Preface: I did not follow this trial, but decided to have a look at the case, as comparisons have been made with the trial of Jodi Arias. Please regard this article as a first draft, prone to error, I expect to revise and improve it after comments.
Casey Anthony was tried for the murder of her daughter Caylee, and was found not guilty of murder on July 5th, 2011 after a widely publicised six week trial.
On July 5th, 2008 Casey’s mother Cindy called 911 to report that Caylee was missing. During the call Casey claimed that Caylee had been missing for 31 days with a babysitter she identified as Zenaida Gonzales Fernandez (a lie).
Cindy said Casey had given varied explanations as to Caylee’s whereabouts before finally telling her that she had not seen Caylee for weeks. Casey told detectives several falsehoods, including that the child had been kidnapped by a nanny on June 9, and that she had been trying to find her, too frightened to alert the authorities.
On October 14, 2008 Casey was indicted on charges of first degree murder and other charges.
On December 11, 2008, Caylee’s skeletal remains were found with a blanket inside a trash bag in a wooded area near the family home.
Jose Baez, Casey’s attorney, interviewed Casey’s former boyfriend Jesse Grund. Grund said Casey told him she never left Caylee alone with her brother because she was scared he would “touch her inappropriately,” as he had done to her when she was a teenager. The conversation with Jesse took place two-and-a-half years before Casey was charged with murder.
According to Jose Baez, Casey’s attorney, Casey said:
- Her father and brother sexually abused her when she was a child.
- Early on the morning of June 16, 2008, she awoke to hear her father shouting “‘Where the hell is Caylee? Where the hell is Caylee?’”
- Caylee usually slept in my bed, but on this morning I was alone.
- They searched the house and the garage, and she noticed that the pool ladder was still attached. Then she saw her father carrying Caylee. “I could see Caylee was dripping wet. I could tell she was dead”.
- Her father yelled ‘It’s all your fault. Look what you’ve done. You weren’t watching her. You’re going to go to fucking jail for child neglect…It’s all your fault.”
- Her father told her not to tell anyone what had happened, especially her mother, and that he’d take care of everything.
Phone records show that when her father went to work that morning Casey tried to call her mother six times in four minutes. When she didn’t answer, Casey went to Tony’s house and acted as if nothing had happened.
According to Casey’s father, George Anthony, Casey left the family’s home on June 16, 2008, taking Caylee (who was almost three) with her and did not return for 31 days. However, Krystal Holloway, who said she had an affair with George, said investigators questioned her about him, and that around a month before Caylee’s body was found, he told her the toddler died by accident. “He was sitting on a chair and I was sitting on the floor and he grabbed my hands and he said it was an accident that snowballed out of control”.
George’s first wife said that her former husband was a pathological liar: “George couldn’t tell the truth to save his life.
In addition, phone and computer records show that George’s testimony that Casey left with Caley at 12:50pm is false, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_the_Casey_Anthony_case. Note that much of this information wasn’t found until after the trial, see here.
On January 22, 2009, George purchased some beer and went to a hotel room. , saying he was going to kill himself by drinking the beer and taking some prescription medication. He called several members of his family and texted others of his intention, and left a long suicide note addressed to his wife Cindy:
As you get this letter, this should be no surprise that I have decided to leave the earth, because I need to be with Caylee Marie.
I cannot keep going because it should be me that is gone from this earth, not her. I have lived many years, I am satisfied with my decision because I have never been the man you, Lee, Casey & especially Caylee Marie deserved.
I have never been the man any of you could count on. I have always let each of you down in more ways than I can remember. I do not feel sorry for myself, I am just sorry I burden all of you the way I have.
My loss of life is meaningless.
Cynthia Marie, you have always worked the hardest, given the most to me, and I have never Thanked you. 28+ years ago, you corrected me, a man who has now found his identity in life. What I mean is, you always challenged me the right way and I always could never live up to your expectations. You have always been smarter, more knowledgeable & thought things through & I love you for that.~~
I cannot be strong anymore. Caylee Marie, our grand-daughter, I miss her. I miss her so much. I know you do too.
You were always the one that provided for her. What did I provide?
I blame myself for her being gone! You know for months, as a matter of fact for a year or so I brought stuff up, only to be told not to be negative.
Caylee Marie, I miss her. I miss her. I want my family back.
I sit here, falling apart, because I should have done more.
She was so close to home, why was she there? Who placed here there? Why is she gone? Why?
For months, you & I, especially you always questioned, why?
I want this to go away for Casey. What happened? Why could she not come to us? Especially you, why not Lee?
Who is involved with this stuff Caylee?
