Murder trial witnesses say they saw no change in Casey Anthony's behavior

Prosecution witnesses in the Casey Anthony murder trial call her a loving mother amid testimony of a romance and party invitation in the month following the alleged killing of her daughter, Caylee.

Red Huber/AP
Tony Lazzaro uses hand gestures to explain his position relative to a car during his testimony at the Casey Anthony trial at the Orange County Courthouse in Orlando, Fla., Wednesday, May 25, 2011. Anthony is charged with first-degree murder in the death of her daughter, Caylee. If convicted she could face the death penalty.

One month after prosecutors say a Florida mother murdered her two-year-old daughter and left the body in garbage bags in a wooded area, she invited an acquaintance to the toddler’s upcoming birthday party, an Orlando courtroom was told Wednesday.

The mother, Casey Anthony, continued to suggest for weeks after the alleged murder that her daughter, Caylee, was staying with a nanny or that she had to leave soon to pick the little girl up.

“She said she had to pick up her daughter.… She said that her birthday was the next month and I was invited to her birthday party,” said Jamie Realander in testimony Wednesday, the second day of Ms. Anthony’s expected two-month murder trial in an Orlando courtroom.

Ms. Realander met Anthony while working at a local night club.

“She invited you to her daughter’s birthday party the next month?” asked Assistant State Attorney Frank George.

“Yes,” Ms. Realander replied.

According to Realander the conversation took place on July 15, 2008. That date is significant because prosecutors allege that sometime on June 16 – a month earlier – Anthony used chloroform to subdue the toddler and then affixed duct tape over her mouth and nose before hiding the body. Caylee would have been three years old on August 9, 2008 – her birthday.

If convicted, Anthony faces a death sentence.

Web of lies is alleged

According to prosecutors, Anthony’s repeated references to her daughter from mid-June to mid-July were all part of an intricate web of lies calculated to cover up a premeditated murder.

But the apparent lies are only part of the story. Rather than the one-dimensional monster portrayed by the state attorneys office, the view of Anthony emerging from trial witnesses is far more complex and perhaps ultimately inscrutable.

Every witness has portrayed her as a loving, caring mother. There is no dispute on this point. There has been no testimony – at least so far – that she felt burdened by motherhood, or that the toddler was excessively interfering in her social life.

Her former boyfriend, Tony Lazzaro, testified Wednesday that he had no problem with her being a mother. “You knew she had a daughter,” Defense Lawyer Jose Baez said on cross-examination. “You didn’t have any issues about dating a girl who had a child?”

“No,” Mr. Lazzaro answered.

Growing romance

They had met in late May, a few weeks before Caylee’s disappearance. The timing of the alleged murder and the trajectory of their growing romance is chilling.

During direct examination, Assistant State Attorney George had Lazzaro recount for the jury the events of June 16 – the alleged murder day – and the days that followed.

He said he met Anthony on the evening of June 16 and they went to a Blockbuster Video. The security camera in the video store captured the two, walking like lovers, arm and arm. The implication for the jury is that Anthony had just spent much of the day murdering her daughter and hiding her body before meeting her boyfriend for a carefree evening.

“How would you describe her demeanor,” the prosecutor asked.

“It was the way she was every day, happy,” Lazzaro said. “Happy to see me.”

Did she cry or act scared? No. Was she nervous? Did she tell you her daughter was missing? No. Was there any difference in the way she acted? No.

Anthony and Lazzaro stayed together for the next 36 hours. Lazzaro told the prosecutor he “played hooky” from college the next day, remaining in his apartment.

“Why,” the prosecutor asked.

“I didn’t feel like leaving my bed,” he said.

The defense's version

The defense attorney, Mr. Baez, told the jury in his opening remarks on Tuesday that Anthony’s repeated lies are a symptom of years of sexual abuse by her father and brother. It is her way of coping, he said, to find an alternate reality and essentially hide in plain sight.

According to Baez, Anthony did not kill her daughter, who died in a swimming pool accident. The body was discovered, Baez says, by Anthony and her father, George.

The accident was supposedly covered up to prevent investigators from discovering the long history of incest in the Anthony family, he suggested.

Prosecutors sought to counter the effects of this explosive defense gambit by immediately calling George Anthony to the stand Tuesday as the trial’s first witness.

He said he did not know how his granddaughter died and he repeatedly denied sexually abusing his daughter.

During Lazzaro’s cross examination, Baez sought to return to the theme of sexual abuse. He asked Lazzaro if there came a time when Anthony shared a secret with him about her father abusing her.

“Yes,” he said.

Prosecutors objected to the question and answer because the answer was hearsay. Lazzaro wouldn’t necessarily know the truth of the statement, just what Anthony told him.

The judge sustained the objection.

Anthony is accused of first-degree murder in the disappearance and death of Caylee, who was last seen alive on June 15, 2008. Her remains were discovered six months later in December in a wooded area not far from the family’s home.

Law enforcement was not told that Caylee was missing until mid-July after Anthony’s parents called 911. At one point, Anthony said her daughter was kidnapped by her nanny, but the story was later dismissed.

The case touched off a nationwide search, with tips flooding in from across the country until the body was discovered.

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