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Casey Anthony wipes away tears as jury selection begins

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Day 1 of Casey Anthony's trial
  • NEW: Of the 66 potential jurors called Monday, 45 are excused
  • NEW:The judge rules evidence on "decompositional" odor can be considered
  • Jury selection is secretly moved to Clearwater, 100 miles from Orlando
  • Casey Anthony is accused of killing her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee

Tune in to HLN's "Nancy Grace" at 8 ET Tuesday night for new details on the trial of Casey Anthony as jury selection continues.

Clearwater, Florida (CNN) -- Casey Anthony broke into tears Monday as a judge read potential jurors the indictment accusing the Florida mother of killing her 2-year-old daughter and then lying to law enforcement authorities.

The emotional display came during the first day of jury selection in the trial of the 25-year-old Anthony, who is charged with capital murder in the death of her daugher, Caylee. She also faces six other charges, including aggravated child abuse, aggravated manslaughter of a child and misleading law enforcement.

Monday's proceedings occurred in a Clearwater, Florida, courthouse, about 100 miles southwest of Orlando where Caylee's grandmother first reported her missing in 2008 -- weeks after the girl was last seen, and five months before her body was found.

Authorities moved the proceedings there hoping to draw from a jury pool that was less likely to have seen and been influenced by the intense media coverage surrounding the case. They kept the site in Pinellas County location secret until Monday morning, hoping to minimize the media rush in the area from which citizens will decide Anthony's fate.

Once jury selection is complete, the jurors will be transported back to Orlando's Orange County for the trial, which is now scheduled to start May 17.

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The major question posed Monday by Orange County Superior Court Chief Judge Belvin Perry Jr. to the 66 jurors who came before him was whether they'd be able to remain sequestered in Orlando for up to eight weeks for the trial. More citizens will be called into court Tuesday and perhaps beyond.

"Our system of justice depends on people like you willing to serve," the judge said. "You are being asked to perform one of the highest duties of citizenship."

Of those called Monday, 45 were excused. The 21 who were not -- 14 men and 7 women -- will be called back Wednesday.

Perry allowed the dozens of men and women to go home for various reasons. Many cited financial hardship -- saying they or their family would suffer if they couldn't work for two months. Others said they had to take care of loved ones. One man said he was active-duty military, about to ship out to Alaska for his U.S. Coast Guard responsibility.

Monday was the first phase in the jury selection process. The other phases include asking jurors, one by one, for their take on the death penalty, which Casey Anthony would be eligible for if convicted on the murder charge.

Lastly, the jurors will be quizzed on their knowledge of the case and other positions -- including if they have an opinion, prior to the trial, on Anthony's guilt or innocence. Throughout the selection process, Perry can weigh arguments from members of Anthony's legal team and state prosecutors and decide to exclude certain men and women from the jury pool.

Besides winnowing down the jury pool, Perry also issued several decisions Monday that were all setbacks for the defense.

That included denying Anthony's lawyers motion for more time to prepare for the trial, as well as questioning whether there was enough racial and ethnic diversity in the potential jury pool gathered in Clearwater.

Perhaps the most significant ruling came when, in a written order, Perry determined the jury can consider evidence about an alleged "decompositional" odor coming from Casey Anthony's trunk, and hear from certain expert witnesses. The defense had knocked the analysis as unreliable and too closely tied to the FBI, suggesting it could be prejudiced against their client.

The judge conceded the Anthony trial could be the first time the "chemical signature of the odor of human decomposition or the identity of the volatile chemical components of human decomposition" might be considered during a trial in Florida. Still, he wrote, "The expert's testimony will assist the jury in understanding the evidence and in determining facts in the case."

In Session's Michael Christian contributed to this report.