Attorney Michael Kessler in conversation with former NYC Detective Jerry Lyons about his work on the Casey Anthony case, and what most of us don’t know about that case.
MK: Jerry Lyons is a licensed private detective, and a retired New York City police detective. And Jerry and I have worked on a lot of cases together. But today we’re going to talk about a case that he worked on that I didn’t. Jerry was the lead defense investigator for the Casey Anthony defense. Jerry, tell us about the Casey Anthony case.
JL: Well, the last time we spoke, we talked a little bit about how the state – the cops, the state attorney – didn’t turn over evidence. And this happened a lot of times, you know, anything that would be beneficial. This happened a lot of times in the Casey Anthony case, where something that they found, they didn’t turn over because it wasn’t beneficial to their case. And they were tied in to Casey because of things like Nancy Grace and stuff like that. It was on the news all the time. And so they were tied into her.
MK: Just to remind our audience, Casey Anthony was a young mother who was charged with murder in the death of her young child. It was in 2008, I believe, and in Orlando, and the child was two years old when she died. you had the opportunity to work with a couple of terrific lawyers in that case?
JL: Yes, I did.
MK: Tell us a little bit about them.
JL: The lawyers are brilliant. They were brilliant. They were just brilliant. Jose Baez, he, this was his first big case, his first death penalty case. And he put together a great defense team. Cheney Mason, who’s a who’s who in criminal law in the Orlando area. He’s one of my heroes. And there’s another lawyer, Elizabeth Fryer, who during that time, she got sworn in as an attorney. And, and she would beat me to death for saying this, but she’s just freaking brilliant. When she took the bar, she aced it. I don’t know people who aced it, you know. She was just brilliant then, and she’s still brilliant today. She still does great work today. So he put together a great team. He really did.
MK: Terrific. Well tell us about the case.
JL: Well, the cops settled in on Casey, early on. And I think a lot of it because she lied about working at Universal. And so now I want to say a little bit about Suburban Drive. Suburban Drive is where the body was eventually found. At the end of the street is an elementary school, Hidden Oaks Elementary. There’s woods on one side and street, elementary school on the other. But there’s other built houses up the block. People would walk their dogs down that street. Summer school was in session. People who didn’t ride the bus would walk their kids to school. The body was found, it was only 18 feet off the side of the road. 18 feet is six yards. That’s a makeable punt. It’s a good run for a running back in either college or in the pros. That’s how close 18 feet is, the first five feet is easement. So that means there was only like 13 feet of woods and the beginning of woods, but it’s a totally wooded area. It goes so far back and it’s just woods. My opinion was the body was put there to be found not to be lost.
JL: I interviewed people who searched that area of the woods. She went missing in June. I searched. I interviewed people who searched that area in July, August, September. October. I even have the Orlando Police Department there with a dog. It wasn’t a cadaver dog, but it’s still a dog, and that was in October, November. I have people there in December when the body was found. Now where was the body? Where was the body?
MK: It couldn’t possibly have been there that whole time.
JL: Well, if somebody put the body there, Casey couldn’t have done it because she was in jail.
MK: And the body could not possibly have been where it was found the whole time.
JL: No. And when it was found, it wasn’t buried. It was on top. You know so. So where was it before that/ Somebody put it there.
MK: And they did it so that the body would be found, right?
JL: Right. And, like I said, she couldn’t have done it, because she was in jail. They never told us about the Orlando Police Department being there. I found that out on my own. And then I spoke to the guy with the dog. He says, “Jerry, Jerry, Jerry, you don’t understand Jerry. It’s not a cadaver dog.” I said, “I don’t care if it’s a cadaver dog. You were there. The dog was there. You weren’t there alone. There had to be other cops there. And nobody told us. And you didn’t find anything.”
MK: And certainly the police could have been using a cadaver dog anytime they wanted.
JL: Correct. Correct. Correct. Well, you know, I have dogs. My dogs find things. That dog could have found something.
