The Casey Anthony trial (officially titled the State of Florida v. Casey Marie Anthony, 48-2008-CF-015606-O) was a criminal trial held in Orlando, Florida from May 9 to July 5, 2011 in the state’s Ninth Judicial Circuit Court involving the death of two year old Caylee Marie Anthony. Caylee’s mother, Casey Marie Anthony, was arrested on July 16, 2008 and indicted on charges of first degree murder on October 14, 2008. On April 13, 2009, prosecutors announced they would seek the death penalty. Anthony maintained that she was innocent and that the child died accidentally by drowning in the family swimming pool.
On July 5, 2011, Casey Anthony was found not guilty of first degree murder, aggravated manslaughter of a child, and aggravated child abuse. She was found guilty of four misdemeanor counts of providing false information to a law enforcement officer. On July 7, 2011, she was sentenced to one year in jail and $1,000 in fines for each count. With credit for time served and good behavior, her release date was set for July 17, 2011.
The case received national media attention in the United States, with newspapers and magazines calling it “the biggest ratings draws in recent memory” and “the social media trial of the century”.Defense counsel charged that Anthony was being tried in the media to her great detriment while she was facing the death penalty. The case has been cited as an example of the unfairness of prejudicial pretrial publicity impacting the rights of defendants in the United States.
Disappearance and discovery:
According to Casey Anthony’s father, George Anthony, Casey left the family’s home on June 16, 2008, taking Caylee (who was almost 3) with her and did not return for 31 days. Casey’s mother Cindy asked repeatedly during the month to see Caylee, but Casey claimed that she was too busy with a work assignment in Tampa, Florida. At other times, she said Caylee was with a nanny, later identified by Casey as Zenaida “Zanny” Fernandez-Gonzalez, or at theme parks or the beach. It was eventually determined that although Zenaida Fernandez-Gonzalez did in fact exist, she had never met Casey nor Caylee Anthony, any member of the Anthony family, or any of Casey’s friends.
On July 13, 2008, while doing yard work, Cindy and George Anthony found a notice from the post office for a certified letter affixed on their front door. George Anthony picked up the certified letter from the post office on July 15, 2008, and found that his daughter’s car was in a tow yard. When George picked up the car, both he and the tow yard attendant noted a strong smell coming from the trunk. Both later testified that they believed the odor to be that of a decomposing body. When the trunk was opened, it contained a bag of trash, but no human remains.
Caylee Anthony was reported missing to the Orange County Sheriff’s Office on July 15, 2008,by her grandmother, Cindy. During the same call, Casey Anthony acknowledged to the 911 operator that Caylee had been missing “for 31 days”. A distraught Cindy also told the 911 operator, “There is something wrong. I found my daughter’s car today and it smells like there’s been a dead body in the damn car.”
When Detective Yuri Melich, with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, began investigating the disappearance of Caylee Anthony, he found discrepancies in Casey’s signed statement. When questioned, Casey said Caylee had been kidnapped by her nanny, Zanny. Although Casey had talked about Zanny, she had never been seen by Casey’s family or friends, and in fact there was no nanny. Casey also told police that she worked at Universal Studios, a lie she had been telling her parents for years. Investigators brought Casey to Universal Studios on July 16, 2008, the day after Caylee was reported missing, and asked her to show them her office. Casey led police around for a while before admitting that she had been fired years before.
Casey Anthony was first arrested on July 16, 2008,and was charged the following day with giving false statements, child neglect, and obstruction of a criminal investigation. The judge denied bail, saying Casey had shown “woeful disregard for the welfare of her child”. On August 21, 2008, after one month of incarceration, Casey Anthony was released from the Orange County jail after her $500,200 bond was posted by the nephew of California bail bondsman Leonard Padillain hopes that Casey would cooperate and Caylee would be found. She was arrested again on August 29, 2008, on charges of forgery, fraudulent use of personal information, petty theft for forging $700 worth of checks and using her friend’s credit cards without permission. Leonard Padilla, whose nephew posted Casey Anthony’s bail, stated that if he had known before the bail was posted what he learned later, including that Anthony would not cooperate with him, he probably would not have helped get her out of jail.
On August 11, 12, and 13, 2008, tips of a suspicious object found in a forested area near the Anthony residence were called in to police by a meter reader, Roy Kronk. However, a search was not conducted at that time. After another report from the same man on December 11, 2008, human remains were found in a plastic bag. Duct tape was found on the face of the skull. On December 12, the remains were tentatively identified as Caylee’s.
On December 15, WFTV reported that more bones were found in the wooded area near the spot where the remains had initially been discovered. On December 19, 2008, medical examiner Jan Garavaglia confirmed that the remains found were those of Caylee Anthony. The death was ruled a homicide and the cause of death listed as undetermined.
Arrests and charges:
Casey Anthony was offered a limited immunity deal by prosecutors until September 2, 2008, but she did not take it.
