Judge: Casey Anthony is mentally competent


Anthony's attorneys told the judge they did not believe she was competent. They said that assessment was based on their privileged communication with her but did not elaborate in a motion filed Saturday and sealed until the judge ruled Monday.

The motion halted what had been expected to be a full day of testimony Saturday by witnesses. After meeting with attorneys, Judge Belvin Perry told courtroom attorneys and spectators that a "legal matter" had come up that would delay proceedings.

Perry asked for a review of whether Anthony could comprehend the charges against her and the possible penalties, and if she could testify relevantly if called to the stand. Anthony was examined by three psychologists over the weekend. After reading their reports, Perry ruled Monday the trial should continue.

"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, the 29th day of testimony.

In a separate motion, Anthony's attorneys asked the judge to declare a mistrial and select a new jury. The new jurors would not be asked before being selected whether they would be qualified to consider the death penalty.

The attorneys sought the motion based on a ruling by a federal judge 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 afternoon.

Anthony has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and could face the death penalty if convicted of that charge. Her defense attorneys claim her daughter Caylee Anthony accidentally drowned in the family's swimming pool. Defense attorneys also contend that Anthony and her father, George, covered up the accident.

George Anthony has denied any such theory.

Detective Yuri Melich of the Orange County Sheriff's Office was the first witness to take the stand Monday.

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 Roy Kronk's deposition, and that he never asked for Kronk's cell phone records or confiscated his computer. Kronk is the meter reader who found Caylee's body in a wooded lot. Melich said it was not intentional but he had the dates mixed up.

Also testifying for the defense Monday were 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 present in the trash found in 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.

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