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Casey Anthony's Legal Team Shocks Court, Claims Daughter Drowned

Casey Anthony Trial

First Posted: 05/24/11 05:57 PM ET Updated: 07/24/11 06:12 AM ET

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Casey Anthony's attorney shocked a packed courtroom during opening statements Tuesday, telling the jury that Anthony's 2-year-old daughter Caylee was the victim of an accidental death and not a murder as the prosecutors contended.

Attorney Jose Baez's words reverberated through the courthouse. Florida police had said for nearly three years that Anthony had led them to believe her child had been kidnapped by her babysitter, leading to one of the biggest searches for a missing child in U.S. history. Now, the defense is saying that this mother was unable to tell the truth after years of abuse.

"How in the world can a mother wait 30 days before ever reporting her daughter missing?" Baez asked in open court. "It's insane. It's bizarre. Something's just not right about that .

"Well, the answer is relatively simple -- she never was missing. Caylee Anthony died on June 16, 2008, when she drowned in her family's swimming pool."

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According to Baez, Casey Anthony and her father, George Anthony, were home alone on the day the alleged accident occurred. The attorney said it was in the early morning hours of June 16 that George noticed Caylee was missing and he and his daughter began a frantic search -- looking under beds and in the garage. It was during that search that George Anthony decided to take the search outside, to the above-ground pool. Baez said.

"As Casey came around the corner [of the pool] she saw George Anthony holding Caylee in his arms," the defense attorney told the jury. "She immediately grabbed Caylee and began to cry. Shortly thereafter, George began to yell at her: 'Look what you've done. Your mother will never forgive you and you will go to jail for child neglect for the rest of your frigging life.'"

It has long been reported that Caylee was last seen on June 16, 2008. Her disappearance, however, was not reported until July 15, 2008, when Casey Anthony's mother, Cindy Anthony, called 911.

"I found out my granddaughter has been taken, she has been missing," Anthony said. "My daughter [Casey] finally admitted that she's [Caylee's] been missing."

Questioned by police, Casey Anthony alleged her daughter had been abducted by her babysitter. Multiple searches were conducted and, in December 2008, a former Orange County meter reader named Roy Kronk found Caylee's remains near her family home.

Up until Tuesday, Casey Anthony, 25, had claimed her daughter was abducted by a babysitter. She is accused of multiple charges, including capital murder, aggravated child abuse, aggravated manslaughter of a child and misleading law enforcement. The prosecution seeks the death penalty.

The stunning revelation at Anthony's trial emerged after a two-and-a-half-hour-long opening statement by Assistant State Attorney Linda Drane Burdick. The prosecution alleges Anthony is a pathological liar who is guilty of the crime of murder in the first degree.

"As difficult as it may be for anyone to accept that a mother would intentionally kill her own child -- from the evidence you will hear in this case there is no other conclusion that can be drawn," Burdick said. "No one but Casey Anthony had access to all the pieces of evidence in this case ... no one else lied to their friends, to their family, to the investigators. No one else benefited from the death of Caylee Marie Anthony."

Burdick alleged that Caylee's death allowed Casey to "live the good life." The evidence in the case, she promised, would show Caylee was "murdered by her mother."

Baez countered the prosecution's allegations involving the nanny whom Anthony had previously said kidnapped her child, as well as her alleged claims of a job at Universal Studios. Rather than continue to purport the mysterious nanny's alleged existence, Baez admitted his client had fabricated the babysitter long before Caylee was reported missing.

"For two years [Casey] pretended she had a job and pretended she had a nanny," Baez said. "Is that normal? Is that what normal people do?" Those lies, Baez alleged, were to protect Caylee. "[Casey] lived a lie to protect her child. She forced herself to live in a world she wanted to. Not the one she was thrust into."

The lies, Baez alleged, stemmed from years of sordid sexual abuse that Anthony allegedly suffered at the hands of her own father, George Anthony.

