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Jurors view video on Day 2 of Austria incest trial

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[March 17, 2009]  ST. POELTEN, Austria (AP) -- Josef Fritzl returned to the courtroom Tuesday for the second day of his Austrian trial on charges he imprisoned his daughter for 24 years in a squalid dungeon and fathered her seven children.

The 73-year-old again hid his face behind a blue binder and stayed silent as he was led into the court in St. Poelten, west of Vienna.

DonutsFritzl has pleaded guilty to incest and false imprisonment, but is contesting negligent homicide and enslavement charges and has acknowledged only partial guilt on rape and coercion charges.

He was charged with homicide in the death of an infant -- a male twin born in April 1996 -- who prosecutors say might have survived with proper medical care.

Police say DNA tests prove Fritzl is the biological father of all six surviving children, three of whom never saw daylight until the crime came to light 11 months ago.

On Tuesday, jurors planned to view more of the videotaped testimony from the key witness against Fritzl -- his daughter Elisabeth. Now 42, she was 18 when he allegedly imprisoned her in the cramped, windowless cell he built beneath the family's home.

Fritzl could spend the rest of his life in prison if convicted of homicide. He faces up to 20 years behind bars if found guilty of enslavement, up to 15 for a rape conviction, and one year for an incest conviction.

Reporters were not allowed into the courtroom Tuesday morning, and were expected to remain excluded until shortly before the verdict, which could come as early as Thursday.

In her opening statement, prosecutor Christiane Burkheiser said Fritzl refused to speak to his daughter during the first few years of her ordeal, coming downstairs only to rape her. Burkheiser said the rapes sometimes occurred in front of the children, and she described Elisabeth as a "broken" woman.

Fritzl's lawyer, Rudolf Mayer, said he did not think anything unexpected would happen in the coming days.

"The facts are relatively clear ... there can't really be any surprises in a situation that has already been cleared up," Mayer said.

He said Fritzl answered all the court's questions during closed-door proceedings Monday afternoon.

"I certainly think he was cooperative," Mayer said. He declined to provide details, citing Austrian law.

Before the trial wraps up, the eight-member jury will see prerecorded testimony from one of Elisabeth's brothers, Harald.

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Jurors also will consider several reports from experts including one on Fritzl's psychological state, one on the newborn that died and one on the door leading into the dungeon, which prosecutors say could not be opened from the inside. Officials say the exact timing of each is unclear and depends on the extent of Fritzl's responses.

The Associated Press normally withholds the names of victims of sexual assault. In this case, the withholding of Elisabeth's name by the AP became impractical when her name and her father's were announced publicly by police and details about them became the subject of publicity both in their home country and around the world.

Austrian media ridiculed Fritzl on Tuesday for hiding his face in the courtroom.

"Now he's ashamed -- 25 years too late," the Heute newspaper said in a front page headline over a photo of Fritzl trying to shield himself from news cameras.

Mayer said Fritzl has not said anything publicly because he feels "embarrassed."

[Associated Press; By VERONIKA OLEKSYN]

Associated Press writer William J. Kole in Vienna contributed to this report.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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