Facing murder charges that could have resulted in a death sentence, Casey Anthony on Tuesday was found not guilty of the most serious charges in the 2008 death of her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee.
In a case that captivated the nation, Miss Anthony, 25, was in tears as she learned she had been acquitted of first-degree murder, which carries a death sentence, aggravated manslaughter and aggravated child abuse in an Orlando, Fla., court. But she was convicted on four counts of providing false information to the police.
"While we're happy for Casey, there are no winners in this case," said Jose Baez, one of her attorneys, during a news conference after the verdicts were read. "Caylee has passed on far, far too soon."
He added: "Today, our system of justice has not dishonored her memory with a false conviction."
Sentencing for the misdemeanor charges will be Thursday morning. Each of the four lying counts carries a maximum sentence of one year in prison, which means it is unlikely Miss Anthony will serve much time, if any. She has been imprisoned pending trial since October 2008 while the case went through legal channels.
Caylee Anthony disappeared in June 2008. Her body was found six months later in the woods.
Defense attorneys admitted that Miss Anthony lied to investigators, including making up a story that her missing daughter had been kidnapped by a nanny who never existed, but she tried to convince jurors that the child drowned by accident in the family's swimming pool.
The lawyers said Miss Anthony's father framed Caylee's death to look like a murder, after Miss Anthony panicked when they found her in the pool. He put duct tape on her mouth and dumped the body a quarter-mile away, they argued, hoping it would lead police to think someone else killed her.
But Miss Anthony's father, a former police officer, denied that. He also denied Miss Anthony's claims that he had sexual abused her when she was a girl.
The prosecution argued it was "absurd" that someone would make an accident look like a murder. Instead, they contended, Miss Anthony suffocated Caylee with duct tape, because she liked to party and the child was getting in the way of her lifestyle.
The acquittal came as a shock to many. Legal analysts backed by juxtapositions in at least one cable network's graphics department - pointed to similarities between this case and the trial of football star O.J. Simpson in the 1990s.
In each case, the analysts said, a defendant widely believed to be guilty was acquitted in a highly publicized case, leading the public to conclude that someone got away with murder. They said evidence against the defendants was overwhelming in each case, but that the judges decisions on evidence admissibility prevented the jury from seeing what the public did.
Moments after the verdict was announced, the popular social networking site Twitter's top 10 U.S. "trending topics" nearly all involved the Anthony trial. The hashtag search terms included "notguilty," "verdict reached," "First Degree Murder," and "shocked."
Casey Jordan, a criminologist and legal analyst, told CBS' "Early Show" during the trial that the defense had built a "web of lies."
"We had the 31 days of bizarre behavior, partying behavior" by Miss Anthony while Caylee was missing, she said. But when the prosecution played jailhouse tapes of her lying to her parents, "the jig is up. She's in holding, she's in a jail cell. Her parents are begging her to help them find their missing granddaughter. And all she does is keep saying lie after lie after lie."
After the case, defense attorneys accused the prosecution of trying the case in the media. One of the defense attorneys, Cheney Mason, called it a "media assassination." Mr. Baez added: "You cannot convict someone until they've had their day in court."
The case received so much attention in Orlando that a jury of seven women and five men was brought in from the Tampa Bay area and sequestered.
Prosecutor Lawson Lamar said his office "promised we would do our talking in court" and had "avoided making any statements that would feed the publicity."
The Orange County Sheriff's Department asked Florida residents not to visit Miss Anthony's neighborhood to protest at her home. They said deputies would be patrolling the neighborhood.
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Tim Devaney is a national reporter who covers business and international trade for The Washington Times. Previously, he worked for the Detroit News, Grand Rapids Press, Portland Press Herald and Bangor Daily News. Tim can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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