On September 5, 2008, she was released again on bail after being fitted with an electronic tracking device. Casey Anthony was arrested for the third time on September 15, 2008, on new charges of theft, and was released shortly afterward. Her $500,000 bond was posted anonymously, and it was later revealed that her parents, Cindy and George Anthony, signed a promissory note for the bond.
On October 14, 2008, Casey Anthony was indicted by a grand jury on charges of first degree murder, aggravated child abuse, aggravated manslaughter of a child, and four counts of providing false information to police. She was arrested for the fourth time. She entered a plea of not-guilty to all charges.Judge John Jordan ordered that she be held without bond. On October 21, 2008, the charges of child neglect were dropped against Casey. In a statement that morning, the State Attorney’s Office explained: “The neglect charges were premised on the theory that Caylee was still alive. As the investigation progressed and it became clear that the evidence proved that the child was deceased, the State sought an indictment on the legally appropriate charges.”
On April 13, 2009, prosecutors announced that they planned to seek the death penalty in this case.
The Anthony case introduced new forensic science that has yet to be peer-reviewed. The University of Tennessee’s “Body farm” discovered “hair banding”, a phenomenon in which hair roots can form a dark band after death. A hair found in the trunk of the Anthony car exhibited this pattern. Air samples were sent to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
On Friday, October 24, 2008, a forensic report by Dr. Arpad Vass of the ORNL stated that results from an air sampling procedure (called LIBS) performed in the trunk of Casey Anthony’s car showed chemical compounds “consistent with a decompositional event” based on the presence of five key chemical compounds out of over 400 possible chemical compounds that Dr. Vass’ research group considers typical of decomposition (human decomposition was not specified). Whether or not the decomposition was human is still unknown, but was indicated as a possibility. The process has not been affirmed by a Daubert Test in the courts. Dr. Vass’ group also stated there was chloroform in the car trunk. In evidence hearings, Dr. Ken Furton, a professor in chemistry at Florida International University, stated that there is no consensus in the field on what chemicals are typical of human decomposition. DNA samples could not confirm whether the source was alive or dead. The only DNA testing by the FBI was limited to 752 base pairs out of 16,569 base pairs (less than 5% of the mitochondrial genome sequence).
Evidence was found that someone had searched the Internet on Casey Anthony’s computer for the use of the chloroform and how to make it.On November 26, 2008, officials released 700 pages of documents related to the Anthony investigation, which included evidence of Google searches of the terms “neck breaking”, “how to make chloroform”, and “death” on Casey Anthony’s home computer.
Investigators also entered into the body of evidence a photo from the computer of Ricardo Morales, an ex-boyfriend of Casey Anthony, which depicts a joke in which a man is using a chloroform-soaked rag to drug a woman.
On February 18, 2009, documents released by the State Attorney’s Office in Florida indicated that the same type of laundry bag, duct tape, and plastic bags discovered at the crime scene were found in the house where Casey and Caylee resided. Heart-shaped stickers were also recovered by investigators. According to an FBI laboratory email, a heart-shaped outline was originally seen on the duct tape that was recovered from the mouth area of Caylee’s skull, but the laboratory was not able to capture the heart shape photographically and could no longer see it after the duct tape was dusted for fingerprint processing. The documents also indicate that Cindy Anthony stated to them that a Winnie the Pooh blanket was missing from Caylee’s bed. This type of blanket was found at the crime scene. An entry from Casey Anthony’s diary was also released.
The following diary entry by Casey Anthony is dated “June 21” (2003) and reads:
I have no regrets, just a bit worried. I just want for everything to work out OK. I completely trust my own judgment and know that I made the right decision. I just hope that the end justifies the means. I just want to know what the future will hold for me. I guess I will soon see – This is the happiest that I have been in a very long time. I hope that my happiness will continue to grow– I’ve made new friends that I really like. I’ve surrounded myself with good people – I am finally happy. Let’s just hope that it doesn’t change.
Transfer writing (imprints of writing) from other pages of the diary revealed the mention of a person named Kenneth, whom Casey had dated in 2003. A member of Casey Anthony’s defense team, spokeswoman Marti MacKenzie, contends that this entry was written in 2003 prior to Caylee’s birth. The defense contends that the opposite page has “’03” written in one of the corners as the date, and the handwriting on the two pages matches. However, there was no authentication that the “’03” signified a date, or when it was entered in the diary or by whom. The prosecution acknowledged that it did not know when the entry was made. However, an FBI report released in the media stated that the diary in question was not on the market until 2004.
On June 30, 2010, Andrea Lyon presented a Motion to Withdraw as Counsel representing Casey Anthony.Linda Kenney-Baden withdrew in October 2010. Both cited travel costs as a barrier in continuing to represent Anthony.
Brad Conway, the attorney representing Casey Anthony’s parents, withdrew in mid-August 2010, citing allegations in a defense motion that he received special treatment in reviewing records. Conway claimed these allegations were false, but that this now made him a witness in the case, which forced him to withdraw.
