Why Casey Anthony lied

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.

That Karly’s mother loved us, or that we loved her was without question. Everything else was open to interpretation. Lying was her primary occupation. It was the only job she did with any regularity. For money she depended up on the kindnesses of her many male suitors. It was one of those male suitors who, ultimately, was found guilty of murdering Karly Sheehan.

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

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  • How long until we see her on Dancing with the Stars?

    • milroyboy

      right after her 4 year contract as guest star on “The View” expires is my first guess.

  • Donna Joldersma

    Amen Karen!

    This was a total injustice to Caylee, and the entire system. I am disgusted with the jurors to not even find her guilty for child endangerment or abuse! What about the 31 days she didn’t know her whereabouts??? Her mother reported her missing not Casey!

    I don’t for one minute believe that Casey Anthony was abused by her father or her brother. Nor do I believe that Caylee drowned and and that George Anthony helped to dispose of the body. I do not believe there was another person involved because if there were, she would have hung them out in a heart beat! She blamed or inferred guilt on absolutely anyone that was close to her. Why, if someone else did it would she not point the finger to them. Because SHE did it!

    All I can say is that Casey may have gotten away with murder yesterday, but she will face her Eternal Maker on Judgement day and will certainly be judged for her actions at that time.

  • During the O.J. Simpson murder trial, his defense attorneys expressed concerns that an African American man could not get a fair trial. That has been true countless times in America. But O.J. was no ordinary African American. I said at the time that the real question was whether our system was up to the task of delivering justice when a wealthy sports star was on trial. Are there types of persons who by reason of appearance, status, wealth, fame, stardom or sexiness present a nearly insurmountable challenge to the supposedly impartial but very human jury?

    We operate here on the presumption of innocence and grant the accused the right to face their accusers in court. I wouldn’t propose abridging that right. But it is a highly choreographed dance in a court of law. If only it were just the evidence pro/con. It’s at least as much as presentation. When the legal standard is “beyond a reasonable doubt”, all the defense needs to do is create some.

    Out of the weeks of trial, I saw all of about 90 seconds of TV coverage. That’s a subject for discussion in itself. But one 5-second segment troubled me. It was when Casey’s father was asked on the stand whether he had sexually abused his daughter. He broke eye contact completely, looked down, then looked up and answered no. Far as I know, no proof that he did abuse. But I sure didn’t like the body language when he answered. It didn’t convince me.

    I believe Casey to be guilty of many things, parental manipulation just one of them. But it’s kinda hard not to find all kinds of things wanting in that Anthony triangle. And a bautiful young life is missing from this earth.

    Jose Baez says he saved a life. I hope he’s willing to indemnify that with his own.

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      We are a celebrity-driven culture… even more so in the decades since OJ was found innocent.

      What is truly disturbing isn’t just the decision they reached but that it only took this jury 10 hours to cover six weeks of evidence. When a jury comes back this quickly it is almost always a guilty verdict. They simply did not have enough time to review the evidence in question. Not carefully.

      Additionally, I think jurors have confused the standard of “reasonable” doubt with “no” doubt. Not the same thing.

    • Donna Joldersma

      It struck me that the 5 second segment troubled you and caused you to doubt….. but 31 days, Casey’s behaviour during that time didn’t bother the jurors one bit!

      My take on George was that he was still in disbelief that he could be asked that question! Hence the hesitation. Shock that his daughter would allow that type of questioning and suggestions. If that were true…. would a good mother allow her own daughter to be in his alone with this man???? It was a ploy that worked for the defense sadly.

      Karen… I, too, feel it was a very quick decision and they had no time to go thru any of the piles of evidence. I think they were tired and wanted to go home.

      Just my humble opinion….

      • Instructions from the judge are the last thing the jury hears before going out. This lays out the legal standard and the questions to be answered: has the prosecution proven its case; has motive been established? Comments from at least one juror say they weren’t at all happy with where they found themselves.

        Years ago here in Portland, a couple of very successful high school students got carried away with what started out as a thrill. One armed robbery of a convenience store or sandwich shop led to a whole string of them. It all unraveled when one shot himself in the groin after he stuffed the handgun into his pants during the getaway. My thought at the time is that their case should be handled by the tribal elders, not the criminal justice system. If anything, we needed to resocialize these boys into men who could actually see a human being (someone else’s family member and loved one) on the other side of that counter. And today I’d say that tribal elders would be able to do a better job, and a whole lot quicker and cheaper, with the entire Anthony family. Except we don’t have tribal elders anymore. In Perry Mason episodes, trial by jury seems infallibly superior to tribal elders. In real life, it’s far, far different.

