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The 'social media trial of the century' nears its climax

/ Source: NBC News

Did she or didn’t she? Casey Anthony decided she will let the jury in her murder trial decide that without hearing directly from her.

Viewers who have dipped in and out of the coverage, often unaware what testimony the jury was in the courtroom to hear, and what was presented out of their earshot, may believe it’s an open and shut case.

But before you conclude Casey Anthony, 25, is guilty of murdering her 2-year-old daughter Caylee, put yourself in the jury box.

There are 12 jurors, and five alternates who were chosen in part because they knew nothing, or next to nothing, about the case.

The jurors have heard prosecutors say Casey put three pieces of duct tape across her daughters nose and mouth to kill her. And they've heard she used chloroform to poison her child.

The motivation? State prosecutors say because Casey wanted to live the life of a party girl.

Cause of death unknownWhat jurors did not see were Casey Anthony's fingerprints on the duct tape. They did not see any evidence of chloroform in Caylee's remains.

What is clear is: the jury in this trial will never know for sure how the toddler died.

The medical examiners conclusion is this was "a homicide by undetermined means."

In a murder case, prosecutors are not required to show how someone was killed, but there's a human desire to want that answer. The jury doesn't have the evidence to know.

But at the same time, the defense promised in openings to show Caylee was not a murder victim, but rather, she drowned in the backyard swimming pool.

The defense evidence of that? A few photographs of Caylee swimming and a photo of her opening the sliding glass door to the backyard without help.

The jurors may well ask: How is that evidence?

The only witnesses to what the judge calls "the defense theory of what happened" were allegedly Casey and her father George.

George took the stand six times during this trial and denied he saw Caylee's body in the pool. He denied he covered up the death. He denied he sexually abused Casey, which is why the defense says he held unusual sway over his daughter’s actions.

Family left guttedWhat we have witnessed for 32-days in this courtroom on the 23rd floor of the Orange County Courthouse has been a family gutted in full public view.

George Anthony was accused of having an extra-martial affair.

His alleged paramour took the stand and either told the truth or smeared his fidelity.

Cindy Anthony took the stand and either told the truth that she searched for chloroform on the family computer, or she made up a cover story for her daughter.

And Lee Anthony either sexually molested his sister, as one of Casey's former boyfriends said she had told him, or that boyfriend believed a story that Casey made up.

Either way, the Anthony family leaves this trial bruised, damaged and unable to escape the judgement of strangers.

As for Casey, she will sit in her jail cell and wonder if she did the right thing. Should she have testified? Should she have tried to tell her story herself?

If she's convicted, she'll look in a foggy metal prison mirror for a likely 17-years awaiting execution (if that's her sentence), and ask herself "should I have gone on the stand?"

And if she's acquitted, she'll walk away a free woman into a society that has already judged her guilty.

said if O.J. Simpson was the coming of age for cable TV news, then Casey Anthony is the coming of age for social media.

This case has been on Facebook, live on the Internet, and it's zipped around the world at light speed.

A Twitter follower told me "it's big news in Japan you know." Another wrote me to say "I'm in Nigeria, and I tink (sic) she's guilty. What do you tink?"

This "social media trial of the century" has had it all, but one thing.

For all those who have been drawn to watch, comment and offer opinions about Casey's guilt or innocence, about her defense lawyers skills or lack thereof, and to opine about the state's evidence, we have seen no public gatherings, no significant memorials to remind us that a 2-year-old little girl's life ended too soon for a reason we now await the jury to explain with a verdict.