Entries Tagged as 'Ask Amy'

Oops, How Do You Make Chloroform Anyway?

COURTS , CRIME , JURY CONSULTANT , Ask Amy , Casey Anthony , Caylee Anthony , False Accusation , Juror Profiling , Jury Analytics , Jury Selection , MURDER TRIAL , Social Media , Trial Consultants , Twitter , Wizpor No Comments »

By: Amy Singer, PhD., Kristina Denius, JD. & Dan Reyes

 March 6, 2017

 It has been five and a half years since a jury found Casey Anthony not guilty of first-degree murder in the death of her three-year-old daughter, Caylee. From the moment little Caylee’s body was found, wrapped tenderly in a blanket in a marshy area not far from her grandparents’ home, there has been much speculation about what happened to cause the toddler’s death. At trial, the Prosecution argued that Caylee was killed when her mother chloroformed her and placed duct tape over her mouth, suffocating her.

 Earlier this week, Former Judge Belvin Perry, Jr., who presided over the case, spoke out about what he now believes was the cause of Caylee’s death—an accidental chloroform overdose. With all due respect to Judge Perry, he got half of it right, in that it was an accident. However, not by chloroform overdose. The Defense team has always maintained that this was a tragic accidental drowning. When comparing the Prosecution and Defense differing scenarios, there are compelling reasons the Defense argument simply makes more sense. 

Occam’s Razor posits that the simplest explanation or solution to a problem is usually right. Here are some of the more confusing and complicated aspects of the Prosecution arguments in this case: 

The Prosecution presented evidence that Casey Anthony was conducting her own Google investigation into discovering the formula for chloroform. This is a red herring. The truth is, at that time, Casey was concerned (rightly so) about an alarming posting on her boyfriend’s MySpace page proclaiming, “Win her over with Chloroform.” I would be investigating what that meant and what it meant about the person I was dating as well.

 

Hollywood paints an unrealistic, fantastic picture of how chloroform works. It isn’t as simple as sneaking up behind a targeted person, covering their face with a chloroformed rag, and immediately the prospective victim is rendered unconscious and collapses into a comatose heap.  The Chloroform Theory requires magical thinking about with how easy and simple it is to  make chloroform. There is no simple recipe for creating chloroform wherein a person waves a magic wand and a bucket of chloroform appears. This is not like making chocolate chip cookies out of frozen Pillsbury Cookie Dough. Chloroform is an extremely dangerous, highly toxic compound.  It attacks the nervous system, the respiratory system, the liver and kidneys, and can be deadly to anyone trying to create it. Imagining that a novice like Casey Anthony could effortlessly whip up a batch of chloroform without killing herself or anyone near here is like imagining that she could manufacture Benadryl or methamphetamine in her nonexistent pharmaceutical warehouse.

Speaking of Benadryl, if Casey’s motive in supposedly researching the formula for chloroform was to quiet a boisterous child for a little while, why not drive to the corner pharmacy and pick up some over-the-counter Benadryl or Nyquil and follow the  dosing instructions for children under the age of twelve? Why not a tablespoon of whiskey in her sippy cup,  the method favored by some of our grandmothers back in the day?

How do you make chloroform, anyway?

 

The Prosecution made a  big deal about the fact that there was chlorine present in George’s car. In fact, there is a very elementary, non-sinister explanation for the presence of chlorine chemicals in George’s car. And, it has nothing to do with Casey placing a chloroform-soaked rag over her daughter’s nose and mouth.  There is no evidence that directly connects Casey to chloroform or any chlorine product for that matter.  The car smelled liked chlorine because when Casey’s father George picked his car up from the impound lot; it had a bag of garbage in it that had been baking in the hot Florida sun for days and had understandably created a terrific stink. George did what anyone would do under those circumstances; he cleaned the car with a strong odor-killing cleaner agent to rid the smell of rotting garbage from his vehicle. 

What is the simplest way to explain what happened in this case? In the summertime in Florida, children tragically drown almost every day. When is the last time you heard of a child, or anyone for that matter, dying due to a chloroform overdose? Anywhere?

 As the head Trial Consultant for the Defense in this case, I asked members of the American Society of Trial Consultants Association (ASTC) and my interns, to look over the comments and feedback garnered from the video stream of the trial which included the comments to the trial action in real time.

 The experience our team had in and through the Casey Anthony trial spawned what soon became a breakthrough in the Jury Research space.  We created our own patented Wizpor® technology. In the early days, we experimented with Dan Reyes, CEO of Trilogy Trial Consultants on the AV technology. Eventually Trial Consultants, Inc created software for analysis of this qualitative data.  This ground-breaking tool in the area of jury research and the collection of litigation intel on facts, issues, arguments, witnesses etc utilizes any type of participant focus group. 

