- Associated Press - Sunday, July 3, 2011

ORLANDO, Fla. — Casey Anthony briefly wept Sunday as prosecutors told jurors during closing arguments that she murdered her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee, to reclaim the carefree life she had before the girl was born.

Prosecutors portrayed Miss Anthony as a young mother who killed her daughter because she got in the way of her love life.

“Something needed to be sacrificed. That something was either the life she wanted or the life thrust upon her. She chose to sacrifice her child,” prosecutor Jeff Ashton said during his 90-minute argument.

Defense attorney Jose Baez said the prosecutors’ case was so weak they tried to portray Ms. Anthony as “a lying, no-good slut” and that their forensic evidence was based on a “fantasy.” He said Caylee’s death was “an accident that snowballed out of control.”

Prosecutors contend Caylee was suffocated with duct tape by a mother who then crafted elaborate lies to mislead investigators and her parents. Defense attorneys countered that the toddler accidentally drowned in the family swimming pool, and that her mother in fact was hiding emotional distress caused by purported sexual abuse from her father. Her father has denied that claim.

Judge Belvin Perry ruled Sunday morning there was no evidence of such a claim and that the defense could not allude to it in closing arguments. Jury deliberations are now expected to begin Monday.

Mr. Baez began his closing argument by telling jurors they have more questions than answers, including the biggest: How did Caylee die? Neither prosecutors nor the defense have offered firm proof of how Caylee died.

“It can never be proven,” he said.

He spent most of his four-hour argument attacking the prosecution’s forensic evidence. He said the prosecution’s air analysis of the trunk of Miss Anthony’s car, which supposedly showed air molecules consistent with decomposition, could not be duplicated. He said no one could prove a stain found in the trunk was caused by Caylee’s body decomposing there. And witnesses showed maggots found in the trunk came from a bag of trash that was found there, he said.

“They throw enough against the wall and see what sticks. That is what they’re doing … right down to the cause of death,” Mr. Baez said.

He later conceded his client had told elaborate lies and invented imaginary friends and even a fake father for Caylee, but he said that doesn’t mean she killed her daughter.

Earlier during prosecution’s closing argument, Casey Anthony appeared mostly stone-faced for about the first 45 minutes, but she began to cry when Mr. Ashton said the story that Caylee drowned was also false.

Mr. Ashton, the prosecutor, said Caylee’s death wasn’t an accident because three pieces of duct tape were placed on her face - one on the mouth, one on the nose and one over those to be “thorough.”

The case has played out on national TV since Caylee’s disappearance in the summer of 2008 and continued through her mother’s trial, with spectators traveling from all over the U.S. to jockey for coveted seats in the courtroom gallery. Miss Anthony, a single mother, was 22 when her daughter died. No one has come forward as the father of Caylee.

Miss Anthony has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder. She could face a death sentence or life in prison if convicted of that charge. She also is charged with aggravated child abuse, aggravated manslaughter of a child and four counts of providing false information to law enforcement. The child abuse and manslaughter charges each carry a 30-year prison term.

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