Video: Casey Anthony trial begins

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    >> it's taken almost three years but jury selection is set to begin for the murder trial of casey anthony, the florida mother accused of killing her 2-year-old daughter caylee. kerry sanders is in clearwater, florida, with the latest. good morning.

    >> reporter: good morning, meredith. the big issue in a high profile case like this is usually finding an impartial jury, but there is a double whamy here. the 12 jurors and eight alternates will have to move about two hours away to orlando where they will be squeserred for up to two months. the challenge for the judge is finding citizens who can give up that much time. 25-year-old casey anthony is accused of murdering her 2-year-old daughter caylee. while it is a civic duty to serve if picked the trial will last up to eight weeks and court week. jurors will be chosen from one city but will have to move to a hotel in orlando. they will leave their jobs. a juror gets $15 a day for the first three days and then $30 a day until the trial ends. kendall coffey.

    >> because this is a high profile case there could be people already with their mind made up that sneak on the jury because they figure they could be the person to write a book about the case some day.

    >> reporter: casey is accused of killing her daughter caylee, motivated, prosecutors say, to free herself from the duties of being a single motherer. there are dozens of photos of casey partying while her daughter was missing. they will hear it took 31 days before casey said she didn't know where her daughter was. first there was a story of a supposed nanny that had taken off with caylee, but police always focused on the chief suspect, casey . they charged her with murder and then caylee'sle skeletal remains were found in the woods a five-minute walk from her home. while it was ruled a homicide, there is a catch. they couldn't figure out how she died.

    >> the manner of death is homicide. the cause of death will be homicide by undetermined means.

    >> reporter: prosecutors say they have scientific evidence , tests that show casey 's car had the smell of death, a single strand of hair from caylee in the trunk they say proves she was already dead . in all more than 2500 pages of evidence. the defense says they have experts to discredit the prosecution's conclusions.

    >> i think the challenge lies with the state. they are the ones who have the challenge to establish that this is science.

    >> reporter: usually when jurors are picked for a case they know who the jurors are and who the alternates are. in this case the judge won't tell the 20 chosen who's going to do the deliberations until the case is presented and the deliberations begin. they will decide whether she's giuilty or not and then they will recommend death or life in prison . meredith?

    >> kerry sanders , thank you very much.

    >>> coming up, new details in the disappearance of natalee holloway . what did her mother say

NBC, msnbc.com and news services
updated 5/9/2011 6:32:20 PM ET 2011-05-09T22:32:20

Air tests designed to find signs of decomposition will be allowed as evidence in the trial of an Orlando woman accused of murdering her 2-year-old daughter, a judge ruled Monday.

NBC-affiliate station WESH reported that Judge Belvin Perry agreed to allow evidence from so-called sniff tests that were carried out on 25-year-old Casey Anthony's car.

Anthony is accused of killing her daughter, Caylee, in 2008 and could face the death penalty.

Anthony also is charged with aggravated child abuse, aggravated manslaughter of a child and providing false information to law enforcement. She has pleaded not guilty and says a baby sitter kidnapped Caylee.

Attorney Brad Conway told WESH that the air tests were "a novel idea" but added that "so was DNA" when it was first introduced.

Image: Casey Anthony
Joe Burbank  /  Pool via AP
Casey Anthony, charged with the murder of her daughter, listens as defense counsel Jose Baez argues for a continuance during the first jury selection at the Pinellas County Criminal Justice Center Monday.

Conway, who once represented Anthony's parents, told the station that he expected the tests would one day become as common as DNA testing.

However, he warned that it could also be grounds for an appeal in this case.

"It's automatically going to be an appellate issue, and I think the defense wants that. If they get that appellate issue and it gets reversed, they get a second bite of the apple," Conway told WESH.

Forensic testing in the car's trunk found traces of chloroform, which is used to induce unconsciousness and is a component of human decomposition.

In a 911 call, Anthony's mother Cindy Anthony described the vehicle as smelling "like there's been a dead body" in the car.

More media than O.J.'s trial?
Jury selection began Monday. The trial will take place in Orlando, but jurors are being selected at a courthouse about 100 miles away because of intense media coverage. The first panel of potential jurors met with the judge and attorneys Monday morning in Clearwater.