 Interestingly, the ASTC members monitoring the video stream of the trial and simultaneous reactions to witnesses, arguments, and testimony found that folks watching the trial were curious about chloroform and started looking it up on Google themselves. They sought information and communicated about chloroform. They were wondering, “How do you make chloroform, anyway?”

 What we uncovered was that while there was a great deal of information about the ingredients for chloroform, there was no set formula that could lead a lay person to concoct a chloroform cocktail. They discovered that attempting to make chloroform is not a simple process and is in fact highly dangerous, particularly to the kidneys, and can be deadly simply by inadvertently inhaling the product or spilling it on the skin. Furthermore, they noted, there was no chloroform located in the Anthony household. If the goal was to put Caylee to sleep, than using chloroform would be similar to using a nuclear bomb to swat a fly.

If Casey’s motive in supposedly researching the formula for chloroform was to quiet a boisterous child for a little while, why not drive to the corner pharmacy and pick up some over-the-counter Benadryl or Nyquil and follow the  dosing instructions for children under the age of twelve? Why not a tablespoon of whiskey in her sippy cup,  the method favored by some of our grandmothers back in the day?  There are much easier, less dangerous ways to go about this, and all it takes is a few dollars and a trip to the local pharmacy. Ultimately, our analysis mirrored with the same conclusions as the jury in Orlando. 

 

 

Finally, the camera captures what the camera wants to capture. But what the jurors in the Orlando courtroom were focusing on was Casey’s father George, because his role in this sad case is rather mysterious. The Prosecution Expert asks, “who doesn’t report an accident?” The answer, for whatever reason, is Casey Anthony. The defense maintains that on the day Caylee most likely drowned, George was supposed to be baby-sitting. The only witness to what happened never came forward. In the end, however, the simplest solution screams that it IS the answer. Even the presiding Judge agrees this was an accident. Although, not by chloroform overdose, not by chloroform at all.

 Ask yourself what is more likely, that as Casey and the Defense have been saying all along, there was a tragic accident and a little girl drowned accidentally in a pool on a simmering hot Florida summer day; or that there was some sort of complicated chloroform conspiracy gone terribly awry?  Cut to the chase simply, and Occam’s Razor has the most sensible answer.

 

  1. see www.wizpor.com for information on the technology and how it works. 
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“More Bull” – A deeper look into the new hit show on CBS

#DrBullReadsYou , Ask Amy , Bull , CBS , Dr.Phil , Experts/Witnesses , Juror Profiling , Jury Analytics , Jury Selection , News and Views , Persuasion , real- time social media analytics , Trial Consultants , Trial Topics , Wizpor No Comments »
  Posted on 11/10/2016 – Trial Consultants, Inc.® and Wizpor® 

By: Dr. Amy Singer, Ph.D & Kristina Denius, JD.

The new CBS television hit series “Bull” follows Dr. Jason Bull, an extremely intelligent, cocky, yet charming trial/litigation scientist who is hired by attorneys to ensure that the verdict in the deliberation room is favorable to their client. Week after week, Dr. Bull achieves this by analyzing how a potential juror will react to certain facts in any given case, and whether their decision making process will lead that juror to vote for his client. Dr. Bull has an uncanny knack for discovering what makes people tick. He is an astute observer with a keen sense of intuition that borders on clairvoyant. He uses his observations about human behavior and attitudes to manipulate juror thinking in such a way that the panel as a whole ultimately finds in his client’s favor. All of this is achieved not without the usual Hollywood tactics, sometimes outlandish, made-for-television entertainment embellishments.  For instance, no trial consultant who wants a long and successful career would actually treat their attorney colleagues as rudely and disrespectfully as Dr. Bull does. 


A troubling off-shoot of the “Bull” phenomenon is the paranoia it fosters in its viewer-ship.  The “Big Brother” type manner in which Dr. Bull is able to “dig up” personal information on potential jurors with the whisk of a keystroke is alarming to some viewers, even sparking concerns about the future of the American judicial system. Some find the possibility that certain “skeletons in the closet” could be unveiled by a trial consultant during jury research, or actual jury duty, downright scary. However, there is no need for panic. No trial consultant worth their salt would ever seek such information. Not only is it impractical to do so, it is well established in the trial science community that such information does not correlate to jury verdicts. 

