December 11, 2009 at 8:27 PM EST - Updated June 21 at 10:51 AM
By MIKE SCHNEIDER Associated Press Writer
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) - A Florida mother charged with killing her 2-year-old daughter sobbed in court Friday as a prosecutor speculated aloud that the toddler was methodically drugged and suffocated with tape.
Casey Anthony cried as prosecutor Jeff Ashton suggested that Caylee Anthony's killer restrained her arms, dosed her with something that knocked her unconscious and put duct tape over her mouth and nose.
Ashton offered the scenario when explaining why he believes the case would qualify for the death penalty.
"Her killer would prepare some substance in advance that would render her physically unable to resist," said Ashton during the pretrial hearing. "If the killer looked at her face, maybe the killer saw her eyes ... First one piece (of tape), then two, then three so that no breath was possible."
The cause of Caylee's death remains unknown, but duct tape was found on the body.
Ashton offered the scenario in response to a defense request to bar prosecutors from seeking the death penalty.
Circuit Judge Stan Strickland said he would rule later.
Because the cause of death is still unknown, prosecutors are unable to prove that she suffered a heinous, cruel or atrocious death, which is the standard under Florida law for seeking the death penalty, said Andrea Lyon, one of Anthony's attorneys.
"The real reason the state has asked for the death penalty is because they wish to get as biased a jury as they possibly can," Lyon said. "It has the effect of coercing pleas in cases where that may in fact not be appropriate."
Anthony's attorneys contend that jurors in death-penalty cases, who are screened to eliminate those with moral objections to capital punishment, are more likely to convict defendants. The defense also says the threat of the death penalty could be used to coerce Anthony into making a plea agreement.
Anthony has pleaded not guilty and her trial is expected to start next year.
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