ORLANDO, Fla. — After deliberating for less than 11 hours over two days, a jury decided Tuesday afternoon that prosecutors did not prove Casey Anthony was guilty of capital murder in the death of her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee Marie.
After the courtroom was cleared, a beaming Jose Baez, Casey Anthony’s defense attorney, said, “While we are happy for Casey, there are no winners in this case.”
He said Caylee died much too young, but added: “Casey did not murder Caylee; it’s just that simple.”
As soon as the verdicts were read, Casey Anthony embraced Baez in the silent courtroom. The prosecutors in the case, Jeff Ashton and Linda Drane Burdick, looked somber.
Her parents, George and Cindy Anthony, walked out of the courtroom while Casey Anthony was being fingerprinted.
The verdict means 25-year-old Anthony was found not guilty of all charges except for four counts of providing false information to law enforcement officers.
As soon as the jury left the courtroom, Casey tightly hugged Baez, and then the rest of her defense team. All of them appeared to be crying.
In a news conference after the verdict, defense attorney Cheney Mason lashed out at the media and at the legal pundits who have been following the case for three years.
“I hope that this is a lesson to those of you that have indulged in media assassination the last three years,” said Mason. He expressed anger at some of his fellow attorneys commenting on the case and criticizing the defense. He expressed appreciation for the jury.
The jury’s verdicts represent a stunning victory for the defense and especially Baez, who came from relative obscurity to become perhaps the most recognized criminal defense attorney in the world.
Baez graciously thanked those people supporting him through the case during the last three years, especially Mason. He too noted the challenges this case presented to the justice system and the media.
“You cannot convict someone until they’ve had their day in court,” Baez said.
He credited the prosecution and said all three prosecutors “serve the state of Florida very well.”
He says now is the time to let Casey “grieve and grow and somehow get her life back together.”
Casey Anthony will be sentenced on the convictions for providing false information to law enforcementat at 9 a.m. Thursday. She faces a maximum of four years in prison — one for each of the four counts.
But that means she could be released from jail as soon as Thursday, if she is given less than the maximum sentence and credit for time served.
Anthony’s case has captivated the nation since July 2008, when Caylee was reported missing. When Anthony’s trial began May 24 in Orange County, the proceedings attracted court watchers from around the world.
Caylee was reported missing July 15, 2008, when a series of events prompted her grandmother, Cindy Anthony, to try to track down her daughter at Casey’s boyfriend’s Orange County, Fla., apartment. Caylee was nowhere to be found.
Casey Anthony then told her mother the story she later repeated to law-enforcement and maintained until her trial: Caylee was taken by a babysitter named Zenaida one month earlier.
Cindy Anthony’s frantic 911 call captivated the nation as news outlets broadcasted the story of the missing toddler.
“There’s something wrong,” Cindy Anthony told the dispatcher. “I found my daughter’s car today. And it smells like there’s been a dead body in the damn car.”
In the months and years that followed, detectives with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, Florida Department of Law Enforcement and FBI followed up as leads poured in from across the country with supposed Caylee sightings.
It wasn’t long after Casey Anthony’s initial arrest on a child neglect charge that detectives publicly acknowledged Caylee may be dead and her mother may be involved.
Evidence began to mount against Casey Anthony. Cadaver dogs hit on the trunk of her Pontiac Sunfire and the family’s backyard. The car reeked. Air samples taken from the trunk showed signs of decomposition and elevated levels of chloroform. A hair sample taken from inside the trunk of the car showed signs of post-mortem root banding — meaning the hair had come from the head of a dead per son.
In October 2008, a grand jury indicted Anthony on the seven charges, including murder.
Nearly two months later, an Orange County meter reader found Caylee’s remains scattered in woods just blocks from the home she shared with her family. Three pieces of duct-tape were on Caylee’s tiny skull.
Because of the pretrial publicity surrounding the case in Central Florida, Chief Judge Belvin Perry decided to select a jury in Pinellas County.
On May 9, 2011, attorneys began to question prospective jurors, and seated a 17-member panel 11 days later. On May 24, the trial began an expansive courtroom on the 23rd floor of the Orange County Courthouse.
The state systematically spelled out its case, giving jurors a chronological, detailed look at what Anthony was doing the month Caylee was gone and the evidence against her.
Meanwhile, the defense team dropped a series of shocking revelations when it said Caylee drowned in her family’s pool and was not murdered as prosecutors alleged.
Defense attorney Jose Baez said Anthony’s father, George Anthony, knew of the drowning and helped dispose of her body. He also said Casey Anthony was sexually abused by her father and brother.
Baez also said the meter reader who found Caylee’s remains had more involvement in the case than he let on.
Dozens of witnesses testified and hundreds of items were placed into evidence. Jurors repeatedly heard from investigators, analysts, and Anthony’s parents and brother.
The state called its forensic experts to testify about evidence, and the defense called its experts to refute those findings.
The state rested its case June 15 and the defense began presenting its case the next day. The defense spent two weeks presenting its case.
On Sunday, the attorneys delivered their closing arguments. On Monday, Perry gave the jury instructions and they began deliberating.