A jury of seven women and five men at the Orange County Courthouse, in Orlando, Florida returned verdicts of not guilty to charges of first-degree murder, aggravated manslaughter, and aggravated child abuse on Tuesday, July 5, 2011 at 2:17 p.m. EDT against 25-year-old Casey Anthony in the death of her 2-year-old daughter Caylee Marie Anthony.
In response to the verdict, there were angry shouts with chants of “justice for Caylee” which arose from crowds outside the courthouse and in public viewing areas wherever TV sets were tuned to trial coverage, as reported by The New York Times, WWLP-TV, ABC News, US Magazine, The Globe and Mail, the New York Daily News, The Independent, and a multitude of other global news sources published on Tuesday, July 5, 2011.
Some compared the public reaction to an angry mob carrying pitchforks, and an indication that feelings were so strong, that there was a chance that someone might carry out street justice to avenge the child’s death.
There is an attached video clip and detailed slide show which accompany this report, with family photos and courtroom scenes.
An ABC affiliate in San Diego, KGTV 10News, reported that 72% of its viewers polled were disappointed with the verdict, typical of the broader nationwide reaction.
The mass display of anger included alleged death threats made against the defendant’s parents, Cindy and George Anthony, who left the courtroom showing no emotions, immediately after the verdict was announced, and were not available to the media. The New York Daily News reported that the couple have gone into hiding.
A court spokesperson also announced that the jury had unanimously agreed not to make themselves available for interviews. They were released by the court and are free to return to their Pinellas County homes, located near Clearwater, FL, from where the jury pool was selected.
The reaction by the public was not unlike that seen after the October 3, 1995 not guilty verdict which set O.J. Simpson free, after he was tried for the murder of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson.
Commentator and former Fulton County, Georgia prosecutor Nancy Grace, currently appearing on CNN, said that she was “sickened” by the verdict, and called it a “miscarriage of justice.”
Attorney and legal commentator Dan Abrams, speaking with Terry Moran on ABC News Nightline, commented that there was a difference between the “truth” and the “legal truth,” and although he personally felt Ms. Anthony was guilty of killing Caylee, the evidence did not convince the jury beyond a reasonable doubt.
Ms. Anthony was convicted on four misdemeanor counts of lying to police, which each carry a possible 1-year jail sentence. She has already been incarcerated for 2-1/2 years, following the reported disappearance, discovery of Casey’s body, investigation, and trial.
Judge Bevlin Perry, Jr., Chief Judge of the Ninth Judicial Circuit Court of Florida, will sentence her on Thursday, July 7, 2011 at 9:00 a.m. EDT on that conviction. There is some speculation that she may be released from jail on the time she has already served since her arrest.
Ms. Anthony was eligible to be released on bail after the not guilty verdicts were returned, but there are reports that her attorneys did not make such a request, believing that she would be safer in custody, from possible mob violence.
According to legal experts, including Chicago criminal defense attorney Kathleen Zellner, the key to Ms. Anthony’s defense and ultimate acquittal was a shotgun approach by her legal team, attorneys Jose Baez, Cheney Mason, and Dorothy Clay Sims, introducing multiple elements of reasonable doubt.
That defense included charges that Ms. Anthony was sexually abused by her father, that Casey actually drowned in the family’s pool on June 16, 2008, and that Casey’s father, George Anthony, disposed of the body. Such claims were supported by the fact that there was no DNA evidence linking Casey Anthony to her child’s body, and the inability of the medical examiner to determine a cause of death.
They were apparently successful in convincing the jury that the child’s death was an accident, as they claimed, which snowballed out of control.
Assistant State Attorneys Jeff Ashton, Linda Drane Burdick, and Lawson Lamar, the chief prosecutor for Orange County, FL were disappointed by the verdict. Shortly afterwards, Mr. Ashton, age 53, announced his retirement.
“I never ever criticize a jury,” Lamar, said to the media after the verdict was announced. He acknowledged that the “mountain of evidence” that the state of Florida presented may not have eliminated every reasonably doubt in the jurors’ minds.
Supporters of Ms. Anthony, including San Diego attorney Todd Macaluso, who believed so strongly in the woman’s innocence that he put up $75,000 of his own money as a contribution to the defense team, claimed that the prosecution’s case was entirely based on circumstantial evidence, what he termed “junk science” that had never been accepted in any prior legal proceeding, and efforts of guilt by association, depicting the defendant as a self-centered pathological liar who they alleged killed her daughter to free herself of child raising responsibilities.
Mr. Macaluso, who lives in Rancho Santa Fe, CA, an upscale San Diego County community, and who spent a year working without charging a fee on Ms. Anthony’s defense team, told a KGTV 10News reporter, “The concept of a sniffing machine breathing air and telling you that there is a human body decomposing in a trunk versus an animal decomposing in a trunk defies logic. Judges should not be allowed to introduce scientific testing unless there’s a valid scientific methodology that’s proven in studies, peer-reviewed and helps the jury.”
Under the U.S. Constitution, which provides protections against double jeopardy, Ms. Anthony can never again be tried for this incident, even if she were later to confess to murdering Caylee.
Whatever relationship Ms. Anthony had previously with her parents, however dysfunctional, may now be irreparably destroyed.
Analysts have also pointed out that the woman cannot safely return to the Orlando community in which she had lived. Like O.J. Simpson, she may forever be considered guilty in the eyes of the public, an outcast wherever she settles, and unable to reestablish the connections with her own family that were damaged during the trial. That may be her real punishment.
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