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Casey Anthony trial acquittal: Death of Caylee Anthony is still a mystery

Casey Anthony trial jurors acquitted the defendant on all charges related to the death of toddler Caylee Anthony. Sentencing for misdemeanor charges of giving false information is set for Thursday.

By Staff writer / July 5, 2011

Spectators and media members gather moments before hearing the jury's verdict acquitting Casey Anthony of first-degree murder at the Orange County Court House in Orlando, Florida Tuesday.

Brian Blanco/Reuters


Casey Anthony, the Florida mother accused of killing her two-year-old child with chloroform and duct tape, was acquitted on Tuesday of first-degree murder, aggravated child abuse, and aggravated manslaughter of a child.

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The verdict shocked many legal commentators and trial-watchers who had long assumed that Ms. Anthony would be convicted and perhaps sent to Florida’s death row.

But the jury of five men and seven women, who heard testimony in the month-long trial and deliberated nearly 11 hours, viewed the case differently. The relatively quick not guilty verdicts are an apparent rebuke of the government's case, which lacked any direct evidence of Anthony's involved in the death of her daughter, Caylee. Despite this lack of evidence the state pushed for a possible death sentence.

The jury was given the option of convicting Anthony of a lesser charge, manslaughter, but decided against that. After the verdict, they declined an invitation to speak to the media.

Defense Attorney Jose Baez called it a bittersweet victory.

“While we are happy for Casey, there are no winners in this case. Caylee has passed on far too soon,” he said, referring to Ms. Anthony’s daughter.

He added: “Casey did not murder Caylee. It is that simple, and today our system of justice has not dishonored her memory by a false conviction.”

Lawson Lamar, the state attorney for Orange and Osceola Counties, said he never criticizes a jury verdict.

“Despite what your personal view as to guilt or innocence might be, the criminal justice system has worked,” he said.

He noted that because Caylee’s body was not discovered until six months after her death, much of the evidence had decomposed or degraded. “This was a bare bones case, very, very difficult to prove,” he said. “The condition of the remains worked to our significant disadvantage.”

As the verdict was announced in the packed Orlando courtroom of Chief Judge Belvin Perry, Ms. Anthony looked pale and frightened. Then, as the clerk read the words “Not Guilty” on count one, her face eased and she burst into tears.

The “not guilty” verdicts continued on the two other felony charges. In essence, the panel acquitted Anthony of all charges related to Caylee’s death.

Assistant State Attorneys Linda Burdick, Jeff Ashton, and Frank George sat stunned and stone-faced after the verdict was read. Casey’s parents, George and Cindy Anthony, left the courtroom soon after the verdict was read.

The jurors convicted Ms. Anthony of four misdemeanor charges of giving false information to law enforcement officers. Each of those charges carries a maximum penalty of one year in prison.

Had she been found guilty of first-degree murder she would have faced a possible death sentence or life in prison. Instead, with time already served in pre-trial detention, she faces, at most, a maximum sentence of several months.

Chief Judge Perry set sentencing for 9 a.m. Thursday.

The verdict came after a month-long trial that captivated much of the nation by presenting a mystery that seemed to defy solution. Why would a mother wait 31 days before mentioning to her family, friends, or the police that her young child was missing?


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