Casey Anthony acquitted of murder in daughter's death

July 5, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Casey Anthony has been acquitted of murder in the death of her 2-year-old daughter Caylee.

The 25-year-old was found not guilty of first-degree murder, aggravated child abuse and aggravated manslaughter.

She was, however, found guilty on four counts of providing false information to law enforcement. Judge Belvin Perry will sentence her Thursday. She could receive up to a year in jail for each count, amounting to a maximum sentence of four years.

Combining that with the 2 1/2 years she's already served results in 1 1/2 years of jail time. However, if the judge decides to sentence her to less than one year per count or apply concurrent sentences for those separate counts, she could be a free woman.

Anthony could be let out on bail before her Thursday sentencing if the defense requests it and the judge agrees, reports ABC News. Bail terms could be light and she could even be "released on her own recognizance."

But the defense may choose to keep her in jail until sentencing if they believe it gives them a tactical advantage with the judge, said legal expert Robert Dekle.

As for the possibility of an appeal, prosecutors would not realistically be able to take it on because that would be considered double jeopardy.

Anthony wept after the verdict was read and hugged her attorney. Her parents, George and Cindy Anthony, quietly left the courtroom. She could have received a death sentence if she had been convicted of first-degree murder.

The jury, which included seven women and five men, worked through much of the long Fourth of July weekend, hearing closing arguments both Sunday and Monday. They deliberated for about 10 hours over two days after hearing 33 days of testimony.

Jurors were chosen from the Tampa Bay area because of pretrial media coverage, and they have been sequestered in an Orlando hotel.

After delivering the verdict, the jurors declined to speak to media. Court officials told the media Tuesday that the jurors are asking for the media to respect their privacy and don't want to make any comments at the courthouse.

Caylee disappeared in June 2008 and her body was found in the woods near her grandparents' home six months later.

Anthony's attorneys claimed that the toddler drowned accidentally in the family swimming pool, and that the seemingly carefree mother in fact was hiding emotional distress caused by sexual abuse from her father.

The prosecution argued that Anthony killed her daughter because the toddler interrupted her carefree partying and love life. The prosecution said the defense's assertion that Caylee's death was an accident made no sense.

Anthony's attorney, Jose Baez, conceded that his client had told elaborate lies and invented imaginary friends and even a fake father for Caylee, but he said that doesn't mean she killed her daughter.

Baez tried to convince jurors that after Casey accidentally drowned, Anthony panicked and that her father, a former police officer, decided to mask the death to look like a homicide by placing duct tape over the child's mouth and dumping her body in the woods. George Anthony has denied that.

Prosecutor Linda Drane Burdick concluded the state's case by showing the jury two side-by-side images. One showed Casey Anthony smiling and partying in a nightclub during the month Caylee was missing. The other was the tattoo she got a day before her family and law enforcement first learned of the child's disappearance.

"At the end of this case, all you have to ask yourself is whose life was better without Caylee?" Burdick asked. "This is your answer."

Prosecutors hammered on the lies Anthony, then 22, told from June 16, 2008, when her daughter was last seen, and a month later when sheriff's investigators were notified. Those include the single mother telling her parents she couldn't produce Caylee because the girl was with a nanny named Zanny - a woman who doesn't exist; that she and her daughter were spending time in Jacksonville, Fla., with a rich boyfriend who doesn't exist; and that Zanny had been hospitalized after an out-of-town traffic crash and that they were spending time with her.

After the verdict, state attorney Lawson Lamar was subdued.

"We know the facts, and we put in absolutely every piece of evidence that existed. Our team did an exemplary job," said Lamar.

The defense team was triumphant, yet defiant.

"I hope that this is a lesson to those of you having indulged in media assassination for three years," said defense attorney Cheney Mason.

The attorney for George and Cindy Anthony released a statement on their behalf, saying, "Despite the baseless defense chosen by Casey Anthony, the family believes that the jury made a fair decision based on the evidence presented."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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