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Jury to deliberate on toddler murder case which has gripped America

Casey Anthony is accused of killing two-year-old Caylee three years ago. If found guilty of first degree murder she could face the death penalty.

Casey Anthony cries as she listens to her brother Lee Anthony testify during her first degree murder trial at the Orange County Courthouse
Casey Anthony cries as she listens to her brother Lee Anthony testify during her first degree murder trial at the Orange County Courthouse
Image: Joe Burbank/AP/Press Association Images

A PARTY GIRL who killed her two-year-old daughter because she got in the way of her love life.

That’s how the prosecution has painted Casey Anthony, the 25-year-old Florida woman accused of taking the life of her toddler Caylee in a case that has gripped America. Prosecutors will have a final word with jurors today before they begin deliberating on her fate and the role she played in her daughter’s death more than three years ago.

The state contends that Anthony killed her daughter by covering her face with duct tape. Her lawyers argue that Caylee accidentally drowned in a pool, and that the troubled mother’s lies and erratic behaviour afterwards were brought on by trauma from her own childhood.

Attorneys for the state are scheduled this morning to present their rebuttal to the defense’s closing statements, which were interrupted yesterday by testy exchanges between the sides and a stern warning from the judge.

Prosecutor Jeff Ashton contends that Anthony suffocated Caylee by placing one piece of duct tape over her mouth, a second overlapping piece of tape over her nose, and a third to close any gaps, reports Reuters. According to a prosecution witness Anthony had a large quantity of chloroform in the boot of her car and Ashton said that he hoped chloroform had been used to put Caylee to sleep. He said:

Casey Anthony decided on 16 June that something had to be sacrificed…She took (Caylee’s) life and put her in the trunk (of her car) and forgot about her.

Defense attorney Jose Baez said the prosecutors’ case was so weak they tried to portray Anthony as ”a lying, no-good slut” and that their forensic evidence was based on a “fantasy.” He said Caylee’s death was “an accident that snowballed out of control.”

Death penalty

Casey Anthony has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder. If she’s found guilty she could face the death penalty or life in prison. She’s also charged with aggravated child abuse, aggravated manslaughter of a child and four counts of providing false information to law enforcement. The child abuse and manslaughter charges each carry a 30-year prison term if she’s convicted.

Baez yesterday attacked the prosecution’s forensic evidence. He said air analysis of the boot of Anthony’s car, which allegedly showed air molecules consistent with decomposition, could not be duplicated. No one could prove a stain found in the trunk was caused by Caylee’s body decomposing there. And witnesses showed maggots found in the trunk came from a bag of trash that was found there, he said.

“They throw enough against the wall and see what sticks. That is what they’re doing … right down to the cause of death,” Baez said. He conceded his client had told elaborate lies and invented imaginary friends and even a fake father for Caylee, but he said that doesn’t mean she killed her daughter.

Prosecution

Prosecutor Jeff Ashton began his closing argument by showing a video of Casey playing with Caylee. He told the jury that Anthony was worried that Caylee was getting to the age where she would be able to tell her grandparents that her mother was spending days and nights with her boyfriend, not going to work and leaving Caylee with a nanny.

Ashton said that Casey’s “lies are very detailed…but when Casey wants to do what Casey wants to do, she will find a way”.

The prosecutor then described the lies Anthony told her parents, George and Cindy, about why she couldn’t produce Caylee after the toddler was last seen on 16 June 2008: that she was with a nanny named Zanny, a woman who doesn’t exist; that Anthony and her daughter were spending time in Jacksonville with a rich boyfriend who doesn’t exist; and that Zanny had been hospitalized after an out-of-town traffic accident and that they were spending time with her.

The lies only fell apart, Ashton said, a month later when a junkyard employee told George and Cindy Anthony that their daughter’s car had been towed. When they picked it up, they discovered a foul odor. George Anthony, a former police officer, and the tow yard operator said it smelled like human decomposition.

Ashton attacked the defence contention that Caylee had drowned at that George Anthony had helped Casey to cover it up.

“It is a trip down a rabbit hole into a bizarre world where men who love their granddaughters find them drowned and do nothing,” Ashton said. “Where men who love their granddaughters take an accident, a completely innocent act, and make it look like a murder for no reason. A world where a man who buries his pets will take the granddaughter who was the love of his life and throw her in a swamp.”

Baez conceded that Casey Anthony had told elaborate lies, but he said those inventions should have signaled to investigators that “there’s something wrong with this girl.”

“Instead, they had a murder case, and that was it. That was all they were interested in was evidence of murder. There’s nothing sexy about a drowning,” Baez said.

Judge Perry angrily stopped Baez’s closing arguments after he referred to Ashton as “this laughing guy.” Television showed Ashton smiling behind his hand at Baez’s contention that the prosecution’s forensic evidence was based on fantasy. One of Perry’s written orders is that the attorneys not show emotion to the other side’s statements.

Ashton apologized and said he tried to hide his expressions. Baez also apologized. Perry warned all of the attorneys that any other incidents would result in that attorney’s removal from the trial.

- Additional reporting by AP

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About the author:

Emer McLysaght

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