Jeff Ashton, Cheney Mason, Matthew Bartlett: Monkey See, Monkey Do

A few days ago, during the Casey Anthony murder trial, a young man decided to extend and display his middle finger, aiming it at the back of Laughing Man Jeff Ashton’s head. The bird-flipper, Matthew Bartlett, was promptly brought before Judge Belvin Perry. After a brief bit of questioning Judge Perry learned that Barlett worked as a restaurant server who earned less than $15,000 annually and had basically no money to speak of in the bank.

Judge Perry found Bartlett to be in contempt of court and sentenced the waiter to 6 days in jail along with a hefty fine of $400 plus court costs. Bartlett was then hauled away in handcuffs to begin serving his time. Barlett filed a motion for a stay of sentencing and asked to remain free on bond until the appeal could be heard. Judge Perry promptly denied the stay and bond request. After all, the rules against making gestures and facial expressions were clearly posted outside the courtroom. So away to jail he went. I suppose the judge wanted to show that disobeying the court’s rules simply would not be tolerated.

But, as we all know by now, there was a different set of rules for the common folk and the attorneys involved in the case. (Ashton’s facial expressions and rude laughter weren’t as bad as this kid’s one-finger salute)?

Remember, Judge Perry decided there’d be no punishment for Ashton’s appalling behavior.

And just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse in the circus known as the Casey Anthony trial, defense attorney Cheney Mason decided to offer the media and fans of the prosecution a salute of his own…

You know, I remember the day when officers of the court were grown-ups and professionals, not little boys who play dress up in daddy’s clothes while literally holding someone’s life in their hands.

Now I see why Matthew Bartlett thought it was okay to give Ashton the finger. He saw the other boys playing in the sandbox and climbed in to join the fun.

Never mind that Caylee Anthony’s body had decomposed in a filthy, murky swamp on the side of the road where snakes slithered and blue collar meter readers stopped to relieve themselves in the very water where she lay.

Never mind that you bird-flipping laughing men. Never mind.

Sickening behavior. Simply sickening…

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Casey Anthony: Who’s Laughing Now, “Laughing Guy?”

I followed the Casey Anthony trial rather closely and I must admit that I sometimes found my support flip-flopping at various times between the prosecution and defense. I pulled for the prosecution when Jeff Ashton spouted scientific mumbo-jumbo as expertly as a chief science officer or CEO of a biotech company. And I nearly applauded while Jose Baez chewed up George Anthony like a hound dog gnawing on a ham bone (Get it? Hound dog…George Anthony…oh, well…).

But it didn’t take long to see the lug nuts begin to fall off the wheels of this car. Nope, not long at all. And when they did Casey Anthony bailed out. And now she’ll soon be free to roam about the country.

Me? Well, I waited and watched for the hard evidence to be introduced. Yep, I was drooling, waiting for the good stuff. You know, stuff like DNA, fingerprints, a witness, something written by the defendant, trace evidence, impression evidence, a statement, a fingernail, bloodstains…well, you get the picture. The stuff that would nail a baby-killer to the wall. Heck, even circumstantial cases like the Scott Peterson case have a little evidence show up in court now and then. But not this case. Nope, the proof was just not there. Not even close.

Oh, there was there was plenty of stuff, just not good, solid evidence. And what a shame, because somewhere, lost in all the back-biting, name-calling, running around, lying, cheating, stealing, grandstanding and showboating, was a tiny, beautiful, little girl who died. And rarely did anyone in this case seem to think about her. No, it was all about ME, ME, ME.

Actually, this car started its journey with only three wheels in place, because the police left the right rear tire in the garage when the first-responding deputy failed to listen to Roy Kronk when he first reported his finding of the skull. Sure, we all know that deputies wear shiny, brown shoes and the sheriff will definitely fuss if those shoes are dirty, but to not walk into the woods when you KNOW you’re just a few blocks from the “Anthony House…” Yeah, that Anthony house… There’s more, but we’ll get to that later.

Then comes the prosecution’s case. Jeff Ashton was definitely the wizard behind the curtain for most of the trial. His science was spot on and he’d done his homework. He’d studied the evidence (what little he had) and he was ready for court. Hell, he was ready to take on the world. BUT…no matter how well-prepared and how knowledgeable Jeff Ashton was at the time of trial, he just may have blown the entire case in a matter of seconds by doing something that more than likely angered the jury. Sure, juries are supposed to render a verdict based on facts, but sometimes it happens…an attorney does something so despicable that those twelve human beings switch sides in mid stream. And that just may have happened in this case.