Jury selection began on May 9, 2011, at the Pinellas County Criminal Justice Center in Clearwater, Florida, because the case had been so widely reported in the Orlando area. Jurors were brought from Pinellas County to Orlando. Jury selection took longer than expected and ended on May 20, 2011, with twelve jurors and five alternates being sworn in. The panel contained nine women and eight men. It was estimated that the trial would last about two months, during which the jury would be sequestered to avoid influence from information available outside the courtroom.
The trial began on May 24, 2011, at the Orange County Courthouse, with Judge Belvin Perry presiding. In the opening statements, prosecutor Linda Drane Burdick described the story of the disappearance of Caylee Anthony day-by-day. The defense, led by Jose Baez, presented its claim that Caylee drowned accidentally in the family’s pool on June 16, 2008, and was found by George Anthony, who then covered up Caylee’s death and made it so that it would be a secret kept between himself and Casey. This, the defense argued, is why Casey Anthony went on with her life and failed to report her child missing for 31 days. Baez also alleged that George Anthony had sexually abused Casey since she was eight years old, and also claimed that Casey’s brother Lee had made sexual advances toward her; he was even given a paternity test to see if he was Caylee’s father. However, the defense offered no proof of any sexual abuse of Casey by either George or Lee Anthony; consequently the defense was not allowed to mention claims of sexual abuse in their closing arguments.
The prosecution, led by Burdick and Jeffrey Ashton, alleged an intentional murder and sought the death penalty against Casey Anthony. Prosecutors alleged that Anthony used chloroform to render her daughter unconscious before putting duct tape over her nose and mouth to suffocate her, and left Caylee’s body in the trunk of her car for a few days before disposing of it.The prosecution painted Anthony as a party girl who killed her daughter to free herself from parental responsibility and enjoy her personal life. The fact that Casey Anthony was told about the drowning theory in jail by her own mother and that this is where she got the idea for such a defense was also brought up by the prosecution.
To combat the chloroform evidence issued by the prosecution, Cindy Anthony was called to the stand. She told jurors she was the one who used her family computer to search the Internet for “chloroform” in March 2008 — not Casey Anthony. When asked by prosecutors how she could have made the Internet searches when employment records showed she was at work, Cindy Anthony said she went home from work early during the days in question.
On June 30, the defense team for Casey Anthony rested, with Anthony not testifying in her own defense.
Closing arguments were given on July 2 and 3. Baez contended that there were holes in the prosecution’s forensic evidence, saying it was based on a “fantasy”. Baez told the jury that the prosecution wanted them to see stains and insects that did not really exist. Baez claimed that the prosecution did not prove that the stains in Anthony’s car trunk were caused necessarily by Caylee’s decomposing body there, but rather from a trash bag found there. He added that the prosecutors tried to make his client look like a promiscuous liar because their evidence was weak. He said the drowning is “the only explanation that makes sense” and showed jurors a photograph of Caylee opening the home’s sliding glass door by herself. He stressed that there were no child safety locks in the home and that both of Casey Anthony’s parents, George and Cindy Anthony, testified that Caylee could get out of the house easily. Although Cindy Anthony testified that Caylee could not put the ladder on the side of the pool and climb up, Baez alleged that Cindy Anthony may have left the ladder up the night before. “She didn’t admit to doing so in testimony”, he said, “but how much guilt would she have knowing it was her that left the ladder up that day?”
Baez told jurors his biggest fear was that they would base their verdict on emotions, not evidence. “The strategy behind that is, if you hate her, if you think she’s a lying, no-good slut, then you’ll start to look at this evidence in a different light”, he said. “I told you at the very beginning of this case that this was an accident that snowballed out of control … What made it unique is not what happened, but who it happened to.” He rationalized Casey Anthony’s behavior as the result of her dysfunctional family situation. At one point as Baez spoke, Ashton could be seen smiling or chuckling behind his hand. This prompted Baez to refer to him as “this laughing guy over here”. The judge called a sidebar conference, then a recess. When court resumed, he chastised both sides, saying both Ashton and Baez had violated his order that neither side should make disparaging remarks about opposing counsel. After both attorneys apologized, the judge accepted the apologies but warned that a recurrence would have the offending attorney excluded from the courtroom.
Once allowed to continue, fellow defense attorney Cheney Mason then followed with an additional hour-long closing argument. Addressing the jury to discuss the charges against Casey Anthony. “The burden rests on the shoulders of my colleagues at the state attorney’s office”, Mason said, referring to proving that Casey Anthony committed a crime. Mason said that the jurors are required, whether they like it or not, to find the defendant not guilty if the state did not adequately prove its case against Casey Anthony. Mason emphasized that the burden of proof is on the state, and that Casey Anthony’s decision not to testify is not an implication of guilt.
