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Casey Anthony trial: Can duct tape be a murder weapon?

Prosecutors argue that Casey Anthony killed her daughter by suffocating her with duct tape. But an expert said he could not confirm that duct tape had anything to do with the death.

By Staff writer / June 10, 2011

Casey Anthony waits in the courtroom before the start of her trial at the Orange County Courthouse Friday in Orlando, Fla.

Joe Burbank/AP

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A forensic anthropologist testified in an Orlando, Fla., murder trial on Friday that a piece of duct tape found near a toddler’s skull was large enough to simultaneously cover the girl’s mouth and nose, bolstering a prosecution theory that duct tape was the murder weapon used by Casey Anthony to kill her 2-year-old daughter.

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On cross examination, however, the same expert, Michael Warren of the University of Florida, said he did not know whether the duct tape actually caused the toddler’s death.

“You don’t know if that duct tape had anything to do with the disposal [of the body] or the death,” defense attorney Jose Baez asked.

“True,” Dr. Warren responded.

The testimony came in the third week of the trial of Ms. Anthony, who is charged with first-degree murder for allegedly killing her daughter, Caylee, and then leaving the body in a wooded area a short walk from the family’s home.

During Warren’s testimony, prosecutors played a short video that Warren had prepared for the jury. The professor superimposed a photograph of Caylee’s face over the image of her recovered skull, and then positioned a proportioned section of duct tape over her face.

The video was played to demonstrate that the duct tape could have been used to suffocate Caylee.

Defense calls video 'highly prejudicial'

Defense attorney Mr. Baez objected to the video presentation before it was played, calling it “highly prejudicial” to his client. He later filed a motion for a mistrial after the jury was dismissed for the day.

Judge Belvin Perry defended his decision to allow the jury to see the graphic video. The judge said Warren had testified that duct tape over the nose and mouth was only one possible scenario.

“But that is not outweighed by seeing this beautiful child with her face and skull in the background [of the video],” Baez said. “This inflamed the jury. He could have given that opinion without the video.”

Assistant State Attorney Jeffrey Ashton also defended showing the video. “This was the murder weapon, essentially,” he said.

“The testimony from the expert witness is that at some point that beautiful child did have duct tape over her face – the nose, the mouth, one or both,” Mr. Ashton said.

Judge Perry denied the motion for a mistrial.

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