ORLANDO -- A long day of testimony ended with some levity for the jurors in the Casey Anthony murder trial Friday, when Judge Belvin Perry playfully teased them about the Tampa Bay Lightning playoff game before sending them home early enough to watch it.
“Go Lightning,” the Orange-Osceola chief judge said to the jurors, before excusing them for the evening. He told them not to stay up too late -- the trial will resume this morning.
Perry also gave a shout-out to Bright House Networks, which he said “stepped up” when the company learned that the jurors wanted to watch the game, and found a way to accommodate them.
The jury’s early exit came after a mild controversy developed between the prosecution and Perry regarding evidence that the state said it thought would speak to the motive in the case.
Specifically, the prosecution wanted to introduce a sexually charged instant message exchange between Anthony and then-boyfriend Tony Lazzaro, in which the two flirted and Lazzaro said he wanted to come over to the Anthony home.
The prosecution said the messages showed that Anthony considered her family -- and 2-year-old daughter Caylee Marie -- to be a burden.
Perry, however, dismissed the evidence as prejudicial, and did not seem at all convinced of the prosecution’s argument.
Earlier, the manager of the wrecker service that towed Casey Anthony’s Pontiac in late June 2008 took the stand and described the stench emanating from the vehicle.
“The instant flash in my mind was, ‘Whoa, I know what that smell is,’” Birch said. “I did notice a fairly strong odor emanating from the vehicle.”
Birch, a veteran of the towing industry, said he had smelled six to eight dead bodies during his career and could distinguish between the smell of garbage and the odor of human decomposition.
“It’s a very, very unique and distinctive smell,” Birch said, adding that he immediately recognized the smell from outside Casey Anthony’s car. He did not go inside the vehicle.
By the time he encountered it, Casey Anthony’s car had been towed to the wrecker yard on Narcoossee Road and parked there for several days.
Most of this week, jurors hearing the case have watched Casey Anthony’s friends and acquaintances talk about her behavior from mid-June to mid-July of that year.
Friday morning they also watched a series of store videos, showing Casey Anthony shopping and going about life as normal in the days following her daughter’s disappearance.