"It all began when Casey was eight years old and her father came into her room and began to touch her inappropriately and it escalated ... She could be 14 years old, have [had] her father's penis in her mouth, and go to school and play with the other kids as if nothing [had] happened," Baez said.

George Anthony, who was present in the courtroom and sat quietly with a Bible on his lap during opening statements, was red-faced and visibly upset by Baez's allegations.

The defense attorney also took aim at Casey's older brother, Lee Anthony, alleging he tried to "follow in his father's footsteps."

"On certain occasions when he was a teenager, [Lee] attempted to also touch his sister, although it didn't go as far," Baez said, adding: "These ugly secrets will come out at this trial. And you'll see what makes Casey Anthony act the way she does."

But what about Caylee? Why the cover-up? According to Baez, the alleged sexual abuse, as well as Anthony's "incredible dysfunctional" family life was to blame.

"After Caylee died, Casey did what she's been doing all of her life, or for most of it -- hiding her pain," Baez said. "Going into that dark corner and pretending that she does not live in the situation she was living in. She went into the deep, dark, ugly placed called denial to pretend as if nothing was wrong."

Caylee's death was, her attorney alleged, a horrible tragedy.

"Casey should have been stronger. Casey should have called 911. Casey should have done the right thing and that's what she's guilty of," Baez said. "[But] she's not guilty of murder ... This is a sad tragic accident that snowballed out of control and was covered up."

But was it an accident? Burdick alleged Caylee's death was premeditated and, as evidence, she pointed to computer forensic analysis that allegedly shows Internet searches were conducted on a computer inside the Anthony family home in March that contained the words "Chloroform, alcohol," "household weapons," "neck-breaking" and "self defense."

"There could have been no other user making those searches than Casey Anthony," Burdick said.

The veteran prosecutor also alleged that Anthony threw out her daughter "like she was just another piece of trash." Burdick added: "Caylee spent many months in that spot -- roots encircled the blanket, wrapped themselves into the bags that she was in."

Baez did not offer an explanation today for what George and Casey Anthony allegedly did with Caylee Anthony's body after she drowned but he did indicate that Kronk may have hid it in the woods. It was, however, never explained how the meter reader would have first stumbled upon the remains.

Casey Anthony sat stoic through much of the opening statements. She cried briefly when a photo of Caylee's skull was shown and appeared disgusted when the allegations of sexual abuse were raised but for the most part appeared restless.

Once opening statements were finished, George Anthony was the first witness called to testify in court. While on the stand prosecutors asked him if he had ever molested his daughter, to which he responded, "No sir."

George Anthony denied having any knowledge of his granddaughter's death and said he knows nothing about the drowning Baez mentioned in his opening argument.

"I never knew of anything that happened to Caylee until our lives started to unfold on July 15 and Caylee was found on December 11," Anthony said. "I would have done anything I could to save my granddaughter."

Anthony also denied disposing of his granddaughter's body.

Not long into George Anthony's testimony, court was recessed until 9 a.m. Tuesday.

It is too soon to speculate on who the jury might be siding with, but both sides seem confident they will win.

"This is not a murder case ... end this nightmare by sending [Casey] home," Baez said.

Burdick: "At the end of this case, you will have no trouble concluding that Caylee Anthony was murdered by her mother."

Loading Slideshow...
  • Casey Anthony Trial July 4, 2011

    Casey Anthony goes over paperwork during a break on the final day of arguments in her murder trial at the Orange County Courthouse in Orlando, Fla. on Monday, July 4, 2011. Anthony has plead not guilty to first-degree murder in the death of her daughter, Caylee, and could face the death penalty if convicted of that charge.

  • Casey Anthony Trial July 4, 2011

    Assist. State Attorney Linda Drane Burdick presents the final portion of rebuttal at the Orange County Courthouse in Orlando, Fla. on Monday, July 4, 2011. Anthony has plead not guilty to first-degree murder in the death of her daughter, Caylee, and could face the death penalty if convicted of that charge.

