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JUDGE PLANS TO SEAT JURY TODAY IN ANTHONY TRIAL

Associated Press

LARGO - The judge in the case of an Orlando woman accused of killing her 2-year-old daughter said he will swear in at least 12 jurors today after a prolonged jury-selection process.

Casey Anthony, 25, is charged with first-degree murder in the death of her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee. The girl's body was found with duct tape over the mouth of the skull in December 2008 not far from where she had lived with her mother. If convicted, the mother could face the death penalty.

Jury selection is being held in Pinellas County because of intense pretrial publicity in Orlando. Anthony has pleaded not guilty and said a babysitter kidnapped the child.

Thursday ended with 16 prospective jurors passing three rounds of vetting from attorneys over nine days. Questioning has focused on their exposure to pretrial publicity, possible hardships of a prolonged trial and personal beliefs about the death penalty.

Judge Belvin Perry, chief judge of the circuit serving Orange and Osceola counties, plans to try to swear in the first 12 on the list as the jury and designate the remainder as alternates.

Before the start of the process he wanted eight alternates, but reiterated Thursday that he is willing to settle for fewer. The final day that Perry has access to the Largo facility is Saturday.

Attorneys for both sides still can use peremptory challenges to eliminate jurors from the list before Perry begins to swear them in. But today, the defense is down to one challenge and the prosecution has just three remaining. So a minimum of 12 will be sworn in.

Perry had hoped to begin that next phase of the trial Tuesday but has been held up by a longer-than-expected selection process.

First thing Thursday, he excused four potential jurors for cause because of unforeseen financial hardships, reducing the pool unquestioned jurors to just 11. The pool was down to four at the end of the day.

At the request of attorneys, Perry brought in a brand new panel of 30 candidates after the afternoon lunch break. That group went through the initial hardship round of questioning. Nine of them were held over for today to join the pool and continue in the process if needed.

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