Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Casey Anthony: The First"Trial of the Century"of the Social-Media Age

The Casey Anthony trial will be remembered as the first “Trial of the Century” for the social-media age. In the summer of 2008, Casey Anthony, a single mother from Orlando, Florida, was accused of murdering her two-year-old daughter, Caylee, after failing to report that she had been missing for 31 days. After the skeletal remains of Caylee Anthony were discovered in a wooded area near Casey Anthony’s home, prosecutors indicted Anthony on first-degree murder charges (as well as lesser charges) and sought the death penalty.
The murder trial began on May 24, 2011, captivating audiences across the globe as viewers became intrigued with details sensationalized through social-media websites and such television news programs as "Nancy Grace." Prosecutors argued that Casey Anthony murdered her two-year-old child to allow more opportunity for her to live a free lifestyle of partying. In fact, Anthony had partied consistently during the 31 days when her daughter was missing. Prosecutors also used forensic evidence to argue that the trunk of Casey Anthony’s automobile had contained chemicals and hair roots consistent with the decomposition of human remains. In addition, Anthony had allegedly searched a home computer for information about “chloroform,” “neck breaking,” and “death.”

While a large majority of the case's followers were convinced of Casey Anthony’s guilt and discussed it publicly via social media, a jury of seven women and five men nonetheless acquitted Anthony of the more serious charges on July 5, 2011. Anthony was found not guilty of first-degree murder, aggravated manslaughter, and aggravated child abuse but she was convicted on four misdemeanor counts of lying to law enforcement. While the jurors believed that Anthony was somehow involved in the death of her daughter, they maintained that the prosecution’s case lacked direct evidence that a murder had been committed. Judge Belvin Perry, who presided over the trial, sentenced Casey Anthony to four years in jail and $4,000 in fines for the misdemeanor convictions. However, Anthony was awarded three years credit for time served as well as further credit for good behavior and was released from prison on Sunday, July 17, 2011.

—Dr. Scott P. Johnson


Dr. Scott P. Johnson's Trials of the Century: An Encyclopedia of Popular Culture and the Law explores five centuries of legal history by examining famous murder trials as well as historic trials that changed the political, legal, religious, social, and racial landscape of America from the 1690s through today.

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