  • Casey Anthony Trial July 5, 2011

    Casey Anthony stands for the arrival of the jury at the start of the second day of jury deliberations in her murder trial at the Orange County Courthouse in Orlando, Fla., Tuesday, July 5, 2011. Anthony has plead not guilty to first-degree murder in the death of her daughter, Caylee, and could face the death penalty if convicted of that charge.

  • Casey Anthony Trial July 4, 2011

    Spectators in the courtroom listen to the rebuttal presented by Assist. State Attorney Jeff Ashton on the final day of arguments in the Casey Anthony trial at the Orange County Courthouse in Orlando, Fla. on Monday, July 4, 2011. Anthony has plead not guilty to first-degree murder in the death of her daughter, Caylee, and could face the death penalty if convicted of that charge.

  • Casey Anthony Trial July 4, 2011

    Assistant State Attorney Jeff Ashton gives the final rebuttal in the Casey Anthony murder trial at the Orange County Courthouse in Orlando, Fla. on Monday, July 4, 2011. Anthony has plead not guilty to first-degree murder in the death of her daughter, Caylee, and could face the death penalty if convicted of that charge.

  • Casey Anthony Trial July 4, 2011

    Judge Belvin Perry listens as Assist. State Attorney Jeff Ashton present rebuttal on the last day of arguments in the Casey Anthony trial at the Orange County Courthouse in Orlando, Fla. on Monday, July 4, 2011. Anthony has plead not guilty to first-degree murder in the death of her daughter, Caylee, and could face the death penalty if convicted of that charge.

  • Casey Anthony Trial July 4, 2011

    Casey Anthony with her attorney Dorothy Clay Sims on the last day of arguments in Anthony's murder trial at the Orange County Courthouse in Orlando, Fla. on Monday, July 4, 2011. Anthony has plead not guilty to first-degree murder in the death of her daughter, Caylee, and could face the death penalty if convicted of that charge.

  • Casey Anthony Trial July 4, 2011

    Cindy Anthony, wearing bracelets in tribute to her granddaughter Caylee Anthony, listens during the final day of arguments in the trial of her daughter Casey Anthony at the Orange County Courthouse in Orlando, Fla. on Monday, July 4, 2011. Anthony has plead not guilty to first-degree murder in the death of her daughter, Caylee, and could face the death penalty if convicted of that charge.

  • Casey Anthony Trial July 3, 2011

    Defense attorney Cheney Mason presents a burden of proof chart during closing arguments of the Casey Anthony murder trial at the Orange County Courthouse in Orlando, Fla., Sunday, July 3, 2011. Anthony has plead not guilty to first-degree murder in the death of her daughter, Caylee, and could face the death penalty if convicted of that charge.

  • Casey Anthony Trial July 3, 2011

    Jose Baez points and yells in the direction of the prosecution table during his closing arguments in the Casey Anthony murder trial in Orlando, Fla., Sunday, July 3, 2011. Judge Belvin Perry called a sidebar during the arguments to deal with the outburst. Anthony has plead not guilty to first-degree murder charges in the death of her daughter, Caylee, and could face the death penalty if convicted on the charge.

  • Casey Anthony Trial July 3, 2011

    George Anthony listens to closing arguments in the murder trial of his daughter, Casey, in Orlando, Fla. on Sunday, July 3, 2011. Casey Anthony has plead not guilty to first-degree murder in the death of her daughter, Caylee, and could face the death penalty if convicted of that charge.

  • Casey Anthony Trial July 3, 2011

    Casey Anthony reacts while listening to the state's closing arguments in her murder trial in Orlando, Fla., Sunday, July 3, 2011. Anthony has plead not guilty to first-degree murder in the death of her daughter, Caylee, and could face the death penalty, if convicted.