You see, while Jose Baez was delivering a pretty powerful and compelling closing argument, prosecutor Jeff Ashton was busy laughing like a teenage boy who’d just passed gas in a room full of his friends. And Jose Baez, obviously tired of Ashton’s childish behavior, pointed him out in open court by calling him, “This laughing guy right here.”

Juries don’t miss that sort of thing, especially when a child has been killed and her mother is on trial for the murder. And, the sitting jury is in the position of sending the defendant to the execution chamber. Nope, that’s not exactly a laughing matter. So, shame on Mr. Ashton for doing so.

It’s certainly easy to play Monday morning quarterback, saying what the police and prosecution should and shouldn’t have done to win this case. And there are many theories floating around about what went wrong (other than the “laughing man” theory), but to be fair to the police officers who spent countless hours collecting evidence, etc., we won’t go there. In fact, we weren’t there so we CAN”T go there.

What I will say is this…I like to work a case in a specific style. I like to list all my suspects and then begin the process of eliminating everyone who could not possibly be the killer. Then, as the innocent people begin to dwindle away you’re only left with one person…The Murderer.


Sometimes, though, tunnelvision rears its ugly head and investigators focus all their attention on what they think is the obvious solution to a particular case.

Remember, what looks like a duck may not be a duck, even if it’s quacking. Detectives should ALWAYS take a moment to look at the big picture.

After all, sometimes there’s an entire family of ducks waiting to cross the road.

– In case you’re wondering, I did call this one early on. I told my wife prior to closing arguments that Casey would be found not guilty on all counts with the exception of lying to police. Laughing Guy cemented my prediction during the closing arguments.

* By the way, word is out that Prosecutor Jeff Ashton will be retiring this Friday. Coincidence?

Casey Anthony cries after receiving the news that she’s been found not guilty of murdering her daughter, Caylee.

Caylee Anthony

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Sheila Lowe: The Anthony’s — The Secrets In Their Handwriting

The Defense has rested, and by the time this blog is posted, chances are, the Casey Anthony murder case will have gone to the jury. It’s been some time since a trial has created such intense public interest—maybe not since OJ Simpson. There are allegations of murder, sexual abuse, illicit romance; a veritable soap opera. In fact, it’s been said that if an enterprising author came up with a similar story it would never sell—it’s just too over the top to believe.

At the center of the circus is Casey Anthony, now 25, a young woman who has been proven to be an inveterate liar, accused of the most heinous crime—overdosing her 2 year old daughter with chloroform and leaving her body to rot in a wooded area where men go to relieve themselves and dump garbage.

Part of Casey’s defense has been that she was the victim of childhood sexual abuse by her father George and her brother Lee, which, her attorney claims, was covered up and taught her to live a lie. As a forensic handwriting examiner, I was interested to analyze samples of the major players in this drama, to see what could be revealed about their personalities.

Handwriting is not a crystal ball. It cannot determine whether Casey killed her young daughter, nor whether her father and/or her brother molested her. However, it does reveal a lot about behavior and motivations. If I had been unaware of the accusations, the signs of early sexual abuse were evident in her handwriting. That is, Casey’s handwriting is similar in many ways to the handwritings of other women who were the victims of childhood abuse.

The excessively large, overly rounded, crowded style are signs of a weak ego in someone who grew up believing that the world revolved around her. Never learning how to set proper boundaries gave her an unrealistic view of the way things work. There isn’t enough “air” in the writing, words are crammed up against each other, allowing for zero objectivity. There’s an inability to set boundaries between herself and others. As someone who sees only how things affect her, she fails to look at the big picture.

The lack of lower loops are an indicator for secrecy and denial, in that her desire and ability to look back at the past and learn from it are cut off. Her personal pronoun “I” is made like a stick figure, which is interesting in that the PPI represents the writer’s feelings about their parents. Generally speaking, we’re taught in school to make the I with an upper loop (feelings about mother) and a lower loop (feelings about father). When a writer cuts off the loops and makes a straight stroke, a bid for independence, pushing away the parents.

