Casey Anthony's failure to report her daughter missing for 31 days is "absolutely devastating" to her chances of escaping a guilty verdict in her murder trial, legal experts said Tuesday.
NBC News legal analyst Savannah Guthrie, speaking on the TODAY show, suggested that this would be an important factor in the case, as the jury of seven women and five men continue their deliberations.
"It's hard to come up with any explanation consistent with innocence for failing to report your child missing for 31 days," she said, saying that period was "absolutely devastating" to the defense's case.
Former prosecutor Star Jones also told TODAY that the prosecution had made a strong argument about that 31-day period, which was "indicative not of someone who is in grief, but of someone who is showing a guilty conscience."
Prosecutors argued Monday morning that the 25-year-old Anthony killed her 2-year-old daughter Caylee in June 2008 because the toddler interrupted her carefree partying and love life.
Asked about the lack of strong evidence of murder — no cause of death was established — Jones said commentators initially thought it would be hard to prove premeditation to get a first-degree verdict.
But Florida's law contains a different route to the death penalty.
"If you prove that Casey Anthony committed aggravated child abuse or was in the process of committing aggravated child abuse — say, by putting tape on her mouth and chloroforming the baby in order to keep her quiet — that's enough to get you to murder in the first degree, if the baby dies as a result of those actions," Jones told TODAY.
"A lot of people say it could come down to some jurors believing just that scenario and some jurors believing she did it on purpose," she added.
Guthrie pointed out that the jurors do not have to be unanimous on this issue — six could decide it was felony murder and six could decide it was pre-meditated.
"As long as they all agree it's first-degree murder, we're looking at the top charge and the death penalty phase of the case," she said.
'This woman is hated'Linda Kenney Baden, who was previously a member of Anthony's defense team, told TODAY that the defense had done well, but that the case likely hinged on whether the jury would go with their emotional response or consider the lack of hard evidence.
"I think they've done very well considering what they've had to work with. Let's face it, she is hated, this woman is hated," she said. "It's very difficult to defend somebody who has that kind of aura around them."
"You can't get around that emotion," she added. "If the jurors can't get around the emotion and look at the lack of evidence they'll convict her... Hopefully, the defense has picked one juror that can say 'Hey, let's look at the evidence.'"
"There's a lot of issues, if you take your time, that don't make sense," Baden added. "There's a mystery here and we may never know all the answers."
Baden said considering a verdict that carries the death penalty would be a "very heavy" burden on the jury.
"I once tried a murder case and a juror actually had wet her pants on the jury because of the death penalty, it's so weighty," she said. "It's very, very hard on everyone."
She said if the jury returned quickly, that would be a good sign for the prosecution, if they returned at the end of the week, then the defense would be hopeful.