I am going Krazy because I want to
Go after these people Casey hung with prior to Caylee being gone.
That is why I got that gun. I wanted to scare these people. You know, they know more than they have stated, you cannot sugar coat, kid glove these people. They need hard knocks to get info from.
Sure that will not bring Caylee Marie back, but was Casey threatened? You know, Casey does not deserve to be where she is.
I miss her, I miss her so much. I am worried for her. Her personal safety is always on my mind.
I try to deal with so-so much, as I do you also.
I have never wanted to my family for sorrow in any way. I realize families have ups & downs but we have suffered our share & then some.
Cynthia Marie, you have always deserved more, and with me being gone, you will. I have always brought you down. You know that. You are better off. Lee will be there for you. Mallory is such a great woman. I see how you are with her. She is a keeper. Future
daughter-in-law. I smile when I say her name. Mallory, please take care of yourself, Lee & Cindy. Someday you will be a great wife to Lee, and a fantastic mom. Cindy is a great Grammy and will love you forever.
Getting back to why I cannot live anymore: I cannot function knowing our granddaughter is gone. Caylee Marie never had a chance to grow. I wanted to walk her to school (the 1st day). I wanted to help her in so many ways….I could go on & on.
I sit here empty inside for her. For you, for us. Jose keeps calling.
Yes, you deserve more & you will have freedom to enjoy what you deserve.
I have taken what meds was given to me with alcohol & I am ready to give up. As I can tell by my writing and thinking, I am getting very stupid. Wow, what a word STUPID. Yes, I am. Again, I do not feel sorry for myself(…unintelligible) I am STUPID. I cannot deal with stuff anymore.
The loss of Caylee Marie. The loss of Casey. The loss of us, Cynthia Marie, the meds, I am ready.
Saying good bye, please understand it is for the best. I do not deserve life anymore. Anymore us.
You are the best, you always have been. I am sorry for all that I have done to us.
You know I never got to say goodbye. I am at this place and all is getting foggy & my writing is all over the place.
I love you, I love you, I hope you get to see Casey soon. All the people we met, wow, the writing is getting weird, I love you, I am sorry – I will take care of Caylee – once I get to God hopefully
I want to hold her again, I miss her, I will always love us, I am sorry Cynthia Marie, I called my mom today, ….(unintelligible) I am so tired, at least I shaved today, wow – I’m tripping out, I am sorry,
I love you – Cynthia Marie
Caylee Here I come
Lee, I am sorry
Soon after, police found George at the Hawaii Motel in Daytona Beach. They knocked on the door, which he opened, and, after speaking with the officers, he walked with them to their police cars. An officer then drove him to the hospital where he was admitted for mandatory observation. Almost immediately after his release from the hospital, George and Cindy flew to California to appear on several TV shows. Upon their return, they were booked into the Ritz Carlton hotel, a stay paid for by media. [Source]
Post trial, George continued to point the finger at Casey. On 14th November, 2011, on a TV show he said:
“I believe something else happened to her. … I believe Casey or someone else she was with possibly gave too much to Caylee. She fell asleep and didn’t wake up”. When asked, “Too much what?” George replied, “Possibly some kind of drug or something like that. The drugs would have allowed Casey to go out and have a good time. To be with friends.”
However Cindy said “I don’t know, but something happened that day that forever changed [Casey’s] behavior,” she said. “I buy the part that Caylee drowned but I don’t buy the circumstances surrounding the drowning.”
The prosecution made a circumstantial case for murder, pointing to an internet search for “chloroform” several months before, and suggested that Casey wanted to be free from parental responsibility.
The key issue is the conflict between Casey’s account and her father’s account of events on June 16.
Casey had no rational motive to murder her child. Caylee was nearly three years old, which rules out post-partum depression. By all accounts Caylee was a much loved child.
George’s account does not ring true, and he seems far too keen to blame Casey for Caylee’s death. The suicide attempt seems staged to me, and not a serious attempt at taking his own life. In my opinion it’s likely that he lied about the circumstances of Caylee’s death, and may well have been partly or fully responsible.
Some commentators suggest he may have abused Caylee, and may have choked her and unintentionally killed her for fear she would report the abuse to her mother, or perhaps he feared Casey would notice the abuse ( see comments here ). By concealing the body, any forensic signs of abuse or that Caylee’s death was not entirely accidental would be destroyed. Alternatively he may have feared that if Casey was questioned by police, suspicion would fall on him.
Even supposing George did not lie, it seems impossible to rule out that Caylee died in an accident.
In my view the jury returned the correct verdict.
Post trial interview with Casey’s attorney July 2014
See here for discussion of the timeline.