ORLANDO — Prosecutors spent 19 days proving beyond any doubt that Casey Anthony is a liar who loves to party. But did they also prove that she murdered her 2-year-old daughter Caylee?
The prosecution rested its case Wednesday after introducing a wealth of circumstantial and forensic evidence that prosecutors say shows the single mother suffocated her daughter by wrapping duct tape around her head. They say she left the girl's body in her car until it stank and dumped it in the woods near the home she shared with her parents.
But they have no witnesses who saw the killing. No one saw Anthony with the body. And because the body was so decomposed, there is no absolute proof that the child was suffocated, just the tape remnants on her skull. Caylee's remains were found in December 2008, six months after the girl was last seen.
And while the prosecution used Anthony's friends, parents and brother to show that she lied repeatedly before and after her child died, the witnesses also all agreed that she was a loving and doting mother. If convicted of first-degree murder, Anthony could get a death sentence.
"I think (the prosecutors) did as best they could with the evidence that they have," said Leslie Garfield, a criminal law professor at Pace Law School in New York. "The problem is that all 12 jurors have to find a verdict unanimously beyond all reasonable doubt. So you wind up having a pretty heavy burden."
And that's what Anthony's attorneys will bank on when they begin their case today — but they also set a high bar for themselves. In his opening statement, lead defense attorney Jose Baez said he will show that Caylee accidentally drowned in her grandparents' swimming pool and that Casey freaked out. He said Anthony's father, a former police officer, made the death look like a murder and helped her dump the body. George Anthony adamantly denied the claim during his testimony, along with an accusation that he molested Casey as a child.
Many lawyers familiar with the case think Anthony, 25, will have to testify in her own defense, opening her up scathing cross-examination. "That's really risky," Garfield said.