Casey Anthony could go free after 3 years in jail

By Kyle Hightower

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, July 6 2011 5:20 a.m. MDT

George Anthony sits in the courtroom, waiting for the jury's verdict to be read in the murder case against his daughter, Casey Anthony, at the Orange County Courthouse in Orlando, Fla., Tuesday July 5, 2011. Casey was found not guilty of killing her daughter Caylee Anthony.

Red Huber, Pool, Associated Press

ORLANDO, Fla. — A case that involved years of forensic investigation, weeks of often highly technical testimony and untold hours of media analysis turned out to be pretty straightforward for the jurors weighing whether Casey Anthony killed her toddler daughter.

Early in their second day of deliberations, the 12 men and women concluded the 25-year-old lied to investigators but wasn't guilty in her child's death.

Now Anthony waits to learn if she could spend her first night out of jail in almost three years since she was first accused in the case. She was only convicted of four misdemeanor counts of lying to investigators Tuesday, and it's possible that Judge Belvin Perry could sentence her to time already served for those crimes. The four counts of lying to sheriff's deputies each carry a maximum sentence of one year.

Anthony has been in jail since her October 2008 arrest on first-degree murder charges. She avoided a possible death sentence thanks to her acquittal on the murder count. The case began in July 2008 when Caylee Anthony was reported missing.

"I'm very happy for Casey, ecstatic for her and I want her to be able to grieve and grow and somehow get her life back together," defense attorney Jose Baez said Tuesday. "I think this case is a perfect example of why the death penalty does not work ... Murder is not right, no matter who does it."

The trial became a national sensation on cable TV, with its CSI-style testimony about duct-tape marks on the child's face and the smell of death inside a car trunk.

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.

Tears welled in Anthony's eyes, her face reddened, her lips trembled, and she began breathing heavily as she listened to the verdict.

Anthony's parents, George and Cindy Anthony, left court quickly after the verdict without hugging or saying anything to their daughter.

Many in the crowd of about 500 people outside the courthouse reacted with anger after the verdict was read, chanting, "Justice for Caylee!" One man yelled, "Baby killer!"

Given the relative speed with which the jury came back with a verdict, many court-watchers were expecting Anthony to be convicted in the killing, and they were stunned by the outcome.

Sentencing was set for Thursday. Anthony could get up to a year behind bars on each count of lying to investigators. But since she has been in jail for nearly three years already, she could walk free.

Prosecutors contended that Anthony — a single mother living with her parents — suffocated Caylee with duct tape because she wanted to be free to hit the nightclubs and spend time with her boyfriend.

Defense attorneys argued that the little girl accidentally drowned in the family swimming pool and that Anthony panicked and hid the body because of the traumatic effects of being sexually abused by her father.

The case played out on national television almost from the moment Caylee was reported missing three years ago. CNN's hard-nosed Nancy Grace dissected the case at every turn with the zeal of the prosecutor she once was, arguing that Anthony was responsible for her daughter's death. The TV host turned the term "tot mom" into shorthand for Anthony.

Anthony's attorney Cheney Mason blasted the media after the verdict.

"Well, I hope that this is a lesson to those of you having indulged in media assassination for three years, bias, prejudice and incompetent talking heads saying what would be and how to be," Mason said.

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