ORLANDO (CBS4) – Jury selection is underway in Pinellas County for the trial of Casey Anthony, the Orlando mother accused of killing her 2-year-old daughter Caylee.
Because her case has drawn so much attention in Orange County, and across much of the state, the judge decided to select jurors from a different county in hopes they would be more objective.
“I’m not naïve enough to think we’ll encounter no one who has heard of this case,” said LeRoy Pernell, dean of the Florida A&M University College of Law in Orlando. “But the goal is to find people who have not been oversaturated with media.”
Those selected will have to put their lives on hold for almost two months. They will be transported to Orlando and sequestered at a hotel. The estimated cost is $300,000.
Anthony, 25, could face the death penalty if convicted of first-degree murder. She also is charged with aggravated child abuse, aggravated manslaughter of a child and providing false information to law enforcement. She has pleaded not guilty and maintains a baby-sitter kidnapped Caylee.
Anthony waited a month before telling her mother that Caylee had disappeared in the summer of 2008. Anthony’s mother then contacted authorities. Over the next several weeks, hundreds of volunteers scoured central Florida in search of any clues to Caylee’s whereabouts. The Anthony case became a media sensation, as HLN talk show host Nancy Grace gave her the moniker “Tot Mom.” Protesters suspecting Anthony had a role in her daughter’s disappearance demonstrated outside of the home Anthony shared with her parents.
Caylee’s decomposed remains were found December 2008 by a municipal meter reader in woods not far from where the little girl lived with her mother and grandparents. Detectives said residue of a heart-shaped sticker was found on duct tape over the mouth of her skull. The local medical examiner, Jan Garavaglia, ruled that a cause of death could not be determined. The autopsy said that Caylee’s bones didn’t suffer trauma.
Prosecutors will have to make strong links for the jury between the circumstantial evidence and Anthony, if they are to succeed, said LeRoy Pernell, dean of the Florida A&M University College of Law in Orlando.
“Failure to show exactly what is the cause of death is a challenge, but it’s not necessarily a fatal challenge,” Pernell said.
In their arsenal, prosecutors have physical evidence and Anthony’s own misleading statements to detectives. They also plan to use evidence from the car Anthony was driving in the days before Caylee disappeared. Forensic testing found in the car’s trunk traces of chloroform, which is used to induce unconsciousness and also a component of human decomposition. In a 911 call, Cindy Anthony described the vehicle as smelling “like there’s been a dead body in the damn car.”
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