Her departure raises a new question in a case already riddled with unsolved mysteries: Will her notoriety bring her some measure of wealth and security, or will it, instead, condemn her to a different kind of prison?
Although released from jail, Ms. Anthony is embarking on an uncertain future, facing substantial obstacles to reclaim a normal life. Commentators say she will likely be offered million-dollar opportunities for interviews, book deals, and movie rights. But some have also called her the most hated woman in America.
IN PICTURES: Key players in the Casey Anthony trial
Prosecutors are seeking to force her to compensate the State of Florida for much of the cost of the murder investigation, she is named in several pending civil lawsuits, and numerous threats have been issued against her by would-be vigilantes supposedly seeking justice on behalf of her daughter, Caylee.
Anthony left the jail shortly after midnight under tight security in the company of defense attorney Jose Baez. Analysts speculate that she will try to resettle someplace far from the Orlando area and perhaps change her appearance.
The much-anticipated release is only the latest twist in a case that has captivated much of the country.
The action brings to a close a three-year ordeal that began in July 2008 when Anthony’s mother, Cindy, called 911 to report that her granddaughter, Caylee, had been missing for a month and that her daughter’s car smelled like death.
A real-life whodunit
Anthony’s high-profile murder trial offered a real-life whodunit involving a mother accused of using chloroform and duct tape to end the life of her toddler daughter. From the start, the case defied easy explanation. At trial, everyone who knew her testified that Casey was a loving, caring mother.
Even more inexplicable was Casey’s seeming carefree conduct during the 31 days following Caylee’s death before Cindy’s 911 call. Casey stayed with her boyfriend, went to night clubs, took shopping excursions, and got a tattoo that proclaimed “Bella Vita,” beautiful life in Italian. At the same time, she was telling her mother and her friends that Caylee was being cared for by a nanny, Zenaida Fernandez-Gonzalez. The problem was, the nanny didn’t exist. It was all a lie.
Prosecutors sought the death penalty, but they lacked any direct evidence demonstrating how Caylee died. They also lacked any direct evidence linking Anthony to the death.
Caylee’s remains were not discovered until six months after her death. By then the body was a skeleton.
Because of the high level of media coverage of the gruesome case, a jury was selected in Clearwater, Fla., and sequestered in an Orlando hotel for the duration of the trial. After 11 hours of deliberations, the jury found Anthony not guilty of any involvement in Caylee’s death. But the panel convicted her of four misdemeanor counts of lying to police.
She was sentenced to the maximum four years in jail. With credit for time served in pretrial detention and for good conduct, Anthony was ordered released on July 17.
Many trial watchers outraged
The acquittal and early release sparked outrage among many trial watchers who had concluded that Anthony was guilty and that the justice system was allowing her to get away with murder. Other commentators said the jury system requires prosecutors to prove each case beyond a reasonable doubt and that it is the jury’s responsibility to hold the state to that high standard.
Although she has already served her full sentence, defense attorney Baez is appealing Anthony’s four convictions for lying to law enforcement officers. The appeal will be heard by Florida’s Fifth District Court of Appeals.
If successful, it would head off efforts by the state attorney’s office to force Anthony to pay the costs of the investigation and prosecution.
Baez also submitted a motion to find Anthony indigent and to have the state pay for the appeal.
Some legal analysts have suggested that Baez undercut any appeal when he admitted in his opening statement to the jury at trial that his client lied often during the period following Caylee’s death. But the appeal will likely focus on the context in which the statements were made rather than their truth or falsity.
Three of the four false statements were elicited from Anthony during a recorded interrogation in which detectives encouraged her to confess that Caylee had died as a result of an accident. The interrogation took place in a conference room at Universal Studios, shortly after Anthony admitted that she did not work at the theme park as she had earlier – and falsely – claimed.
The recorded statement was entered as evidence against her at trial and played for the jury. One potential issue on appeal is whether police should have given Anthony Miranda warnings before starting the tape-recorded interrogation. Miranda warnings include the advice to a criminal suspect that she has a right to consult a lawyer and the right to remain silent, and that anything she says can, and will, be used against her in court.
The question on appeal would be whether Anthony, a high-school dropout, would have known of these rights and would have understood that she was free to end the interrogation at any time by simply leaving the room. Police are allowed to elicit voluntary statements from suspects and may later use those statements as evidence at trial. But police are not permitted to detain someone and use the detention to coerce incriminating statements for later use at a trial.
Anthony faces civil lawsuits
Anthony is also facing pending civil lawsuits. One was filed on behalf of a Kissimmee, Fla., woman named Zenaida Fernandez-Gonzalez.
Ms. Fernandez-Gonzalez is suing for defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress, claiming that Anthony’s lies about a nanny by the same name damaged her reputation and subjected her to public humiliation.
The suit says Anthony’s false statements to an Orange County deputy sheriff about “Zanny the Nanny” portrayed Zenaida Fernandez-Gonzalez of Kissimmee as a child kidnapper and potentially a child killer.
The suit alleges that Anthony deliberately and maliciously accused Zenaida Fernandez-Gonzalez of Kissimmee of kidnapping and that Anthony should pay compensation for the damage done to her reputation.
The suit says in part: “It is undetermined at this time how Defendant, Casey Anthony, got Plaintiff’s name or other identifying information which she provided to the Orange County deputy sheriff.”
She made up "Zanny the Nanny"
Lawyers for Anthony say she made the name up and that the two women have never met. A key issue in the case will be whether there is any link between Anthony’s use of that name and the woman in Kissimmee.
It generally isn’t enough to show that the names are the same. To prove defamation, a plaintiff must demonstrate that the challenged action was done with malice.
The defamation lawsuit has attracted attention this past week because the plaintiff’s lawyers wanted to conduct a deposition of Anthony either while she was still in jail or next Tuesday.
Such a deposition might allow lawyers to question Anthony under oath on a wide range of issues, including potentially whether she killed her daughter and, if so, how she did it.
Anthony’s lawyers are asking that any questions in the civil suit be restricted to the issue of defamation.
The judge in the civil case rescheduled the deposition to Oct. 8.
Tim Miller, founder of the group, says he is suing because, according to statements by defense attorney Baez during the trial, Anthony knew all along that Caylee was dead but allowed volunteers to conduct a massive search anyway.
During that same time, Mr. Miller says, 15 other families sought help in finding a missing loved one but were turned down because resources were already dedicated to the search for Caylee.
IN PICTURES: Key players in the Casey Anthony trial