Casey Anthony prosecutor says duct tape "murder weapon"

ORLANDO, Fla Fri Jun 10, 2011 7:50pm EDT

Casey Anthony reacts during testimony at her murder trial at the Orange County Courthouse in Orlando, Florida, June 9, 2011. REUTERS/Joe Burbank/Pool

Casey Anthony reacts during testimony at her murder trial at the Orange County Courthouse in Orlando, Florida, June 9, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Joe Burbank/Pool

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ORLANDO, Fla (Reuters) - Using computer animation, prosecutors on Friday displayed a smiling portrait of 2-year-old Caylee Anthony with duct tape superimposed over her mouth and nostrils to demonstrate how she could have been suffocated by her mother.

Casey Anthony, 25, is on trial for first-degree murder in Orlando, Florida, accused of killing Caylee on June 16, 2008 and dumping the child's body in woods near their home.

Caylee's skeleton was found on December 11, 2008 after a nationwide search.

Outside the jury's presence, a prosecutor called duct tape "the murder weapon."

The trial is nearing the end of its third week, and Friday marked the second day of testimony dominated by graphic descriptions about the condition of Caylee's remains. Thursday's court session adjourned early after Casey fell ill.

The 25-year-old defendant was back in court first thing Friday morning. She kept her head down and dabbed her eyes and nose with tissues during much of the gruesome testimony.

When a forensic anthropologist testified about one of Caylee's bones showing signs of having been "chewed on by an animal," Casey appeared to slump toward one of her lawyers, who wrapped an arm around her.

The defense team claims Caylee accidentally drowned in the Anthony family's backyard pool. The young mother and daughter lived with Casey's parents, and the defense says no one reported Caylee's death.

But on Friday, celebrity medical examiner Dr. Jan Garavaglia dealt a blow to the defense theory on the death.

Garavaglia is the star of the Discovery Channel reality show "Dr. G: Medical Examiner." She also is the official in charge of determining the cause and manner of questionable deaths in central Florida.

RULES OUT DROWNING

Garavaglia testified that she is confident Caylee was murdered. Though the medical examiner said she couldn't determine how the toddler was killed, she ruled out drowning.

"All I have is bones so, unless the trauma occurred to the bones, I can't say" the cause of death, Garavaglia testified.

But she said a systematic review of all drowning deaths handled by her office showed that "100 percent of the time when a person finds a (drowned) child they call 911."

She said people invariably called for help in hopes that the child could be saved even when there were signs the child was under water a very long time.

Garavaglia said her finding of homicide was "scientifically defensible" and took into account the fact that the body was hidden and placed in a closed container, which she said was a red flag for medical examiners.

Prosecution witnesses have said Caylee's body was placed in multiple bags before being dumped in the woods.

Garavaglia also noted the presence of duct tape.

"There is no child that should have duct tape on its face when it dies," she said.

Defense attorney Jose Baez fought vigorously against the animation showing how Caylee could have been suffocated, but his request for a mistrial was denied.

Judge Belvin Perry ruled that jurors should see the animation because the ability of the duct tape to suffocate Caylee was "highly relevant" to their verdict.

The animation involved superimposing a picture of Caylee's skull over her live portrait, and then laying across the nose and mouth a picture of the duct tape that was found hanging from the skull at the crime scene.

The photograph used for the demonstration showed Caylee and Casey together, head-to-head and grinning.

As a result, the final altered picture shown to the jury was of Casey smiling next to a ghost-like image of her daughter's skull with duct tape blocking the little girl's airways.

(Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Jerry Norton)

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