A group of people, their identities secret, are meeting in Orlando today to decide whether a young mother should be charged with murdering her child.
The woman is of course Casey Anthony. For months, she has dodged media questions while denying any involvement in the disappearance of 3-year-old Caylee Anthony.
Investigators appear all but certain that Caylee was killed, and say they believe Casey may be connected to the death of her daughter.
But if she murdered Caylee, what and where is the evidence?
Enter that secret group of people, a grand jury. The panel will listen to testimony related to the months-long mystery. Prosecutors have a much lower burden of proof than what is required for conviction at a criminal trial. The threshold is probable cause. If 12 of the 15 to 21 members of the grand jury say there is sufficient probable cause that Casey murdered her daughter, an indictment will be issued against her.
As for the evidence, here’s what we know: Casey allegedly provided multiple inconsistent statements to police: contradictions in her story, changes in her timeline, and details that authorities say just don’t add up, including Casey’s claim that she left Caylee with a babysitter even though investigators say the woman told them she doesn’t know Casey.
Also, there are the frantic 911 calls from Caylee’s grandmother, screaming into the phone that there is the smell of death in the car used by Casey. Police say they also found traces of chloroform in the car along with indications of a decomposing body.
The jury could also opt for a lesser charge, like manslaughter, or may decide there is not enough evidence to suggest Casey committed a crime. The greatest hurdle for the prosecution is the fact that there is no body. However, legal experts say cases like this, while uncommon, may not be as difficult to prove as some might imagine. All that is required is overwhelming evidence that would lead people to believe beyond a reasonable doubt that someone was the victim of foul play.
Casey continues to have her supporters, especially her family. They were, however, the first ones to express concern about Casey and Caylee to the authorities. And it is the words they gave to the police that, in the end, may be some of the most damaging testimony against her.
Casey's life has become very public. But her fate may be decided in secret.
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