Casey Anthony Trial: What's Behind Her Tears?

06/10/2011 at 02:15 PM EDT

Casey Anthony Trial: What's Behind Her Tears?
Casey Anthony
Red Huber/Orlando Sentinel/MCT/Landov
Throughout the Casey Anthony murder trial, senior writer Michelle Tauber will be providing exclusive behind-the-scenes impressions and insights from PEOPLE's up-close courtroom seat

Casey Anthony cried when her mother took the stand and shared her last memory of Casey's 2-year-old daughter Caylee alive.

She cried when her brother's girlfriend recalled Casey's "amazing" bond with Caylee.

And she cried during the intense past two days of her first-degree murder trial, when graphic photos of her daughter's remains have chilled the courtroom.

The unnerving, unknowable question that looms over Casey's tears: Whom are they for?

Is she crying for her lost little girl? Or for her lost self – the fun-loving party girl she once was?

Is she exhausted, angry, fearful – or simply overwhelmed?

Observing Casey in person, her tears appear as tightly controlled as the rest of her courtroom behavior – her eyes are wet, her face largely immobile. Her jaw is always clenched. It's in stark contrast to the heaving sobs of her own grieving, devastated mother, Cindy Anthony, who utterly dissolved on the stand when it all became too much.

For their part, the jurors tend to glance over at Casey during lulls in trial testimony, always keeping their own faces neutral.

Casey almost never looks back at them.

On Thursday, jurors fixed their eyes on monitors displaying photos of Caylee's small skull, embedded in the Florida sand and soil. Casey fixed her eyes on the blue-gray carpet beneath her feet.

She pulled the sleeves of her sweater over her pale hands and wrapped the sweater tightly around her. And she cried.

One week ago, a very different Casey was on display when the prosecution showed jailhouse videos of her taken after Caylee's disappearance. At one point in the footage Casey complains, "Do you understand how I feel? Do you really understand how I feel?"

In that exchange, Casey's voice is hard, angry. She speaks to her parents through the jailhouse glass. There is no jury sitting across from her, searching her face for clues.

She does not cry.

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