Because the defense used up a significant amount of time in their closing argument, the judge decided to hold off on the prosecution’s closing argument until the following day. He wanted the jury “fresh” when hearing the other side. On July 3, 2011, Jeff Ashton told the jury, “When you have a child, that child becomes your life. This case is about the clash between that responsibility, and the expectations that go with it, and the life that Casey Anthony wanted to have.” He outlined the state’s case against Casey Anthony, touching on her many lies to her parents and others, the smell in her car’s trunk — identified by several witnesses, including her own father, as the odor from human decomposition — and the items found with Caylee’s skeletal remains in December 2008. He emphasized how Anthony “maintains her lies until they absolutely cannot be maintained any more” — and then replaces [them] with another lie, using “Zanny the Nanny” (Zenaida Gonzalez) as an example. Anthony repeatedly told police that Caylee was with Zenaida. Police, however, were never able to find the nanny. Authorities did find a woman named Zenaida Gonzalez, but she denied ever meeting the Anthonys.
Ashton reintroduced the items found with Caylee’s remains, including a Winnie the Pooh blanket that matched the bedding at her grandparents’ home, one of a set of laundry bags with the twin bag found at the Anthony home, and duct tape he said was a relatively rare brand. “That bag is Caylee’s coffin”, Ashton said, holding up a photograph of the laundry bag, as Casey Anthony reacted with emotion. He further criticized the defense’s theory that Caylee drowned in the Anthony pool and that Casey and George Anthony panicked upon finding the child’s body and covered up her death. He advised jurors to use their common sense when deciding on a verdict. “No one makes an accident look like murder”, he said.
Lead prosecutor Linda Drane Burdick told the jurors that she and her colleagues backed up every claim they made in their opening statement six weeks ago, and implied that the defense never directly backed up its own opening-statement claim that Caylee drowned and that George Anthony made the death look like a murder. “My biggest fear is that common sense will be lost in all the rhetoric of the case,” she said, insisting that she would never ask the jury to make their decision based on emotion but rather the evidence. “Responses to guilt are oh, so predictable,” she stated. “What do guilty people do? They lie, they avoid, they run, they mislead…they divert attention away from themselves and they act like nothing is wrong.” She suggested that the garbage bag in the trunk of the car was a “decoy” put there to keep people from getting suspicious about the smell of the car when she abandoned it in front of a dumpster in an Amscot parking lot. “Whose life was better without Caylee?” she asked, stressing how George and Cindy Anthony were wondering where their daughter and granddaughter were in June and July 2008, the same time Casey was staying at her boyfriend’s apartment while Caylee’s body was decomposing in the woods. “That’s the only question you need to answer in considering why Caylee Marie Anthony was left on the side of the road dead.” Burdick then showed the jury a split-screen with a photo of Casey partying at a night club on one side and a close-up of the “Bella Vita” (beautiful life) tattoo that she got weeks after Caylee died on the other.
The jury began deliberations on July 4.
Verdict and sentence:
On July 5, the jury found Casey Anthony not guilty of first-degree murder, aggravated manslaughter, and aggravated child abuse, but guilty on four misdemeanor counts of providing false information to a law enforcement officer.
On July 7, Anthony was sentenced to one year in jail and $1,000 in fines, the maximum penalty prescribed by law, for each of the four counts of providing false information to a law enforcement officer, with the sentences to be served consecutively. Anthony received three years credit for time served plus additional credit for good behavior, resulting in her release date being set for July 17, 2011.
The individual guilty counts are specified in the Judge’s sentencing as the following:
- Count Four – Casey Anthony told law enforcement officials that during 2008 she was employed at Universal Studios. This information was given during an investigation of a missing persons report.
- Count Five – Ms. Anthony informed authorities that she had left Caylee at the Sawgrass Apts with a babysitter causing law enforcement to pursue the missing babysitter.
- Count Six – Ms. Anthony told law enforcement that she informed two associate employees, Jeff Hopkins and Juliet Lewis, at Universal, where she later admitted she had never worked, of the disappearance of Caylee.
- Count Seven – Ms. Anthony told law enforcement that she had received a call and actually spoken to Caylee on July 15, 2008 at approximately 12 p.m., causing law enforcement to expend resources on this lie.
Publicity and aftermath:
Before the trial:
The case attracted a significant amount of national media attention, and was regularly the main topic of many TV talk shows, including those hosted by Greta Van Susteren, disgraced former prosecutor Nancy Grace, Geraldo Rivera, and others. It has been featured on Fox’s America’s Most Wanted, NBC’s Dateline, and ABC’s 20/20. Nancy Grace referred to Casey Anthony as the “tot mom” and urged the public to let “the professionals, the psychics and police” do their job.
Casey Anthony’s parents, Cindy and George, appeared on The Today Show on October 22, 2008. They maintained their belief that Caylee was alive and would be found. Larry Garrison, president of SilverCreek Entertainment, was their spokesman until he resigned in November 2008, citing that he was leaving due to “the Anthony family’s erratic behavior”.