  • Casey Anthony Trial July 3, 2011

    Assistant state attorney Jeff Ashton presents closing arguments for the state in the murder trial of Casey Anthony in Orlando, Fla., Sunday, July 3, 2011. Anthony has plead not guilty to first-degree murder in the death of her daughter, Caylee, and could face the death penalty if convicted of that charge.

  • Casey Anthony Trial June 30, 2011

    Casey Anthony gestures during her murder trial at the Orange County Courthouse Thursday, June 30, 2011 in Orlando, Fla. Anthony, 25, has plead not guilty in the death of her daughter, Caylee, and could face the death penalty if convicted of that charge.

  • Casey Anthony Trial June 30, 2011

    Spectator Matthew Bartlett is taken away by sheriff deputies on a contempt charge for his obscene gesture toward assistant state attorney Jeff Ashton during Casey Anthony's murder trial at the Orange County Courthouse Thursday, June 30, 2011 in Orlando, Fla. Casey Anthony, 25, has plead not guilty in the death of her daughter, Caylee, and could face the death penalty if convicted of that charge.

  • Casey Anthony Trial June 30, 2011

    Lee Anthony testifies during the murder trial of his sister Casey Anthony at the Orange County Courthouse on June 30, 2011 in Orlando, Florida. Anthony's defense attorneys argued that she didn't kill her two-year-old daughter Caylee, but that she accidentally drowned.

  • Casey Anthony Trial June 30, 2011

    Krystal Holloway, also known as River Cruz, reacts when questioned about transcripts from her police statements during the Casey Anthony trial at the Orange County Courthouse in Orlando, Florida, Thursday, June 30, 2011. Holloway claims to have had an affair with George Anthony, Casey's father.

  • Casey Anthony Trial June 29, 2011

    George Anthony reacts during his testimony in the murder trial of his daughter, Casey, in Orlando, Fla., Wednesday, June 29, 2011. Casey Anthony has plead not guilty to first-degree murder in the death of her daughter, Caylee, and could face the death penalty if convicted of that charge.

  • Casey Anthony Trial June 28, 2011

    Casey Anthony sits in court at her murder trial at the Orange County Courthouse in Orlando, Florida, Tuesday, June 28.

  • Casey Anthony Trial June 28, 2011

    Lee Anthony, right, returns to his seat next to his mother Cindy Anthony after he testified in the murder trial of sister Casey Anthony at the Orange County Courthouse in Orlando, Florida, Tuesday, June 28.

  • Casey Anthony Trial June 28, 2011

    An aerial photo showing the location where Caylee Anthony's remains were found is projected on a courtroom monitor in the Casey Anthony trial at the Orange County Courthouse in Orlando, Florida, Tuesday, June 28.

  • Casey Anthony Trial June 28, 2011

    Roy Kronk, a meter reader for Orange County, testifies during the Casey Anthony murder trial at the Orange County Courthouse, Tuesday, June 28, 2011, in Orlando, Fla. Anthony, 25, is charged with killing her daughter Caylee in the summer of 2008.

  • Casey Anthony Trial June 28, 2011

    Roy Kronk, the meter reader who found Caylee Anthony's remains, testifies in the murder trial of Casey Anthony at the Orange County Courthouse in Orlando, Florida, Tuesday, June 28.

  • Casey Anthony Trial June 27, 2011

    Defense attorney Jose Baez, left and Assistant state attorney Jeff Ashton, center, look over evidence with witness Dr. Kenneth Furton, a forensic chemist, during the Casey Anthony trial at the Orange County Courthouse in Orlando, Fla. on Monday, June 27, 2011. Anthony, 25, is charged with the murder of her 2-year old daughter in 2008.

  • Casey Anthony Trial June 27, 2011

    Casey Anthony, left, listens to her attorney Anne Finnell before the start of court in her murder trial at the Orange County Courthouse in Orlando, Fla. on Monday, June 27, 2011. Anthony, 25, is charged with the murder of her 2-year old daughter in 2008.

