Casey Anthony walked out of court saddled with nothing more than a minor conviction, after a jury found her not guilty of murdering her two-year-old daughter Caylee Marie in a stunning outcome to a case that has dominated headlines for three years.
The Florida jury of seven women and five men convicted her for providing false information to police, but failed to find beyond a reasonable doubt that she cruelly murdered her daughter.
Prosecutors had alleged she doused the child with chloroform, suffocated her with duct tape and dumped her body in a wooded area near her home.
Months before Caylee disappeared in 2008, someone logged into the family computer and searched for “chloroform,” according to detective Sandra Osborne.
Someone searched on the same machine for “neck breaking” and “how to make chloroform,” according to the evidence.
In the end, however, the prosecution was forced to rely on circumstantial evidence. Young Caylee’s body was too decomposed after it was discovered to adequately determine a cause of death.
That left the defense open to claim that Caylee had accidentally drowned in the family swimming pool and that her grandfather covered up her death.
The prosecution had argued that the theory was patently ridiculous because it suggested that grandfather, George Anthony, a retired homicide detective, turned an accident into a murder investigation.
George Anthony denied witnessing Caylee drown, or covering up her death. Casey Anthony, 25, did not testify.
During six weeks of testimony, prosecutors entered more than 400 items into evidence, but none convincingly pointed a finger at Casey Anthony.
Instead, prosecutors focused a light on Casey’s behavior after her daughter disappeared and her seeming lack of emotion and callous behavior over her death.
Anthony waited more than 30 days to report her daughter missing. Only the distraught calls of the child’s grandmother alerted police.
Once police began their investigation, Casey lied repeatedly and claimed at one point that a baby sitter kidnapped Caylee, to cover up the absence.
Casey appeared agitated and erratic in a jailhouse video. (See below)
Prosecutors argued that Casey motive to kill her child was to free her from the burdens of motherhood so she could carouse with her boyfriend.
After Caylee’s disappearance, she seemingly celebrated by getting the phrase “bella vita” tattooed on her body. It means “the beautiful life” in Italian.
“Whose life was better without Caylee?” Prosecutor Linda Drane Burdick said in her closing argument. “That’s the only question you need to answer in considering why Caylee Marie Anthony was left on the side of the road dead.”
Defense lawyer José Baez move early to diffuse Casey’s lying by claiming she had been sexually abused by her father, who had coached her to lie all her life — claims George Anthony also denied.
Despite the explosive charge, Baez never backed it up with evidence, and was barred from mentioning it in his closing argument. But he apparently effectively planted enough doubt in the minds of jurors.
The prosecution’s case also unraveled after investigators could not find any of Caylee’s DNA or signs of decomposition in the trunk of Casey Anthony’s car. They were also unable to produce evidence that Casey obtained chloroform.
They had alleged that Casey had hidden Caylee in the trunk before disposing of the body. More than six months passed, however, before Caylee’s body was discovered in a wooded area near the home.
Baez charged that the prosecution tried to portray Casey as a “lying, no-good slut” but said she merely panicked and was confused.