Florida state prosecutors went before Judge Belvin Perry Jr. Thursday in Orlando to submit reasons why the state should be allowed to proceed with the death penalty phase of the trial pending against Casey Anthony, who is charged with the murder of her 2-year-old daughter. The state was required to raise only one of 15 possible “aggravating” factors associated with the death of Caylee Anthony to support their case against Casey Anthony. Instead, they raised five.
In court documents obtained by several media outlets, including WESH in Orlando, prosecutors argued that Caylee Anthony’s death occurred during aggravated child abuse and was especially “heinous, atrocious, or cruel.” Prosecutors also noted that Casey Anthony committed the murder in a “cold, calculated and premeditated manner without any pretense of moral or legal justification.”
Under Florida law, jurors in a death penalty case, which is a separate proceeding that takes place after a trial has reached a conviction judgment, have to weigh factors of aggravating circumstances, such as the heinousness of an act, against mitigating factors that would allow for mercy, such as the absence of a criminal record.
Another aggravating circumstance presented by Assistant State Attorney Jeffrey Ashton was that Casey Anthony “stood in a position of familial or custodial authority over her.” Under Florida law, a victim being under the age of 12 is considered an aggravating factor and was so listed.
The list of aggravating circumstances presented by the State’s Attorney’s Office came in response to an order issued by Judge Perry at a previous hearing for the prosecution to cite the reasons behind seeking the death penalty.
Casey Anthony’s defense team had argued that prosecutors were seeking the death penalty simply to bankrupt the defense and only put the death penalty back into play (the State’s Attorney’s Office had dropped the death penalty earlier in the case but reintroduced it after Caylee Anthony’s remains were found in December 2008) when they discovered that Casey Anthony had over $200,000 in her defense fund (mostly received from a sale of rights to Casey Anthony pictures and videos to ABC News).
The defense also argued that the prosecution had no grounds for labeling the alleged act of murder “heinous” due to the fact that the circumstances of Caylee Anthony’s death were undetermined, as noted by the final medical examiner’s report.
The Casey Anthony case has now dragged on since October 2008 when the then 22-year-old was charged with the murder of her daughter. Circumstances of Caylee Anthony’s case remain a mystery, including the reasons behind the month-long interval between the last time Caylee Anthony was last seen and the July 911 call made by Casey’s mother, Cindy, in mid-July 2008. Casey Anthony maintains that her daughter was kidnapped by her babysitter and that fear for the child’s life kept her from taking the case to the proper authorities.
Casey Anthony’s trial is set for May 9, 2011.