Trial session ends early as Casey Anthony takes ill

ORLANDO, Fla Thu Jun 9, 2011 6:19pm EDT

Casey Anthony wipes away tears at the start of the third day of her first degree murder trial at the Orange County Courthouse in Orlando, Florida May 26, 2011. REUTERS/Red Huber/Pool

Casey Anthony wipes away tears at the start of the third day of her first degree murder trial at the Orange County Courthouse in Orlando, Florida May 26, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Red Huber/Pool

Related Topics

ORLANDO, Fla (Reuters) - Casey Anthony's first-degree murder trial adjourned 90 minutes early on Thursday after she became ill during testimony about her 2-year-old daughter Caylee's skull being found in a wooded area.

One particularly stark photograph displayed on the court's nearly two dozen monitors and computer screens showed an up-close view of the toddler's skull with empty eye sockets and silver duct tape covering the nose and mouth.

"Miss Anthony is ill. We're recessing for the day," Judge Belvin Perry announced to reporters at 3:30 p.m.

He did not offer details about her illness. Jurors, who were out of the courtroom on a break, were given no specific reason for the early dismissal.

Casey, 25, faces the death penalty if convicted of killing Caylee on June 16, 2008. Prosecutors say duct tape wrapped three times around Caylee's skull, mouth and nose is the only evidence indicating how she died.

Defense attorney Jose Baez has told the jury Caylee accidentally drowned in the Anthonys' backyard pool in the Orlando area.

Caylee was reported missing on July 15, 2008 after her grandmother found her car in an impound lot reeking of the odor of death. A cadaver dog and an expert in the biochemistry of human decomposition both found evidence that a decomposing body had been in the car trunk.

Caylee's remains were found in woods a 10-minute walk from the Anthonys' home on December 11, 2008 after a nationwide search.

Cindy and George Anthony, Casey's parents who have attended nearly every minute of the trial now in its third week, left the courtroom before testimony began about Caylee's remains.

At the defense table, lawyers turned their laptop screens away from Casey so she wouldn't see the crime scene photographs. Casey kept her head lowered, dropping her chin almost to her chest during nearly two hours of testimony by Dr. Gary Utz, chief deputy medical examiner in Orlando.

SPECTATORS WARNED OF GRUESOME PHOTOS

Utz testified that Caylee's skull was unusual because the mandible, or lower jaw bone, was still attached. Utz said he had never before seen a mandible attached to the rest of the skull at that stage of decomposition.

Utz said the adhesive from the duct tape had disintegrated. But he found some of the fabric backing of the tape and some matted hair entwined with plant roots stuck to the jaw bone.

Once he removed the tape and hair, Utz said, the mandible easily came away from the rest of the skull.

Utz showed the jury photographs of items found with the skull including a child's striped shorts, an off-white canvas laundry bag, a black plastic garbage bag tied closed with a tight knot but ripped open from the bottom, and a leg bone.

Before Utz and other crime scene investigators began testifying, Perry warned spectators out of the jury's presence to leave if they could not conceal their reactions to the photographs and descriptions.

Some had little sympathy for Casey as they exited the courtroom after the early adjournment.

"Give her a barf bag. Get some more DNA," said Kim Chaney, a 50-year-old housewife from Weeki Wachee, Florida, who got up at 2:30 a.m. to see the trial in person.

In other testimony Thursday, Casey's brother Lee Anthony returned to the stand and revealed yet another explanation Casey had given for the disappearance and death of Caylee.

After Cindy Anthony reported her granddaughter missing, Casey told detectives she had dropped Caylee off at the apartment of her nanny named Zanny and that the two were gone when Casey returned later to pick up Caylee.

But Lee said on Thursday that Casey told him a different version of what happened during a conversation they had in August 2008 before Caylee's remains were found.

At an Orlando park "Zanny held Casey down and told her she was taking Caylee from her and she did that with the help of her (Zanny's) sister," Lee said Casey had told him.

"In Zanny's opinion, Casey was not being a fit mother to Caylee. She was taking Caylee from her to teach her a lesson and also told her not to go to police."

Lee said Casey told him "she was held on her wrists. She was held down. They were both supposedly sitting on a park bench."

Lee testified Casey also told him Zanny commandeered Casey's MySpace page, changed her password and sent her messages to go to certain places where Casey expected, but didn't see, her daughter.

Defense attorney Baez acknowledged Casey lied about the existence of a nanny named Zanny and called the alleged messages from Zanny on Casey's MySpace page "imaginary MySpace posts."

(Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Jerry Norton)

FILED UNDER: