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On Second Thought ... State to Seek Death Penalty for Murder of Caylee Anthony

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By Javier Lavagnino, Esq. on April 14, 2009 12:11 PM

In a surprising turn of events, CNN reports that Florida prosecutors have decided to pursue the death penalty against Casey Anthony, who is accused of murdering her young daughter Caylee. The disappearance of Caylee Anthony captivated much of the nation, and police attention quickly focused on Casey Anthony. Caylee's remains were eventually found in a wooded area near her grandparents' home in Orlando, while Casey was in prison.

The move, although certainly within the prosecutor's discretion, does raise questions about the prosecution's strategy and motivation. It could be that, as the prosecution's notice of intent indicated, "additional information that has become available" since the earlier decision not to seek the death peanalty "sufficient aggravating circumstances exist to justify the imposition of the Death Penalty".On the other hand some speculate that maybe it's an attempt to have defense attorney, Jose Baez, disqualified. Baez has not been certified to represent defendants in capital cases. Lastly, perhaps it's simply an expression of frustration by the prosecution with Casey Anthony for refusing a plea deal in the case.

What's the deal with certification? Most states don't allow just anyone to represent accused individuals whose lives are, literally, on the line. Besides the obvious requirement of being a licensed attorney, states generally require that counsel in capital cases have a significant amount of experience, including complex criminal cases, before they are allowed to represent defendants in death penalty cases. Counsel in death penalty cases may often receive greater compensation and funds, reflecting the complexity of the cases.

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