  • Casey Anthony Trial June 27, 2011

    Jason Forgey, a canine handler for the Orange County Sheriff's Department, testifies during the Casey Anthony trial at the Orange County Courthouse in Orlando, Fla., Monday, June 27, 2011. Anthony, 25, is charged with the murder of her 2-year old daughter in 2008.

  • Casey Anthony Trial June 27, 2011

    An image projected on a courtroom monitor shows a portion of a Powerpoint presentation entered into evidence at the Casey Anthony trial at the Orange County Courthouse in Orlando, Florida, Monday, June 27, 2011.

  • Casey Anthony Trial June 23, 2011

    Cindy Anthony testifies during her daughter Casey Anthony's murder trial at the Orange County Courthouse, in Orlando, Fla., Thursday, June 23, 2011. Casey Anthony is charged with killing her daughter, Caylee in 2008.

  • Casey Anthony Trial June 23, 2011

    Casey Anthony sits at the defense table during a recess during her murder trial at the Orange County Courthouse in Orlando, Florida, on Thursday, June 23, 2011.

  • Casey Anthony Trial June 23, 2011

    Evidence is lined up in front of Dr. Barry Logan, an analytic chemist, as he waits to testify on day 26 of Casey Anthony's murder trial at the Orange County Courthouse, in Orlando, Fla., Thursday, June 23, 2011. Anthony is charged with killing her daughter, Caylee.

  • Casey Anthony Trial Photos

    An image projected on a courtroom monitor shows a photograph entered into evidence during the Casey Anthony trial at the Orange County Courthouse in Orlando, Fla., Thursday, June 23, 2011. Casey Anthony, 25, is charged with killing her daughter Caylee in the summer of 2008.

  • Casey Anthony Trial June 23, 2011

    Judge Belvin Perry on day 26 of Casey Anthony's 1st-degree murder trial at the Orange County Courthouse in Orlando, Fla., Thursday, June 23, 2011. Casey Anthony, 25, is charged with killing her daughter Caylee in the summer of 2008.

  • Casey Anthony Trial Photos

    A picture of computer reports from the Anthony desktop computer is shown on a courtroom monitor on day 26 of Casey Anthony's first degree murder trial at the Orange County Courthouse in Orlando, Fla., Thursday, June 23, 2011. Casey Anthony, 25, is charged with killing her daughter Caylee in the summer of 2008. (AP Photo/Red Huber, Pool)

  • Casey Anthony Trial June 22, 2011

    Casey Anthony talks with her attorney Jose Baez, left, during a recess in her murder trial at the Orange County Courthouse in Orlando, Florida, Wednesday, June 22, 2011.

  • Casey Anthony Trial June 22, 2011

    Cindy Anthony listens in court during the trial of her daughter Casey Anthony at the Orange County Courthouse in Orlando, Florida, Wednesday, June 22, 2011.

  • Casey Anthony Trial Photos

    An image projected on a courtroom monitor shows a photo entered into evidence in the trial of Casey Anthony at the Orange County Courthouse in Orlando, Florida.

  • Casey Anthony Trial June 22, 2011

    Dr. Michael Sigman testifies about air samples during the Casey Anthony trial at the Orange County Courthouse in Orlando, Florida, Wednesday, June 22, 2011.

  • Casey Anthony Trial June 22, 2011

    Maureen Bottrell, a forensic geologist for the FBI, testifies in the trial of Casey Anthony at the Orange County Courthouse in Orlando, Florida, Wednesday, June 22, 2011. (Red Huber/Orlando Sentinel/MCT)

  • Casey Anthony Trial June 20, 2011

    Judge Belvin Perry, center, holds a sidebar conference with attorneys in the Casey Anthony murder trail in Orlando, Fla., on Monday, June 20, 2011. An infuriated Perry warned the Anthony defense and prosecution today that he is getting fed up with games being played during the course of the trial. Court was recessed early without explanation.