Casey’s handwriting has a very slight leftward slant and is “print-script,” a combination of printing and cursive. There’s a big conflict between her big emotions and her cool-heatedness, so she can be both highly impulsive and premeditated, depending on her mood of the moment—and because she doesn’t plan ahead, her life is lived in the moment.

Her signature is illegible, another form of covering up. She crosses through her last name—her father’s name—which is a way of denying him.

Turning to George Anthony’s handwriting, he has two styles (only the cursive is shown here). As a former police officer, he sometimes uses block printing, but he also writes in cursive.

His cursive style has a rather feminine appearance (gender is not conclusively revealed in handwriting), and the writing is very regular, with strong rhythm. Handwriting analysts look at contraction and release, which indicates how balanced the writer is in the way they express emotion and control emotion. George’s writing is strongly contracted, meaning that he holds everything inside, where it builds up until it explodes (which we have seen on the witness stand). This type of writing also say that image is extremely important to him. For anyone to see him as less than perfect and totally competent produces feelings of intense humiliation. People with this type of handwriting are usually willing to go to some lengths to keep up appearances.

Casey’s brother, Lee Anthony’s, handwriting slants in a variety of directions. The baseline, even though he’s writing on lined paper, bounces up and down, too. And the size of writing fluctuates.

All this variability points to tremendous inner conflict, emotional torment—and of course, with good reason in this case. It’s more than that, though. People who write like Lee tend to feel as if they didn’t get the nurturing they needed early in life. He’s very sensitive, quite different from his sister, who is about as sensitive as a rock. He may feel as if he never quite fit in, that he’s missing something that everyone else seems to have. He’s also impatient and can be quite critical and sharp-tongued—notice the i dots that look like dashes. Because he feels emotionally isolated, it’s probably hard for him to relate to others on their level, but of these three people, I would tend to believe what Lee says more than any of the others.

What about Jesse Grund, a former boyfriend of Casey’s? Surprisingly, perhaps, Jesse’s handwriting shows a reasonable overall balance.

There are no big red flags that stand out—maybe that’s why they broke up. He looks like a nice guy, and she needed someone who would feed her insatiable need for approval and attention that bordered on worship, but also someone who would abuse her, speaking to her inner fear that she’s not loveable.

Finally, let’s take a peek at Casey’s mother, Cindy Anthony.

Cindy’s handwriting says she’s what we might call a “good girl.” She wants to do the right thing, to keep things orderly and take care of the people she loves. After all, she’s the one who got this ball rolling by calling 911 and reporting little Caylee missing. Underneath the good girl, though, is a rebel that defiantly pops out every now and then—we see this in letters that suddenly grow large, such as the “k” in “know,” and the “s” at the end of “always.” Her signature is particularly interesting, with its little bow tie on the top of the “o” in “Mom.” Because of the area in which it appears, it could be interpreted as symbolically locking her lips and keeping her own secrets. And keeping secrets is something this family seems to be very good at.

Sheila Lowe is a forensic handwriting examiner who testifies in cases involving handwriting. She is the author of the Forensic Handwriting Mysteries ( and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Handwriting Analysis. Sheila also helped to produce the Handwriting Analyzer software—try it out free at For more information about handwriting analysis, visit her website:


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George Anthony: Loving Grandfather, or Lying, Cheating, Child Molester?

Defense Attorney Jose Baez went for the gold yesterday, asking George Anthony if he’d ever molested his daughter Casey. Of course, Mr. Anthony denied the allegation. Then Baez asked if he’d admit to the horrible act if he did indeed commit it, and he added the fact that life in prison would be motivation for not admitting to the unspeakable act. Again, Anthony denied the allegation.

During this line of questioning, Casey Anthony’s image was also displayed onscreen. When Baez asked Casey’s father the question regarding molesting her, and he denied it, Casey shook her head slowly from side to side and tears filled her eyes. Now, it’s unusual to see Casey Anthony display her emotions. So this, to me as a former police investigator who relied heavily on reading body language, was important. George Anthony’s denial clearly struck a nerve with his daughter.

Obviously, I’m can’t and won’t say this event(s) occurred during Casey’s childhood, but Mr. Anthony clearly displays signs of guilt about something. What that guilt is about we may never know.

So what do we know about the father of accused murderer Casey Anthony?

