Expert says assertion that Anthony conducted extensive searches for ‘chloroform’ was based on bad computer data
Assertions by the prosecution that Casey Anthony conducted extensive computer searches on the word “chloroform” were based on inaccurate data, a software designer who testified at the trial said Monday.
The designer, John Bradley, said Ms. Anthony had visited what the prosecution said was a crucial Web site only once, not 84 times, as prosecutors had asserted. He came to that conclusion after redesigning his software, and immediately alerted prosecutors and the police about the mistake, he said.
The finding of 84 visits was used repeatedly during the trial to suggest that Ms. Anthony had planned to murder her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee, who was found dead in 2008. Ms. Anthony, who could have faced the death penalty, was acquitted of the killing on July 5.
According to Mr. Bradley, chief software developer of CacheBack, used by the police to verify the computer searches, the term “chloroform” was searched once through Google. The Google search then led to a Web site, sci-spot.com, that was visited only once, Mr. Bradley added. The Web site offered information on the use of chloroform in the 1800s.
The Orange County Sheriff’s Office had used the software to validate its finding that Ms. Anthony had searched for information about chloroform 84 times, a conclusion that Mr. Bradley says turned out to be wrong. Mr. Bradley said he immediately alerted a prosecutor, Linda Drane Burdick, and Sgt. Kevin Stenger of the Sheriff’s Office in late June through e-mail and by telephone to tell them of his new findings. Mr. Bradley said he conducted a second analysis after discovering discrepancies that were never brought to his attention by prosecutors or the police.
Mr. Bradley’s findings were not presented to the jury and the record was never corrected, he said. Prosecutors are required to reveal all information that is exculpatory to the defense.
“I gave the police everything they needed to present a new report,” Mr. Bradley said. “I did the work myself and copied out the entire database in a spreadsheet to make sure there was no issue of accessibility to the data.”
Mr. Bradley, chief executive of Siquest, a Canadian company, said he even volunteered to fly to Orlando at his own expense to show them the findings.
Cheney Mason, one of Ms. Anthony’s defense lawyers, said it was “outrageous” that prosecutors withheld critical information on the “chloroform” searches.
“The prosecution is absolutely obligated to bring forth to the court any and all evidence that could be exculpatory,” Mr. Mason said. “If in fact this is true, and the prosecution concealed this new information, it is more than shame on them. It is outrageous.”
“This was a major part of their case,” Mr. Mason added.
The State Attorney’s Office in Orlando did not return messages seeking comment.
Capt. Angelo Nieves, media relations commander for the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, said Mr. Bradley had a vested interest in coming forward since his software was used in the investigation.
“We’re not going to relive the trial again,” Captain Nieves said. “We are not prepared to do that nor are we going to participate in that.”
A former Canadian police sergeant who specializes in computer forensic analysis, Mr. Bradley said he first became suspicious of the data after he testified on June 8. He said he had been called to testify by the prosecution about his CacheBack software. Instead, he was asked repeatedly about the Sheriff’s Office report detailing the 84 search hits on “chloroform,” which he had not seen.
“I had translated the data into something meaningful for the police,” he said. “Then I turned it over to them. The No. 1 principle for them is to validate the data, and they had the tools and resources to do it. They chose not to.”
Soon after giving testimony, Mr. Bradley learned during the defense portion of the case that the police had written a first report in August 2008 detailing Ms. Anthony’s history of Internet searches. That report used NetAnalysis, a different software.
Despite his appearance as a witness, Mr. Bradley said he was never told about that first report either by the police, with whom he had been in contact, or the prosecution.
Of the search results in both reports relating to chloroform, only one hit was found for sci-spot.com. That site was visited once, according to NetAnalysis, and visited 84 times, according to the CacheBack analysis.
Concerned that the analysis using CacheBack could be wrong and that a woman’s life might be at stake, Mr. Bradley went back to the drawing board and redesigned a portion of his software to get a more accurate picture.
He found both reports were inaccurate (although NetAnalysis came up with the correct result), in part because it appears both types of software had failed to fully decode the entire file, due to its complexity. His more thorough analysis showed that the Web site sci-spot.com was visited only once — not 84 times.
Mr. Bradley, fearing that jurors were being given false information based on his data, contacted the police and the prosecution the weekend of June 25. He asked Sergeant Stenger about the discrepancy, and the sergeant said he was aware of it, Mr. Bradley said. He waited to see if prosecutors would correct the record. They did not.
“They needed to get that right,” Mr. Bradley said.