Jury swearing-in nears in Casey Anthony trial

Associated Press
Casey Anthony appears in court for jury selection at the Pinellas County Criminal Justice Center, Monday, May 16, 2011 in Clearwater, Fla. Anthony is accused of killing her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee, in 2008. The trial will be held in Orlando, but jury selection was moved to Clearwater in the hope of seating an unbiased jury. (AP Photo/Gary W. Green, Pool)
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The judge in the trial of an Orlando woman accused of killing her 2-year-old daughter said he expects to begin swearing in jurors Tuesday morning.

Casey Anthony, 25, is charged with first-degree murder in the death of her daughter Caylee, whose decomposed body was found with duct tape over the mouth of her skull in December 2008 not far from where she had lived with her mother. If convicted, the toddler's mother could face the death penalty.

Jury selection is being held in the Tampa Bay area because of intense pretrial publicity in Orlando. Anthony has pleaded not guilty in the death of her daughter and said a baby sitter kidnapped the child.

Chief Judge Belvin Perry originally envisioned an earlier start to the trial proceedings, but jury selection has taken longer than expected.

Monday kicked off the second week of winnowing down the pool of prospective jurors available to put their lives on hold for the two months the trial is expected to take.

Five prospective jurors have now been added to a list of 12 others who made it through last week's rounds of questioning. Questioning has focused on prospective jurors' exposure to pretrial publicity, possible hardships of prolonged jury duty and personal beliefs about the death penalty.

Before the process began Perry said he wanted 20 total jurors, including eight alternates. But he said last week that swearing in would begin once they narrowed the prospect pool to 15.

Opening statements in the case could begin late this week, but there are no guarantees. The defense and prosecutors have raised two challenges apiece and could still raise challenges up until jurors are sworn in.

Perry said he plans to bring in three to four more people for final questioning Tuesday, while the 17 already tentatively selected could be subjected to a final challenge before the swearing-in. The first 12 that survive the process would be on the jury and the remaining ones would serve as alternates.

Once the jury is chosen, Perry will grant them one day off before transferring them to Orlando to be sequestered for an expected eight-week trial.

Monday's proceedings began with defense attorney Jose Baez using a challenge to strike a nurse from the list, saying he wasn't secure in her responses on the death penalty and presumption of innocence. The next two candidates — a middle-aged man and woman — were the first to be held over for possible swearing in.

After the lunch break two men and one woman were excused for cause. The men were let go because of medical issues and the woman after she said she had prejudged Anthony guilty. The state also used a challenge on an older woman who had been exposed to extensive coverage of the case.

The three jurors retained after lunch were a young man in his 20s and two more in their 30s.

So far the gender breakdown of prospective jurors is 10 men and seven women.

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