Lawyers get last chance to sway jurors in Casey Anthony trial

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 03, 2011 7:58 AM
Lawyers get last chance to sway jurors in Casey Anthony trial

By Barbara Liston

ORLANDO, Fla (Reuters) - Closing arguments in the murder trial of Casey Anthony, accused of killing her toddler daughter Caylee, are set to begin on Sunday when prosecutors and defense lawyers get a last chance to sway the jury.

When they are done, the sequestered jury will receive instructions from Judge Belvin Perry and retreat to a private room to decide on a verdict without hearing directly from Casey, 25, who chose not to testify in her own defense.

The deliberations will begin as the trial, in which prosecutors are seeking the death penalty, enters its seventh week in Orlando, Florida.

Prosecutors say Casey smothered Caylee with duct tape on June 16, 2008, so she could live a life free of the demands of motherhood, stored the body in her car trunk for several days and then dumped the remains in woods near her family's home.

Casey lied to friends and family about Caylee's whereabouts for a month. Then on July 15, Casey's mother Cindy called the sheriff's department after finding Casey's car at an impound lot smelling, to her, like a dead body had been in the trunk.

Casey told investigators that Caylee had been kidnapped by a nanny, triggering a nationwide search for the toddler. Caylee's skeletal remains were found in the woods on December 11, 2008.

Defense lawyer Jose Baez, in his opening statement to jurors, provided an alternate theory of Caylee's death. Baez said Caylee accidentally drowned on June 16, 2008, in the Anthonys' backyard pool and that her death went unreported.

Baez said Casey and her father, George, lost track of Caylee that morning at the house shared by Casey, Caylee, George and Cindy. Baez said Casey and George searched the house and yard before George found Caylee's body in the pool.

GEORGE DENIED DROWNING STORY

Baez also told the jury that the reason Casey acted inappropriately after the death -- lying about Caylee's whereabouts, partying with friends and getting tattoos -- was because she had a history of sexual abuse by her father.

The defense never produced any evidence that Casey was sexually abused by George, and George denied the allegation on the witness stand. George also denied Baez's story about a drowning death.

If the jury finds Casey guilty of premeditated first-degree murder, the trial will enter a second phase in which the jury will make a recommendation on whether Casey should be executed or sentenced to life in prison.

To show premeditation, prosecutors presented evidence of Internet searches conducted three months before Caylee died on the desktop computer at the Anthony home.

Someone -- the prosecution suggests it was Casey -- searched for the keywords chloroform, how to make chloroform, neck-breaking, internal bleeding, ruptured spleen and death, according to experts who examined the computer's hard drive.

Chloroform is an anesthetic that can knock people out or even kill them. The chemical is also released by decaying bodies. A prosecution expert testified he found a large quantity of chloroform in Casey's trunk.

In surprise testimony on June 23, Cindy said she was the one who had looked up chloroform while researching whether chlorophyll in bamboo leaves in the yard had sickened her dog. Cindy said she had skipped out on work and made the searches on the home computer.

However, records obtained last week by the prosecution from Cindy's former employer showed she had been entering data at her office work station at the same time she said she was making the Internet search at home.

(Editing by Cynthia Johnston)