  • Casey Anthony Trial June 20, 2011

    Assistant state attorney Jeff Ashton listens to Judge Belvin Perry's directions during the Casey Anthony trial at the Orange County Courthouse in Orlando, Florida, Monday, June 20, 2011.

  • Casey Anthony Trial June 20, 2011

    Defense attorney Jose Baez, second from right, and his client Casey Anthony listen to assistant state attorney Jeff Ashton talk to Judge Belvin Perry, not pictured, before the start of court at the Orange County Courthouse in Orlando, Florida, Monday, June 20, 2011. (Red Huber/Orlando Sentinel/MCT)

  • Casey Anthony Trial June 20, 2011

    Casey Anthony enters the courtroom for the 22nd day of her murder trial at the Orange County Courthouse in Orlando, Florida, Monday, June 20, 2011.

  • Casey Anthony Trial

    During forensic expert Dr. Spitz's testimony, Casey Anthony turns her head away when photos of the skull of her daughter, Caylee Marie, were shown at the Orange County Courthouse in Orlando, Fla., Saturday, June 18, 2011. Anthony, 25, is charged with killing her daughter Caylee in the summer of 2008.

  • Casey Anthony Trial June 18, 2011

    Forensic expert Dr. Werner Spitz testifies in the trial of Casey Anthony, talking about autopsy results of the remains of Caylee Anthony at the Orange County Courthouse in Orlando, Fla., Saturday, June 18, 2011. Anthony, 25, is charged with killing her daughter Caylee in the summer of 2008.

  • Casey Anthony Trial June 18, 2011

    Chief Judge Belvin Perry expresses deep frustration at the Orange County Courthouse in Orlando, Fla., Saturday, June 18, 2011, that defense attorney Jose Baez attempted to elicit critical testimony from William Rodriguez, testimony that had not been disclosed to the prosecution earlier. Perry may end up punishing Baez with a contempt finding, but he reserved ruling on that matter. Casey Anthony, 25, is charged with killing her daughter Caylee in the summer of 2008.

  • Casey Anthony Trial June 18, 2011

    Casey Anthony, right, consoles her attorney Jose Baez after Chief Judge Belvin Perry expressed deep frustration that defense attorney Jose Baez attempted to elicit critical testimony from William Rodriguez, testimony that had not been disclosed to the prosecution earlier. Perry may end up punishing Baez with a contempt finding, but he reserved ruling on that matter. at the Orange County Courthouse in Orlando, Fla., Saturday, June 18, 2011.

  • Casey Anthony Trial June 17, 2011

    Casey Anthony is shown at the defense table before the start of court in her murder trial at the Orange County Courthouse, Friday, June 17, 2011 in Orlando, Fla. Anthony, 25, is charged with killing her daughter Caylee in the summer of 2008.

  • Casey Anthony Trial June 17, 2011

    Dr. Tim Huntington, forensic entomologist, testifies during the murder trial of Casey Anthony at the Orange County Courthouse, Friday, June 17, 2011 in Orlando, Fla. Anthony, 25, is charged with killing her daughter Caylee in the summer of 2008.

  • Casey Anthony Trial June 17, 2011

    An evidence photo showing trash found in the trunk of a car is held by an attorney during the Casey Anthony murder trial at the Orange County Courthouse, Friday, June 17, 2011 in Orlando, Fla. Anthony, 25, is charged with killing her daughter Caylee in the summer of 2008.

  • Casey Anthony Trial June 17, 2011

    George Anthony listens to testimony during the murder trial of his daughter Casey Anthony at the Orange County Courthouse, Friday, June 17, 2011 in Orlando, Fla. Anthony, 25, is charged with killing her daughter Caylee in the summer of 2008.

  • Casey Anthony Trial June 16, 2011

    Casey Anthony, with her attorney Cheney Mason, during day 20 of her first-degree murder trial at the Orange County Courthouse, in Orlando, Florida, Thursday, June 16, 2011.

This report has been updated.

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