ORLANDO, Fla. (AP, ABC7) – The defense attorney for a Florida mother charged with killing her 2-year-old daughter dropped a bombshell during the first day of Casey Anthony's murder trial during opening statements Tuesday.
Anthony’s defense attorney Jose Baez claimed the girl drowned in the family swimming pool and the toddler's grandparents covered up the accident. The 25-year-old Anthony is charged with first-degree murder in the death of her daughter Caylee in 2008.
Prosecutors, however, said Caylee Anthony died from three pieces of duct tape being placed over her mouth and nose. Casey Anthony waited a month before telling her own mother that the toddler was missing. If convicted, Anthony could be sentenced to death.
An autopsy was never able to conclude a cause of death. Casey Anthony has previously said a baby sitter kidnapped the girl.
Casey Anthony's attorney Baez said she was abused by her father as a child and alleged that Casey's brother made advances toward her and was given a paternity test to see if he was Caylee's father.
All those secrets eventually led to the cover-up of Caylee's drowning, attorney Jose Baez said.
Baez said Caylee and her grandmother, Cindy, swam most of Father's Day on June 15, 2008, and suggested that Cindy forgot to pull up a ladder that prevented the toddler from climbing into the pool on her own. Baez suggested that Caylee slipped into the pool the next day when no one was looking.
The distraught family panicked and didn't call police, he said. "Casey should have called 911. That's what she's guilty of she's, not guilty of murder. This is not a murder case," Baez said.
Casey Anthony's father disputes defense claims
George Anthony, Casey’s father and Caylee’s grandfather, dismissed her defense attorney's allegations that the toddler accidentally drowned and denied that he ever had sexually molested his daughter.
Prosecutors offered a timeline of Casey's whereabouts based on cell phone records. It stretched from the time Caylee was last seen by her grandparents until her remains were discovered by a meter reader in woods near her home in December 2008.
Jurors were shown images on a screen of a photo of Caylee taken on Father's Day alongside an image of the little girl's skeletal remains.
Casey Anthony only told her parents, George and Cindy Anthony, that the girl had disappeared when they recovered a car Casey had been driving from a towing lot. The vehicle had a foul odor inside. That was a month after the 2-year-old was last seen.
Prosecutors plan on presenting mounds of forensic evidence proving the girl’s body had been in the trunk of her mother's car for an extended period of time, ABC7 reports.
Prosecutor Linda Drane Burdick asked jurors, between descriptions of Casey Anthony shopping, visiting friends and hanging out with her boyfriend with no sign of her daughter, "Where is Caylee Marie Anthony?"
She also described Internet searches conducted on a computer at Casey Anthony's home that showed queries for chloroform, neck-breaking and alcohol. Prosecutors said everything Casey Anthony did was based on a web of lies.
"Casey Anthony ... appeared to be ... a loving mother, trying to provide support for her daughter," Drane Burdick said. "But as the evidence in this case will show, that was an illusion."
During a lengthy opening statement, Baez accused George Anthony of planting duct tape matching the brand later found over Caylee's mouth in a way that would implicate Casey.
"George Anthony took certain steps to make sure he was as far away from this situation and that Casey would end up taking the blame for this," Baez said.
Baez also blamed the police department for botching the investigation, claiming they wanted to feed a media frenzy about a mother killing her child instead of investigating a mundane drowning.
Police "had murder on their minds. This couldn't be an accident," Baez said. "You'll find that professional police work took a backseat in this case. We were more concerned about the public than doing their jobs."
Casey Anthony was emotional throughout the day, crying periodically and wiping her nose with a tissue. George Anthony sat stone faced in the back of courtroom next to his wife.