroform can be found at very high levels in common household cleaners like bleach.
When a prosecutor asked if the chemicals in the trunk could have been caused by anything besides a decomposing body, Furton answered that a similar chemical finding could come from a combination of trash, gasoline and household cleaners.
Defense attorneys also questioned two private investigators who did volunteer work for Casey Anthony’s parents.
In November 2008, James Hoover videotaped Dominic Casey searching an area near where Caylee’s remains were found about a month later. Casey testified that he had received a tip from a psychic that Caylee’s remains were there in the woods near the home she shared with her mother and grandparents.