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Judge defers ruling on public money for Casey Anthony

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Casey Anthony's finances
  • NEW: Judge says he needs attorneys' spending data, information from funding agency
  • Casey Anthony says she's run out of money and is asking court for financial help for her defense
  • State of Florida is opposed, saying it doubts she is indigent
  • Watch "Nancy Grace" on HLN at 8 p.m. ET for latest in Caylee Anthony case

The latest on Casey Anthony's day in court and full coverage of her case on tonight's "Nancy Grace", HLN, 8 ET

Orlando, Florida (CNN) -- Attorneys for Casey Anthony, a Florida woman accused of killing her 2-year-old daughter, told a judge Thursday that state funding for her defense is needed, as their money has run out.

"There is no dispute that Casey Anthony is indigent," J. Cheney Mason, the newest member of Anthony's defense team, said at a Thursday hearing.

Orange County Circuit Judge Stan Strickland, however, required Anthony's attorneys to testify about how their funds have been spent to date before considering whether to allow public funds to be used, and he resisted attorneys' efforts to account for the funding behind closed doors.

"My problem is, you're seeking public funds," Strickland said, telling attorneys they are "trying to punch and get out of the way at the same time." Affidavits submitted by the defense, he said, were "pretty light in terms of full disclosure." He had the attorneys testify in court Thursday.

Strickland deferred a ruling on the issue until he receives not only the defense attorneys' testimony, but also information from the Justice Administrative Commission, the state agency that oversees funding. The commission has opposed allocating funding for Anthony's defense, saying in court papers it has "severe concerns" about whether she qualifies for financial assistance.

Anthony is charged with first-degree murder in the death of her daughter Caylee and has pleaded not guilty. Her trial is scheduled to begin on May 9, 2011. The state is seeking the death penalty against her.

Caylee Anthony's body was found in a lot near her grandparents' home in December 2008, six months after she went missing.

The grandparents -- Casey Anthony's parents, George and Cindy Anthony -- have supported their daughter but now are fighting foreclosure on their home, according to a complaint filed by Bank of America.

Lead defense attorney Jose Baez testified Thursday that the defense received and spent about $275,000 over the past year and a half. Of that, $5,000 came from an anonymous donor, $70,000 came from a former defense attorney, Todd Macaluso, and $200,000 came from ABC through a "deal" with Anthony. The terms of the deal were not released.

That money, he said, was spent on defense costs including travel, depositions and retention of experts. "It's been quite an expensive task," he said.

Rumors that Baez is to receive $700,000 after the trial are "completely false," he said. Baez and other defense attorneys testified they have no book or movie deals in the works.

Baez, who testified that he has spent about 2,500 hours on the case, has been paid an estimated $89,454, according to financial affidavits released by the court and written in what appears to be Casey Anthony's handwriting. Attorney Andrea Lyon has received $22,500, but testified Thursday that all of that money went back into costs associated with the case. "There's not a dime" left, she said.

Anthony wrote that both attorneys "were or are being paid by myself" and said that her income is "zero" and her assets are "zero." She did not list her debts or liabilities.

A third defense attorney, Linda Kenney Baden, testified that she is working pro bono -- for free -- on the case. Mason said he also is pro bono.

An attorney for the Justice Administrative Commission participated in the hearing by telephone.

Baez and Lyon say in a four-page motion that they are not asking the state to pay their legal fees but to assist with funding for other costs to defend Anthony. The defense is seeking help with costs that include service of subpoenas, investigative costs, travel, fees charged by experts to interpret forensic evidence, expert witness fees and the cost of depositions.

The defense attorneys say in their court papers that Anthony is entitled to financial assistance under the Constitution's Sixth Amendment, which protects her right to a fair trial. Because prosecutors have said they are seeking the death penalty, Anthony also is entitled to "the unique standard of care required for a capital defense," the attorneys say.

The central focus of the commission's response appeared to be based on Anthony's own financial affidavit: "Because the defendant has been able to provide over $110,000.00 in her defense, the JAC has severe concerns regarding the defendant's indigence," it said.

The commission cites Florida law, which requires the court to consider "when applicant retained private counsel" and "the amount of any attorney's fees and who is paying the fees." In regard to travel expenses, the response says that counsel will need to properly complete a travel voucher, but also states that "JAC does not pay for reimbursement of travel expenses for privately retained counsel."

Jean Casarez of In Session contributed to this report.