Casey Anthony trial: As it draws to a close, deep mysteries remain
In the Casey Anthony murder trial, there's been no confession, no eye witnesses, and no direct physical evidence capable of telling the tale with scientific certainty. Closing arguments begin Sunday.
On the eve of closing arguments, the Casey Anthony murder trial is ending exactly as it began – shrouded in mystery over what really happened to Ms. Anthony’s two-year-old daughter, Caylee.Skip to next paragraph
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Nearly 100 individuals testified and more than 400 pieces of evidence were presented to the jury in a month-long trial. But it is still unclear precisely how the toddler died.
There’s been no confession, no eye witnesses have come forward, and investigators have found no direct physical evidence capable of telling the tale with scientific certainty.
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Nonetheless, on Sunday morning in the Orlando courtroom of Chief Judge Belvin Perry, prosecutors will attempt to sidestep that glaring hole in their case while urging a jury of five men and seven women to find Casey Anthony guilty of the premeditated murder of her daughter.
If convicted, she faces a possible sentence of death by lethal injection.
Prosecutors have presented a theory that Ms. Anthony used chloroform to subdue her daughter and then murdered her by pressing pieces of duct tape over her mouth and nose.
They say she hid the body in the trunk of her car for several days until it began to decompose and smell. Then she dumped it in a wooded area about a quarter-mile from the family home. The skeletal remains were discovered six months later in December 2008.
Defense claims accidental drowning
In contrast, the defense theory is that Caylee accidentally drowned in the family’s swimming pool and her mother panicked. Rather than call 911, they say Casey and her father, George Anthony, engaged in a cover up to make the death look like the result of a kidnapping.
George Anthony denies any knowledge of how his granddaughter died or that he played any part in a cover up. Casey Anthony declined to testify at the trial.
Both the prosecution theory and defense theory share the same weakness – there is no evidence proving one way or the other that the child’s death was an accident or an intentional act of murder. Instead, both the prosecution and defense cases are framed around circumstantial evidence that might point the jury one way or the other.
That’s why Sunday’s closing arguments are particularly important and could be decisive in whether Ms. Anthony is sentenced to death, receives a lesser punishment, or is acquitted.
Although the defense faces no legal obligation to prove or disprove anything in the case, Defense Attorney Jose Baez made shocking claims of sexual abuse and a cover up during his opening statement, many of which remain unproved. The danger for the defense is that jurors may hold it against Mr. Baez and his client.
But the real focus during jury deliberations, as Chief Judge Perry will instruct, must be on whether state prosecutors proved their case beyond a reasonable doubt.
Among key pieces of evidence in the case: