Casey Anthony Trial: Not Guilty Murder Verdict

Verdict comes after six weeks of riveting testimony in Orlando courtroom.

July 3, 2011, 11:02 AM

ORLANDO, Fla. July 5, 2011— -- Casey Anthony has been found not guilty of murdering her 2-year-old daughter Caylee. The jury declined to convict her of either first degree murder or manslaughter.

Instead, the jurors found Casey Anthony guilty on four counts of providing false information to law enforcement, which are misdemeanors. It's possible she could be released from prison later this week.

Clutching the hand of her defense attorney Jose Baez, Casey Anthony began to sob as the verdict was read. The rest of her defense team stood beside her, also clutching hands. She thanked Baez as she was swarmed by the defense team.

Her parents, Cindy and George Anthony, left the courtroom as Judge Belvin Perry read further instructions to the jury and did not approach their daughter.

They later released a statement saying, "Despite the baseless defense chosen by Casey Anthony, the family believes that the Jury made a fair decision based on the evidence presented, the testimony presented, the scientific information presented and the rules that were given to them by the Honorable Judge Perry to guide them."

Full Statement by George and Cindy Anthony

The jury, comprised of seven women and five men, declined to talk to the media following the verdict.

Casey Anthony, who sat grim faced throughout the six weeks of testimony, beamed happily as she was fingerprinted in the courtroom for her misdemeanor convictions.

Sentencing on the guilty counts will be held on 9 a.m. Thursday. The maximum sentence applicable in this case is four years, but having already served two and a half years behind bars, Casey Anthony stands to serve one and a half years.

Updated Evidence Photos of Casey Anthony Murder Trial

It is also possible that Judge Belvin Perry rules that Casey Anthony could serve the years concurrently, which would set her free. Casey Anthony could be let out on bail before her Thursday sentencing if the defense asks for it and the judge agrees.

In a press conference after the verdict, defense attorney Cheney Mason railed at the media for their wall-to-wall coverage of the trial, remarking that it was "media assassination" filled with "bias and prejudice and incompetent talking heads."

In a more tempered statement, Baez said, "While we're happy for Casey, there are no winners in this case. Caylee has passed on far, far too soon."

"What my driving force has been for the past three years has been always to make sure that there has been justice for Caylee and Casey because Casey did not murder Caylee. It's that simple," said Baez. "And today, our system of justice has not dishonored her memory by a false conviction."

"I'm very happy for Casey, I'm ecstatic for her and I want her to be able to grieve and grow and somehow get life back together," said Baez.

Prosecutor Jeff Ashton, who had entered the courtroom to roaring applause, sat shaking his head after the verdict. Ashton declined to speak after the trial, but the state attorney's office announced that Ashton had promptly retired.

Outside the courtroom, spectators screamed "Lord!" as the learned of the not guilty ruling. People comforted each other and cried, one man remarking that Casey Anthony should leave town because she's not welcome in Orlando.

One woman said, "[The verdict] is going to make millions of people think they can get away with killing their child...That isn't a good depiction of what our justice system is like or should be."

Another woman: "I just think it's going to make millions of people think they can get away with killing their child or committing major crimes and getting away with it. This isn't a good depiction of what our justice system is like or should be.

In New York's Times Square, the reaction to the verdict was emotional.

"I'm sick, you know, she killed a little girl," said Susan McDougal. "So she gets off and she goes home and maybe has another baby that she can abuse and hurt."

Law enforcement officials roped off a door where Cindy and George Anthony were expected to exit out of, and bystanders chanted "Appeal! Appeal!" and "justice for Caylee."

Casey Anthony's Shocking Verdict

At the heart of the case was Casey Anthony's fantastic lie that a babysitter named Zenaida, referred to in court as "Zanny the nanny," had stolen Caylee Anthony.

Prosecutors claimed that Casey Anthony killed her daughter by drugging Caylee with chloroform and suffocating her with duct tape over her mouth and nose.

She killed Caylee, prosecutor Jeff Ashton claimed in his closing argument, because Casey Anthony had to choose between her child and "the life she wanted."

"We submit to you the evidence in this case shows that the choice she made was her child," Ashton said.

Lawyers for Casey Anthony, who never took the stand, admitted on the first day of the trial that the 25-year-old single mother had made up a complex web of lies. Defense attorney Jose Baez said that the truth was that Caylee had accidentally drowned in the family pool and instead of reporting her death, Casey "went into a dark corner, to pretend as if nothing was wrong."

