It’s shaping up to be the trial of the year in the United States. Already it has attracted more media attention than the OJ Simpson case, and media outlets have laid siege to the Florida trial of single mother Casey Anthony (25) accused of the murder of her toddler daughter.
In an out of the way courtroom, 160km from Orlando, lawyers this week began selecting jurors to decide the fate of Anthony, who led a high profile search for Caylee (2) in the summer of 2008.
Finding 20 people who have not formed an opinion on the case after two years of media saturation, and who can move into a hotel for the eight week duration of the trial, is no easy task.
By the end of day one 45 of the first 66 people to be questioned were sent home after Judge Belvin Perry agreed that the long service would impose too much of a hardship on them. He has to find twelve jurors and eight alternates by next Tuesday to hear the case that has rocked the sunshine state.
Caylee Anthony was almost three years-old when she left the home of her grandparents in June 2008. However she was not reported missing until four weeks later when grandmother Cindy Anthony rang the police.
She had spent the previous month seeking to see her granddaughter, but being fobbed off by her daughter Casey with excuses. In mid-July the Anthony family received notification that their daughter’s car had been towed. When grandfather George went to collect it the stench from the vehicle was so bad that he initially thought he would find the bodies of both Casey and Caylee in the boot.
Alerted by Casey’s evasive answers when she pressed her to see the toddler, Cindy Anthony called police after four weeks reporting her suspicions. George Anthony told investigators: “I had bad vibes the very first day when I got that car. I don’t want to believe that I have raised someone, and brought someone in this world that could do something to another person. I don’t want to believe that."
The former police officer said that he was concerned about a familiar odour wafting from the trunk of his daughter's Pontiac Sunfire. As a former investigator, he said, he recognised the smell of death.
However, the Anthony family, aided by Casey’s brother Lee, mounted a high profile search for Caylee which ended in December 2008 when Caylee’s body was found less than a mile from the Anthony’s Orlando home.
During the four weeks before Caylee’s disappearance was reported, Casey maintained that she had left her daughter with a babysitter Zenaida Fernandez-Gonzalez, but when she went to collect her child the woman was missing. A civil action for defamation against Anthony is pending from Zenaida Gonzalez in relation to these claims.
Pictures later emerged of Casey partying and enjoying wild nights out with her friends, while she allegedly lied about the location of her child. She explained Caylee’s absence by saying that her mother was caring for her, or said that her daughter was with her nanny or away on a trip.
She has been charged with first degree murder and if convicted faces the death penalty.
Casey Anthony is currently in "protective custody" in the Healthcare Division of the Pinellas County Jail where she is monitored 24/7. There have been 67 executions in the state of Florida since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976. Her trial is scheduled to begin next Tuesday.