Ironically, the most revealing information about a juror is information that most people are happy to share with others, such asan individual’s core beliefs, aka their value beliefs. Value Beliefs are the core internal precepts by which people think and operate, and as such are very unlikely to ever change. For example, “I believe that taking care of one’s elders in their twilight years is essential to family structure” is a value belief, and to the delight of trial consultants everywhere, people take pride in their value beliefs and talk about them freely with no need for any invasive prying. This is the sort of information that people WANT to share with others, and it is the type of information that enables trial consultants to do their jobs so well. 

In order to promote “Bull,” CBS has partnered with Vigiglobe’s “social media analytic platform” to launch “What Type of Juror are You?” a cyber-oriented experience that interacts with users on Twitter.  Users who want to find out what “type” of juror Dr. Bull believes they might be enter the “Bull” Twitter handle (@BullCBS) with the tag #DrBullReadsYou. Based on an analysis of the individual’s previous tweets, Vigiglobe’s program then classifies the individual into one of six categories: BelievaBULL, GulliBULL, ReasonaBULL, DependaBULL, NoBULL, or SwayaBULL.  While this “digital jury analytics experience” may have proven to be a slick and successful marketing tool for CBS and “Bull” the television show, what does this sort of technology mean for the attorney, the client, and the ultimate outcome of their case, in the real world? The simple answer is, “not much.” 

Demographics, life experiences, and personality traits of people can certainly be interesting. But, the fact that you are a divorced female taxi driver with a golden retriever, and people think you are nice, does not tell us anything about whether or not you are going to award nine million dollars in a products liability case where the main issue is causation.  

Interestingly, the question for the trial consultant is not “how do you go about determining who the best potential jurors are in this case?” Rather, because the jury selection process is actually a “Deselection®” process, the question becomes “what type of person are we looking to eliminate given the evidence, testimony and arguments in this particular case?” Selecting a jury is actually a process of using carefully tuned voir dire questions to “weed out” jurors who will be the most dangerous to an attorney’s case, based on core value beliefs. 

For instance, the IBM Watson Program can tell us that a person has a low tolerance for ambiguity, and this is how it will affect their perception of the jury instructions for causation in a products liability case. Because causation is by its very nature intrinsically subjective, this type of juror is a red flag, one that must be carefully evaluated with other “tolerance for ambiguity factors” in order to advise plaintiff’s counsel about whether or not to use their precious peremptory challenges.  In fact, given the arsenal of factor analysis for ambiguity available to the psychologist, this person would probably go for cause.

That isn’t to say there are not software systems out there that purport to have a magic formula, algorithms, or the key, to accurately predicting future juror behavior.  There are plenty of software programs that say “this is who this person is.” But that’s not going far enough to actually predict juror behavior, to predict how a particular juror is going to internalize, and then vote on, a particular aspect of a case. To do that, a savvy trial scientist needs to step beyond the limited scope of the analysis performed by CBS with “Bull” viewers. 

Wizpor technology and its Voltaire application are constantly evolving to meet this end. Wizpor analyzes information in real time as it is being gathered electronically from mock jury and focus group participants.  Each response is coded by dependent variables, which include Questions, Observations, Judgments, Game Changers, Identification/Relating Statements, and Emotional Responses. These variables tell us what is important to the juror, and how the juror is internalizing the information presented about the case particulars. In this manner, Wizpor technology is achieving what “#DrBullReadsYou” has not, the ability to not only tell you what “type” of person you are dealing with, but more importantly the additional how this “type” will respond to your case. Telling somebody that this person is a dog lover is not as important as understanding whether dog lovers award more money for disfigurement. By the way, if you don’t know the answer, now understand why not: one variable does not a factor make.

Wizpor is complemented by the Voltaire Application, which mines social media information, market research information, and public record information with their proprietary analytics. Voltaire takes massive amounts of data, impossible for a human being to analyze, and analyzes it in milliseconds. The information that is mined goes through various algorithms to tell you how all of this information affects case strategy, and with Deselection® decisions, results in a much lower error rate than what the archaic “Bull” Made-for-TV methods are showing, “freaking out” the public.  In this way, Wizpor and Voltaire not only give the attorney important data, but also tell the attorney what that data means for their case. And this is invaluable knowledge to have when precious principles of justice are at stake for the attorney’s client.

For more information on Trial Consultants, Inc.® and Wizpor® which features Persuasion Research Technology® please visit: www.trialconsultants.com or www.wizpor.com.

You may also email our firm at Trialconsultants@gmail.com or Jurydoctor@aol.com to speak with our team about these new and innovative methods for jury research and trial strategy. 

 

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