ORLANDO, Fla. - A judge rejected arguments Tuesday that the death penalty should be taken off the table for Casey Anthony, the Florida mother charged with killing her 2-year-old daughter.
Chief Judge Belvin Perry said Casey Anthony's attorneys failed to prove prosecutors had a gender bias in seeking the death penalty against the Florida mother charged with killing her daughter, Caylee, in 2008.
Defense attorneys had argued that women accused of violent crimes, particularly killing children, are tried not only for the facts of the crime but for their deviation from traditional gender roles. An expert testified for the defense at the hearing that a mother who is perceived as "deviant" by a jury faces a difficult time in defending herself against criminal charges.
"If a woman is accused of murdering her child, it will be important for the defense to establish that she was a good mother," said Elizabeth Rapaport, a law professor at the University of New Mexico. "(Jurors) will be antagonistic if they conclude she wasn't a good mother and that bleeds into whether she was a good woman, a woman who wasn't scantily clad, sleeping with men, wasn't disreputable, and it's not relevant to if this woman killed this particular child."
Anthony wiped away tears from her face after the judge's ruling. She has pleaded not guilty to murdering Caylee, and said a baby sitter kidnapped the toddler. Her trial is scheduled to start in May 2011. The judge also rejected a defense argument that prosecutors had changed their minds and decided to seek the death penalty in order to financially break Anthony.
Defense attorneys won a small victory when the judge agreed that prosecutors should share with them the legal reasons they are seeking the death penalty should Anthony be convicted. The information would help defense attorneys prepare if there is a sentencing phase in the trial.