ORLANDO, Fla. – Casey Anthony's defense team rested its case Thursday in her high-profile murder trial without her testimony and some experts believe the strategy raised more questions than answers to support her claim that her 2-year daughter died in a tragic accident.
The jury also saw a note from a failed suicide attempt by Casey Anthony's own father, who wrestled with questions about what happened to his granddaughter. Casey Anthony claimed he helped her dispose of Caylee's body after she drowned.
At different parts of the note, George Anthony wrote: "Casey does not deserve to be where she is" and "She (Caylee) was found so close to home. Why?"
The prosecution began its rebuttal on Thursday afternoon. Closing arguments will follow and the jury could begin deliberating by this weekend. If convicted of first-degree murder, the 25-year-old could receive the death penalty.
Her attorneys never produced any witnesses bolstering the claim made in last month's opening statements that Anthony had acted without apparent remorse in the weeks after her daughter's death because she had been molested by her father as a child, resulting in emotional problems.
"If you do not at least present facts to support that argument, the jury is going to think you have no credibility," said Tim Jansen, a former federal prosecutor and criminal defense attorney in Tallahassee. "When you promise the jury something and don't deliver it you severely handicaps your client's case and you undermine your credibility with that jury."
Instead, the 13-day defense primarily focused on poking holes in the prosecution's contention that Anthony killed Caylee in June 2008 by covering her mouth with duct tape. Prosecutors said the woman dumped Caylee's body in the woods near her parents' home and then resumed her life of partying and shopping. Their case relied on circumstantial and forensic evidence, and it did have holes: Prosecutors had no witnesses who saw the killing or saw Casey Anthony with her daughter's body. And there was no certain proof that the child suffocated.
The prosecution began its rebuttal Thursday by walking through the door opened on Wednesday by the defense when it allowed parts of George Anthony's suicide note to be admitted. The note included George Anthony asking questions about the death of his granddaughter. Several members of the jury were glued to their monitors as the prosecutor projected the letter for them to read.
"Who is involved with this stuff for Caylee?" George Anthony wrote at one point in the letter to his family in January 2009.
The defense said in its opening statement that Caylee drowned and that George Anthony, a former police officer, helped her cover up the death by making it look like a homicide and dumping the body near their home, where it was found by a meter reader six months later. George Anthony has vehemently denied any involvement in Caylee's death, the disposal of her body or molesting his daughter.
Florida A&M law professor Karin Moore said she was "confused" throughout the case by the defense's approach.
"The defense could have attacked George Anthony weeks ago on cross-examination during the state's case, but waited until late in the trial," she said. "I think they waited too long to ask the big questions and got themselves in trouble."
The defense's final witnesses Thursday included Krystal Holloway, a woman who claims she had an affair with George Anthony that began after Caylee disappeared. She said he told her in November 2008 that Caylee's death was "an accident that snowballed out of control." George Anthony has denied having an affair with her but admitted visiting her home on several occasions.
They also recalled George Anthony to ask if he had supplied duct tape he used to put up posters of his granddaughter when she was missing. He said he couldn't remember. Lead defense attorney Jose Baez also asked him if he buried his pets after their deaths in plastic bags wrapped with duct tape. Anthony said he had on some occasions. Prosecutors have contended Caylee's body was disposed of in a similar manner. Under prosecution questioning, he said he had never thrown their carcasses in a swamp.
Caylee was last seen in mid-June 2008. For the next month, Casey Anthony avoided her parents, telling her mother and her friends that Caylee was with a baby sitter named Zanny.
Casey's parents soon got a notice that their daughter's car had been towed. George Anthony and the tow lot operator both said the Pontiac Sunfire smelled like death.
Prosecutors played a tape of a frantic 911 call made by Anthony's mother, Cindy, reporting her granddaughter missing. She tells the operator, "It smells like there's been a dead body in the damn car."
Casey Anthony then told detectives that Caylee had been kidnapped by the nanny, and a massive search was launched. Over the next several weeks, hundreds of volunteers scoured central Florida for any clues to Caylee's whereabouts. Meanwhile, numerous photos surfaced of Casey Anthony drinking; some of them allegedly taken in the month after Caylee disappeared.
Caylee's skeletal remains were reported in December 2008 by a municipal meter reader. A key part of the defense case was trying to discredit the meter reader, Roy Kronk, saying that he had actually discovered the body in August.
Associated Press reporter Brent Kallestad in Tallahassee contributed to this report.
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