ORLANDO, Florida (Reuters) - Jurors in the first-degree murder trial of Casey Anthony had barely settled into their seats on Wednesday when the prosecution wrapped up its case, and the judge dismissed the jury until Thursday when the defense team will begin its presentation.
Before the jury was dismissed, prosecutors presented just two small additional pieces of evidence: portions of a spare tire cover from the trunk of Casey’s car.
Prosecutors accuse Casey, 25, of killing her 2-year-old daughter Caylee on June 16, 2008, storing the child’s body in her car trunk, and then dumping it in woods near her home.
The Florida mother’s defense attorneys claim the toddler was not murdered but accidentally drowned in the Anthony family’s backyard pool.
The defense on Wednesday requested that a document be added to the court record stating, “On July 2, 2008, Casey Anthony obtained a tattoo of Italian words that translate into Beautiful Life.”
An Orlando tattoo artist testified on Tuesday of having applied a tattoo with the saying “Bella Vita” to the back of Casey’s shoulder. During cross examination, defense attorney Jose Baez said it was “customary for people to have tattoos to remember a loved one who had passed.”
Caylee wasn’t reported missing until July 15, 2008, after Casey’s car was found in an impound lot and Casey’s mother said it reeked of the odor of death. The child’s skeletal remains were found in woods near the Anthony family’s home on December 11, 2008, following a nationwide search.
Prosecutors spent 3 1/2 weeks building a case against Casey in court proceedings closely watched by national media outlets and television viewers.
Prosecutors introduced duct tape they said was wrapped around the nose and mouth area of Caylee’s skull, tapes in which Casey lied repeatedly to detectives, witnesses who said Casey partied while her child was missing, and evidence of chloroform and residue from a decomposing body in the trunk of Casey’s car.
Arguing that the state had failed to present anything other than circumstantial evidence, the defense team on Wednesday made an impassioned plea for the trial judge to acquit Casey on all counts.
“The state has stacked up inferences, but has presented no solid evidence,” said defense attorney Cheney Mason.
Mason argued that prosecutors had not offered up solid proof of premeditation or child abuse. Citing graphic details of numerous cases that have been thrown out on appeal, Mason said, “It is the court’s obligation to step in when there is insufficient evidence.”
If convicted of murder, Casey may face the death penalty.
Mason said there was absolutely no evidence of any prior act of violence by his client. In fact, he said, witnesses had attested to Casey being a loving, caring mother.
He said the state had established only that Casey had been untruthful with family and friends, but prosecutors failed to fully rebut the possibility of accidental death.
“There is no evidence to establish when the child died, where the child died, how the child died or who was with her when she died,” Mason said.
“What has been presented to the court and the jury is the mere presence of duct tape, not proof of an intentional act.”
Prosecutor Linda Drane Burdick said the state only had to introduce evidence, and it was up to the jury to decide on that evidence.
“It is possible that a reasonable jury can conclude that Caylee died by the application of three pieces of duct tape, by chloroform, or by a combination of the two,” she said.
Prosecutors argued the evidence found in Casey’s trunk and Internet searches on her family computer for information about chloroform provided strong evidence of premeditation.
Judge Belvin Perry denied the request for acquittal.
Editing by Colleen Jenkins, Peter Bohan and Greg McCune