Casey Anthony Murder Trial: Jury Chosen After 11 Days; Opening Arguments Tuesday

A courtroom outburst meant new drama -- and delay -- in Casey Anthony trial.

May 20, 2011, 7:25 AM

May 20, 2011 -- Jury selection was finally completed late today in the trial of Casey Anthony, the Florida woman charged with the murder of her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee. A panel of nine women and eight men was chosen. Twelve will comprise the actual jury and five will be alternates when court resumes Tuesday morning for opening arguments.

So ended 11 grueling days of jury selection, lengthened by yet another round of drama Friday morning when an outburst from a courtroom spectator brought proceedings to a halt.

A woman in the courtroom gallery yelled, "She killed somebody, anyway" as jurors were being questioned.

The outburst forced Judge Belvin Perry, who is presiding over the trial, to call for a hold.

The woman held tennis shoes tied together and said, "I'm sorry," as deputies quickly escorted her out of the Clearwater, Fla., courtroom and into a holding room.

The woman, later identified by local media as Elizabeth Ann Rogers, 29, of St. Petersburg, was brought back into the courtroom to face the judge.

"I'm mentally challenged," she sobbed. "I have a 3 year-old son. I've never been to court like this."

"My fiance is in jail for domestic violence," she said.

Judge Perry found Rogers in contempt and ordered that she be taken into custody. She was sentenced to two days in jail, although Perry told her she could have received as many as 179 days.

The outburst not only caused a delay in the jury selection proceedings but the loss of a juror from the trial's already dwindling juror pool.

Perry excused another juror because she had witnessed the outburst.

Jury selection had already suffered several hiccups this week, but Perry told the courtroom he planned to swear in jurors Friday afternoon.

"The judge wants a jury now," Nancy Grace, host of "Nancy Grace" on HLN told "Good Morning America" Friday. "He's been saying that for 10 days."

The slow pace and high drama of selecting 12 jurors was in keeping with the tone of the entire case. Court rules would have allowed for up to eight alternate jurors, but the defense and prosecutors could not agree on candidates.

On Thursday, Perry was forced to bring in a brand new pool of 30 jurors after prosecutors and defense attorneys had spent the past two weeks interviewing and screening more than 150 potential jurors from the first pool.

"The well runs dry," Perry said.

While some of the delays have been procedural, most have come from the high-profile nature of the case, as well as the hardships of a trial that could last as long as eight weeks. The story of Casey Anthony, 25, has been in the headlines since her daughter was first reported missing nearly three years ago.

Jurors ultimately selected for the case will be sequestered away from their families for as long as eight weeks, and may ultimately decide whether Casey Anthony lives or dies.

"The reality is this is a death penalty case and you don't want a misstep," said Grace. "It's going to take a long time and that's just a bitter pill the judge, the lawyers and the jurors have to swallow."

Anthony is accused of killing her daughter, Caylee Anthony, who was last seen alive in June 2008. Anthony has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The child had been missing for a month before Anthony told anyone, and when she did, it was her mother, who called 911. Anthony told police she had not seen Caylee since dropping her off with a babysitter.

Anthony was arrested and charged with murder in October 2008, and a few months later, prosecutors announced they would seek the death penalty.

Her daughter's skeletal remains were found in December, less than a mile from the home the child and her mother shared with the toddler's grandparents.

The little girl's death was ruled a homicide of undetermined means.

A High-Profile, Emotional Case

Given the broad exposure and strong emotions surrounding the case, both the prosecution and defense have zeroed in on what jurors know (and whether they could set what they know aside), and their feelings on the death penalty.

Jury candidates with strong opinions on the case, such as "I could not lay that [my guilty opinion] aside," were almost immediately rejected, causing the jury pool, from which the ultimate panel is chosen, to atrophy at breakneck pace.

"Not one out of 161 people has said she's innocent, because no one has asked the right question," said Grace.

At the start of jury selection, Judge Perry said he wanted eight alternates, but changed course along the way, indicating that he simply wants to move the case forward.

Lawyers and the judge have also harshly criticized TV coverage of the case, including Grace's, whose name has come up numerous times during jury selection.

"If both sides did not hate my show, I'd be very concerned," Grace told 'GMA.' "Nobody wants to hear a very honest critique of what is happening.

"That's the least of my concerns. What matters is that 2 year-old Caylee is dead."

The drawn-out jury selection has opened a window into the legal tact the prosecution and defense might take in the case, and allowed for a potential bias jurors could have before the case even begins, said Grace.

"They're sitting through an onerous process," Grace said of the jurors. "The state often has very few questions [when selecting jurors], which puts the jury against the defense."

Another factor possibly weighing against the defense is the apparently contentious relationship that has developed between Anthony and her lead attorney, Jose Baez, during long, tense days in the courtroom.

The two have had three courtroom arguments, including one caught on a courtroom microphone in which Baez accused Anthony of acting like a child.

"They froze out, sitting at opposite ends of the table," said Grace. "Not a good look or a good maneuver going into a trial."

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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