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Jury Sent Home for Day; Casey Anthony's Fate Now in their Hands

2:57 PM, Jul 5, 2011   |    comments
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Video: Anthony Prosecutor: Drowning Claim 'Absurd'

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  • ORLANDO, Fla. -- Jurors in the Casey Anthony capital murder trial finished their first day of deliberations Monday around 6 p.m. 

    Deliberations on whether Anthony is guilty of killing her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee, in 2008 will start again Tuesday at 8:30 a.m.

    Prosecutors completed closing arguments in the case today and the panel received instructions from Orange County Chief Judge Belvin Perry Jr. Five alternates will be separated from the jury. Defense attorneys gave their closing argument Sunday.

    Casey Anthony, 25, is charged with seven counts, including first-degree murder; aggravated manslaughter of a child; aggravated child abuse; and four counts of providing false information to law enforcement. If convicted of first-degree murder, she could receive the death penalty.

    She has pleaded not guilty to all charges, and denies harming her daughter.

    Prosecutors allege that the Orlando woman used chloroform to render Caylee unconscious before putting duct tape over her nose and mouth to suffocate her. She left Caylee's body in the trunk of her car for a few days before disposing of it, they allege. The little girl's skeletal remains were found in December 2008 near the Anthony home.

    Casey Anthony's defense attorneys have alleged that Caylee was not murdered at all, but drowned in the Anthonys' above-ground pool on June 16, 2008, the day she was last seen. Casey Anthony and her father, George Anthony, panicked upon finding the body, the defense claims, and covered up the death. George Anthony denied that in testimony.

    Caylee was not reported missing until July 15, 2008, when Casey Anthony's mother, Cindy Anthony, called police after tracking her daughter down and demanding answers.

    Jurors are not expected to deliberate past 6 p.m. Monday, said court spokeswoman Karen Levey. During deliberations, Casey Anthony is being held in the courthouse building, she said. Prosecutors are close by, and defense attorneys may be in their workroom in the courthouse. The alternate jurors were taken back to their hotel after being separated from the jury, she said.

    Perry told the seven-woman, five-man jury if they decide Casey Anthony is not guilty of first-degree premeditated murder, they can decide whether to convict her of a less serious charge -- second-degree murder, manslaughter or third-degree felony murder. Similarly, they can convict her of child abuse rather than aggravated child abuse.

    Prosecutors have maintained Casey Anthony's motive was that she wanted to be a 22-year-old unburdened by the responsibilities of motherhood.

    "This case is about the clash between that responsibility, and the expectations that go with it, and the life that Casey Anthony wanted to have," prosecutor Jeff Ashton told jurors Sunday.

    Earlier Monday, prosecutor Linda Drane Burdick said Casey Anthony's actions, particularly those in the 31 days after Caylee went missing and before police were notified, speak volumes about her guilt.

    Burdick reminded the jury that she went through each one of those days in her opening argument as the trial began, asking "Where is Caylee?"

    "The question is no longer 'Where is Caylee?' We know where Caylee Marie Anthony is," Burdick said. "The question is no longer 'What happened to Caylee Marie Anthony?' We know what happened to Caylee."

    But Casey Anthony's actions and responses "answer for you the only real question left at this stage of the proceedings, and that is who killed Caylee Anthony," Burdick said.

    "All you really have to do is ask yourself a simple question," she told jurors. "Whose life was better without Caylee? ... That's the only question you need to answer in considering why Caylee Marie Anthony was left on the side of the road, dead."

    "There's your answer," she said, as a photograph of the tattoo Casey Anthony got while her daughter was missing -- "Bella Vita," or Italian for "beautiful life" -- was shown.

    During those 31 days, Casey Anthony's friends and acquaintances testified she was shopping, hitting nightclubs and staying with her boyfriend, but did not tell them Caylee was missing. If they asked her daughter's whereabouts, they said, she often said Caylee was with her nanny, a woman she identified as Zenaida Gonzalez. She later claimed Gonzalez had kidnapped Caylee after confronted by her family and authorities.

    Police were never able to find the nanny, and she along with several other people Casey Anthony spoke of are believed not to exist. Authorities did find a woman named Zenaida Gonzalez, but she denied ever meeting the Anthonys.

    Burdick noted that Casey Anthony was the only person who had access to every piece of evidence found at the scene with Caylee's remains, including the duct tape over the mouth portion of her skull and the laundry bag the child's remains were in, twin to one at the Anthony home.

    Early Monday, Ashton told the panel that some of the theories put forth by defense attorney Jose Baez do not make sense, particularly that George Anthony was somehow involved in covering up Caylee's accidental drowning.