Baez said Casey Anthony behaved that way because she had been "trained to lie" through years of sexual abuse by her father. Judge Belvin Perry ruled, however, that there was no evidence that Casey Anthony was abused by her father and ordered that it not be mentioned in closing arguments.

The prosecution was hampered in its case by the fact that Caylee's body, found in a swamp six months after she disappeared, was so badly deteriorated that the medical examiner could not determine exactly how she died. Caylee's cause of death was listed as a "homicide of undetermined means."

Casey Anthony: From Loving Mother to Inmate

Intent on proving duct tape could have killed the toddler, the defense showed the jury a controversial video that showed a smiling Caylee morphing into a skull with duct tape on it.

Prosecutors built a case of circumstantial evidence that documented how Casey Anthony moved in with her boyfriend Tony Lazzaro shortly after Caylee disappeared, partied at clubs, took part in a "hot body" contest, and got the phrase "bella vita" -- or beautiful life -- tattoed on her shoulder in the month after Caylee died and while her mother was pretending she was still alive.

As her lies unraveled, it became apparent that Casey Anthony had created a fictional world in which she made up a job at Universal Studios and a dozen people who were friends, co-workers, lovers, babysitters and even Caylee's playmates.

Jurors watched hours of jailhouse tapes in which Casey Anthony elaborated on her lie about the babysitter, offering extensive details about this fictional nanny.

Much of the case turned on forensic evidence found in the trunk of Casey Anthony's Pontiac Sunfire. Prosecutors brought in experts in the arcane specialty of the smell of death to prove that an odor in the trunk of Casey Anthony's car was that of human decomposition. Casey Anthony's lawyers argued that the foul smell in Casey Anthony's car trunk was from rotting garbage, not a rotting body.

An FBI hair and fiber analyst testified that a lone piece of hair in the trunk belonged to Caylee and showed post-mortem banding, what prosecutors said was proof that a dead body had been in the car.

The prosecution also claimed that Casey Anthony used the family computer to visit a site on how to make chloroform 84 times.

Baez countered by arguing that the state's case was based on untried and unproven forensic theories, what Baez dismissed as "fantasy forensics."

He shocked the courtroom when he called Cindy Anthony, Casey Anthony's mother, to testify in her daughter's defense and take responsibility for some of the chloroform searches. The computer searches were key to the prosecution's claims of premeditated murder, an essential element for first degree murder and the possibility of the death penalty.

When the prosecution attempted to impeach Cindy Anthony's testimony by presenting evidence that she was lying, Baez said in closing arguments, "I told you she was a liar the first day."

The trial exposed supposed secrets of a fractured Anthony family and shocked spectators with allegations of incest and a cover-up. Baez attempted to display a dysfunctional family where lying was rampant.

He played on the emotions of Lee Anthony, Casey Anthony's brother, by having him describe his frustration with his family hiding Casey Anthony's pregnancy with Caylee. He also attempted to cast shadow on Lee Anthony with allegations that he molested his sister.

Baez also attempted to make George Anthony into a villain.

The defense argued that Caylee drowned in the family pool and her body was found by George Anthony, who then helped dispose of Caylee's body. The lawyer contended that George Anthony used his experience as a former police detective to deflect any suspicion away from himself and on to his daughter.

An alleged mistress of George Anthony testified that he described Caylee's disappeareance as an "accident that snowballed out of control." George Anthony denied having an affair with the woman.

A raw George Anthony sobbed about attempting to take his own life in January 2009, weeks after Caylee's remains were discovered. The prosecution attempted to show that it proved George Anthony had nothing to do with his granddaugther's death. The defense used it as proof of the extent of George Anthony's selfishness.

Baez also attempted to inject doubt into the reliability of the evidence on Caylee's body by accusing meter reader Roy Kronk, who found it, of being a "morally bankrupt" person who moved the body and placed it near the Anthony home so he could collect the reward.

When Kronk testified, he told the court he called police several times about what he saw before they succeeded in finding Caylee's skeletal remains.

The testimony wasn't the only thing to shock the courtroom. Verbal sparring between Baez and prosecutor Ashton led to threats by Judge Perry of expulsion from the court and lengthy sidebars.

ABC News' Lauren Pearle and Erin Keohane contributed to this report.

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