Software designer behind "84 chloroform searches" in Casey Anthony trial says data was wrong

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Turns out there was only one, not 84, searches for "chloroform" on Casey Anthony's computer. The New York Times reports that John Bradley, the man who designed the forensic application used to determine this, figured out there was an error and disclosed this to prosecutors and police right away—but the "84 searches for 'chloroform" line remained a key element of the prosecution, anyway. These new findings were never presented to the jury, and the court record was not corrected. Before you dismiss this as a tedious detail in an over-exploited celebrity trial, remember: this is the U.S. legal system at work, and you or I could be the suspect just as easily, for any number of more mundane crimes.

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.

The details of how the cops and prosecutors failed to validate data, and of how Bradley tried to press them to do exactly that, are interesting. They're here in the New York Times piece by Lizette Alvarez.
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