More than 6,000 pages of evidence released by the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, including hundreds of instant messages between Casey and ex-boyfriend Tony Rusciano, have been the subject of increased scrutiny by the media for clues and possible motives in the homicide. Rusciano, a rookie Orange County deputy, was fired for lying about his sexual relationship with Casey Anthony.
Outside the Anthony home, WESH TV 2 reported that protesters repeatedly shouted “baby killer” and that George Anthony was physically attacked. George Anthony was reported missing on January 22, 2009, after he failed to show up for a meeting with his lawyer, Brad Conway. George was found in a Daytona Beach hotel the next day after sending messages to family members threatening suicide. He was taken to Halifax Hospital for psychiatric evaluation and later released.
During and after the trial:
Public and media reactions:
The trial has been compared to the O. J. Simpson murder case, both for its widespread media attention and reported “shock” at the “Not Guilty” verdict. At the start of the trial, dozens of people raced to the Orange County Courthouse on Tuesday morning, hoping to secure one of 50 seats open to the public at the murder trial. Because the case received such thorough media attention in Orlando, jurors were brought in from the Tampa Bay area and sequestered for the entire trial. The case became a “macabre tourist attraction”, as people camped outside for seats in the courtroom, where scuffles also broke out among those wanting seats inside. The New York Post described the trial as going “from being a newsworthy case to one of the biggest ratings draws in recent memory”, and Time magazine dubbed it “the social media trial of the century”. Cable news channels and network news programs became intent upon covering the case as extensively as they could. Scot Safon, executive vice president of HLN, said it was “not about policy” but rather the “very, very strong human dimension” of the case that drove the network to cover it. The audience for HLN’s Nancy Grace rose more than 150 percent, and other news channels deciding to focus on the trial saw their ratings double and triple. HLN achieved its most watched hour in network history (4.575 million) and peaked at 5.205 million when the verdict was read. According to recent statistics, the trial became the most publicized case in U.S. history. “The Simpson case was the longest trial ever held in California, costing more than $20 million to fight and defend, running up 50,000 pages of trial transcript in the process. Reports say the Casey Anthony trial [far exceeded] these numbers.” Records show 91 percent of the television viewing audience watched it and an 142 million people listened on radio and watched television as the verdict was delivered.
Opinions have varied on what has made the public thoroughly invested in the trial. Safon argued, “What turns the case into such addictive TV is that the Anthonys [were] not famous people. On some level, this seems like such an unremarkable family. And yet, when you look underneath the hood, you’re seeing this incredibly complex group of people and relationships.” Frank Farley of CNN said, “In the Casey Anthony trial, circumstantial evidence is all over the map — and with the apparent lying, significant contradictions and flip-flops of testimony, and questionable or bizarre theories of human behavior, it is little wonder that this nation has been glued to the tube.” He said it was a trial that was both a psychologist’s dream and nightmare, and believes that much of the public’s fascination has to do with the uncertainty of a motive for the crime. Psychologist Dr. Karyl McBride stated, “Not all mothers fit the saintly archetype that is seen and felt in the sacred institution of motherhood. We want so badly to hang onto the belief system that mothers don’t harm children”, she explained. “It’s fascinating that the defense in the Anthony case found a way to blame the father. While we don’t know what is true and maybe never will, it is worth taking a look at the narcissistic family when maternal narcissism rules the roost. Casey Anthony is a beautiful white woman and the fact that the case includes such things as sex, lies, and videotapes makes it irresistible.”
When the “Not Guilty” verdict was rendered, there was significant outcry among the general public and media that the jury made the wrong decision.People took to Facebook and Twitter, as well as other media outlets, to express their outrage. Some referred to the verdict as “O.J. Number 2”. Outside the courthouse, many in the crowd of 500 reacted with anger, chanting, “Justice for Caylee!” and “Baby killer!” Various media personalities and celebrities, including, Joy Behar, Ann Coulter, Star Jones, Roseanne Barr, Demi Moore, Ashton Kutcher, Jason Biggs, Carson Daly, Sharon Osbourne, Kim Kardashian, and many others, also expressed outrage via Twitter. News anchor Julie Chen became visibly upset and broke into tears while reading the not-guilty verdict on The Talk and had to be assisted by her fellow co-hosts, who also expressed their dismay.
However, not everyone was outraged by the jury’s decision. Some readers on sites such as the Toronto Star.com and CNN.com were more equivocal — with some suggesting the verdict was fair because there clearly was not enough evidence to determine guilt based on beyond a reasonable doubt. Sean Hannity of the Fox News Channel also said that the verdict was legally correct, saying the prosecution did not meet its burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Hannity also stated that all of the evidence that the prosecution presented was either impeached or contradicted by the defense. Echoing these sentiments was John Cloud of Time magazine. “Casey Anthony is guilty of many things. She is an enthusiastic liar. She was an indifferent mother. She mooched off her overindulgent parents for years. Even after her daughter went missing, Anthony partied and got a tattoo,” he stated. “But the state of Florida did not make a good case that Anthony murdered her daughter. In acquitting Anthony, the jury made the right call.”
