Casey Anthony Verdict: Not Guilty of First-Degree Murder

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Red Huber / Orlando Sentinel / Getty Images

Casey Anthony reacts to being found not guilty on murder charges at the Orange County Courthouse in Orlando on July 5, 2011. At left is her attorney Jose Baez.

After six weeks of testimony, dozens of witnesses and one full day of deliberation, 12 jurors found Casey Anthony not guilty of murdering Caylee, her 2-year-old daughter.

Video: Casey Anthony Verdict


The jury found Anthony not guilty of the lesser charges of second-degree murder and felony third-degree murder. According to Judge Belvin Perry Jr.’s instructions, if the jury were to have found that Caylee’s death was caused by Casey, then they were to consider the circumstances surrounding the death. When it was all over, the jury found Casey guilty of four counts of providing false information to investigators.

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Since May 24, Casey Anthony, 25, has been on trial in Florida for the murder of Caylee, who was almost 3 at the time of her death. Caylee was last seen alive in June 2008; nearly a month later, Casey’s mother Cindy called 911 to report the child missing. A six-month search finally turned up Caylee’s decomposed body with duct tape on her skull.

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Prosecutors alleged that Casey searched the Internet for instructions on how to make homemade chloroform, used the chemical to subdue the child, then killed her by putting duct tape over her mouth and nose. Casey’s lawyer Jose Baez offered a different theory in his opening arguments: Caylee accidentally drowned in a pool, and Casey’s father George disposed of the body. Weeks of testimony from forensic scientists led to closing arguments over the weekend.

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While most of the country was on holiday over the Fourth of July weekend, the case plowed ahead. Lawyers began their closing arguments on Sunday, and prosecutor Jeff Ashton gave a brutal 90-minute speech detailing how Casey Anthony chose her social life over her child’s existence. “Something needed to be sacrificed. That something was either the life she wanted or the life thrust upon her,” Ashton said. “She chose to sacrifice her child.” Anthony’s demeanor alternated between sitting stone-faced to breaking down in tears when Ashton leveled his attacks against her.

Defense lawyer Baez called the state’s case “fantasy forensics” and focused on the argument that the state had not proven Anthony’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt. Baez ratcheted up the rhetoric, calling Ashton a liar and saying he danced around the truth.

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Instead of taking offense at Baez’s attacks, Ashton covered his mouth to conceal a large grin, prompting Baez to point to Ashton and say, “This laughing guy right here!” Judge Perry halted the proceedings, sent the jury out of the room and admonished both lawyers. Baez and Ashton clashed repeatedly during the trial, prompting Perry to call dozens of sidebars and send the jury from the room several times.

While Anthony avoided the death penalty, she still faces jail time for lying to investigators. Perry set her sentencing for 9 a.m. Thursday, at which time she could be sentenced to additional time to the two years she has spent in jail awaiting trial.

In Crimes of the Century, a new e-book, TIME puts infamous cases like the Casey Anthony trial under a magnifying glass. Download the e-book now.

Nate Rawlings is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @naterawlings. Continue the discussion about Casey Anthony on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.