Chief Judge Belvin Perry hopes to have 20 jurors — including eight alternates — in place by the end of the week. He hopes to begin the trial on May 17. Over the course of selection potential jurors will be called up individually, undergo two rounds of questioning and be asked if they could recommend the death penalty for Anthony.

Once the panel is chosen, jurors will be transported to Orlando, where they will stay in a hotel for the duration of the trial, which is expected to take about two months.

Caylee Marie Anthony
Anonymous  /  AP
Caylee Marie Anthony, seen in an undated file photo released by the Orange County Sheriff's Office in Orlando.

About 600 media credentials were requested from the court and an empty lot in front of Orlando's courthouse was renamed "Casey Town" after it was designated the spot for TV trucks and reporters to congregate.

The number of journalists assigned to Anthony's trial may even dwarf the number assigned to O.J. Simpson's trial 16 years ago, said the judge presiding over it.

"The pretrial publicity I've seen in this case is unprecedented in the state of Florida," said Perry.

Monday was spent identifying jurors who have personal issues that would preclude them from serving the six to eight weeks the trial is expected to last. Those not dismissed for those reasons must come back later for more questioning.

Defense attorney Jose Baez objected to the first panel of about 100 people in its entirety, saying that it wasn't representative of Orlando's demographics because it had only two Hispanic and four African-American jurors.

Perry denied the objection and questioning of the panelists began.

Of the potential jurors available, 66 were questioned Monday and 43 jurors were dismissed for various hardship reasons.

Among them, one male juror was given a pass after he said he faced a deployment in the U.S. Coast Guard. Another woman was dismissed who said she was the sole caretaker for her elderly father. Some citing financial concerns were dismissed from jury duty, but Perry asked others to see if employers would compensate them during the trial. Jurors will only be paid a $30 daily stipend for their service.

In another instance, a Hispanic man said he'd purchased non-refundable tickets to Puerto Rico in June to pick up the ashes of his wife's mother. The judge asked him to see if his airline would waive a date change fee. And possibly the most candid admission came from a man who was dismissed after he admitted to prejudging Anthony guilty on the basis of pretrial publicity.

Jury selection will continue Tuesday morning.

Anthony waited a month before telling her mother that Caylee had disappeared in the summer of 2008. Anthony's mother then contacted authorities.

Over the next several weeks, hundreds of volunteers scoured central Florida in search of any clues to Caylee's whereabouts but they were unsuccessful.

Meanwhile, numerous photos surfaced of Casey Anthony drinking and partying, some of them allegedly taken during that first month.

The heart-tug of a missing apple-cheeked girl contrasted with images of the hard-partying, single mother proved irresistible to talk-show hosts and bloggers.

The Anthony case became a media sensation, as HLN talk show host Nancy Grace gave her the moniker "Tot Mom."

Protesters suspecting Anthony had a role in her daughter's disappearance demonstrated outside of the home Anthony shared with her parents.

Heart-shaped sticker
Caylee's decomposed remains were found December 2008 by a municipal meter reader in woods not far from where the little girl lived with her mother and grandparents.

Detectives said residue of a heart-shaped sticker was found on duct tape over the mouth of her skull.

The local medical examiner, Jan Garavaglia, who once had her own national television show, "Dr. G: Medical Examiner," ruled that a cause of death could not be determined. The autopsy said Caylee's bones didn't suffer trauma.

Some outside experts said the lack of a cause of death could make it hard to get a first-degree murder conviction.

"If you can't say how she died, you're kind of hamstrung on saying what the defendant's intent was," said David Hill, an Orlando criminal defense attorney.

"What the state has going for them is the emotional, visceral appeal that the jury digs, but if the jury is doing their job, and the defense attorneys are doing their jobs, I would predict a conviction on the third-degree felony of neglect," he added.

Prosecutors will have to make strong links for the jury between the circumstantial evidence and Anthony, if they are to succeed in proving Anthony's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, said LeRoy Pernell, dean of the Florida A&M University College of Law in Orlando.

"Failure to show exactly what is the cause of death is a challenge, but it's not necessarily a fatal challenge," Pernell said.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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