Around the time the verdict was announced, Akamai Technologies’ “Net Usage Index for News” showed that traffic to news sites surged from about 2 million page views a minute to 3.3 million, with most of the visits coming from the United States. Mashable reported that between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m., one million viewers were watching CNN.com/live, 30 times higher than the previous month’s average. The Hollywood Reporter says CNN logged 12 million page views during the same time frame and the story became CNN’s tenth most-popular video stream of all time. ABC News also saw traffic soar around the same time, with the number of visitors to the site increasing by five times the previous month’s average. Between the hours of 12 p.m. and 4 p.m., ABC says 1.2 million videos were watched on ABCNews.com, three times more than the average in the previous month. MSNBC says there were 325,283 posts on Twitter-related to the Casey Anthony trial on the day of the verdict, the majority of which were posted near the time the verdict was announced. Twitter’s trending topics in the United States were mostly about the subjects related to the case, and Newser reported that posts on Facebook were coming in “too fast for all Facebook to even count them, meaning at least 10 per second”.
The strong disagreement with the jury’s verdict prompted media commentators, talk show hosts, lawyers and psychologists to put forward several theories for why the public so widely rejected the notion that Anthony may not be responsible for her daughter’s death, ranging from wanting justice for Caylee, to the circumstantial evidence having been strong enough, to some blaming the media. “The main reason that people are reacting so strongly is that the media convicted Casey before the jury decided on the verdict,” said Dr. Carole Lieberman, a forensic psychiatrist in the department of psychiatry at UCLA. “The public has been whipped up into this frenzy wanting revenge for this poor little adorable child. And because of the desire for revenge, they’ve been whipped up into a lynch mob.” She added, “Nobody likes a liar, and Anthony was a habitual liar. And nobody liked the fact that she was partying after Caylee’s death. Casey obviously has a lot of psychological problems. Whether she murdered her daughter or not is another thing.”
The case has also created a gender gap. According to a USA Today/Gallup Poll of 1,010, while about two-thirds of Americans (64%) believe Casey Anthony “definitely” or “probably” murdered her daughter, women are much more likely than men to believe the murder charges against Anthony and to be upset by the not-guilty verdict. The poll reported that women were more than twice as likely as men, 28% vs. 11%, to think Anthony “definitely” committed murdered. Twenty-seven percent of women said they were angry about the verdict, compared with 9% of men. On the day Casey Anthony was sentenced for lying to investigators in the death of her daughter, supporters and protesters gathered outside the Orange County Courthouse, with one man displaying a sign asking Anthony to marry him. An Orlando man held the marriage proposal sign, and two who drove overnight from West Virginia held signs that said, “We love and support you Casey Anthony,” and “Nancy Grace, stop trying to ruin innocent lives. The jury has spoken. P.S. Our legal system still works!” The gender gap has partly been explained by “the maternal instinct”. The idea of a mother murdering her own child threatens what it is to be a mother.
Various explanations for why the jury chose a verdict of not guilty have been put forth. While many people, including media commentators, believe that there was enough circumstantial evidence to convict Anthony beyond a reasonable doubt,others state that there was not. Some believe that the prosecution overcharged the case by tagging on the death penalty; people in good conscience could not sentence Anthony to death based on circumstantial evidence when reasonable doubt existed. The CSI effect was also extensively argued — that society now lives “in a ‘CSI age’ where everyone expects fingerprints and DNA, and we are sending a message that old-fashioned circumstantial evidence is not sufficient”. Likewise, O. J. Simpson case prosecutor Marcia Clark and others believe that the jury interpreted “reasonable doubt” too narrowly. “The instruction on circumstantial evidence is confusing even to lawyers. And reasonable doubt? That’s the hardest, most elusive one of all. And I think it’s where even the most fair-minded jurors can get derailed,” stated Clark. “How? By confusing reasonable doubt with a reason to doubt. … In Scotland, they have three verdicts: guilty, not guilty, and not proven. It’s one way of showing that even if the jury didn’t believe the evidence amounted to proof beyond a reasonable doubt, it didn’t find the defendant innocent either. There’s a difference.”
Defense and prosecution:
Cheney Mason, one of Casey Anthony’s defense attorneys, took the stance of those blaming the media for the passionate hatred toward his client. He termed it a “media assassination” of Anthony before and during the trial:
I hope that this is a lesson to those of you who have indulged in media assassination for three years, bias, and prejudice, and incompetent talking heads saying what would be and how to be … I can tell you that my colleagues from coast to coast and border to border have condemned this whole process of lawyers getting on television and talking about cases that they don’t know a damn thing about, and don’t have the experience to back up their words or the law to do it. Now you have learned a lesson.