        • PeteL.

          That female juror made an interesting point. She said that they followed to a T the rules of the law. That the judges instructions wouldn’t allow them to put Casey Anthony to death. HUGE PROBLEM THERE… The jury isn’t supposed to consider the punishment that would be doled out, but they did consider that in their decision to find her not guilty. So they weren’t following the law like they claim. What a horrible miscarriage of justice.

          And the whole tribal thing is a fallacy. Tribal leaders I have dealt with are just as human and make huge subjective mistakes as the rest of us. Matter of fact, I know a certain tribal council in the Arizona area that has abused it’s power and goes so far as to intimidate it’s own people so they don’t rock the boat. And when something threatens the perception of their particular tribe, then they decide to protect their own. Even though their own have done an incredible wrong. It is just as subjective as anything else.

    • beverly

      He looked down and sighed because he had already heard the accusations and had to be careful not to show his anger. The judge had already warned EVERYONE about ANY “body language” displays. George demonstrated restraint, hurt, and embarrassment. Casey Anthony destroyed her family!

  • I hesitate to post this, because it seems as if I am nitpicking. But you said that her looks were a factor in her getting found not guilty, and I take issue with that, for many reasons:

    1. She really is not pretty. I say that not as a guy who thinks it’s his place to rate women by their looks. But you brought it up.

    2. You said the same thing about why Sarah Palin has a fan base. I see no evidence of her looks factoring into why people like her. The people I know who are Sarah fans agreed with her positions before anyone ever heard of her. She’s saying what they already believe. That’s why they like her.

    3. Most important: I really don’t like it when I see someone assign blame to why someone thinks the way they do. this is wrong when someone say democrats want to practice mind-control on schoolchildren, and it’s wrong to say, without proof, what motivates people. I wrote a piece about this a couple weeks ago when I saw three different accusations of people using the lazy fallback accusation of fear, all in a span of a couple of days.
    Karen, people are complex, and their reasons for thinking a certain thing, or taking a particular position, are complex. I have at least 20 or 30 reasons I love my wife, but I don’t think I could verbalize it. Even if I could, I’d be very skeptical of someone else who said they could provide a reason why I love her. And if they boiled it down to one reason, then I’d know they were off-base.
    I haven’t watched the jurors or heard them defend themselves, but I highly doubt they were thinking about the defendant’s good looks, skin color, or anything else. But if those things did come to play in their decision, I’d suggest to you that they (looks and race) were, at most, 2 of maybe 50 things they thought about and weighed in their heads.
    Of course, that’s a guess. I don’t know, and I’m not willing to say I know for sure what they were thinking. And I am not sure that any of us should convince ourselves we know what they were thinking.

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      I’m not going to take the political bait you’ve offered here.
      But I will say this — as someone who has covered courts and spent a good deal of time looking at the stats — the reality is that jurors are less likely to convict women over men. They are even more reluctant to do so when the woman is the least bit attractive. If she is white, she has another advantage. And if she is a mother, even another.
      There has been a change in convictions of women since 2008 but that is primarily attributed to the meth problem nationwide.

      • milroyboy

        This is not the first time atrocities committed by women get a wink and a pass in the court system. “Mommy dearest” is sitting on the top of the heap of human rights now, whether they choose to off their kids, take out a contract to kill their husband, or simply take the law into their own hands and disfigure a guy while the ya-ya sisterhood stands up and blindly applauds because she has the guts to do so. Well ladies, you have your wish. You have reached a point where your sociopaths are as diabolical as the male version, with one difference. We catch ours, we lock ’em up and juice em. We catch yours, we give ’em national coverage and then send them on their merry way. Will this woman even be required to register as a child abuser? My gut instinct says no.

  • Karen, I’ll defer to your experience as a crime beat reporter. Statistically, you clearly have a point. But the bottom line is your assigning a motive (to the jurors, that is) without knowing what this group of 12 people was thinking. Can you see where I’m coming from?
    And I wasn’t offering you political bait, I promise. I don’t even like Palin. Or more correctly, I don’t think she’s presidential material. But you brought up Casey’s looks here and SP’s looks back then, saying in both cases that those looks were the reason why some people thought the way they do. And point is, you are free to think so, but you can’t really know.

