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Casey Anthony not guilty of murder, manslaughter in daughter's death

TBO.com
Published:   |   Updated: March 20, 2013 at 03:16 PM
ORLANDO -

Everyone, it seemed, wanted justice for little Caylee.

From the bug-infested swamp where her remains were found to the sidewalks outside the Orange County Courthouse, across the state and nation, people of all ages and backgrounds clamored for it.

On Tuesday afternoon, about a dozen miles from where her skull was found with duct tape covering the nose and mouth, a Pinellas County jury returned its verdict against Casey Anthony after deliberating for about 11 hours over two days.

Their decision: Caylee’s mother was a liar but not a murderer.

In a 23rd floor courtroom where "Equal Justice Under The Law" is etched on the wall in capital letters, the now 25-year-old woman was cleared of first-degree murder, aggravated child abuse and aggravated manslaughter charges.

Her only convictions came on four counts of providing false information to law enforcement. Sentencing is set for 9 a.m. Thursday.

After nervously biting her nails and taking several deep breaths in the minutes before the verdict was announced in a hushed courtroom, emotion overtook her. Tears began to roll down her face as she clutched the hands of defense attorneys Jose Baez and Dorothy Clay Sims.

Her parents, George and Cindy Anthony, quietly ducked out of their seats in the back of the courtroom before the proceeding was over. Her brother, Lee Anthony, was not in the courtroom for the verdicts.

Orlando attorney Mark Lippman issued the following statement on behalf of Lee, George and Cindy 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.’’

Each of the family members had been targeted by the defense during the six-week trial: George and Lee Anthony were accused of molesting Casey, triggering her life of lies. Cindy Anthony was blamed for what the defense said was Caylee’s drowning in the back-yard pool.

After the jury was dismissed by Judge Belvin Perry Jr., the celebration at the defense table began in earnest.

Casey Anthony got a bear hug from Baez, then was in the middle of a group hug from the several members of the defense team. She cried and wailed loudly as she was surrounded by those who had helped spare her life.

Some of the defense attorneys exchanged high fives. Casey Anthony laughed as deputies took her fingerprints in the courtroom.

Baez tempered the celebration, however, at a news conference after the verdicts were announced.

"While we are happy for Casey, there are no winners in this case," he said. "Caylee has passed on far too soon.

"Casey did not murder Caylee," Baez added, with 12 people who had worked on Casey’s defense standing behind him. "It’s that simple. Today, our system of justice has not dishonored her memory by a false conviction."

Outside the courthouse, however, that wasn’t the popular line of thinking.

Many in the crowd of about 500 people reacted with anger after the verdict was read, chanting, "Justice for Caylee!" One man yelled, "Baby killer!"

For weeks, people had lined up outside the courthouse trying to watch the trial in person. Court officials had to change the way seat passes were distributed after a brawl broke out in line one morning.

It was a case that had riveted Orlando, the state of Florida and the nation. International press crews were present at the verdict.

The details of the drama grabbed headlines with ease. Casey Anthony didn’t report her daughter missing for 31 days as she went on a drinking, dancing and partying binge. She told authorities a nanny who didn’t exist had kidnapped her daughter. She had imaginary friends and a pretend job.

"This is the heaviest media exposure to any killing in the United States since the O.J. Simpson trial," said Jay Corzine, chairman of the sociology department at the University of Central Florida. "People want to be a part of what has been a major historical event."

The intense media focus on the case was blasted by Cheney Mason, one of the members of the defense team, on Tuesday.

"Well, I hope that this is a lesson to those of you having indulged in media assassination for three years, bias, prejudice and incompetent talking heads saying what would be and how to be," Mason said.

"I'm disgusted by some of the lawyers that have done this, and 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."

The three prosecutors who tried the case sat stone-faced as the verdicts were read. They did not comment afterward, but their boss, State Attorney Lawson Lamar, did.

"We're disappointed in the verdict today because we know the facts and we've put in absolutely every piece of evidence that existed," Lawson said.

The prosecutor lamented the lack of hard evidence, saying, "This is a dry-bones case. Very, very difficult to prove. The delay in recovering little Caylee's remains worked to our considerable disadvantage."

As the jurors were transported back to their homes in Pinellas County by the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, Casey Anthony was taken back to jail. She will be held there until her sentencing on Thursday.

What happens with her life beyond that – especially with a family fractured and torn apart by outrageous allegations the last few weeks – is anyone’s guess.

"I want her to be able to breathe and grow and somehow get her life back together," Baez said.

The defense attorney said he couldn’t wait to get home to his own daughter.

"The best feeling I have today is I can go home and my daughter will ask me, ‘What did you do today?’ " Baez said. "I can say, ‘I saved a life.’ "

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

rshaw@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7999


Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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