Casey Anthony case goes to the jury
Last Updated 12:13 p.m. ET
ORLANDO, Fla. - The jury in the Casey Anthony murder trial has been charged by the judge to begin its deliberations.
Judge Belvin Perry instructed the jurors on the seven separate charges Anthony faces, including first-degree murder.
The jury of seven women and five men - chosen from the Tampa Bay area and sequestered in an Orlando hotel - will consider whether Anthony is guilty of first-degree murder in the death of her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee. If convicted of that charge, the 25-year-old could get the death penalty or life in prison. Anthony has pleaded not guilty.
Anthony also is charged with aggravated child abuse, aggravated manslaughter of a child and four counts of providing false information to law enforcement. The child abuse and manslaughter charges each carry a 30-year prison term if she's convicted.
Attorneys wrapped up their closing arguments earlier Monday. Prosecutors charge Anthony suffocated the girl with duct tape because Caylee got in the way of her love life and would soon be old enough to reveal the many lies she told her parents.
Defense attorneys say the girl accidentally drowned in the family pool. They say Anthony panicked and her father, a former police officer, decided to make the death look like a murder and dumped the body. Prosecutors called the defense's arguments "absurd."
Prosecutor Jeff Ashton told the jurors during his rebuttal closing argument that no one makes an innocent accident look like a murder. The defense contends that Caylee drowned in the family's pool and when Anthony panicked her father, a former police officer, decided to make the death look like a homicide by placing duct tape over the child's mouth and dumping the body in some nearby woods. George Anthony has denied that.
"That's absurd. Nothing has been presented to you to make that any less absurd," Ashton said. He also spent significant time reminding the jurors about the forensic evidence that he says links Anthony to her daughter's death, including the smell and chemical signature of decomposition in her car.
Lead prosecutor Linda Drane Burdick followed Ashton, telling the jurors that prosecutors presented every piece of evidence they promised during opening statements back in May. Without saying it, she was pointing out that defense attorneys never presented direct evidence backing up their contentions that the child drowned and that the death was made to look like a murder.
She then hammered on the lies Casey Anthony told during the 31 days between when her daughter was last seen on June 16, 2008, and before the police were notified a month later. Those include telling her parents that she couldn't produce Caylee because she was with a nanny named Zanny, a woman who doesn't exist; that she and her daughter were spending time in Jacksonville with a rich boyfriend who doesn't exist; and that Zanny had been hospitalized after an out-of-town traffic accident and that they were spending time with her.
"Responses to grief are as varied as the day is long, but responses to guilt are oh, so predictable," Drane Burdick said. "What do guilty people do? They lie. They avoid. They run. They mislead, not just to their family, but the police. They divert attention away from themselves and they act like nothing is wrong. That's why you heard about what happened those 31 days."
Burdick concluded the prosecution's case by showing the jury two side-by-side photographs of Casey Anthony. One was of her smiling and partying in a nightclub during the month Caylee was missing. The other was of the "beautiful life" tattoo she got a day before her family and law enforcement first learned of the child's disappearance.
"At the end of this case all you have to ask yourself is whose life was better without Caylee?" Burdick asked. "This is your answer."
Anthony sat stone faced during much of the prosecutors' arguments, but she occasionally shook her head in disagreement and spoke under her breath.
The judge rejected a defense motion for a mistrial after the prosecution closed their arguments.
Criminologist Casey Jordan told "Early Show" co-anchor Erica Hill she was "impressed" with lead prosecutor Jeff Ashton, saying he "finally really hammered about the motive which they had really ignored. ... painted a picture of this party girl who could not have the life of independence she wanted as long as her daughter was in the way. And I think he was extremely effective with that, and then he went through the forensics and methodically laid it out. (It was a) highly effective closing."
Jordan said lead defense attorney Jose Baez, on the other hand, "methodically walked through what he believed the 'fantasy forensics' were. He kept saying it didn't add up, there were problems with this, problems with that. He was a little bit disorganized. But (fellow defense lawyer) Cheney Mason tried to bring it all together in the end and simply hammered on the idea that, if you can envision an accident, and remember, he says, that the biggest gorilla in the room was that Casey didn't take the stand.
"But the truth is the biggest gorialla in the room was that what they presented didn't match their opening statement. So what he ended up doing was simply reminding the jury, if you can envision an accident, any kind of accident, if they did not rise to a level of murder, then you must vote not guilty. He really simply said if you have any question in your mind, then you have a doubt and that doubt equals not guilty, which was effective."
Ashton said during his 90-minute argument, "Something needed to be sacrificed, that something was either the life she wanted or the life thrust upon her. She chose to sacrifice her child."
Baez said the prosecutors' case was so weak they tried to portray Anthony as "a lying, no-good slut" and that their forensic evidence was based on a "fantasy." He said Caylee's death was "an accident that snowballed out of control."
Defense attorneys contend that after Caylee drowned, her troubled mother's lies and erratic behavior were brought on by her grief over her dead child and the sexual abuse she suffered as a child from her father. George Anthony denies that allegation, and the judge said no evidence has been presented to support it.
Baez began his closing argument Sunday with his biggest question: How did Caylee die? Neither prosecutors nor the defense have offered firm proof.
He attacked the prosecution's forensic evidence. He said air analysis of the trunk of Anthony's car, which allegedly showed air molecules consistent with decomposition, could not be duplicated. No one could prove a stain found in the trunk was caused by Caylee's body decomposing there. And witnesses showed maggots found in the trunk came from a bag of trash that was found there, he said.
"They throw enough against the wall and see what sticks. That is what they're doing ... right down to the cause of death," Baez said. He conceded his client had told elaborate lies and invented imaginary friends and even a fake father for Caylee, but he said that doesn't mean she killed her daughter.
Baez also attacked George Anthony as unreliable. He said a suicide note that George Anthony wrote in January 2009 that claimed no knowledge of what happened to Caylee was self-serving and the attempt was a fraud. He said George Anthony claimed he was going to kill himself with a six-pack of beer and some high-blood pressure medicine.
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