1. The defense has accused him of discovering his granddaughter’s lifeless body in a swimming pool and then covering up that death. To do so, he’d have had to physically place the child’s body inside three bags and coldly discard her in the woods like yesterday’s garbage. Keep in mind, though, that someone, if not Mr. Anthony, actually was heartless enough to do just that.

2. George Anthony is a former police officer, someone trained to recognize details of crimes and crime scenes. He’s also testified that he knows the smell of death from his experience as a police officer. If the defense’s drowning theory is true, why would Mr. Anthony not attempt to revive his granddaughter? After all, police officers are trained as first responders and they’re all certified in CPR.

3. The accusations are out there that Mr. Anthony had an affair with River Cruz/Krystal Holloway. In fact, Jose Baez asked Mr. Anthony if he’s ever been intimate with Cruz. Anthony’s response was no, and that he thought the notion was funny. But, Mr. Anthony doesn’t deny, well, he can’t deny that he’d been to Cruz’s home on several occasions to “console” her. And these visits were without the presence of Mrs. Anthony. All during the time the family should have been focusing on locating their granddaughter. Mr. Anthony was a trained police officer, right? Perhaps he should have put those skills to work instead of “consoling” Cruz behind his wife’s back.

Also, Cruz says that Mr. Anthony told her that Caylee’s death was an accident that snowballed out of control. Normally, this would be a very damaging statement when introduced. However, Ms. Cruz seems to have quite the reputation as someone who’s less than truthful.

4. Anthony purchased some beer and went to a hotel room. He says it was his intent to commit suicide by drinking the beer and taking some prescription medication. Prior to doing whatever it was he maybe intended to do, Anthony called several members of his family and texted others of his intention. Soon after, police found Anthony at the Hawaii Motel in Daytona Beach. They knocked on the door, which Mr. Anthony opened, and, after speaking with the officers, he walked with them to their police cars. An officer then drove Anthony to the hospital where he was admitted for mandatory observation. Almost immediately after his release from the hospital, Mr. Anthony and his wife flew to California to appear on several TV shows. Upon their return, they were booked into the Ritz Carlton hotel, a stay paid for by media.

5. When Casey Anthony was first allowed out of jail on bond corrections officials met with the family to instruct them on the rules of house arrest, and there are several. For example, there can be no alcohol in the house, including shaving lotion and mouthwash, no drugs, and no weapons. And no weapons means NO GUNS. Any violation of the rules could send Casey back to jail. So what does dear old dad do? Well, he immediately goes out and buys a gun. He claims he was going to use the firearm to threaten people into telling him what happened to his granddaughter. Oddly, the corrections officials show up at the Anthony home a couple of hours after dad bought the gun. And they were there BECAUSE he’d bought the weapon. Pretty fast and coincidental timing, huh? How’d they know so quickly? It’s almost if dad himself tipped them off so they could remove Casey from the home. Not saying that’s what happened, but it’s an extremely bizarre coincidence. But bizarre is a word that goes hand-in-hand with this family.

Well, the defense is about to wrap up their case. Will Casey testify that her father helped dispose of Caylee’s tiny body? I suppose we’ll never know the truth surrounding this family. How could we? Their stories are as squiggly as a bucket of worms.

So what do you think? Is George Anthony a loving grandfather. Or, is he a lying, cheating, child molester?

Caylee Anthony


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Did Cindy Anthony Prove That Blood Is Thicker Than Chloroform?

Just when I thought the Casey Anthony murder trial had hit the top limits of the Bizarrometer, Cindy Anthony’s testimony on Thursday added a new dimension to the amount of weird we’ve seen to date. This case has me wondering what sort of response a writer would receive from an agent or editor if they submitted a tale as wacky as this one. I’m thinking an editor would possibly find the story unbelievable and send it back for revisions, if they didn’t totally reject the book. And that’s exactly what I hope the jury in this case will do, reject most of the nonsense we’ve heard from the defense in this case. But that nonsense might be a stroke of genius. After all, if you throw enough crap against the wall, eventually some of it will stick. And so far, Jose Baez is crap-tossing like a crazed monkey.

