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Behind the acquittal of Casey Anthony was a defense team of Florida attorneys initially pegged as the underdogs. Yet following a sensational trial, a jury on July 5 found Anthony not guilty of the murder of her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee. The jurors convicted on four misdemeanor counts of lying to law enforcement officers. The trial featured testimony regarding the accused’s behavior after Caylee went missing in 2008 — including frequenting bars, going shopping and getting a tattoo. Among the defense team was Ocala attorney Dorothy Clay Sims, who specializes in representing individuals in Social Security cases and has written a book on the direct and cross-examination of defense medical experts. The National Law Journal spoke with Sims about the case and the fallout from the verdict. Her answers have been edited for length and clarity. National Law Journal: How did you get involved in the defense team and what was your role at trial? Dorothy Clay Sims: I was giving a speech to attorneys on how doctors can misrepresent the evidence and conclusions in March of last year, and Cheney Mason [one of Anthony's lead defense attorneys] came up to me afterward and handed me his card. I had been told there was a possibility that someone from the Casey Anthony defense team might be in the audience, but I really didn’t give it two thoughts. My passion is forensics — investigating the expert witnesses, cross-examining them and finding holes in their testimony. That is why I was brought onto the team. We do deep background research on expert witnesses to find out if there’s information in their background that is inconsistent with their testimony at trial or depositions. NLJ: What do you think was the most important strategy decision the defense team made at trial? DCS: I don’t think there is a single strategy decision that stands out. I think that we presented multiple law enforcement officers. They were our witnesses in the case, which is pretty unusual. I think some of the experts that were retained by the state went too far in their forensics. I think the jury had issues with that. I cross-examined a botanical expert who had written a report that it was his opinion that the child’s remains were in the location in which they were found for somewhere between four to six months, based on the diameter of root growth. That sounds impressive until you read his book, which says you should trace the roots all the way back to their beginning. In this case, he didn’t even identify the plant, nor did he follow the advice in his book and trace the roots back. The plants had already been removed and destroyed by the time he got to the scene. It wasn’t his fault, but how can you possibly render an opinion about a plant you can’t even identify? There was a lot of research that was done about the decompositional odor and the claim that there was chloroform found in the trunk [of Anthony's car]. Well, they took a junkyard car and they found chloroform in that trunk, too. It was kind of an inconvenient fact. There were so many areas of incomplete and inconsistent science. If you are going to present information like that to the jury, it needs to be done in an evenhanded manner. I think going too far, using science that has never been proven and not relying on a research lab, all played a part in the jury’s response. NLJ: When it comes to expert testimony, which can be very detailed and tedious, how did you make that accessible and compelling to jurors? DCS: I think breaking things down more simply was the key. There was a moment when [defense attorney] José Baez discussed with the jury the fact that one of the state’s witnesses used a coat hanger as a divining rod. I believe that was very telling. The [defense] grief expert who testified, instead of asking her technical questions, she simply testified that she had 40,000 hours in which she researched and assisted people in areas having to do with grief. She testified about grief reactions and she gave very real, concrete examples. This jury, in my opinion, was amazing. They were brave. They were bright. They were taking notes, because this was extremely technical. Presenting this information to them in a form that makes sense and is logical was what was done in this case. NLJ: You were often photographed supporting and talking to Casey Anthony. Some people described you as the good cop to José Baez’ bad cop. I also saw you described as motherly. Was that done intentionally as a way to humanize your client in the eyes of the jury? DCS: It wasn’t an action, it was a reaction. My family has always taken on unpopular causes. My grandfather represented coal miners during times in which lawyers and coal miners were killed. He was knocked unconscious with the butt of a gun by a judge in the middle of a trial. Taking on unpopular causes is not strange to me or my family. My behavior at trial was not at all planned in any way, shape or form. It was just a reaction to the pain I was feeling from the person next to me. NLJ: I keep reading about a public backlash against the jurors and verdict in the case. Is that something you have personally experienced? DCS: I’m outraged at the way the jury has been treated. This is just outrageous. These jurors, who sit there day in and day out, didn’t ask to do this. In fact, lawyers sometimes talk about stealth jurors — people who want to sit on a jury because they have an agenda. I didn’t get the sense that there was anyone like that on this jury. I think they really meant it when they said that if they were chosen, they would do their public duty. These poor people were taken away from their homes for weeks and weeks and had to sit through long days of technical testimony and emotional testimony. The idea that they are attacked for their verdict is offensive to me. I think part of the problem is that there were only portions of my client’s life that were in the media. There were a number of things that appeared in the media that were incorrect and inflammatory. We were told there was a bounty on the defense team to try to get us in the most compromising photographs as possible. We were told that there was money to be paid [by elements of the news media] if someone could pick a fight. This kind of behavior is outrageous. My hope would be that as time passes, there would be compassion for the jurors, that there would be compassion for everyone involved in this case. That my client would be left alone and her privacy respected. And that people would, perhaps, consider that they didn’t know everything, and there are other facts and information that can explain questions they may have. My hope is that compassion will take over instead of this mob mentality that’s really frightening. Karen Sloan can be contacted at [email protected] .

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