At the heart of the case was Casey Anthony's fantastic lie that a babysitter named Zenaida, referred to in court as "Zanny the nanny," had stolen Caylee Anthony.
Prosecutors claimed that Casey Anthony killed her daughter by drugging Caylee with chloroform and suffocating her with duct tape over her mouth and nose.
She killed Caylee, prosecutor Jeff Ashton claimed in his closing argument, because Casey Anthony had to choose between her child and "the life she wanted."
"We submit to you the evidence in this case shows that the choice she made was her child," Ashton said.
Lawyers for Casey Anthony, who never took the stand, admitted on the first day of the trial that the 25-year-old single mother had made up a complex web of lies. Defense attorney Jose Baez said that the truth was that Caylee had accidentally drowned in the family pool and instead of reporting her death, Casey "went into a dark corner, to pretend as if nothing was wrong."
Baez said Casey Anthony behaved that way because she had been "trained to lie" through years of sexual abuse by her father. Judge Belvin Perry ruled, however, that there was no evidence that Casey Anthony was abused by her father and ordered that it not be mentioned in closing arguments.
The prosecution was hampered in its case by the fact that Caylee's body, found in a swamp six months after she disappeared, was so badly deteriorated that the medical examiner could not determine exactly how she died. Caylee's cause of death was listed as a "homicide of undetermined means."
Intent on proving duct tape could have killed the toddler, the defense showed the jury a controversial video that showed a smiling Caylee morphing into a skull with duct tape on it.
Prosecutors built a case of circumstantial evidence that documented how Casey Anthony moved in with her boyfriend Tony Lazzaro shortly after Caylee disappeared, partied at clubs, took part in a "hot body" contest, and got the phrase "bella vita" -- or beautiful life -- tattoed on her shoulder in the month after Caylee died and while her mother was pretending she was still alive.
As her lies unraveled, it became apparent that Casey Anthony had created a fictional world in which she made up a job at Universal Studios and a dozen people who were friends, co-workers, lovers, babysitters and even Caylee's playmates.
Jurors watched hours of jailhouse tapes in which Casey Anthony elaborated on her lie about the babysitter, offering extensive details about this fictional nanny.
Much of the case turned on forensic evidence found in the trunk of Casey Anthony's Pontiac Sunfire. Prosecutors brought in experts in the arcane specialty of the smell of death to prove that an odor in the trunk of Casey Anthony's car was that of human decomposition. Casey Anthony's lawyers argued that the foul smell in Casey Anthony's car trunk was from rotting garbage, not a rotting body.
An FBI hair and fiber analyst testified that a lone piece of hair in the trunk belonged to Caylee and showed post-mortem banding, what prosecutors said was proof that a dead body had been in the car.
The prosecution also claimed that Casey Anthony used the family computer to visit a site on how to make chloroform 84 times.
Baez countered by arguing that the state's case was based on untried and unproven forensic theories, what Baez dismissed as "fantasy forensics."
He shocked the courtroom when he called Cindy Anthony, Casey Anthony's mother, to testify in her daughter's defense and take responsibility for some of the chloroform searches. The computer searches were key to the prosecution's claims of premeditated murder, an essential element for first degree murder and the possibility of the death penalty.
When the prosecution attempted to impeach Cindy Anthony's testimony by presenting evidence that she was lying, Baez said in closing arguments, "I told you she was a liar the first day."
The trial exposed supposed secrets of a fractured Anthony family and shocked spectators with allegations of incest and a cover-up. Baez attempted to display a dysfunctional family where lying was rampant.
He played on the emotions of Lee Anthony, Casey Anthony's brother, by having him describe his frustration with his family hiding Casey Anthony's pregnancy with Caylee. He also attempted to cast shadow on Lee Anthony with allegations that he molested his sister.
Baez also attempted to make George Anthony into a villain.