Apparently, Cindy Anthony was on some sort of medication in 2009 that conveniently wiped her selective memory clean. Sure, she could remember Casey’s exact movements and words during that time, but was unable to recall, during depositions, that she herself had Googled the word chloroform over 80 times from her home computer. At the time, she’d also Googled terms like chest injury and internal bleeding. But she hadn’t remembered searching for those words either. I’m a little curious, though, why a nurse would need to Google the injury terms. Aren’t those subjects covered in nursing school?

And all this brings us to Cindy’s Thursday testimony, which was a bit of a jaw-dropper. The mom of the accused murderer said that her memory was better now since she switched medication, and that she now clearly recalls using the computer in her home to look up chloroform and those injuries she knew nothing about during her sworn testimony at deposition. And, suddenly, she recalled stains on the carpet in the trunk of Casey’s car. Stains that were already present when they purchased the car. Conveniently, these are the stains examined by experts who testified were caused by human decomposition. Chloroform was also present in that section of carpet.

But remember, class. Dr. Wise testified that chloroform evaporates quite rapidly. Yet, it was the number 1 chemical found in the carpet. And there’s a snowball’s chance in…well, you know where, that chloroform would still be present in that car after all this time (since they purchased it). Nope, the chemical most likely contacted that carpet AFTER the Anthonys bought the car. Why it was there…who knows for sure?

Where Ms. Anthony’s story really begins to bug me is when the prosecution asked how she could have been using her home computer when her work record indicates that she was in her office working, not at home, during the time of the internet searches. The Anthony matriarch blew that one off by saying it was common for her supervisor to fill out her time cards incorrectly. Why does everyone in this family blame others for their actions? Are they all psychopaths? Or, are they each really good actors? OR…is the truth really this convoluted and disorderly?

But, when the rubber hits the road, I sort of blame the judge for this entire mess. He never should have allowed Casey’s parents to sit in the courtroom during the trial. They should have been made to wait outside like all witnesses. Now, they can (I’m not saying they are) sway their story and testimony in a direction that would help their daughter avoid the death penalty and maybe even help set her free. And it would be an easy task since they’ve heard every single bit of evidence presented so far.

I’m really hoping the jury is watching and listening to this display of selective memory. And I hope they’re watching closely, with popcorn, peanuts, and Crackerjacks in hand. Because this is becoming one hell of a circus.

*     *     *

Yes, the posting of this article means there are no officer deaths to report this week. Stay safe, guys. And wear your vests. There’s someone who needs to be tucked in when you get home.





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Casey Anthony’s Lawyer Walks The Labrador

Yesterday’s testimony was all about forensics—touch DNA, botany, chloroform, gas chromatography–mass spectrometry, genetic analyzers, electropherograms, capillaries, alleles, loci, evidence found on a piece of carpet, and more. One by one, Casey Anthony’s defense attorney, Jose Baez, called his team of expert witnesses to the stand. And, one by one, each of them did exactly what the defense did not need to help make their case…they told the truth. In fact, Dr. Wise from the Oakridge Lab seemed more like a witness for the prosecution. And that’s what happens in a trial when you’re working with a defendant whose story, in this case “stories,” is based on a sack of fabrications.

One thing I found particularly interesting was the fact that we’ve blogged about the science experts used to reach their conclusions in this case. Here are the links to a couple of those articles. These should help you understand some of the mumbo-jumbo the legal teams discussed yesterday.

Touch DNA


DNA testing, genetic analyzers, electropheragrams, capillaries, etc.

So what’s your take on the Casey Anthony trial? Did Jose Baez score any points yesterday? Or did his entourage of experts hurt his case by merely telling the truth?

How about the fact that there was no usable DNA found on the duct tape?

Did botanist Jane Bock help or hurt the defense when she testified that, according to leaf litter, the body could have been in the woods for as little as two weeks…or much longer?

What about the new revelation about one of Casey’s dorm mates, April Whelan? She had a 15-month-old son who drowned in his family’s pool and was eventually found by his grandfather. Sound familiar? Will that have an effect on the case now that Casey is saying that’s what really happened to her daughter.

And what about dear old dad? Did he really molest Casey when she was a child? Did he pull little Caylee’s dead body from the swimming pool and then help conceal the death?

Finally, what do you think of Jose Baez? Is he doing a good job? Or, is he breaking every rule he can find to get his points across? What will happen to him after the trial is over? Does he gain the fame he seems to love? Or will he slither under a damp rock and fade out of sight?

So far, well, he’s no Johnnie Cochran.

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