JL: And there’s other things that they didn’t turn over to us. Casey used to have a boyfriend by the name of Tony Lazaro. He was in Full Sail University, so he lived in student apartments or whatever. And every place down here, all the apartment complexes have pools. So Casey would go over and Caylee would go over to Tony’s place, and they’d hang out by the pool. I went there to speak to the management people to find out if that was the case. And when they told me it was, I said, “:Well, what did they look like?” She said, “If you didn’t know they weren’t married, you would think they were a married couple with a child just hanging out.” So I asked her, “Do you have security cameras out there and stuff like that? Do you have any video?” She said, “Yes, we already gave it to the detectives.” And the detectives didn’t give it to us. Why? Because it was beneficial to Casey. And that would have shown her in a different light, a better light, than how they were trying to depict her.
MK: Right. Right. So they disregarded anything that didn’t fit their theory of the case.
MK: Now, that’s what we warn people about all the time. Don’t have tunnel vision. Don’t rush to judgment. Gather all of the evidence and analyze it, and then decide what you think happened. Don’t decide first, and then just pick up the evidence that supports your worldview.
JL: But that’s what they did. That’s when they lead the investigation instead of the investigation leading them. And that’s what they did. And I’ll tell you something else that nobody knows. I did a little research on the sergeant who was in charge of the investigation. Sergeant by the name of John Allen. I don’t know why I did this. I really don’t know why I did it. But I was just curious. So I went to the clerk of court, I got a list of cases that John Allen, you know, that went to court when John Allen was the detective. These were his cases. A third, about 32% of John Allen’s cases, were either dismissed, nolle prossed, just thrown out or found not guilty. A third, a third of his cases. As a detective in New York City, I would be in trouble if I had one. If I lost one case. He lost a third of his cases. So that told me that he just went all the time for the lowest hanging fruit, whether he could make a case out of it or not. And that’s what he did. In this case, too. He went for the lowest hanging fruit.
MK: You have been telling me for years that Casey Anthony didn’t do it, that she was an innocent person wrongly accused, right? I can’t imagine a worse thing to happen to somebody.
JL: Well, imagine losing your two-year-old daughter, you’re only daughter. And you can’t mourn. Now you’re in jail, and accused of being the one who killed her right.
MK: I don’t know if you feel comfortable telling us but do you have a theory of who did?
JL: I have a theory about who did and what not.
MK: Why don’t you tell us and if you want me to edit it out, we’ll edit it out.
JL: Well, let me put it this way. Let me put it this way. I don’t know any father, who testifies against his only daughter when the state is looking to kill her. I don’t know any father, especially, especially somebody who used to be a cop. You know, I don’t know any father. You know, maybe if you thought my daughter killed my granddaughter, and you will put my daughter in jail, you know, maybe. But testify against my own daughter when you’re looking to kill her? There’s got to be a reason. I don’t know why.
MK: And the state clearly was seeking the death penalty in the Casey Anthony case,
JL: And that Judge would have killed her. That judge would have killed her. So now I’m not saying that her father had anything to do with this, but that’s one of the things that struck me as strange. And then there’s other things that struck me as strange, not just with him. But, you know, there’s other things too. But I found out that he was in contact with a guy during that 30 day period, who served 10 years for kidnapping. He was never in contact with him before that, as I can tell, and really never in contact with him after that. So why, why that? Now, that’s something that if the investigator for the defense could find that out, surely, the detectives from the Orange County Sheriff’s Office could find that out. And they were teamed up with the FBI. They could find that out. The State Attorney’s investigators, they could find that out. But the defense investigator finds that out? And that is something else that they didn’t turn over to us. Why not? Why not?
