ORLANDO, Fla. – The judge in the Florida murder trial of Casey Anthony unexpectedly called an indefinite recess Friday morning so the defense could take depositions of witnesses the prosecution plans to call during its rebuttal case.
Judge Belvin Perry allowed the recess just before the jury was about to be called into the courtroom. Lead defense attorney Jose Baez said the state had failed to disclose all the information a computer expert and forensic anthropologist planned to testify to.
Baez wanted the evidence and witnesses to be excluded, but Perry only gave him the option of taking their depositions.
"Your honor, I will stay here and do the work, and stay here as long as it takes," Baez said.
Anthony is charged with first-degree murder in the 2008 death of her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee. If convicted of that charge, she could face the death penalty.
The witnesses are on the prosecution's rebuttal list to challenge testimony offered by witnesses during the case presented by the defense, which rested Thursday. The state planned to call a handful of witnesses and rest again Friday evening.
Judge Perry said Friday morning that he'd planned to give attorneys Saturday to work on their closing arguments, but in lieu of the impromptu break for emergency depositions, would now hold court throughout the weekend, including Sunday. He warned the attorneys to not be wasting time with the late arguments.
"You can take as much time as you want, but we have jurors back there." Perry said. The judge also said he hoped "this is a real problem and not an imaginary problem."
While the defense rested Thursday, experts said defense attorneys may have left lingering questions and failed to deliver on promises they made at the outset to explain how the toddler died.
Casey Anthony did not take the stand and the defense did not present concrete evidence that Caylee wasn't killed, but accidentally drowned.
Her attorneys also never produced any witnesses bolstering the claim made in opening statements that Anthony had acted without apparent remorse in the weeks after her daughter's death because she had been molested by her father as a child, resulting in emotional problems.
"If you do not at least present facts to support that argument, the jury is going to think you have no credibility," said Tim Jansen, a former federal prosecutor and criminal defense attorney in Tallahassee. "When you promise the jury something and don't deliver it you severely handicaps your clients' case and you undermine your credibility with that jury."
Instead, their 13-day case primarily focused on poking holes in the prosecution's contention that Anthony killed Caylee in June 2008 by covering her mouth with duct tape. Prosecutors said the woman dumped Caylee's body in the woods near her parents' home and then resumed her life of partying and shopping.
The prosecutors' case relied on circumstantial and forensic evidence, and it did have holes. They had no witnesses who saw the killing or saw Casey Anthony with her daughter's body. And there was no certain proof that the child suffocated.
What's more, prosecution began its rebuttal case late Thursday by continuing to walk through the door opened Wednesday by the defense when it allowed parts of a note Casey Anthony's father left during a failed suicide attempt to come in. The note included George Anthony asking questions about the death of his granddaughter. Several members of the jury were glued to their monitors as the prosecutor projected the letter for them to read.
"She (Caylee) was found so close to home. Why?" George Anthony wrote at one point in the letter to his family in January 2009.
The defense said in its opening statement that Caylee drowned and that George Anthony, a former police officer, helped cover up the death by making it look like a homicide and dumping the body near their home, where it was found by a meter reader six months later. George Anthony has vehemently denied any involvement in Caylee's death, the disposal of her body or molesting his daughter.
Florida A&M law professor Karin Moore said she was "confused" throughout the case by the defense's approach.
"The defense could have attacked George Anthony weeks ago on cross-examination during the state's case, but waited until late in the trial," she said. "I think they waited too long to ask the big questions and got themselves in trouble."
The defense's final witnesses Thursday included Krystal Holloway, a woman who claims she had an affair with George Anthony that began after Caylee disappeared. She said he told her in November 2008 that Caylee's death was "an accident that snowballed out of control." George Anthony has denied having an affair with her but admitted visiting her home on several occasions.
They also recalled George Anthony to ask if he had supplied duct tape he used to put up posters of his granddaughter when she was missing. He said he couldn't remember.
Baez also asked him if he buried his pets after their deaths in plastic bags wrapped with duct tape. Anthony said he had on some occasions. Prosecutors have said Caylee's body was disposed of in a similar manner. Under prosecution questioning, he said he had never thrown their carcasses in a swamp.
The prosecution began its rebuttal case with photographs of clothing taken at the Anthony home. Court was adjourned for the day later in the afternoon, with prosecutors set to continue Friday.
Associated Press reporter Brent Kallestad in Tallahassee, Fla., contributed to this report.
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