Jury Acquits Casey Anthony In Murder Case

fromWMFE

For more than two years, television and talk radio pundits have been fixated on the Casey Anthony murder trial. The 25-year-old mom was accused of killing her two-year-old daughter and then lying about it for months. On Tuesday, jurors in an Orlando courtroom agreed she is not guilty.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

In a trial that received saturation media coverage, Casey Anthony was found not guilty yesterday of murdering her two-year-old daughter, Caylee. The verdict comes three years after Caylee was reported missing in Florida.

From member station WMFE in Orlando, Nicole Creston reports on the nationwide response to that verdict.

NICOLE CRESTON: The jury took less than 11 hours to deliberate after hearing nearly two months of arguments.

Unidentified Woman: As to the charge of first-degree murder, verdict as to count one, we the jury find the defendant not guilty, so say we all.

CRESTON: Anthony was also acquitted of aggravated manslaughter of a child and aggravated child abuse. She was convicted of four misdemeanor accounts of lying to law enforcement.

Anthony's defense attorneys claimed two-year-old Caylee accidentally drowned in the family pool in 2008, and that Anthony's father, George, tried to cover it up.

Prosecutors alleged Anthony killed Caylee by suffocating her with duct tape, then hid Caylee's body in a swamp near the home she shared with her parents.

Orlando-area State Attorney Lawson Lamar spoke for the prosecution.

Mr. LAWSON LAMAR (Attorney): We're disappointed with the verdict today, and surprised, because we know the facts and we put in absolutely every piece of evidence that existed.

Our team did an exemplary job. I'm proud of them, and I stand by their work. I never, ever criticize a jury. Theirs is the task of deciding what to believe.

CRESTON: But it seems like the public has also decided what to believe in this case. Since 2008, the story has fascinated the country. Protestors gathered outside the Anthony home when the news broke that then-22-year-old Casey Anthony had waited 31 days to report her daughter missing, had spent that time partying with friends, and was misleading police.

Opinions from social media like Facebook and Twitter and from prime-time talk show hosts like Nancy Grace have continued to stoke the fire.

Ms. NANCY GRACE (TV Talk Show Host): I just don't believe that her father, a former cop, dumped Caylee's body out in the makeshift pet cemetery in the woods to rot. I don't believe it. That means she's lying.

CRESTON: As the verdict was read to a weeping Casey Anthony, Grace herself was outside the courthouse, along with dozens of other TV personalities and journalists and several hundred spectators.

As the words not guilty filtered through the crowd, many gasped, shouted in disapproval, and chanted the word guilty.

Defense attorney Cheney Mason chastised the media at a post-verdict press conference, saying they'd created the frenzy.

Mr. CHENEY MASON (Attorney): Well, I hope that this is a lesson to those of you having indulged in media assassination for three years, bias, prejudice and incompetent talking heads saying what would be and how to be.

CRESTON: As for the jurors - all 12 of them, and the five alternates - declined the opportunity for a press conference. They're trying to protect their privacy as media attention ramps up due to the verdict and protestors again descend on the Anthony home.

Casey Anthony is still in jail, at least until her sentencing hearing tomorrow morning. She could face a maximum 16 years behind bars, or the judge could sentence her to the over two-and-a-half years she's already served, and she could walk out a free woman.

For NPR News, I'm Nicole Creston, in Orlando.

MONTAGNE: And as we just heard, many took to social media to share their opinions. On Twitter yesterday, the case was a leading topic for discussion, and many expressed outrage at the not-guilty verdict.

On Facebook, more than 1.5 million users said they would leave their porch lights on as a memorial to Caylee Anthony.

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