Mason’s response was especially viewed as critical of disgraced former prosecutor Nancy Grace, whose news program is largely consideredto have contributed to the widespread media obsession with the Anthony family. Grace responded, “What does he care about what pundits are saying?” She stated that she imagines she has tried and covered as many cases as Mason, and criticized the defense attorneys for delivering media criticism before mentioning Caylee’s name in their post-verdict news conference. “Caylee’s death is now just a blip on the screen,” she said. “It didn’t mean anything. It didn’t amount to a hill of beans.” Grace stated that “[T]here is no way that this is a verdict that speaks the truth.”
State’s Attorney Lawson Lamar said, “We’re disappointed in the verdict today because we know the facts and we’ve put in absolutely every piece of evidence that existed. This is a dry-bones case. Very, very difficult to prove. The delay in recovering little Caylee’s remains worked to our considerable disadvantage.” Jose Baez said, “While we’re happy for Casey, there are no winners in this case. Caylee has passed on far, far too soon, and what my driving force has been for the last three years has been always to make sure that there has been justice for Caylee and Casey because Casey did not murder Caylee. It’s that simple.” He added, “And today our system of justice has not dishonored her memory by a false conviction.”
Former Casey Anthony defense attorney Linda Kenney Baden said that the state was trying to “find Elvis on toast.” She believes the jury reached the right verdict. “We should embrace their verdict,” she stated.
On July 6, 2011, Assistant State Attorney Jeff Ashton gave his first interview about the case on The View. Ashton said of the verdict, “Obviously, it’s not the outcome we wanted. But from the perspective of what we do, this was a fantastic case.” He disagrees with those who state the defense overcharged the case, saying, “The facts that we had…this was first-degree murder. I think it all came down to the evidence. I think ultimately it came down to the cause of death.” Ashton additionally explained that if the jury did not perceive first-degree murder when they saw the photograph of Caylee’s skull with the duct tape, “then so be it”. He said he accepts the jury’s decision and that it has not taken away his faith in the justice system. “You can’t believe in the rule of law and not accept that sometimes it doesn’t go the way you think it should,” stated Ashton, and explained that he understands why the case “struck such a nerve” with the public. “I think when people see someone that they believe has so gone away from [a mother’s love for her child], it just outrages them.” Ashton also made appearances on several other talk shows in the days following, and complimented Jose Baez on his cross-examinations and as having “the potential to be a great attorney”.
After the trial ended, the 12 jurors did not initially want to discuss the verdict with the media. 51-year-old Russell Huekler, an alternate juror who stepped forward the day of the verdict, said, “The prosecution didn’t provide the evidence that was there for any of the charges from first-degree murder down to second-degree murder to the child abuse to even the manslaughter (charge). It just wasn’t there.”
The next day Jennifer Ford, a 32-year-old nursing student who was juror #3, told ABC News, “I did not say she was innocent,” but also, “I just said there was not enough evidence. If you cannot prove what the crime was, you cannot determine what the punishment should be.” She said that the jurors were “sick to their stomachs” over the decision to deliver a “Not Guilty” verdict and that it overwhelmed them to the point where they did not want to talk to reporters afterwards.
Juror #2, a 46-year-old male who requested to stay unidentified, told the St. Petersburg Times that “everybody agreed if we were going fully on feelings and emotions, she was done”. He stated that a lack of evidence was the reason for the not guilty verdict saying, “I just swear to God … I wish we had more evidence to put her away. I truly do … But it wasn’t there.” He also said that Anthony was “not a good person in my opinion”.
Juror #6, identified by WTSP as Brian Berling, told gossip website TMZ.com that he is willing to be interviewed “so long as the opportunities are paid”.
The Anthony family:
Mark Lippman, the attorney for George and Cindy Anthony, told ABC News that the family received death threats after the “Not Guilty” verdict was rendered. Authorities are reportedly investigating, but additional details are not yet available. In response to the verdict, a statement was released by Lippman on behalf of the Anthony family (George, Cindy and Lee Anthony):
While the family may never know what has happened to Caylee Marie Anthony, they now have closure for this chapter of their life. They will now begin the long process of rebuilding their lives. Despite the baseless defense chosen by Casey Anthony, the family believes that the Jury made a fair decision based on the evidence presented, the testimony presented, the scientific information presented and the rules that were given to them by the Honorable Judge Perry to guide them. The family hopes that they will be given the time by the media to reflect on this verdict and decide the best way to move forward privately.
Since the trial, there has been speculation on whether or not Cindy Anthony will face perjury charges for telling jurors she, not Casey Anthony, was the one who used her family computer to search the Internet for “chloroform”. The state called witnesses who refuted what Anthony claimed. Records show someone with Anthony’s password and username was active on the work computer during the time where chloroform searches were made at the Anthony family home during the week of March 17, 2008. Sgt. Kevin Stenger, a Sheriff’s Office investigator also weighed in, saying the other keywords she claimed to have searched at the time of the chloroform research — chlorophyll, sanitizer and bamboo — were not found on the computer.
