Video: Casey Anthony verdict leaves nation stunned

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    >>> 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.

By
updated 7/5/2011 8:14:58 PM ET 2011-07-06T00:14:58

Prosecutors proved Casey Anthony was a liar, but convinced the jury of little else. The government failed to establish how 2-year-old Caylee Anthony died and they couldn't find her mother's DNA on the duct tape they said was used to suffocate her. There was conflicting testimony on whether the putrid smell inside the family's car was a decomposing body or simply trash, and it was never quite clear why chloroform was so important.

The lack of evidence and the doubt raised by the defense — that Caylee accidentally drowned in the family's pool — was enough to win an acquittal. After a trial of a month and a half, the jury took less than 11 hours to find Anthony not guilty of first-degree murder, aggravated manslaughter and aggravated child abuse.

She was convicted only of four misdemeanor counts of lying to investigators who were looking into the June 2008 disappearance of Caylee. She lied about being employed at Universal Studios. She lied about leaving Caylee with a baby-sitter, then again when she recounted to investigators that she had told two imaginary people that Caylee was missing. She also lied about receiving a phone call from Caylee the day before she was reported missing.

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

Lead defense attorney Jose Baez was criticized by many legal pundits for his strategy and loosely throwing around allegations of molestation and incest. Baez suggested early on that Casey's father, George Anthony, helped cover up the drowning and sexually abused his daughter, accusations the father vehemently denied. Baez also claimed Casey's brother might be Caylee's father and that a meter reader who discovered the girl's remains may have moved them, more allegations that weren't substantiated.

Ultimately, though, the burden of proof wasn't on Baez.

"I don't think it was Baez' great lawyering that won the case," said Richard Rosenbaum, a Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorney who closely followed the trial but wasn't involved in the case. "I think it goes back to the prosecution and the weaknesses in their case."

Kendall Coffey, a former U.S. attorney for Miami and now a defense attorney, said Baez had to offer an alternative to the prosecution's theory of how Caylee was killed, though he was less impressed with the molestation accusations.

"The biggest questions were the 'how' and the 'why,'" Coffey said. "Even the state acknowledged they weren't exactly sure of how Caylee was killed. That was a candid acknowledgement, but Baez seized on that."

Story: Anthony lawyers blast cable news after acquittal

Orlando's chief prosecutor said his attorneys were disappointed with the verdict but they presented every piece of evidence that existed.

"This is a dry-bones case. Very, very difficult to prove," said Orange County State Attorney Lawson Lamar. "The delay in recovering little Caylee's remains worked to our considerable disadvantage."

Shortly after Lamar's news conference, one of the lead prosecutors on the case, Jeff Ashton, announced he would retire at the end of the week following 30 years as a prosecutor. A spokeswoman for the prosecutor's office said Ashton and Lamar had previously discussed his retirement.

The six-month gap between when Caylee was reported missing and when her remains were found in December 2008 affected the amount of scientific evidence investigators could glean from the pieces of bones, some as small as a pebble. And prosecutors didn't have any evidence that put Casey at the scene where the remains were found.

Story: Casey Anthony found not guilty of murdering daughter

There was also confusion on why chloroform was so important. Chloroform is a chemical compound that can be used to knock someone unconscious and also is found in human decomposition, but prosecutors never made clear exactly what its role it played in Caylee's death.

Prosecutors said Casey searched for the term "chloroform" on the family's computer, though when her mother, Cindy, took the stand late in the trial, she said she searched for it. Later, job records indicated that Cindy might have been at work when the searches were made.

Then there was the smell test. After prosecutors presented an expert witness who said that a carpet stain taken from the family's car trunk had a smell consistent with a decomposing body, the defense called the expert's former colleague who testified to the opposite.

Baez addressed his naysayers during a press conference.

Internet explodes over Casey Anthony verdict

"This case has brought on new challenges for all of us. Challenges in the criminal justice system, challenges in the media, and I think we should all take this as an opportunity to learn and to realize that you cannot convict someone until they have had their day in court," he said.

Yale Galanter, who has represented O.J. Simpson in a number of cases since 2000, said he was not surprised by the verdict.

"The issue is there was absolutely no evidence linking her to the death. None," said the Miami lawyer. "So what the defense did was brilliant, they brought up the drowning, they brought up the sexual molestation, and it really got the jury to focus away from the bad behavior of the mom."

____

Lush reported from St. Petersburg. Associated Press writers Laura Wides-Munoz and Kelli Kennedy in Miami contributed to this report.

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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