Casey Anthony Murder Trial: Jury Begins Deliberating

Jul 4: 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.

Jul 4: 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.  (AP)

After weeks of explosive testimony, at times a circus atmosphere and assertions of "fantasy" on both sides, jurors in the Casey Anthony murder trial will finally decide the 25-year-old mom killed her 2-year-old daughter.

The 12-person panel began deliberating Monday after hearing prosecutors argue that Anthony killed her daughter, Caylee, because the toddler prevented her from a life of partying.

The rebuttal came a day after heated closing arguments, including a particularly contentious moment when defense attorney José Báez took umbrage with prosecutor Jeff Ashton for believing he was laughing during his remarks.

On Monday, prosecutors wrapped up closing arguments by charging Baez's assertion that Caylee's death was an "accident that snowballed out of control" makes no sense.

Anthony's attorneys say the girl drowned in the family's pool. They have said Anthony panicked and that her father, a former police officer, decided to make the death look like a homicide by placing duct tape over the child's mouth and dumping the body in some nearby woods. George Anthony has denied that.

Ashton told the jurors that no one makes an innocent accident look like a murder.

"That's absurd. Nothing has been presented to you to make that any less absurd," Ashton said. He also spent significant time reminding the jurors about the forensic evidence that he says links Anthony to her daughter's death, including the smell and chemical signature of decomposition in her car.

Anthony is charged with first-degree murder and six other charges. If convicted of first-degree murder, she could be sentenced to death or life in prison. The seven women and five men of the jury were chosen from the Tampa Bay area because of pretrial media coverage of the case and have been sequestered in an Orlando hotel. They have listened to 33 days of testimony and another two days of closing arguments.

Lead prosecutor Linda Drane Burdick followed Ashton, telling the jurors that prosecutors presented every piece of evidence they promised during opening statements back in May. Without saying it, she was pointing out that defense attorneys never presented direct evidence backing up their contentions that the child drowned and the death was made to look like a murder.

She then hammered on the lies Casey Anthony, then 22, told during the 31 days between when her daughter was last seen on June 16, 2008, and before sheriff's investigators were notified a month later. Those include the single mother telling her parents that she couldn't produce Caylee because the girl was with a nanny named Zanny, a woman who doesn't exist; that she and her daughter were spending time in Jacksonville with a rich boyfriend who doesn't exist; and that Zanny had been hospitalized after an out-of-town traffic accident and that they were spending time with her. No one has come forward as Caylee's father.

"Responses to grief are as varied as the day is long, but responses to guilt are oh, so predictable," Drane Burdick said. "What do guilty people do? They lie. They avoid. They run. They mislead, not just to their family, but the police. They divert attention away from themselves and they act like nothing is wrong. That's why you heard about what happened in those 31 days."

Burdick concluded the state's case by showing the jury two final, side-by-side images of Casey Anthony. One was of her smiling and partying in a nightclub during the month Caylee was missing. The other was of the "beautiful life" tattoo she got a day before her family and law enforcement first learned of the child's disappearance.

"At the end of this case all you have to ask yourself is whose life was better without Caylee?" Burdick asked. "This is your answer."

Anthony sat stone faced during much of the prosecutors' arguments, but occasionally shook her head in disagreement and spoke under her breath.

Defense attorneys contend that after Caylee drowned, her troubled mother's lies and erratic behavior were brought on by her grief over her dead child and the sexual abuse she suffered as a child from her father. George Anthony denies that allegation, and the judge said no evidence has been presented to support it.

Anthony also is charged with aggravated child abuse, aggravated manslaughter of a child and four counts of providing false information to law enforcement. The child abuse and manslaughter charges each carry a 30-year prison term if she's convicted.

Báez said during his closing argument Sunday that the prosecutors' case was so weak they tried to portray Anthony as "a lying, no-good slut" and that their forensic evidence was based on a "fantasy." He said Caylee's death was "an accident that snowballed out of control."

Baez began his closing argument Sunday with his biggest question: How did Caylee die? Neither prosecutors nor the defense have offered firm proof.

He attacked the prosecution's forensic evidence. He said air analysis of the trunk of Anthony's car, which allegedly showed air molecules consistent with decomposition, could not be duplicated. No one could prove a stain found in the trunk was caused by Caylee's body decomposing there. And witnesses showed maggots found in the trunk came from a bag of trash that was found there, he said.

"They throw enough against the wall and see what sticks. That is what they're doing ... right down to the cause of death," Baez said. He conceded his client had told elaborate lies and invented imaginary friends and even a fake father for Caylee, but he said that doesn't mean she killed her daughter.

Baez also attacked George Anthony as unreliable. He said a suicide note that George Anthony wrote in January 2009 that claimed no knowledge of what happened to Caylee was self-serving and the attempt was a fraud. He said George Anthony claimed he was going to kill himself with a six-pack of beer and some high-blood pressure medicine.

Based on reporting by The Associated Press.

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