A question in the Casey Anthony trial was whether the trunk of
the defendant's car smelled of human decomposition. But on Thursday
the judge ruled out any smell test in the jury room.
Shortly after the defense rested on Thursday in the Casey Anthony
murder trial, Chief Judge Belvin Perry was asked to resolve a novel
question - what if jurors during their deliberations want to sniff
preserved air samples taken from the trunk of Ms. Anthony's car.
A central issue in the month-long trial has been whether the foul
smell that permeated Casey Anthony's 1978 Pontiac Sunfire was the
odor of rancid garbage or the stench of death.
Prosecutors say the smell is evidence that Anthony hid the
decomposing body of her two-year-old daughter in the car for several
days before dumping it in the woods near the family home.
Defense lawyers counter that the unpleasant odor is the result of
having left a bag of garbage in the trunk for a few weeks in the hot
The jurors have heard conflicting testimony about the possible
source of the smell.
A scientist at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee
said the molecular composition of the stench in the car was
consistent with chemicals emitted during human decomposition. But a
Florida-based expert in chemical analysis of decomposition told the
jury that the Oak Ridge research was still experimental and not
reliable enough to be used in the criminal justice system.
A dog trained to find dead bodies signaled his handler that there
might be a decomposing body in the trunk of the Sunfire. But the use
of a dog's actions as evidence in a trial is highly unusual,
particularly in a capital murder case, in part because a defendant
has no opportunity to cross examine the dog to make sure the canine
was not mistaken, tired, or distracted.
Lastly, prosecutors invited various experts and others who have
been around dead bodies to take a whiff and render an opinion. But
other witnesses, called by the defense, say the smell could have
come from moldering garbage.
What's a juror to do?
Prosecutors are set to deliver their rebuttal case on Friday,
with closing arguments and jury instructions expected on Saturday.
Deliberations could begin as early as Saturday evening.
Thinking ahead, Assistant State Attorney Jeffrey Ashton raised
the issue on Thursday of what should happen if the jury requests the
opportunity to open and sniff a canned air sample taken from the
trunk of Ms. Anthony's car.
The air samples, used to perform tests at the Oak Ridge
laboratory, are entered as evidence in the case.
"Do you want the jury to open the can in the jury room and smell
it," Judge Perry asked. …