Video: Casey Anthony verdict leaves nation stunned

  1. Closed captioning of: Casey Anthony verdict leaves nation stunned

    >>> good evening. as trials go, the casey anthony case blew up before our very eyes, becoming an ongoing obsession of the summer of 2011 . for whatever reason, millions of people followed the case of this young woman , who waited over a month to report her 2-year-old daughter was missing. later found dead. and who was caught in a number of lies along the way. after a trial that lasted just over a month, when the jury came back with a verdict after just 11 hours of deliberations, a guilty verdict was assumed by the experts. but that is not what happened in the courtroom today because, of course, guilt must be proven. we begin here tonight with nbc kerry sanders in orlando , good evening.

    >> reporter: good evening, brian. it took the 12-member jury just under 11 hours to reach their verdict -- not guilty on all three felony counts.

    >> will the defendant rise, along with council?

    >> reporter: 25 yooerd casey anthony stood in the courtroom, no color in her face as the clerk read the verdict.

    >> as to the charge of first-degree murder, verdict as to count one, we the jury, find the defendant not guilty.

    >> reporter: on the charge of aggravated child abuse .

    >> we the jury find the defendant not guilty.

    >> reporter: and on the charge of aggravated manslaughter of a child.

    >> we the jury find the defendant not guilty, so say we all.

    >> reporter: casey anthony took a deep breath and then began to cry as the clerk announced the jury's decision on four counts of providing false information to a law enforcement officer .

    >> we the jury find the defendant guilty.

    >> reporter: she could face four years in prison on those charges but today, casey was celebrating, embracing her legal team.

    >> oh, my god! oh, my god!

    >> reporter: the "not guilty" verdict stunned those watching this case.

    >> this system has failed miserably.

    >> reporter: angry because those who tuned in to all or part of this 36-day trial expected a different outcome.

    >> it's not right. this is wrong. this is bad.

    >> reporter: the trial verdict was watched around the world, and even at 24,000 feet, a verdict won by lead defense attorney , jose baez.

    >> there are no winners in this case.

    >> reporter: who said 2-year-old caylee anthony 's death should not be lost in her mother's acquittal.

    >> caylee has passed on, far, far too soon. casey did not murder kay.

    >> reporter: she could face --

    >> i know i can go home and my daughter will ask me -- what did you do today? and i can say -- i saved a life.

    >> reporter: prosecutors jeff ashton and linda drane berdick.

    >> and their boss --

    >> i never, ever criticize a jury. theirs is the task of decide what can to believe.

    >> reporter: the lead prosecutor in this case, jeff ashton, announced this will be his last case. he is now retiring. the jurors were given an opportunity to comment. they chose not to. they are, tonight, on their way back home to st. petersburg, florida. about 100 miles from here. they've been sequestered in orlando . cindy and george anthony released a statement from their attorney that reads in part -- while the family may never know what happened to caylee marie anthony they now have closure for this chapter of their life. brian?

    >> kerry sanders starting us off in orlando , thanks.

updated 7/5/2011 7:39:13 PM ET 2011-07-05T23:39:13

No sooner had Casey Anthony been acquitted on charges of killing her daughter than her attorneys lashed out against cable news coverage that they said unfairly cast the verdict as shocking.

Shortly after the jury's decision was announced, one of Anthony's lawyers, Cheney Mason, said he hoped the verdict was a lesson to those who had "indulged in media assassination" during the three years between 2-year-old Caylee Anthony's disappearance and her mother's acquittal for murder.

Mason did not mention anyone by name, but his remarks seemed aimed at Nancy Grace of the HLN network, which has seen its fortunes soar with extensive coverage of the trial.

"There is no way that this is a verdict that speaks the truth," Grace said.

Story: 'Can't believe it': Reaction to Casey Anthony verdict

Grace, the former prosecutor with a primetime show, began covering the Anthony story in 2008 as a missing persons case and has made little secret of her belief in Casey Anthony's guilt.

HLN, formerly known as CNN Headline News, aired the full trial and extensive analysis. Its average viewership essentially doubled in June over a year before, according to the Nielsen Co.

Grace, the network's most prominent personality with an average of 1.5 million viewers a night, had her most-watched month ever in June. Her Facebook fan page has gained 49,000 viewers since the start of the trial, HLN said.

Story: Hollywood reacts to Casey Anthony verdict

Mason criticized "biased and prejudiced and incompetent talking heads saying what it would be and how it would be.

"I can tell you that my colleagues from coast to coast and border to border have condemned this whole process of lawyers getting on television and talking about cases that they don't know a thing about, and don't have the experience to back up their words or the law to do it," he said. "Now you have learned a lesson."

Many commentators on other networks also expressed surprise at the verdict. Some filled time in the 45 minutes before the decision with discussions that assumed Anthony would be convicted, particularly because the jury reached a decision relatively quickly.

Story: Timeline: Casey Anthony case

Others said on air afterward they had assumed there would be a guilty verdict on at least one felony charge.

Grace appeared to take Mason's comments personally.

"What does he care about what pundits are saying?" she said, adding that she imagines she's tried and covered as many cases as Mason. She criticized defense attorneys for delivering media criticism before mentioning Caylee's name in their post-verdict news conference.

Internet explodes over Casey Anthony verdict

"Caylee's death is now just a blip on the screen," she said. "It didn't mean anything. It didn't amount to a hill of beans."

During the Grace-anchored live coverage of the verdict, correspondents interviewed people outside of the courthouse, most of them expressing dismay. Grace took phone calls, including one from a woman who said, "That woman just got away with murder, Nancy."

Michelle Zierler, director of the Project in Law and Journalism at the New York University School of Law, said she had essentially been convinced that Anthony was guilty from watching coverage of the trial. The jurors, however, weren't exposed to this coverage.

She said Grace "is always certain that the defendant is guilty and needs instant punishment."

"It's sort of entertainment and buyer beware, and unfortunately too many people succumb to that sort of hype," Zierler said.

She said she believed Grace's opinion affected her analysis of the case. For instance, Grace had criticized the closing arguments of Anthony's defense team while Zierler, who also watched, said she believed those lawyers did a good job summing up their case, even if they had not convinced her.

Story: Casey Anthony found not guilty of murdering daughter

HLN President Scot Safon said he was comfortable with how the network had covered the case.

"Over the course of our coverage, we gave a platform to a pretty broad range of potential outcomes here," he said.

Given the extensive coverage of the trial, Mason's arguments probably got their fullest airing on HLN, he said.

HLN's ratings success is an indication that its focus on high-interest legal cases is likely to continue. Safon said HLN wants to concentrate on "water cooler" news stories that people like to talk about, and the Anthony case fit the approach perfectly.

By covering the trial extensively, HLN also filled a void left by Court TV, which was shut down and renamed Tru TV, with a focus on nonfiction programming. Safon said the network will probably give extensive coverage to the trial of Michael Jackson's doctor at the time of the pop star's death.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Timeline: Verdict reached in Casey Anthony murder trial


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