    It is nonsensical that George Anthony, as part of that cover-up, would have put duct tape on the child's mouth before placing her body in the woods, Ashton said. "People don't make accidents look like murder," he said. "That's absurd."

    The defense has tried to connect the tape to George Anthony, showing he took the same roll of tape -- a relatively rare brand -- to a command center, where it was used to put up a poster of his missing granddaughter, Ashton said.

    But defense attorneys also attempted to suggest that Roy Kronk, the former Orange County meter reader who discovered Caylee's skeletal remains in December 2008, knew the location of the child's remains earlier and hid the body, placing it in the location where it was found just before notifying authorities. A defense witness suggested the duct tape could have been put on the mouth portion of the remains later.

    "So which is it?" Ashton asked. "Who put the duct tape there?"

    Baez, however, told jurors on Sunday, "I probably think you have more questions than you have answers." The central one, he said, remains how Caylee died -- a question, he said, that is yet to be answered.

    In his closing, Baez attacked the state's case, saying it does not constitute the kind of evidence that jurors need to make a decision in such a serious matter. Prosecutors' allegations are based on "fantasy (computer) searches, fantasy forensics, phantom stickers, phantom stains (in the trunk) ... and no real, hard evidence," he said.

    The defense has alleged the scene where Caylee's remains were found was staged, Ashton said. He displayed photographs of the child's remains as Casey Anthony turned her head to avoid looking at them. Ashton pointed out the child's skull was surrounded by inches of "leaf litter" and that vines were growing over and in the skeletal remains.

    "This scene is staged by Mother Nature and no one else," Ashton said.

    He defended George Anthony, reading portions of his January 2009 note from his suicide attempt, telling jurors that he was "a man in pain" who had nothing to do with his beloved granddaughter's disappearance and death. He noted that in videos of jailhouse visits, Casey Anthony tells George Anthony what a good father he has been.

    On Sunday, Ashton outlined the state's case against Casey Anthony, touching on her many lies to her parents and others, the smell in her car's trunk -- identified by several witnesses as the odor from human decomposition -- and the items found with Caylee's remains.

    The defense's theories, Ashton told jurors, "require you to suspend your common sense," likening them to "a trip down a rabbit hole" into a world where loving grandfathers do nothing when they find their granddaughter dead; cover up an accident; and where "a man who buries his pets will take the granddaughter who is the love of his life and throw her in a swamp. This is the world the defense invites you to occupy."

    Baez on Sunday said the drowning is "the only explanation that makes sense." He showed jurors a photograph of Caylee opening the home's sliding glass door by herself. There were, he said, no child safety locks in the home. Both of Casey Anthony's parents, George and Cindy Anthony, testified that Caylee could get out of the house easily, he said.

    Although Cindy Anthony testified that Caylee could not put the ladder on the side of the pool and climb up, Baez alleged that Cindy Anthony may have left the ladder up the night before. She didn't admit to doing so in testimony, he said, but "how much guilt would she have knowing it was her that left the ladder up that day?"

    Baez on Sunday told jurors his biggest fear is that they will base their verdict on emotions, not evidence.

    Prosecutors "gave you two weeks of testimony that was irrelevant" in an attempt to make them hate Casey Anthony and play on their emotions, he said.

    "The strategy behind that is, if you hate her, if you think she's a lying, no-good slut, then you'll start to look at this evidence in a different light," Baez said. "I told you at the very beginning of this case that this was an accident that snowballed out of control ... What made it unique is not what happened, but who it happened to."

    Burdick told jurors Monday her biggest fear is that common sense will not prevail and they will fail to look at the big picture.

    Baez blamed Casey Anthony's behavior on her dysfunctional family situation. "These people are different," Baez said of the Anthony family. "This girl is different. And this is why she behaved in this way."

    He dismissed the state's alleged motive as "nonsense." "She had no motive," he said of his client. "Casey treated Caylee well. She loved that child." No witnesses, he reminded jurors, ever testified that Casey Anthony was anything other than a loving mother.

    "We all know Casey acted inappropriately and made some mistakes and bad decisions," Baez said, noting Casey Anthony should have called the police and not attempted to "block this out." And if she committed a crime in doing so, he said, the state can charge her for it. But, he said, prosecutors have "overcharged" the case "... just because it's entertainment."

    He said authorities focused on Casey Anthony from the beginning and "put square pegs in round holes," in an attempt to make the evidence fit their theory, rather than keep an open mind.

    But, Burdick told jurors, "There's nothing that's wrong with Casey Anthony that can't be explained in two words -- pathological liar."

     

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