    • Karen Spears Zacharias


      We live in a celebrity culture. Looks matter.

      How else do you explain the frenzy around this trial? Children die everyday in this country. Murdered.

      Why aren’t we paying attention to all those others?

      Casey Anthony is salacious & seductive.

      That’s what has created the cattle drive of media to this case.

      Like it or not, if Caylee Anthony were the black child of a single mom, she wouldn’t even be featured on page 3 of the Daily news.

      • MatthewS

        Like it or not, if Caylee Anthony were the black child of a single mom, she wouldn’t even be featured on page 3 of the Daily news.

        That is a real shame.

        I don’t know that Postman was 100% correct but I think this is the sort of thing he was prophesying.

        I must be 1 of about 5 Americans who didn’t follow this one, LOL. A quick scan of stories yesterday and one of the first things I saw was that she had been in a “hot body” contest during that incomprehensible 31 days.

        Hot bodies make good video and good video makes the news.

  • Josh T.

    I’ve been thinking that the main reason they did not convict her was primarily the fact that we live in a CSI-saturated culture. The idea that all crimes always have crystal clear evidence is ingrained into people’s minds from an early age now. I have heard about this effect on juries at various times in the past several years, though I don’t remember the context.

    But I think you’re “beauty” argument makes a lot of sense as well. Perhaps it’s a mix of both.

  • “How else do you explain”
    That’s my point. I can’t explain why the jury acquitted. So I don’t try.

    As for Cssey being salacious and seductive, all I can say is that you and I have very different tastes in women, Karen. 😉

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      See Gary’s note below about how they lowered Casey’s chair to make her look smaller, how they stripped her of makeup and dressed her is old-fashioned frilly blouses, the sort attire she would never typically wear. Or do a google search of Casey Anthony on Images. You’ll get a fuller picture of what I’m talking about.

  • Well, she got 4 years, so that’s some consolation to those who disagree with the jury’s decision. It’s not what you wanted, but then again, it’s not probation.

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      Keep in mind we are talking about the murder of a 3-year-old.

      • I was trying to offer some consolation to you. However, since I posted that, it appears she won’t do much more time than she already has.

        • Karen Spears Zacharias

          I know. I understand. I just don’t think when it comes to a child’s murder I don’t think there ought to be consolation. I don’t even like the word in reference to child murder.

    • milroyboy

      The woman will not be required to register as a child abuser. So she will be free to teach kindergarten children and if the mood strikes, she’ll off… er… take the child over to Daddy’s pool and repeat history…

  • Karen, the defense’s use of smoke and mirrors in this case was the best I’ve seen since some of the parties my brother and sister used to throw in the 70s. I totally agree with your statement of looks playing a factor. Every little detail of how Casey appeared in the courtroom before the jury was staged – from the lowered seating next to her attorneys to make her appear smaller and more innocent to the clean, make-up free appearance. I also feel the CSI television crime factor came into play. These people on juries are used to seeing solid proof (like a video or dna evidence) wrapped up neatly in a package and presented within a 60 minute time frame. A lot of prosecutors are blaming this factor for poor jury performance. It’s a sad miscarriage of justice in our society. The fact that this case was even uplifted in the media and pounced on was based on her looks. Fact is – there are 140 + other cases of child murder in Orange County FL under investigation. How many of those are being followed under a microscope by the national media?

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      Tim has been a proponent for professional juries. When he first told me that, years ago, I thought he was crazy. But now that I’ve spent time in courtrooms, served myself as a jury foreman on an animal abuse case,I have come to respect the idea of a professional jury. The problem is that people do, as you note, want the hard evidence like they see on CSI (as Matt mentioned). I really agree that this jury just wanted to go home. They could not possibly in that short time have carefully weighed the evidence. They made a gut decision — not a reasoned one. I’ve seen way too many real cases — I don’t watch CSI — and I know for a fact that when it comes to serving children they often get the short-end of the stick in courtrooms. This jury forgot about the voice silenced. And Baez? Heck, I’ve dealt with defense attorneys for years. Some of the best in the state. Baez is lying to himself. That’s why he motioned for a mistrial. Why he says now that Casey needs some counseling. Really?
      You think a woman who murders her child and doesn’t report her daughter missing for 31 days needs help?
      Here’s the logic issue the jury didn’t resolve —

      – They find her guilty for lying to cops on all four counts.
      – Yet, they don’t address to answer the question: What would cause her to lie? (Answer to be found in careful consideration of evidence.)