Regarding Casey Anthony, Kathleen Zellner, a defense attorney outside of the case, said she believes Casey Anthony can never return to the life she once had. “I’m sure people will offer her money, book deals — she may in that way profit from this,” she stated. “But emotionally her life has been destroyed. Her child is dead and her parents have been injured, I don’t know how you put that back together. … People will always believe that she’s guilty.” The first deal offered to Anthony was a deal with porn company Vivid Entertainment. However, they soon withdrew the offer once the extent to which outrage over the verdict was evident. Vivid chief Steven Hirsch said it had become evident that their fans and the general public had no interest in seeing Anthony in a film. Literary agents and publicists contacted by ABCNews.com said that Anthony could make upwards of $750,000 with a book deal, and that it is likely that television and film producers will also compete to score a coveted first interview and rights to her life story. “Anything to do with a mother and a dead child tends to attract lots of attention,” said one literary agent. “I think there will be some frenzy among publishers to acquire her book.” It had been reported by RadarOnline that Anthony was offered to appear on The Jerry Springer Show with her parents for $1 million dollars. Representatives for the show have since denied that they made the offer. “There is absolutely no truth to this story whatsoever,” rep Gary Rosen told The Hollywood Reporter. “The Jerry Springer Show has not made any monetary offer to Casey Anthony and her family to appear on the program, nor will we.”
On July 6, 2011, Anthony’s jailhouse letters were released to the general public. They were originally released (though not to the general public) in April 2010 by prosecutors preparing for the Anthony trial. In more than 250 handwritten pages, Anthony discusses her life in jail, what she misses, and her plans for the future if obtaining her freedom.Among her hopes for the future, she discusses children. “I had a dream not too long ago that I was pregnant,” wrote Anthony, “It was like having Cays all over again. I’ve thought about adopting, which even sounds weird to me saying it, but there are so many children that deserve to be loved.” Additionally, Anthony discusses missing “vain” belongings (such as tweezers and hair dryers), owning her own business, donating money to charities for leukemia, breast cancer and cervical cancer research, as well as a name change. “If you could change your name to any name, what would it be?” she wrote. “I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately. Ideas? Many ideas.”
On July 8, 2011, Cindy Anthony had scheduled a visit to meet with Casey at 7 p.m., but was denied. “This morning under policy, Casey was told of the visit and she has declined the visit so it will not occur,” said jail spokesman Allen Moore. Moore also said that Cindy would be notified of her daughter’s decision. Mark Lippman told Reuters during the trial that Casey had cut off communication with her parents.
Zenaida civil case:
A civil trial has been set for August 29, 2011. During the investigation, Anthony told investigators that she had left 2 1/2-year-old Caylee on June 16 with a babysitter named Zenaida Fernandez-Gonzalez – also known as “Zanny” – at a specific Orlando apartment complex. A woman named Zenaida Gonzalez who was on the apartment records as having visited apartments on that date was questioned by police and said she did not know Casey or Caylee. She has since filed a defamation suit seeking compensatory and punitive damages, alleging that Casey willfully damaged her reputation. It was reported that Anthony would exercise her rights under the Fifth Amendment in response to written questions in the civil case.
“Caylee’s Law” and “Caylee’s Song”:
Since the end of the trial, various movements have arisen for the creation of a new law, “Caylee’s law”, that would impose stricter requirements on parents to notify law enforcement of the death or disappearance of a child.One such petition, circulated via Change.org, has gained over 920,000 electronic signatures.In response to this and other petitions, lawmakers in four states (Florida, Oklahoma, New York and West Virginia) have begun drafting versions of “Caylee’s law”. The law in Oklahoma would require a child’s parent or guardian to notify police of a child’s death within 24 hours, and would also stipulate a time frame for notification of the disappearance of a young child under the age of twelve. The Florida law would make it a felony if a parent or legal guardian fails to report a missing child in timely manner if they could have known the child would be in danger.
Different artists have written songs in Caylee’s memory, often entitled “Caylee’s Song”. Jon Whynock performed his own version at her memorial service in February 2009,and Sheffield songwriter Earl “Peanutt” Montgomery, an Alabama Music Hall of Fame member known for writing hits for country artist George Jones, penned a “Caylee’s Song” soon after hearing the verdict. “I’m very disappointed about the trial. I can’t believe it. There are two known facts. That child is dead. Another fact is, somebody had to contribute somehow or other to her death. It’s a miscarriage of justice,” he stated. Montgomery chose to express his feelings through a song instead of through social media. “Me and my wife talked about it, and I decided to do it,” said Montgomery. He sent an MP3 of “Caylee” to CNN and the cable news show Nancy Grace, as well as to various radio stations and Internet radio stations. On July 8, 2011, Grace played it for her audience.
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