Some called it the “trial of the century” and after three years, a jury of Casey Anthony’s peers acquitted her of all felony charges in connection with the death of her 2-year-old daughter.
Casey was arrested in Oct. 2008 and now, after six weeks, on Tuesday, the 25-year-old was found not guilty on the charges of first-degree murder, aggravated child abuse and aggravated manslaughter on a child, but found guilty on the four counts of false information to a law enforcement officer, Yuri Melich, who was in the courtroom when the verdict was announced.
Extra security surrounded the courtroom on the 23rd floor of the Orange County courthouse as the verdict was read. Casey held the hand of her lead defense attorney Jose Baez, who had a proud expression on his face when he heard his client was acquitted for the first three charges and Casey cried as she glanced over at the jury from time to time.
Her father George Anthony held a folded tissue over his mouth prior to the verdict being called, and he and his wife, Cindy Anthony, were sniffling as they were about to hear their daughter’s destiny. As each count was being read, George let out a big sigh of relief, but continued with no emotion, as Cindy’s face filled with glee as shown by her smile. They left as soon as the court clerk was finished reading the verdict forms.
Their attorney, Mark Lippman, released a statement on behalf of George, Cindy and their son Lee. “While the family may never know what happened to Caylee Marie Anthony, they now have closure for this chapter of their life,” he explained. “They will now begin 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, information and testimony provided in this case.
Lippman asks that everyone gives the family time to “reflect on the verdict” for them to move on in a private manner and has requested that any donations, such as toys and flowers, be given to families in need as well as religious centers.
As everyone else was exiting the courtroom, the entire defense team group-hugged and the entire room was completely silenced but for the loud cries of joy that emanated from Casey and her attorneys, who were seen celebrating later at Terrace 390, a restaurant they frequently go to, just across the street from the courthouse.
Prior to the announcement, prosecutors Jeff Ashton and Frank George were smiling and laughing, but that all came to a halt once they heard the news. At the press conference following court proceedings, State Attorney Lawson Lamar said he could not be anymore proud of the work the 2500 men and women of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office did.
“We are disappointed in the verdict today, and surprised, because we put together every piece of evidence,” he said. He later added, “We did our job, the jury did their job,” he said. “This is justice in America. We will go on to fight another tomorrow.”
Lamar did not take any questions and prosecutors Ashton, George and lead Linda Drane-Burdick did not comment, but all hugged each other and carried on.
Judge Jeanine Pirro of Fox News following the press conference said she felt like she was in the twilight zone. “It’s almost as though this little girl disappeared without a trace … You almost have to ask yourself, ‘Was she even here?’ ” said Pirro. “But you have to accept the jury’s verdict and move on.”
Members of the media who anticipated that following the verdict there would have been a jury press conference, were disappointed, as none was convened. People speculate they are frightened or just interested in an incentive. Juror number seven was crying as she was discharged. Chief Judge Belvin Perry Jr. continues to keep the 12 jurors’ names under seal.
Shawn Chaisson, a volunteer who participated in Texas Equusearch’s search for Caylee, said he was feeling all sorts of emotions after learning Casey was not found guilty and says he does not understand the jury’s decision. “You just have to throw your hands up and say, “What were they thinking?’ ”
Chaisson says her guilt is reflected in her behavior and that regardless of the decision of the jurors, this will continue to haunt her. “I think she has a life sentence already because she can’t even walk down the street without looking over her shoulder. Ever,” he explained. “Somebody is going to get that girl. Somebody will get her. You do not kill a baby and get away with it, in this world.”
Leonard Padilla, known for bonding out Casey in her first arrest said he did so because he thought the child was alive, but at this point regrets that he spent the money to release her from jail. “She’s not guilty but she did the killing,” he said. “It’s the justice system we live under. We’ve got to go along with it,” adding that he thinks she should get 15-30 years in prison for what he believes was murder on her part and a “panic dump” of the little girl’s body, by the hands of her own mother.
Trial-watchers and legal experts are already estimating Casey could be released as early as the end of this week, or at the latest by year end, given she has already served three years in jail.
At the end of the court proceeding, countless spectators waited outside of the front entrance of the courthouse chanting “Justice for Caylee.” Deputies used yellow tape to keep them away from the entrance.
Casey will be sentenced on Thursday on the four counts of providing false information to a law enforcement officer and for which she was found guilty.
As the crowd emerged from the courthouse, a man stood in front of the building playing the national anthem on his trumpet, saying, “This is for Caylee Anthony,” said Anthony Kleine, “That’s her voice being heard. Everyone has been focusing on Casey, George, Cindy, Lee, everybody else but Caylee, so I think she needs to be heard.”
The little girl’s skeletal remains were found on Dec. 11, 2008 in a swamp in woods near her grandparents’ home, just four months after her third birthday.