The already famous and soon-to-be-legendary “Tot Mom” murder trial stands in recess tonight as prosectress Linda Drane Burdick and defense counsel Jose Baez develop their closing arguments.  Their presentations probably will begin Sunday afternoon.  A daytime television sensation, Casey Anthony’s trial has sparked intense discussion of child abuse issues and the real meaning of “reasonable doubt.”  In the last few days of testimony, the jury’s nearly impossible challenge has come more sharply into focus as weaknesses in both the state’s case and the defense’s have drawn increasingly intense scrutiny: Linda Drane Burdick and virtuoso second-chair Jeff Ashton must prove that the twenty-five-year-old hard-partying mother of “adorable little Cayley” had means, motive, and opportunity to plan and carry-out her daughter’s murder.  Sometimes brilliant and sometimes sadly bumbling Baez must engender reasonable doubt in juror’s minds, repeatedly making them wonder—as most of America still does—could such a nice looking young woman really have been so cruel?

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More or less neutral observers hope jurors recognize they hold not only Casey Anthony’s fate in their hands but also the future of American criminal justice.  Prosecutors repeatedly have indicated they will seek the death penalty if the jury convicts Casey Anthony of first-degree murder—that is, murder “with malice aforethought.”  Reporters frequently remind readers and viewers that the state has charged Ms. Anthony with seven “lesser and included crimes” for which the penalty would not be nearly so severe.  Because the trial decidedly has proven that Casey Anthony is one very troubled young woman—arguably a psychopath, a socio-path, or a victim of borderline personality disorder--jurors have grown profoundly ambivalent about her.  Although some make it clear they genuinely detest the defendant, most signal they feel some empathy for the girl who has learned to maintain the appearance of “normal” at all costs.  The leading sign and symptom of her psychological distress, Ms. Anthony’s propensity for outrageous lies troubles everyone—perhaps Jose Baez most of all.  Observers recognize a serious risk of the jury’s finding “the tot mom” guilty just because they don’t like her; they similarly acknowledge some risk of the jury’s “letting her walk,” because the prosecution never quite finished its moves in the giant game of “Clue.”  The state’s attorneys never put Casey at the scene of Caylee’s murder with a lethal weapon in her hand.

Although “the story of a little girl named Caylee” has only one heart-breaking and extremely gruesome conclusion, it still has two perfectly plausible plot lines, and the jury has no obvious means, no compelling testimony or piece of evidence, to facilitate or justify a choice.

Whether or not Jose Baez really sewed the seeds of reasonable doubt, doubt hangs over the case like a dense fog over the Everglades. Baez never fulfilled his promise to demonstrate how big-daddy George Anthony molested little-girl Casey or how twisted brother Lee groped and fondled his fragile sister; Baez never clearly demonstrated how George or Lee rendered Casey a tragic victim of “child abuse accommodation syndrome.”  In fact, Baez’s one valiant attempt at breaking-down George Anthony’s defenses and dragging a remorseful confession from him failed miserably, emerging as one of the salient blunders in a mistake-riddled trial perforated by sidebars, motions, and legal silliness of all descriptions.  Linda Drane Burdick, however, never clearly established a compelling motive for a pre-meditated murder.  Although no one doubts Ms. Anthony enjoyed clubbing as much as the next girl, it seems a mighty big stretch to call a craving for Cuervo and disco balls a motive for murder.  And if that craving really did inspire the killing, then most flag-waving citizens inevitably wonder about Casey’s sanity.  It does not help that both the law and psychology tell us there are some people who clearly can discern between right and wrong and just do not give a damn; does Casey number among them?

One of my friends, an exceptionally sensitive and skilled child advocate, recently reminded me that more than 1700 children die at their mothers’ hands in the United States each year.  “What makes this one case so damned special?” she demanded, not that she failed to see the irresistible magnetism in the proceedings, but that her conscience gnaws at her.  “Why don’t the other 1699 cases get just as many on-air minutes and just as many column inches?”

Any which way, several of us have been actually sucked into this case's proceedings and it has become essential for us to follow each little grimy detail and express every qualified and unqualified view we can. At our website, we try to cover as many aspects of the case, as well as we can. Visit to read more about the case's latest developments.