The murder trial Florida vs. Casey Marie Anthony turned into a national sensation because of the alleged attempt by 25-year-old Casey Anthony to cover up the murder of her own 2-year-old daughter, Caylee Anthony (Alvarez, 2011). On July 5, 2011, after nearly six weeks of courtroom testimony and just 11 hours of deliberation, the jury found Casey Anthony not guilty. The prosecution's failure to convince the jury of her guilt was widely perceived to be the result of the circumstantial nature of the evidence presented at trial.
Casey Anthony had initially blamed the disappearance of her daughter on a kidnapping by a babysitter called Zenaida Herndandez-Gonzalez (Lohr, n.d.), but a series of lies, a month-long delay before contacting the police, a nonexistent babysitter with that name, and reports of partying since her daughter went missing, helped the prosecution cast Casey as a mother capable killing her own daughter so that she could return to a life of partying (Times Topics, 2011). The prosecution alleged that Casey taped Caylee's mouth closed with duct tape, killed her with chloroform, and then buried her body in the woods (Colarossi, 2011).
Caylee's Murder Investigation
Caylee met her tragic fate on or around June 16, 2008. Testimony by Casey's father, George Anthony, suggested Caylee was last seen leaving with Casey with backpacks on. Telephone records indicated that later in the day Casey made a flurry of phone calls to family and friends that lasted for about four hours (Lohr, n.d.). The next day the name of the alleged babysitter appears on a visitor's card at Casey's apartment complex. Two days after the last sighting by the father, Casey borrowed a shovel from a neighbor and backs her car up to her parent's garage. For the next two days Casey is seen hanging out at a club in Orlando. A month later, on July 15, 2008, Casey's mother makes three 911 calls asking that her daughter be arrested for stealing money and a car. During the last 911 call the mother claims that the trunk of her daughter's car smells like a dead body had been stored there and she believes her granddaughter is missing.
Over the next five months the investigation centers on a forensic analysis of the car's trunk and an analysis of the air in the trunk confirms the trunk at one time held decomposing human remains (Lohr, n.d.). Trace evidence from the car also revealed that Caylee was deceased (Lohr, n.d.). A Florida grand jury eventually hands down a 7-count indictment against Casey Anthony on October 14, 2008, alleging Casey is guilty of first degree murder, aggravated child abuse, aggravated manslaughter of a child, and four counts of providing false information to the police. Two months later, on December 11, a utility worker finds the remains of a small child and eight days later the coroner confirms that it is Caylee Anthony.
Who is Casey Anthony
What captivated the public was the demonization of Casey by the prosecution as a cold-hearted mother intent on getting rid of Caylee so she could resume her life as a party girl (Colarossi, 2011). It didn't help any that all the lying and fumbling by the defendant, and her family, was perceived by many as a sign of either stupidity or guilt, or both. As a result, the case turned into a national spectacle resembling a Shakespearean play.
HLN, formerly called Headline News, stood out from the media crowd by both assuming that Casey Anthony was guilty and then covering the investigation and trial as though it was reality TV (Shelter, 2011). When the channel's main protagonist Nancy Grace signed off for the night she would state "seeking justice for Caylee." This sentiment actually became the channel's logo. Grace would routinely refer to Casey as the "tot mom" and "callous party girl," which only fed into the sensationalism surrounding the trial. This 'journalistic' approach was obviously self-serving and encouraged by the executive in charge of HLN, Scot Safon. He would tell his staff to treat the trial as a "bigger story," complete with family dynamics, personal choices, and attempts to cover-up misdeeds. The public rewarded these efforts as the number of primetime viewers almost tripled in the months leading up to the trial. It truly is hard not to equate this behavior with the carnival atmosphere that would surround executions in ancient England or hangings in the American…