The sequestered jury of seven women and five men was chosen from the Tampa Bay area because of exhaustive pretrial media coverage in the Orlando area and have been sequestered in an Orlando hotel. They have listened to 33 days of testimony and another two days of closing arguments.
Casey Anthony has been found not guilty of killing her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee. She was also found not guilty of aggravated child abuse and aggravated manslaughter of a child. But she was convicted on charges of misleading law enforcement.
Disappearance of Caylee Marie Anthony in June 2008 attracted national media attention. Caylee’s skeletal remains were discovered December 11, 2008, six months after she was reported missing by her grandmother, Cindy Anthony.
Her mother, Casey Anthony, decided not to report her daughter missing, and was indicted on charges of felony murder, though she continued to maintain her innocence throughout her trial.
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 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.
After the verdict was read, Casey Anthony hugged her attorney Jose Baez and later wispered the words “thank you” to him. The 25-year-old was charged with first-degree murder, which could have brought the death penalty if she had been convicted.
Prosecutors looked stunned after the verdict was announced. They just couldn’t believe it. Prosecutor Jeff Ashton shook his head slightly from side to side in apparent disbelief.
Anthony’s father wiped tears from his eyes. Without speaking to Casey, he and his wife left the courtroom escorted by police as the judge thanked the jury. “While we’re happy for Casey, there are no winners in this case,” Jose Baez said at a news conference afterward.
“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: “This case has brought on new challenges of all of us. Challenges in the criminal justice system, challenges in the media, and I think we should all take this as an opportunity to learn and to realize that you cannot convict someone until they’ve had their day in court.”
Prior to the verdict on Tuesday, the judge said: “To those in the gallery please do not express any signs of approval or disapproval upon the reading of the verdict.”
Anthony’s attorneys claimed that the little girl drowned accidentally in the family swimming pool, and that her seemingly carefree mother in fact was hiding emotional distress caused by sexual abuse from her father.
Prosecutors argued that Caylee was suffocated with duct tape by a mother who loved to party and tattooed herself with the Italian words for “beautiful life” within the month her daughter was missing. The mother also invented elaborate lies to mislead everyone from investigators to her own parents. Causey claimed that she had a boyfriend who in fact never existed.
State Attorney Lamar Lawson thanked the prosecutors from his office who tried the case, and he said the case was never about the defendant. “It has always been about seeking justice for Caylee and speaking on her behalf,” Lawson told reporters.
Yesterday’s not guilty verdict also angered several celebrity Tweeters who took to Twitter to voice their shock. Kim Kardashian, who’s father was on the OJ Simpson trial, wrote: ‘WHAT!!!!???!!! CASEY ANTHONY FOUND NOT GUILTY!!! I am speechless!!!.’
Comedian Kathy Griffin wrote: ‘Wow.Ok, now this case has my attn. Not guilty? Really? I just assumed.’ American Pie star Jason Biggs went even further, referencing the infamous OJ trial when he wrote: ‘I guess the glove didn’t fit.’
Julie Chen struggled to contain her emotions on CBS show The Talk today as she tried to read the ‘not guilty’ verdict. The Voice host Carson Daily expressed his verdict on the jury when he added: ‘That Jury better get into hiding.’ [via Yahoo!, Huffpost and CBS]