Uncertain future for Casey Anthony after acquittal
ORLANDO, Fla (AP) – Should Casey Anthony be released Thursday at her sentencing for lying to investigators, the 25-year-old could be hard-pressed to piece together some semblance of a normal life following her acquittal on charges that she killed her 2-year-old daughter Caylee.
The surprising verdict in her trial continued to be the talk of cable and network news Wednesday, a day after she was acquitted of first-degree murder.
“Anthony will always be dogged by the belief that she killed her child,” said Lewis Katz, a law professor at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. “She will never lead a normal life.”
Anthony’s attorney, Jose Baez, told ABC News he would argue Thursday that Anthony should be sentenced to time served – she’s been behind bars for nearly three years – and released. She could get a year in prison for each of the four misdemeanor counts of lying to law enforcement officials of which she was convicted Tuesday.
“If you look at the time that she’s done, it’s quite significant,” said Baez, who nonetheless acknowledged concern about his client’s safety should she be freed, given the high emotions surrounding the case.
“I am afraid for her,” he told ABC’s Barbara Walters.
Authorities in Florida are being mostly quiet about what might take place should Anthony be released for time served. There are obvious complications with her returning to her parents’ home, where she lived before she was jailed, given the stinging accusations her attorneys leveled against them during the trial.
“Due to the high profile nature of this case and intense, emotional interest by the public, appropriate measures will be taken to release the individual into the community in such a manner so as to preserve the safety of the individual and the public,” Orange County Corrections Department spokesman Allen Moore said.
Meanwhile, prosecutors are asking Judge Belvin Perry to recoup investigative cost for them and authorities. The mandatory minimums for those are $100 per case for felonies and $50 per case for misdemeanors. The state is seeking reimbursement for more than that and said in a motion filed late Wednesday that it has documentation of what it calls special costs. It will be at the judge’s discretion.
State law does provide for restitution to be ordered for costs of the investigation, regardless of the defendants’ ability to pay. But Anthony would have to be put on probation in this situation.
What could the future hold for Anthony when she gets out of jail, perhaps as early as Thursday?
– She may have to get out of town. Threats have been made against her, and online she is being vilified. More than 17,000 people “liked” the “I hate Casey Anthony” page on Facebook, which included comments wishing her the same fate that befell little Caylee. Ti McCleod, who lives a few doors from Anthony’s parents, said: “Society is a danger to Casey; she’s not a danger to society.”
– Her family has been fractured by her attorneys’ unproved claims that Anthony’s father and brother molested her and the contention that her father participated in a cover-up of Caylee’s death. On Tuesday, Anthony’s parents rose from their seats without emotion upon hearing the verdict and left the courtroom ahead of everyone else. Their attorney, Mark Lippman, said they haven’t spoken with their daughter since the verdict, and he wouldn’t say whether they believed she was guilty.
– Anthony is a high school dropout who, before her arrest at 22, had limited work experience. Her last job was in 2006 as a vendor at Universal Studios theme park. While she once professed an interest in photography, and even found some work in the field, it’s not known whether she has skills that could translate into a career.
In a 2010 jailhouse letter to a friend, Anthony said she would like to adopt a child from Ireland “accent and all.”
Baez told Walters he hoped his client would seek counseling help upon her release.
“I think Casey is an extremely intelligent, warmhearted individual,” Baez said. “I think the biggest thing about Casey is that she’s very misunderstood by many people.”
Prosecutors claimed Anthony suffocated Caylee with duct tape because she wanted to be free to party and be with her boyfriends. Defense attorneys argued that the little girl accidentally drowned in the family swimming pool and Anthony panicked and hid the body because of the effects of being sexually abused by her father.
The prosecutor in the case, Jeff Ashton, told NBC’s “Today” show Wednesday that the verdict left him and other prosecutors in shock. “I think I mouthed the word ‘wow’ about five times,” said Ashton, who is retiring Friday. A spokesman said the retirement had been planned for some time.
Ashton said that he believes jurors applied the law as they understood it. “Beyond a reasonable doubt is a high standard,” he said.
Jurors declined to talk with reporters immediately after Tuesday’s verdict, and juror Jennifer Ford told ABC News in an interview that it was because “we were sick to our stomach to get that verdict.”
“We were crying and not just the women,” Ford said in an interview posted on the network’s website Wednesday night. “It was emotional and we weren’t ready.”
Ford, a 32-year-old nursing student, said the case was a troubling one.
“I did not say she was innocent,” Ford told the network. “I just said there was not enough evidence. If you cannot prove what the crime was, you cannot determine what the punishment should be.”
The prosecution didn’t paint a clear enough picture of what happened to Caylee, Ford argued in a portion of the interview broadcast Wednesday night.
“I have no idea what happened to that child,” Ford said.
Ford acknowledged that Anthony’s behavior, including not reporting her daughter missing for about a month and partying during that time, “looks very bad … but bad behavior is not enough to prove a crime.”
“I feel she had something to do with it,” Ford said of Anthony. “I don’t believe it’s fair to speculate.”
Asked about the anger directed at jurors following the verdict, Ford said: “My reaction is, why be mad at me? The prosecution had to prove it. Why is it my fault if they didn’t prove their case? If you give me the evidence, I’m happy to return a verdict accordingly.”
Ford said the fact that Anthony could have faced the death penalty was a consideration.
“If they want to charge and they want me to take someone’s life, they have to prove it. They have to prove it, or else I’m a murderer too.”
Alternate juror Russell Huekler said he feels compassion for Anthony and hopes she gets help because she can “no longer live a life of lies.”
Huekler told The Associated Press he was shocked to learn of the public’s anger over the jury’s acquittal of Anthony on a murder charge.
“Those 12 jurors, they worked really, really hard,” said Huekler, who did not vote on the verdict but sat through more than 33 days of testimony as an alternate. “I’m sure they looked at the law and the evidence that was presented and unfortunately, the prosecution didn’t meet their burden of proof.”
Anthony’s attorneys did not return calls from the AP for comment.
But Baez said in the ABC interview that testimony showed his client was an “excellent mother,” though he acknowledged that her month-long failure to report her missing daughter was wrong.
Geneva Shiles of Orlando said she had trouble sleeping Tuesday night after witnessing the verdict from a seat in the courtroom.
“I’m angry and anxious to see what Casey will do with her life now that she’s free,” Shile said. “My question is: If she didn’t do it, who did?”
That question is frustrating many who followed the trial, hoping for a neat ending to a made-for-television case.
“None of us know what actually happened,” said Roslyn Muraskin, a criminologist at Long Island University who co-authored “Crime and the Media: Headlines vs. Reality.” “Maybe none of us will ever know.”
Much of that will depend on whether Anthony chooses to tell her story.
“I believe she’s already been bombarded as we speak by publishers and agents,” said Linda Konner, president of the Linda Konner Literary Agency, based in New York. “I think there’s a lot of interest when you’re dealing with mother and dead child.”
Konner said a Casey Anthony memoir could fetch a half-million dollars or more, and she would be interested herself in securing the rights.
The judge in the case could order that any such proceeds be used to repay the costs of the search for Caylee, said Karin Moore, a law professor at Florida A&M University.
Associated Press writer Tamara Lush in St. Petersburg, Fla., contributed to this report.