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Jury's judgment near in dramatic murder trial of Casey Anthony

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Defense rests in Anthony trial
  • Casey Anthony is on trial for the murder of her daughter, among other charges
  • Testimony concluded Friday, and closing arguments are expected on Sunday
  • The prosecution claims that she killed her daughter then lied to investigators
  • The defense calls it "a tragic accident that happened to some very disturbed people"

(CNN) -- Three years after 2-year-old Caylee Anthony was last seen alive, the murder trial of her mother is nearing an end.

The Casey Anthony trial has lived up to the intense pre-trial hype and drama, beginning six weeks ago with her lawyer's blockbuster opening arguments alleging that her father -- George Anthony, who was Caylee's grandfather -- helped to cover-up that the girl accidentally died in the family pool.

Prosecutors have denied that claim, as has George Anthony himself on the stand. Rather, they say that the Orlando woman rendered Caylee unconscious with chloroform, duct-taped her mouth and nose, and stored the child's body in her car trunk for a few days before dumping it in the woods.

A utility worker found the girl's skeletal remains in December 2008, six months after the last sighting, in a wooded area near her grandparent's home. By then, her mother had already been charged with Caylee's murder.

Both sides will soon get their final chances to present their disparate cases, with closing arguments expected Sunday after a rare Saturday off-day, according to court spokeswoman Karen Connolly Levey.

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Then, the final decision will be in the hands of the jury of seven women and five men. They will decide if Casey Anthony, now 25, is guilty on seven counts including first-degree murder, aggravated child abuse and misleading police.

According to Levey, the jury members -- who are all from Pinellas County, after Orange County Superior Court Chief Judge Belvin Perry Jr. moved the jury selection process there due to extensive media coverage around Orlando -- will deliberate through the July 4 holiday, assuming a quick verdict is not reached.

If Casey Anthony is convicted of murder, the prosecution has signalled that it plans seek the death penalty against her.

She has pleaded not guilty to all charges, and denies harming her daughter.

Though she didn't take the stand during the trial, her lawyers worked to question the depth and validity of the prosecution's case and raise doubts about George Anthony. They say the father, who they claimed began sexually abusing Casey at age 8, panicked upon finding the dead child and told his daughter her mother would never forgive her.

The defense frequently called Casey Anthony's parents to the stand, making them a focal point. In George Anthony's case, they appeared largely intent on poking holes in the former police detective's stories. Her mother Cindy Anthony went on the stand to, among other things, alleged that she looked on the family computer for items like chloroform and, inadvertently, for neck-breaking. Forensic computer experts, called by the prosecution, worked to knock down these claims.

On Friday, after all the evidence had been presented, the defense again requested that the case against Casey Anthony be dismissed -- claiming that the prosecution had failed to adequately show how Caylee Anthony died and at whose hands. And once again, Perry denied their request.

Prosecution witnesses, including George Anthony, have pointed to the smells emanating from the trunk of Casey Anthony's Pontiac Sunbird that they claim came from a decaying human body -- Caylee's body, they allege.

The prosecution also sought to paint Casey Anthony as someone who habitually lied, whether it was about her working at Universal Studios, that her daughter was with an imaginary nanny named Zenaida "Zanny" Gonzalez, or a number of other people and scenarios that she appeared to invent.

Friends, her former boyfriend and acquaintances testified that in June and July 2008, Casey Anthony was staying with her boyfriend, spending time in Orlando with friends, attending parties, going shopping and hitting nightclubs. They said she did not mention her daughter being missing during that time.

In opening arguments, defense attorney Jose Baez said that Casey Anthony was then doing "what she's been doing all her life, or most of it: hiding her pain."

"This is a tragedy that snowballed out of control," he said. "This is not a murder case. This is not a manslaughter case ... this is a tragic accident that happened to some very disturbed people."