Jury selection opens in Casey Anthony murder trial

AP News
Posted: May 09, 2011 7:37 PM
Jury selection opens in Casey Anthony murder trial

Jury selection started Monday in the trial of an Orlando woman charged with killing her 2-year-old daughter.

Casey Anthony's trial will take place in Orlando, but jurors are being selected at a courthouse about 100 miles away because of the intense media coverage. The first panel of potential jurors met with the judge and attorneys Monday morning in Clearwater.

Chief Judge Belvin Perry hopes to have 20 jurors _ including eight alternates _ in place by the end of the week so the trial can begin May 17. Potential jurors will undergo two rounds of questioning and be asked if they could recommend the death penalty for Anthony.

She is charged with first-degree murder, and any juror who couldn't recommend death would be disqualified.

Anthony, 25, has pleaded not guilty to killing her daughter Caylee and says a baby-sitter kidnapped her. After a massive search, the girl's body was found seven months after her June 2008 disappearance. It was discovered by a meter reader in some woods about a quarter of a mile from the home mother and daughter had shared with Anthony's parents and brother. Detectives said residue of a heart-shaped sticker was found on duct tape over the mouth of her skull.

Monday was spent identifying jurors who have personal issues that would preclude them from serving the six to eight weeks the trial is expected to last. Those not dismissed for those reasons must come back later for more questioning.

Defense attorney Jose Baez objected to the first panel of about 100 people in its entirety, saying that it wasn't representative of Orlando's demographics because it had only two Hispanic and four African-American jurors.

Perry denied the objection and questioning of the panelists began.

Of the potential jurors available, 66 were questioned Monday and 43 jurors were dismissed for various hardship reasons.

Among them, one male juror was given a pass after he said he faced a deployment in the U.S. Coast Guard. Another woman was dismissed who said she was the sole caretaker for her elderly father. Some citing financial concerns were dismissed from jury duty, but Perry asked others to see if employers would compensate them during the trial. Jurors will only be paid a $30 daily stipend for their service.

In another instance, a Hispanic man said he'd purchased non-refundable tickets to Puerto Rico in June to pick up the ashes of his wife's mother. The judge asked him to see if his airline would waive a date change fee. And possibly the most candid admission came from a man who was dismissed after he admitted to prejudging Anthony guilty on the basis of pretrial publicity.

Perry also issued an order Monday morning denying a defense request to exclude air tests from carpet sample taken from Anthony's car. Tests for odors associated with a body's decomposition were run on the carpet sample and the tests identified chloroform in the sample.

Chloroform is a chemical associated with decomposition but also can be used to render a person unconscious.

The tests have never been admitted in a trial in the United States.

Jury selection will continue Tuesday morning.