In a verdict that stunned a nation, a jury found Casey Anthony not guilty in the murder of her 2-year-old daughter Caylee.
During that first month that her daughter went missing, Casey Anthony told no one. Not a soul. In fact, when questioned about her daughter’s whereabouts – she lied. To her parents. To friends. To police. For that, the jury found her guilty. But so what if she’s a liar? Lots of people lie. That doesn’t make them cold-hearted killers, this jury reasoned.
That’s if you can call this jury’s form of decision-making reasoning, or reasonable.
That her toddler daughter was bagged and tossed in a swamp to rot didn’t seem to trouble this jury much. Where was the proof that Casey Anthony did this horrible thing, the jury wanted to know? All the state had was a nasty-smelling car and some duct tape wrapped around the child’s decomposed skull. Oh. And those computer searches conducted under Casey’s log-in for neck-breaking and chloroform.
The state did not prove any motivation this jury maintained.
Keep in mind that showing motivation is not, by law, the responsibility of the prosecution. Forethought and motivation are not the same thing. For Murder One, the prosecution does have to show that Casey intended to kill Caylee, that she had thought it all through ahead of time. They thought they did that by showing the computer searches. The jury didn’t see it that way.
The fact that Casey Anthony had no real motivation to kill her daughter — other than her own selfishness — might convince any reasonable jury to find Casey’s actions even more heinous. But this jury found a way to wave off all the evidence right under their noses.
That the defense had even less proof to back their claims than the state seemed completely irrelevant to these jurors. Defense attorney Jose Baez said in his opening statement that Casey Anthony had been molested by her father; and that George Anthony had covered up his granddaughter’s accidental drowning, but not once during the entire six-week long trial did Baez even broach those claims.
That didn’t matter to the jury.
The burden of proof was on the state. So without a chloroform-soaked rag and video of Casey lugging her dead daughter from the trunk of her car, this particular group of jury “cousins” just couldn’t fathom beyond reasonable doubt that Casey Anthony killed her daughter.
I’ve been following this case closely, as you can see. But it’s not because I take some devilish delight in such matters. I am not like those freaky gawkers who insist upon driving by the Anthony home and taking a look-see at the back-yard pool.
I am a former crime beat reporter who has seen my fair share of gruesome crimes and courtroom antics. I have been following this case closely for one reason only – since 2007 I’ve been at work on a memoir, chronicling the torturous murder of 3-year-old Karly Sheehan.
Although these murders took place in different parts of the country, there are a lot of uncanny similarities between Casey Anthony and Karly’s mother.
All that lying for one.
Detectives who investigated the Karly Sheehan murder told me that it took them a single afternoon to determine that Karly’s mother was lying to them, pretty much about everything.
I could have warned them. For many years, Karly’s mother was a like a daughter to me. She ate at our table, slept in our house, curled up on our couch, and bonded with our children. The first time she got pregnant, she asked my husband and I to adopt her unborn child.
I’ve learned a lot about child abuse while researching this story. We have Amber Alerts across this nation for when a child is abducted but a child can be murdered in their own home and neighbors will hardly blink. On average five children a day are killed here in America, usually at the hands of a parent or caregiver. Ninety percent of the children killed are ages 3 and under. Hard to tell others of the torture when you can’t string a sentence together yet.
Sixty percent of child abuse in the state in which I live – Oregon — is inflicted by the mother. There were nearly 12,000 cases of child abuse in Oregon last year. And those are only the ones we know about.
In addition to being an expert liar, Karly’s mother had one other thing in common with Casey Anthony – she’s beautiful. If you were a criminal investigator, you might even say, she’s drop-dead gorgeous. Like it or not, we attach a lot of credibility to young, good-looking, hard-body people.
What fixated a nation on the Anthony trial isn’t that a two-year-old was murdered. That happens daily in this country. What mesmerized people is that Casey Anthony is a sexy, salacious vixen. Just the sort of woman we love to hate and admire. A beautiful girl desperate for the beautiful life.
The reason this jury found Casey Anthony not guilty had nothing to do with evidence presented and everything to do with Casey Anthony being a pretty young thang.
Had she been older, less attractive.
Had she come from the trailer park, or the projects, or the wrong side of the tracks.
Had she been fatherless.
Had she been a he. (jurors statistically are more eager to convict a man than a woman.)
Had she been chubby-thighed, thin-lipped, or her eyes spaced too far apart.
Had she been unattractive in any visible way
Casey Anthony would have been found guilty.
But this jury was bewitched by all the wrong things.
The same things that seduced the public.
Casey Anthony will likely move on to book deals, more TV shows, and perhaps more children she can birth and neglect.
The only solace I take away from this are the words the lead investigator in the Karly Sheehan trial said to me recently: “I haven’t lost an hour of sleep over putting Shawn Field in prison for murdering Karly, but I have lost countless hours of sleep over not putting Karly’s mother in prison.”
The entire defense team, and the jurors who acquitted Casey Anthony may have just sentenced themselves to a lifetime of sleepless night. Try as they might to forget it, there can be no denying that the only reason Casey Anthony was compelled to lie was because she was complicit in her own daughter’s murder.
Karen Spears Zacharias is author of the forthcoming The Shelter of Mockingbirds, the murder of 3-year old Karly Sheehan. She can be reached via Twitter @karenzach or karenzach.com