Just about everyone I am in touch with reviles Casey Anthony and is convinced that she murdered her little daughter Caylee and is responsible for the child’s death. They are screaming for Casey’s blood! Yet a dozen normal and decent people who heard all the evidence and arguments for both sides were unable to agree. How is this possible?
Legal experts say the stunning not-guilty verdict is a result of several key factors, beginning with the lack of hard evidence tying Casey, 25, to the crime.
Prosecutors said Casey applied duct tape to Caylee’s nose and mouth to kill her but defense lawyer Baez said the little girl drowned in the Anthony family swimming pool, an accident that was then covered up by Casey’s father George.
“The prosecution had a theory that Caylee was suffocated,” says longtime Orlando criminal defense attorney Michael Dicembre. “The reality is, it was a theory. Nobody could say how Caylee died, when she died. We don’t know.”
Local defense attorney Richard Hornsby: “The bottom line is that the jurors did not completely believe the prosecution’s theory and they chose to acquit. They were able to raise reasonable doubt in the jurors’ minds.”
What really helped was Baez’s repeated insistence that Caylee’s death was “an accident that snowballed out of control” seemed to ring true with jurors, who were presented with extensive testimony regarding the Anthony family’s dysfunctional dynamic. “It was such a horrific accident, they didn’t know how to deal with it,” alternate juror Russell Huekler said. “The family appeared to be very dysfunctional and instead of admitting there was an accident, they chose to hide it for whatever reason.”
Huekler also said he found the evidence regarding the smell in Casey’s Pontiac Sunfire unconvincing, despite testimony from multiple witnesses – including Casey’s mother Cindy that the ‘car reeked of death.’
“You have to remember there were a number of law enforcement officers that responded July 15 and none of them smelled the odor,” Huekler said. “It was hard for me to accept that there had been a body in the car.”
At the start of the trial the prosecution seemed to possess a powerful, although circumstantial, case: The smell of a dead body in Casey’s trunk. A hair from Caylee, which forensic evidence tied to a decomposing body. Incriminating computer searched for “chloroform” and “neck breaking.” Also thirty straight days of the defendant’s partying following her daughter’s disappearance.
The built their case around their client’s lies and stories – her “imaginary friends” – unproven accusations of sexual abuse at the hands of her father, George.
The burden of proof resting squarely on the prosecution, as it does in criminal cases and Baez made sure to make the point repeatedly that his client’s extensive lies didn’t prove her guilt.
“Just because she lied doesn’t necessarily mean she committed the murder,” says Dicembre. “I really think the jury in this case tried to remove the emotion, as Baez asked them to. They made a decision simply based on the evidence presented, not emotion.”
Still, Baez managed to pull off a rare feat: He sharply changed direction after his explosive opening arguments, backing off of the sexual abuse claims without losing the jury since these claims were unprovable as well as unlikely – given number and extent of Casey’s lies.
“He really seemed to paint himself into a corner with that opening statement,” says Dicembre. “The fact that he was able to get a not guilty means he shot a lot of traditional thought right out of the water.”
One thing that legal experts on both sides agree upon: Juries are invariably unpredictable.
“When you’ve been doing this for so long, you know that you never know what a jury will do,” says Orlando defense attorney Bill Umansky, who closely followed the case.
“The bottom line is, the prosecution did a good job, but circumstantial cases are very difficult to prove,” adds Umansky. “What happened to Caylee? We may never know.”
Despite public outcry over the verdict, “This is the jury system,” says Hornsby. “The whole point is that a jury of one’s peers makes the decision, not the government. Casey Anthony had her trial, and the jury made its decision. We have to accept it.”
No doubt almost everyone, except the jury, thinks Casey Anthony murdered her daughter – I mean when a mom researches ‘chloroform‘ and ‘neck breaking’ right before her daughter’s disappearance and subsequent death it doesn’t look good. Still, a not guilty Casey is far better than mob rule. We get to elect the President but not death penalties.
Even if Casey had been found guilty, which she probably is, little Caylee would remain dead – deprived of her time on earth and her chance at life. There really is no justice possible for the murdered – what we call justice is really to make the living feel avenged.