It's the worse Casey scenario

Deborah Denno in New York Post, July 06, 2011

Media Source

 Casey Anthony was acquitted yesterday of killing her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee, a jaw-dropping end to a sensational trial that gripped the nation -- with one juror insisting there was no hard evidence of any murder and even hailing Anthony as "a good mother."

"The big question the prosecution couldn't answer [was], 'How did Caylee die?' " said Russell Huekler, alternate juror No. 14, after the lightning-quick verdict that apparently stunned even Anthony -- and prompted 500 protesters outside the Orlando courthouse to break into angry chants of "Justice for Caylee!"

"It comes down to probably an accident, and the family didn't know how to cope with it," Huekler told Fox News.

"One thing the prosecution failed to do, they did not show motive," Huekler said. "Casey was a good mother, and there was no indication of any problems between her and Caylee . . . What could have driven a reasonably good mother to do such an action? I don't think they overcame that."

Huekler believes that Anthony's retired-cop father, George -- who the defense said had once molested his daughter and, after Caylee accidentally died, buried her body in the woods -- knew more than he was letting on.

"There was something with [George Anthony]," Huekler told Fox. "He was definitely hiding something during the times he was on the stand. Something happened, and he knew about it."

When the verdict was announced -- after less than 11 hours of deliberations -- a dumbstruck George Anthony and his shaken wife, Cindy, immediately fled the courtroom. Both had testified against their daughter.

The parents, who went into hiding after reportedly receiving death threats, had their lawyer release a statement to the Orlando Sentinel.

"Despite the baseless defense chosen by Casey Anthony, the family believes that the jury made a fair decision based on the evidence presented," it read.

Casey Anthony struggled to keep her composure as the court clerk announced the verdicts: "Not guilty" of first-degree murder, "not guilty" of aggravated child abuse, "not guilty" of aggravated manslaughter.

She beat not only lethal injection but also the prospect of life behind bars.

The 25-year-old, hard-partying mom was convicted only of four counts of misdemeanor lying to law enforcement for the web of falsehoods she repeatedly told investigators since she finally acknowledged that Caylee had disappeared in the summer of 2008.

 Each count carries one year in prison, although Anthony, who has been in jail since August 2008, could get out with time served when Judge Belvin Perry Jr. sentences her tomorrow.

Prosecutors Jeff Ashton and Linda Drane Burdick, whose 300 pieces of evidence appeared to make convictions a slam-dunk, were stunned.

They had asserted that Anthony suffocated the tot so she could spend her life partying, presenting evidence such as:

* Forensics from the trunk of Casey Anthony's car, including a stench that investigators said was from a dead body, and hair that showed signs of decomposition and traces of the chloroform which they said had been used to knock Caylee out before she was smothered with duct tape.

* Her bizarre behavior in the days after Caylee's disappearance, during which she hit local clubs and even got a tattoo that read "beautiful life" in Italian.

* The mom's repeated lies about what had happened to her daughter, first denying for 30 days that she was even missing -- and accusing everyone from a nonexistent nanny named "Zanny" to a fictitious, wealthy boyfriend of taking her.

But the defense team had insisted that Caylee had actually drowned in the family's back-yard pool when she went missing on June 16, 2008.

Her dad then disposed of the body in a swampy area near their house, Casey's lawyers said.

The defense was apparently unwittingly aided by Anthony's parents, whose testimony showed rifts between Casey and her family.

"The family dysfunction and conflicting accounts given by her parents [were] significant," said Fordham Law Professor Deborah Denno.

"All of this to-and-fro and upheaval may have made the family members unlikable and far less credible to the jurors than they might have otherwise been."

Casey Anthony never testified.

Most of the seven women and five men on the jury refused to comment after the verdict, but members of her defense team couldn't contain their glee.

The lawyers gathered at a restaurant across from the courthouse, and one of Anthony's defenders, Cheney Mason, was seen flipping the bird to a crowd of protestors.

Anthony's lead lawyer, José Baez, said, "The best feeling is, I can go home and my daughter will say, 'What did you do today?' And I can say, 'I saved a life.'

"My driving force for the last three years has been always to make sure that there has been justice for Caylee and Casey, because Casey did not murder Caylee."

Casey Anthony -- still red-eyed -- beamed happily as she was fingerprinted and led away.

But Eric Rudich, a top Manhattan legal consultant, called the verdict "insane."

He suggested that Anthony was able to skate because TV shows such as "CSI" push quick, airtight solutions.

"Nowadays, we're finding more and more that, thanks to shows like 'CSI,' the bar has been raised on what jurors expect to see as evidence at a trial," Rudich said.