Casey Anthony Trial: Closing Arguments Bring High Drama
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Closing arguments typically don't make for dynamic television. However, there were few dull moments today during the final stages of the nation's latest trial of the century - the State of Florida vs. Casey Anthony.
The defense completed their closing arguments and the prosecution will wrap the case up with their rebuttal on Monday. Then, the jury will decide Anthony's fate.
Prosecutor Jeff Ashton spoke first on behalf of the state this morning and wasted little time getting to the point. The alleged murderess, Ashton told the 12 men and women on the jury, wanted to live a carefree life, a life with her new boyfriend and without her 2-year-old daughter Caylee.
"Something had to be sacrificed. ... [T]he conflict between the life that she wanted and the life that was thrust upon her was simply irreconcilable and something had to give," Ashton said. "She took her child, she took her life, and she put her in the trunk and forgot about her. After a couple of days, she couldn't forget anymore, and she disposed of her body in a swamp."
Anthony, 25, is accused of multiple charges, including capital murder, aggravated child abuse, aggravated manslaughter of a child and misleading law enforcement in the death of her daughter. The prosecution is seeking the death penalty.
For 90 minutes, Ashton detailed the state's case and described the state’s theory that a desperate Anthony suffocated her daughter with duct tape and fabricated fantastic lies to cover up her evil deeds.
"Casey is very bright. Her lies are very detailed. ... When Casey wants to do what Casey wants to do, she finds a way," Ashton said.
The veteran prosecutor then took aim at the defense theory Anthony's attorney, Jose Baez, detailed in opening statements. According to Baez, Casey Anthony and her father, George Anthony, were home alone on June 16, 2008, when they noticed Caylee was missing. They began a frantic search, looking under beds and in the garage. Then George Anthony took 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.'"
That theory, Aston told jurors today, is a fantasy - a fictional tale Lewis Carroll might have written. The defense wants jurors to suspend their common sense, he said.
"It is a trip down a rabbit hole into a bizarre world where men who love their granddaughters find them drowned and do nothing," Ashton said, "where men who love their granddaughters take an accident, a completely innocent act, and make it look like a murder for no reason; a world where a man who buries his pets will take the granddaughter who was the love of his life and throw her in a swamp. This is the world that the defense invites you to occupy."
The murder weapon, according to prosecutors, was chloroform, traces of which investigators claim to have found in the trunk of Anthony's car, and the piece of duct tape that was found on the child's skull.
"We can only hope that the chloroform was used before the tape was applied so that Caylee went peacefully without feeling, but go she did, and she died because she could not breathe," Ashton said. "She died because she had three pieces of duct tape over her nose and mouth, and she died because her mother decided that the life she wanted was more important."
All of the evidence points to one thing, that "she is guilty of murder in the first degree, and that murder was premeditated," the prosecutor continued.
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Jose Baez made an equally impassioned closing argument to the jury. His was no lackluster argument.
As Baez spoke, his client watched him, the fact that her life and liberty are at stake visibly apparent in her eyes. Tears occasionally streamed from her eyes. For herself or her daughter? Only she will ever know.
"This case deals with so much emotion. I know there were times when every single person in here felt something deep down inside," Baez continued. "Your rules of deliberation. ... What the law is, is that this case must not be decided for or against anyone because you feel sorry for anyone or are angry at anyone. We want you to base your verdict on the evidence, not on emotion."
Baez said the prosecution failed to show any evidence in the first weeks of the trial. He pointed to its earliest witnesses - Casey Anthony's former friends and lovers. One by one, they took the stand and testified how the then-22-year-old mother had entered a "Hot Body" contest, got a tattoo, went on a shopping spree and showed no signs of anxiety or depression just four days after the date her lawyer claimed her daughter had drowned. According to the defense, the tactic was nothing more than a character assassination.
"[The prosecution] didn’t come right out the gate and show you the evidence; they gave you two weeks of testimony that was completely irrelevant and served only one purpose, and that was to paint Casey Anthony as a slut [and] a party girl."
The prosecution had a convoluted method to its madness, Baez said.
"The strategy behind that is ... if you think she is a lying, no good slut, you will start to look at this evidence in a different light," he explained. "You will start to[say], 'Oh, wait a minute, maybe I am seeing something that is not there' and start to actually discriminate against her."
Baez added, "We all know Casey acted inappropriately and made some mistakes and bad decisions. She should have called the police ... but if there are crimes associated with those acts, the state of Florida has the ability to charge her with whatever crimes they feel those acts warrant. They don't have the right to overcharge or inflate a case to make it something that it is not."
Speaking about the air samples taken from the trunk of Anthony's car and other scientific evidence - some methods which had never previously been used in a Florida criminal court case - Baez called them a "fantasy of forensics."
"The car does not shed any light on how Caylee died," he added.
Baez also pointed out that none of the medical experts who testified in court have been able to determine how Caylee died. "There's no dispute that [Caylee] has passed on. The state has the burden of proof," Baez told the jury.
At one point, Baez verbally attacked Ashton for laughing during his closing arguments, which caused Judge Belvin Perry to warn both men that if such an incident happened again, he would exclude them from participating in the remainder of the proceedings.
The defense finished their closing arguments late this evening and the jury is expected to begin deliberating after the prosecution finishes their rebuttal tomorrow morning.
The marathon trial - 33 days of testimony, 400 pieces of evidence and more than 90 witnesses - has captured the attention of the world. For six weeks, millions of viewers have tuned in. Now they'll wait with bated breath to see if Anthony will go down in history as the murderess of the century or if she will walk away and be free for the first time in roughly three years.