JL: And I spoke to this guy. I went to speak to him, and he wouldn’t open the door. And he said, “Who is it?” I said, “Jerry Lyons.” “What do you want?” I said, “I want to talk to you about George Anthony.” He said, “I don’t know that white man.” I said, “Well, you talk to him on the phone a lot. You text him a lot.” “So what? What’s that mean?” And then he called the cops, and the cops told me to go away. So that’s another thing that wasn’t turned over to us.
JL: Now, I’m not saying that George had anything to do with this. What I’m saying is this: they went for the lowest hanging fruit, which was Casey. What I’m saying is that these things should have been looked into by the police. And they never were.
MK: And they never were because the police decided early on that Casey did it.
JL: I think Nancy Grace decided early on and told the cops that she did it. And now it’s all over TV every night with tot-mom this and tot-mom that, and the cops arrest her, and now they’re stuck with her. And every night you have Nancy Grace and other people on TV telling you how guilty she is. So I think the cops put themselves in a tight position. They did what they wanted. They weren’t looking for the truth. They weren’t looking for the truth. They weren’t following the steps to the investigation, and when anything that came out that was beneficial to Casey, they hid it. They never turned it over like they were supposed to.
JL: Now like I said, I’m not saying that George did this. I’m not. I’m really not. I’m just saying there were things that should have been looked into.
JL: You know, there’s another one, this guy, the Meter Reader. Now, I’m not saying he had anything to do with this, either. But thousands and thousands of people are looking for Calee, and supposedly this meter reader finds her twice. You know, supposedly he finds her in August. Never calls the cops, you know, never calls the cops. He tells these two people he’s working with that there’s a skull over here. They’re taking pictures of a dead rattlesnake. Nobody takes a picture of a skull. It’s the biggest case in America, the biggest case in the world. Nobody’s taking a picture of the skull, they’re taking pictures of a dead rattlesnake. There’s cops all over the place. There’s media all over the place. There’s helicopters in the air. And they don’t say anything to nobody?
JL: And then in December, the same guy finds the body again. So thousands and thousands of people are looking for her, one guy finds her twice. And now I’m not saying that he had anything to do with anything, but I’m just saying that that’s another thing that should have been looked at. And what the cops did, there was a deputy who interviewed this guy, went there and the guy showed him where, you know, supposedly where he found the skull Well, there’s no skull there. How come? And this was in August a couple of days after, you know, he supposedly saw it. There’s nothing there now. Right? You know what the sheriff’s department did? They fired him. They fired the deputy and said that he was lying. And the reason why, because the deputy said that when he went there to talk to him, the guy showed him an area that was up the block more. It was up the block more, not where the body was actually found. The first time he found it in a different place. So they fired him and told him he was a liar because it didn’t fit their narrative. So here’s a guy who lost his job, when he was telling the truth.
JL: I interviewed people who were with this meter reader at the time in August, and they told me, “Oh, yeah, we were up the block. We weren’t there. We were up the block.” You know, the first time. So the deputy told the truth. It didn’t fit their narrative. So the deputy has to be a lair. And so they fired him.
MK: And what reason could the deputy possibly have had to lie?
JL: He would have been a hero. He would have been the guy who found Caylee Anthony.
JL: Again, I’m not saying that anybody did anything. All I’m saying is that there were things that should have been looked at, that weren’t looked at. When I first became a detective, I was told that any questions that you open up, you have to close. So in any investigation, you have to close everything that’s there. Right? These are questions that were open, and are still open today.
MK: That’s the only way we can get to proof beyond a reasonable doubt is answer all the questions, tie up all the loose ends,
JL: Right. And like I said before, the only way the criminal justice system works is when people tell the truth. And that’s it. In this case, they were all liars. Casey was a liar. The cops were liars. The state attorney were liars. And in this case, the state attorney were no better than the person that they believed Casey to be. They thought Casey was a murderer. But what’s the difference if I shoot you, if I stab you, or if I present a false case to a jury in a death penalty case, the jury finds you guilty and the judge sentences you to death. In the end, you’re still dead.
MK: Absolutely agree.