Can Casey Anthony get a fair trial?
Casey and Caylee Anthony (Family Photo)
Produced by Ira Sutow, Jonathan Leach and Gail Zimmerman
ORLANDO, Fla. - It has been two-and-a-half years since Casey Anthony was first arrested and charged with murdering her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee, in a criminal case that has become a public obsession.
"The evidence is overwhelming," Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi says. "No one else in the world could've done this except Casey Anthony."
"People hate her!" Casey's father, George Anthony, told "48 Hours" in 2009.
"She's been portrayed as an evil person," added Cindy Anthony.
Casey was a 22-year-old single mother. She and her daughter lived with Casey's parents, George and Cindy, in their Orlando home.
"Casey was a good mom," Cindy said. "Casey put her daughter first."
The little girl was described by most everyone around her as incredibly cute, happy and outgoing.
"She was just a beautiful child," said Cindy.
But Caylee disappeared that summer after Casey took her daughter and left her parents' home. Even more startling, is that Casey waited an entire month before revealing to her family and authorities that her child was missing - a fact that sent the local media into overdrive.Video: Investigators talk with Casey
"It's very unfair of the media to go and harass people and that's...exactly what the media has done," said Cindy.
Confronted by a constant barrage of questions from reporters outside her home, Cindy finally lashed out:
"I've asked you guys to respect my privacy," she yells. "All of you leeches, all of you parasites, all of you maggots out here. OK? That's true. Because that's exactly what you guys are. All of you guys."
Fueling the flames, Casey claimed her nanny, a woman no one could find - much less even prove existed, had kidnapped the child.
Meanwhile, thousands of volunteers helped in a massive search for Caylee, but were hampered by flooding caused by bad weather.
"I pray every night that when I wake up in the next morning, that it would be just a nightmare," Cindy said. "And Caylee would come in the morning and wake me up. But you know - that prayer can't be answered."
That's because six months after Caylee disappeared in December 2008, her skeletal remains were discovered in a wooded area not far from her grandparents' home. Authorities say duct tape had been wrapped around her skull and her body had been stuffed into two garbage bags.
Her exact cause of death was unknown.
Throughout it all, though, Casey's parents have stood by her - even when they became targets of the community themselves for protecting their daughter, who many believe is a killer.
"People would be shouting obscenities...screaming at us... It was just unbelievable," George said. "I think it's almost like a hangman's type mentality for some of these people."
"There's no proof that Casey had anything to do with it," added Cindy.
It's an opinion strongly shared by Casey's two lead defense attorneys. Jose Baez and Cheney Mason have given "48 Hours" an inside look at the defense as they prepare for her upcoming trial.
"It's an unprovable case because it's not true," says Jose Baez.
If Casey Anthony is convicted, she could face the death penalty.
"This is not a death penalty case, in my opinion. And I've been trying murder cases for 40 years," Cheney Mason says. "There is no...evidence linking her with the death of this child. Period."
Asked if Casey can get a fair trial, Baez tells "48 Hours Mystery" correspondent Troy Roberts, "I don't know."
Baez's concern is finding jurors who he feels haven't been swayed by the constant reports of seemingly solid evidence against Casey Anthony - media coverage that has been going nonstop for nearly three years.
"It's very challenging to find people who can be fair and impartial because of the attention that this case has gotten," he explains.
So defense attorneys brought in Richard Gabriel - who is by reputation - one of the best trial consultants in the country, to help them try to pick a favorable jury.
"This is the most high-profile case in America," Gabriel tells Roberts. "The media pressure on this has been almost entirely negative... with 80 to 90 percent ... believing that she's guilty already."
Jose Baez tried to get the trial moved out of Orlando, but the judge refused. Instead, when the trial begins on May 9, the lawyers will all travel to another Florida location, chosen by the Court - but as yet undisclosed - to pick the jury there.
"...then those selected jurors will be brought to Orlando and they will be sequestered in a hotel there. ...isolated for the entire period of the trial," explains Mason.
The trial is expected to last at least two months. "48 Hours" commissioned a focus group in Orlando made up of 12 adults, the same number as on a jury, to see if people there have already made up their minds about this case.
"48 Hours" asked the defense's consultant, Richard Gabriel, to conduct the focus group.
"Here is a representative group of what we normally see in an Orlando jury," Gabriel explains of the group.
"I'm gonna say two words to you: Casey Anthony," Gabriel says, addressing the participants.
"She's already been on trial."
"She's been on trial?"
"Been on trial for two years."
"She's basically been tried by the media..."
"She's been tried by the media, all we need is to bring 12 people in to give the stamp of approval, guilty, let's do it, OK," says Gabriel.
"Unfortunately, that's it. Everybody's already formed their opinion, and for the most part, it's guilty!"
It hasn't helped the defense that their client - from jail - has been openly defiant.
"I don't care about the media. I don't care about what people have been saying about me. That doesn't matter. Because I know it's not true," said Casey Anthony.
"Do you think it's possible that she'll be able to get a fair trial in Orlando?" Roberts asks the focus group.
Almost unanimously, the group responds:
"It'd be extremely difficult."
"Clearly what most people think they know about the Casey Anthony case is probably incorrect," says Baez.
"[It's the] biggest case with the least evidence that I've seen ever. Anywhere," adds Mason.
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