July 7, 2011
Casey Anthony learned Thursday she could be free in a matter of days after spending nearly three years in jail on accusations she murdered her 2-year-old daughter, a case that captured the nation's attention and divided many over whether a killer had been acquitted.
While cleared of charges of killing and abusing her daughter Caylee, Anthony was convicted of lying to investigators and sentenced to four years. The judge said she could go free in late July or early August because of the time she has already served and her good behavior credit.
The scene outside the courthouse highlighted a divide that has had social networking sites abuzz since the not guilty verdict was announced Tuesday. Amid increased police presence, a throng of protesters gathered near the courthouse, holding signs that said "Arrest the Jury!!" and "Jurors 1-12 Guilty of Murder." Nearby, a handful of supporters also turned out, including a man who held a sign asking Casey Anthony to marry him.
A day after Caylee was reported missing in July 2008, Anthony was interviewed by police and told them several lies. She lied about working at the Universal Studios theme park, about leaving her daughter with a non-existent nanny named Zanny, about leaving the girl with friends and about receiving a phone call from her.
Her defense attorneys argued before sentencing that her convictions should be combined into one, but Judge Belvin Perry disagreed. He also fined her $1,000 on each count and said attorneys for both sides will have to decide exactly how much time she should be credited for.
At the time of the girl's disappearance, Anthony, a single mother, and Caylee were living with Anthony's parents, George and Cindy Anthony, in suburban Orlando. Prosecutors contended Anthony, then 22, suffocated Caylee with duct tape because she was interfering with her desire to be with her boyfriend and party with her friends.
Defense attorneys countered that the toddler accidentally drowned in the family swimming pool. They said that when Anthony panicked, her father, a former police officer, decided to make the death look like a murder. They said he put duct tape on the girl's mouth and then dumped the body in woods about a quarter-mile away.
The defense said Anthony's apparent carefree life hid emotional distress caused by sexual abuse from her father. Her father firmly denied both the cover-up and abuse claims. The prosecution called those claims absurd, and said no one makes an accident look like a murder.
Anthony stopped staying at the family house after the girl disappeared. She told her mother by phone that she and Caylee were spending time with friends. When Cindy Anthony asked to see Caylee, she said her daughter told her a series of lies: that they were in Jacksonville with a rich boyfriend Anthony concocted; that Caylee was with Zanny; that Zanny had been in a car crash and they were spending time with her in the hospital.
In mid-July 2008, Cindy and George Anthony were contacted by a towing yard that their daughter's car had been impounded for being abandoned and would be junked if not claimed. When George Anthony picked it up, he and the tow yard manager said it had the overwhelming stench of human decomposition. The defense said the smell was caused by a bag of trash that was in the trunk.
In one of the biggest and most important fights of the six-week trial, a prosecution scientist said the trunk contained air molecules consistent with a human body having decomposed there — but the defense questioned his methods and said they were unproven.
Jurors declined to talk with reporters immediately after Tuesday's verdict. But juror Jennifer Ford told ABC News in an interview that it was because "we were sick to our stomach to get that verdict."