A two-day hearing begins today on a series of motions by the defense and the prosecution in the Casey Anthony murder trial, with both sides seeking to control — and tailor — the information considered by the 12 people who will ultimately decide her fate.
What happens in the next two days could largely frame the prosecution and defense strategies for the trial, scheduled to begin in May. If convicted, Casey Anthony faces a possible death sentence in the 2008 murder of her daughter, Caylee Marie.
Also likely to emerge during this week's hearings: ongoing tensions between defense attorney Jose Baez and the prosecution, which again called for Baez to be punished for failing to meet a court-ordered deadline. Here's a sampling of the issues to be argued in court:
The defense wants to keep out statements Casey Anthony gave law enforcement early on in the case, so the witnesses likely to take part in the proceedings include Orange County detectives Yuri Melich and John Allen, and also members of Casey Anthony's family.
Pieces of evidence considered will include Anthony's handwritten statement made July 15, 2008; a handwritten letter she wrote to then-Sheriff Kevin Beary; statements she gave during a trip to Universal Studios with investigators; and transcripts and audio of her statements to Melich and Allen.
The defense also wants to block statements Casey Anthony made to her parents, her brother, someone she befriended at the Orange County Jail and a former corrections officer at the jail.
Witnesses on those issues should include the detectives, George, Cindy and Lee Anthony, the inmate/friend Robyn Adams and the former corrections officer, Sylvia Hernandez.
The defense has argued that efforts by Casey Anthony's family and law enforcement "to elicit information [from Casey Anthony] in the absence of counsel was neither fair nor honest and should not be tolerated by the court." The defense also argues that the Anthony family members early on in the case "were acting as agents of the state" by trying to get Anthony to share information and talk to authorities.
Prosecutors want to exclude certain defense witnesses that showed up recently on a list, including WFTV-Channel 9 reporter Kathi Belich. Assistant State Attorney Linda Drane Burdick argued that the release of the witness list in mid-February was late and the defense needs "to establish good cause for the delay in disclosure of the witnesses." WFTV attorneys also challenged the defense calling Belich as a witness for certain information she has reported, citing reporter "privilege."
They also expressed concern about Belich's ability to cover the case, if she is sequestered as a witness.
The prosecution challenges the defense team's legal arguments and attempts to exclude certain scientific information, specifically evidence dealing with chloroform and plant and root growth in connection with the case.
The defense argues that scientific findings of "high amounts of chloroform" found in the trunk of Casey Anthony's car are "absolutely 100% false and constitute a fraud on the American public and potential jury pool of Miss Anthony."
In a response, prosecutor Jeff Ashton called the defense motion "glaringly insufficient" for citing no "scientific authority which would call into question the general acceptance of standard tests used by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory."
The last motion scheduled for hearing may be the most contentious. Ashton has called for Baez to show in court why he should not be held in contempt for missing a court-ordered deadline. Earlier this year, Ashton argued for court sanctions against Baez for missing another deadline.
This time, Ashton notes, Baez was supposed to submit written details with the court and the prosecution on certain issues to be objected to under the so-called "Frye test," which deals with admitting new scientific evidence in the courtroom and determining whether the evidence has "gained general acceptance."
The deadline passed on Feb. 17, and when Ashton contacted Baez about his compliance with the court order, Ashton said he "expressed some 'confusion.'" In an email later sent to the judge's assistant, Ashton said Baez claimed "not to understand the clear and unambiguous language in the court's order."
In an angry response filed Monday, Baez questions whether Ashton is engaging in "gamesmanship" with this argument and then calls Ashton's actions "clever, the tactic being, make opposing counsel defend himself instead of his client."
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Major hearing in Casey Anthony case today
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