Casey Anthony Free, but in Another Kind of Prison

By Richey, Warren | The Christian Science Monitor, July 17, 2011 | Go to article overview
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Casey Anthony Free, but in Another Kind of Prison


Richey, Warren, The Christian Science Monitor


Will Casey Anthony's notoriety over the death of her two-year- old daughter Caylee bring some measure of wealth and security, or will it, instead, condemn her to a different kind of prison?

Casey Anthony, the Florida mother acquitted of killing her two- year-old daughter, left an Orlando county jail early Sunday a free woman.

Her departure raises a new question in a case already riddled with unsolved mysteries: Will her notoriety bring her some measure of wealth and security, or will it, instead, condemn her to a different kind of prison?

Although released from jail, Ms. Anthony is embarking on an uncertain future, facing substantial obstacles to reclaim a normal life. Commentators say she will likely be offered million-dollar opportunities for interviews, book deals, and movie rights. But some have also called her the most hated woman in America.

IN PICTURES: Key players in the Casey Anthony trial

Prosecutors are seeking to force her to compensate the State of Florida for much of the cost of the murder investigation, she is named in several pending civil lawsuits, and numerous threats have been issued against her by would-be vigilantes supposedly seeking justice on behalf of her daughter, Caylee.

Anthony left the jail shortly after midnight under tight security in the company of Defense Attorney Jose Baez. Analysts speculate that she will try to resettle someplace far from the Orlando area and perhaps change her appearance.

The much-anticipated release is only the latest twist in a case that has captivated much of the country. The action brings to a close a three-year ordeal that began in July 2008 when Anthony's mother, Cindy, called 911 to report that her granddaughter, Caylee, had been missing for a month and that her daughter's car smelled like death.

A real-life whodunit

Anthony's high-profile murder trial offered a real-life whodunit involving a mother accused of using chloroform and duct tape to end the life of her toddler daughter. From the start the case defied easy explanation. At trial, everyone who knew her testified that Casey was a loving, caring mother.

Even more inexplicable was Casey's seeming carefree conduct during the 31 days following Caylee's death before Cindy's 911 call. Casey stayed with her boyfriend, went to night clubs, took shopping excursions, and got a tattoo that proclaimed "Bella Vita," beautiful life in Italian. At the same time, she was telling her mother and her friends that Caylee was being cared for by a nanny, Zenaida Fernandez-Gonzalez. The problem was, the nanny didn't exist. It was all a lie.

Prosecutors sought the death penalty, but they lacked any direct evidence demonstrating how Caylee died. They also lacked any direct evidence linking Anthony to the death.

Caylee's remains were not discovered until six months after her death. By then the body was a skeleton.

Because of the high level of media coverage of the gruesome case, a jury was selected in Clearwater and sequestered in an Orlando hotel for the duration of the trial. After 11 hours of deliberations, the jury found Anthony not guilty of any involvement in Caylee's death. But the panel convicted her of four misdemeanor counts of lying to police.

She was sentenced to the maximum four years in jail. With credit for time served in pre-trial detention and for good conduct, Anthony was ordered released on July 17.

Many trial watchers outraged

The acquittal and early release sparked outrage among many trial watchers who had concluded that Anthony was guilty and that the justice system was allowing her to get away with murder. Other commentators said the jury system requires prosecutors to prove each case beyond a reasonable doubt and that it is the jury's responsibility to hold the state to that high standard.

Although she has already served her full sentence, Defense Attorney Baez is appealing Anthony's four convictions for lying to law enforcement officers.

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