By The Associated Press
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Casey Anthony’s father broke into tears Wednesday when telling jurors about his suicide attempt some six weeks after his granddaughter’s body was found, undercutting defense claims that the girl was not slain by her mother but accidentally drowned and that he helped cover it up.
Anthony, 25, is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Caylee Anthony in summer 2008. The prosecution contends she suffocated the child with duct tape. Her remains were found in the woods near her grandparents’ home in December that year.
A grief expert also testified it is plausible for a young person dealing with a death to exhibit the same behavior Casey Anthony did in the month after prosecutors believe she killed her daughter. Several witnesses have said she spent her time partying and claimed the child was with an imaginary nanny.
Lead defense attorney Jose Baez said the defense should rest its case sometime Thursday, leaving only a short rebuttal by the prosecution. Judge Belvin Perry tentatively said closing arguments could come Saturday and that he would hand the case over to the jury that evening or on Sunday.
George Anthony wrote in a January 2009 suicide note that he had unanswered questions about what happened to his granddaughter and never alluded to knowing what caused her death.
Defense attorneys, who have been trying to paint the Anthony family as dysfunctional, say Caylee drowned in her grandparents’ backyard pool and that George Anthony disposed of the body.
Baez asked George Anthony about his attempt to overdose on pills. When prosecutor Jeff Ashton asked Anthony if he had bought a gun five months before that, Baez objected.
With the jury out of the room, George Anthony said he planned to use the gun to try to get his daughter’s friends to tell him what happened to Caylee.
He said he chose to kill himself because “I needed at that time to go be with Caylee because I knew I failed her.”
Ashton argued that the statements were valid for the jury to hear because they rebutted the drowning theory and implied that George Anthony didn’t know what really happened to Caylee. Ashton also said the suicide note did not include any reference to George Anthony molesting Casey Anthony when she was a child, as Baez claimed in his opening statement.
When asked on the stand, Anthony again denied ever hurting his daughter sexually.
Judge Belvin Perry agreed the jury could hear about the gun purchase and the suicide note.
“It looks to me like someone opened the door and someone is trying to walk through it,” he said.
When the jury came back, George Anthony started crying as he recounted the emotional month before his suicide attempt, in which he drove to Daytona Beach and tried to overdose on prescription medication. His daughter showed no emotion as he was crying.
He also said he never got the opportunity to confront his daughter’s friends because law enforcement confiscated the gun the day after he bought it in August 2008. Casey was out on bond and staying in his home, and firearms are prohibited in a place where a person on bond is living.
Karin Moore, a law professor at Florida A&M University, said alluding to the suicide attempt was a misstep by Baez.
“I think it backfired on him,” Moore said. “I think his intention was to craft an inference for the jury that George Anthony tried to commit suicide over the alleged abuse and death of Caylee. He opened the door and Ashton correctly pointed it out. ”
Moore said she also thinks Baez was trying to avoid putting Casey Anthony on the stand.
“I think (Baez) did nothing but engender sympathy for George Anthony now the jury has contempt for Baez that could certainly reflect on Casey Anthony,” Moore said.
Florida State University professor and grief expert Sally Karioth never interviewed Casey Anthony, but when defense attorney Dorothy Sims laid out a hypothetical scenario with facts from the case, she testified it wasn’t inconsistent with grief she’s observed in similar situations. Karioth previously testified in the South Carolina murder case of Susan Smith, who was convicted of drowning her children.
“Young adults are reflective grievers and will often act like nothing happened,” Karioth said.
The defense also called the son of the Roy Kronk, the meter reader who discovered Caylee Anthony’s remains, to the stand Wednesday. Brandon Sparks said his father first told him in November 2008 that he knew where the child’s remains were and that he was “going to be rich and famous” because of the find — facts that Kronk denied under oath on Tuesday.
Sparks said when he asked his father in December why he waited so long to notify authorities, he said Kronk “didn’t have a specific answer.” The defense claims that Kronk moved the child’s remains at some point between August and December in hopes of claiming a reward.