Day 17: Hairs, duct tape analyzed by investigators

By Nikki Namdar
Special to Valencia Voice

The state may wrap up their presentation tomorrow, noon on Wednesday at the latest.

“We have anticipated the defense start on Thursday. So far, we are ahead of schedule,” Judge Belvin Perry, Jr., explained to the courtroom on Monday, as he called the court to recess at 12 p.m. Court will return from recess Tuesday at 1 p.m. when the prosecution’s next, and perhaps, last witness, will take the stand.

FBI forensic experts Stephen Shaw and Elizabeth Fontaine gave testimony on Monday. They analyzed hairs found in the trunk of the vehicle belonging to Casey Anthony and the strands found at the crime scene, the woods on Suburban Dr. in Orlando, where Anthony is accused of dumping her 2-year-old’s body after she allegedly murdering her.

Shaw, FBI’s fiber examiner of six years, testified as an expert witness in fiber identification. “I examined the hairs from the hair mass microscopically,” Shaw said, explaining the process, then added that the hairs found in the car’s trunk showed that the person it belonged to was in the later stage of decomposition.

He said although it is consistent with hairs from decomposition, there’s no way to know for sure, because it cannot be said that signs of post-mortem banding in hairs only comes from the deceased. He experimented by placing hairs not from decomposition in a trunk, but did not get the same results.

Jose Baez asked Shaw if environmental effects can influence false identification
“Only without proper training,” Shaw said. “There is that possibility.”

Fontaine has been a physical and forensic scientist with the FBI for over four years. Her job was to examine fingerprints and compare them to FBI’s fingerprint database.

She told Ashton and the jury that there were no latent fingerprints on any of the items investigated, but there was something else she discovered in relation to the tape.

“An outline of a heart appeared on one of the corners of the duct tape,” she said.

She said that at that time she did not think of it as being important, but notated it anyway and informed the proper people. But she did a second thorough examination, explaining the step-by-step search for fingerprints, and concluded: “At that time, it was no longer visible on the duct tape.”

Susan Constantine, body language expert and jury consultant said this witness’ testimony is beneficial to the defense. At the time Fontaine said no fingerprints were found and the imprint of the heart vanished, seven of the jurors were seen taking notes.

“Right when the expert said there were no fingerprints on the duct tape, they all noted that,” Constantine explained. “They are putting the forensic evidence together into a story.”

That story will help the 12 jurors who have to vote determine if Anthony will face the death penalty or be acquitted for the alleged murder of her little girl three years ago.