ORLANDO, Fla. (WWJ/AP) – Casey Anthony was found not guilty Tuesday of killing her 2-year-old daughter in a case that captivated the nation as it played out on national television from the moment the toddler was reported missing three years ago.
Anthony, 25, wept as the judge read the verdict, which jurors reached after less than 11 hours of deliberation over two days. She was charged with first-degree murder, which could have brought the death penalty if she had been convicted.
Instead, she was convicted of only four counts of lying to investigators looking into the June 2008 disappearance of her daughter Caylee. Her body was found in the woods six months later and a medical examiner was never able to determine how she died.
WWJ Legal Analyst Charlie Langton says the acquittal is a stunner.
“I thought that the jury would have focused on the fact that Calyee was missing for 31 days and there really was no good explanation why Caylee was missing for 31 days and why Casey Anthony wouldn’t have called law enforcement,” he said.
“But here’s the problem with this case, though: From day one, there was no direct evidence as to how Caylee was killed. Was it duct tape? Was it chloroform? Was it drowning? No evidence in the case,” Langton said.
“And the other problem I see here is that how did Caylee get to the swamp … where she was ultimately found? We didn’t really get any link there. I think the prosecution may have actually spent too much time on Casey’s lies,” he said.
Anthony’s attorneys claimed that the toddler drowned accidentally in the family swimming pool and that her seemingly carefree mother in fact was hiding emotional distress caused by sexual abuse from her father.
Prosecutors contended that Caylee was suffocated with duct tape by a mother who loved to party, tattooed herself with the Italian words for “beautiful life” in the month her daughter was missing and crafted elaborate lies to mislead everyone from investigators to her own parents.
Anthony will be sentenced by the judge on Thursday and could receive up to a year in jail for each lying count.
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The Associated Press contributed to this report.