      In Karly’s case, the jury found her killer guilty of torture but not capital murder, because they said they didn’t believe her killer meant to kill her.

      • Yeah, they totally wanted to be done with it! Personally, I don’t think Casey will last in her freedom. I predict that within 5 years she will either be back in jail or dead. My heart breaks for Karly’s family…

  • I am offering this only in the interest of answering your question of what the jury was thinking. Despite my arguments with you, I do partially agree. That is, I agree the media chooses which stories should get coverage and which don’t. And I agree that the evidence I saw or read about makes it clear she most likely did kill her child.

    But here are the jury’s answers to your question: http://news.blogs.cnn.com/2011/07/07/tearful-anthony-jurors-ask-prosecutors-where-was-the-evidence/

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      Yes, I saw this juror interviewed and I can assure you that if they made their decision in 10 hours they didn’t even begin to review the evidence of the case. They formed opinions — negative ones — about Casey’s father based on a totally unsubstantiated allegation by the defense that her father molested her. And that helped shape their notion that perhaps Caylee did drown in the family pool and he covered it up. Talk about lack of logic. Why do you make an accidental drowning look like a murder? Who does that?

  • Makes me think of the movie, Chicago, which so entertainingly showed what a farce justice can be in our country, if fame is a factor.

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      Good point Joetta.

  • I’m so with you on this one, Karen. The amount of time spent deliberating was a joke and therefore their judgement of the case is a joke to anyone who paid even limited attention to the evidence presented in this trial. I agree that her “salacious” ways sucked the media into this story.

    I look forward to reading your book. I knew you were working on a crime story of some kind but didn’t know you had a personal connection to the people involved. I hope Kaylee’s story will eventually be told by someone like you who will tell the truth in love. She deserves that.

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      Thanks Lori.

  • Here’s to hoping that your Karly story will open the eyes of many people that see children at risk and move to help.

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      Appreciate the sentiments and prayers, friend.

  • Thank you for your thoughts. As always, you speak the truth and speak for the victim. I can’t wait to read your book about Karly !

  • william

    1) can you point to one piece of research that backs up your assertion that people believe pretty people more then not -so-pretty people?

    2) let’s say you’re right. research does indicate that they do get preferential treatment in some cases. She didn’t testify, so I’d have to say thats a big reason to disagree with your assertion here. She gave no testimony, said nothing, did nothing, except sit there. I’d be reallll hard pressed to believe that this jury looked at everything and the one thing that convinced them was that they looked at her and said “boy, ain’t she purty?” If anything, i think that her looks would’ve worked against her in this case. it worked to the prosecutions ides that she was young, wanted out of being a parent, and she was partying a few weeks later. So, sorry this doesn’t add up as an explantion.

  • I will turn my back on anything adn every little thing that has her name or even a slight hint that she could profit from….I will bear in mind Caylee and I will not forget her nor will I forget who Casey is …a murderer of a child …HER OWN CHILD..

  • Ashley W

    Casey Anthony put this Jury on a rollarcoaster ride of lies and the media magnified it for us all to gawk at like mindless drones!! This is sad that the case presented found her in a chair being sentences to death!!! WHat? Really?? The jurors were not going to sit in those chairs and say yes we are making the decision to put her to death!!! Noone wants that responsibility on their shoulders for the rest of their lives as the world goes on and things change and the world sees things in a different light. Such as why did we not make a stand at the questions being asked and not asked and the jurors ability to understand there’s a difference between what it feels like then what it is! Our entire Justice system is in need of reformation so badly!!!! I wish people could open their eye’s. Of course I neither want to find Casey Anthony Guilty and summoned to the Death Penalty as she awaits her fate on death row! Who would?? I can’t fathom taking in the media coverage 24/7 and making this decision at the same time. And taking in the antic’s in the courtroom at the same time! what??!! This world is falling faster and faster into the depths of hell. We have to change and remember a time long ago, that feeling you get when you ponder the meaning of life. I want people to wake up inside and see the truth before us and the devils behind the curtain peeping at us so noticeably! They tell us what to feel and we do and we listen without question as if they are God. I don’t want to even watch T.V. or get online anymore just because of the obsessions it creates. It has to stop, we have the strength if we look up and yearn for God and follow the life that Jesus would want us to follow, to remember. I hope people wake up and I hope they do soon. I don’t want anyone to go to hell. That’s the truth.