Commentary on the Casey Anthony Computer Forensic Examination Oversight

By Jason Glass:  High-profile legal cases that capture the attention of the United States often bring to light just how difficult trials can be – and how complex. While even the most sensitive cases involving murder and other horrible events rapidly garner a side-show like treatment by the mass media, those in the legal field will often see just how ridiculous those judges and lawyers involved can be.

Now, while the general population might miss some of the more complex legal jargon or intricacies of law, what is really fun to watch is what the lawyers and judges involved in the cases miss. In maybe the biggest “c’mon man” moment of the year, new reports indicate that the infamous Casey Anthony trial out of Florida might have had an even more controversial outcome than previously believed.

Negligence doesn’t even come close:

In a story that almost seems too absurd to believe, Mashable reported that law enforcement officials did not catch that Casey Anthony’s computer history had an internet search for “fool proof suffocation methods.” Yes, in a trial that involved allegations of the young woman killing her 2-year-old daughter, police officers did not uncover this incredibly incriminating piece of evidence. Citing stories from The Associated Press and WKMG, an Orlando news channel, Mashable explained that the search was conducted using a Mozilla web browser, which law enforcement did not check.

A sound forensic technique would be to search and determine all installed browsers on the custodian’s device.  By performing the application search prior, the forensic examiner will be able to ensure that the forensic software tools they are using for the examination can perform proper searches across the evidence.  Another sound forensic technique is to quality control your search criteria for miss-spellings as well as making sure your search terms are not too constrained to ensure that all variants of a given term can be captured.  What it comes down to doing is doing it right the first time and having competent tools and competent professionals.  Had this evidence been found and not simply overlooked by Florida’s finest, we likely we would have some closure on this matter.

Examination tools aside, what?

And there’s one more, tiny detail. The defendant and her attorney’s knew of the search term before the trial! Mashable noted that Anthony’s lead attorney, Jose Baez, spoke about the search term in his book! He said that it was in fact Anthony’s father who conducted the search because he wanted to know how to kill himself. Yes, that would make this family quite complete, as Anthony’s mother took responsibility for a search that was discovered by prosecutors for methods of making chloroform. The defendant’s mom said it was a typo, and that she was looking for ways to make chlorophyll.

How perfect can this be? A father searching for ways to kill himself and immediately thinks suffocation? A mother erroneously searching for ways to make chloroform, but really meant to search for ways to make something everyone knows occurs naturally in plants and cannot be made by humans!

Regardless of speculation, the fact remains that law enforcement officials need to either truly become more proficient with forensic software and other electronic examination tools, or have the courage and smarts to hire a firm that can do it right the first time.

In the words of those fun-loving NFL anchors, C’MON MAN!