The facts of the case were as awful as they were compelling: A little girl reported missing by her grandmother and found dead months later. A young mother accused of murder who sat silently behind the defendant’s table as prosecutors described her partying lifestyle.
And its conclusion came swiftly. With the seven-week trial in session during the holiday weekend, the Casey Anthony jury got the case Monday — and reached a verdict Tuesday after deliberating for less than 11 hours.
Jurors acquitted Anthony of first-degree murder in the 2008 death of her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee, as well as aggravated manslaughter and aggravated child abuse. She was convicted of four counts of providing false information to a law enforcement officer.
Anthony will be sentenced Thursday and faces up to four years in prison. But she could be released that day if she receives less than the maximum sentence and credit for time served. She could have faced the death penalty if convicted of murder.
Anthony, 25, wept after the clerk read the verdict. As soon as jurors left the courtroom, she tightly hugged defense lawyer Jose Baez, then the rest of her defense team.
“Casey did not murder Caylee; it’s just that simple,” Baez said.
Prosecutors sat solemnly in their seats, looking stunned. Prosecutor Jeff Ashton shook his head slightly from side to side.
Across the room, Anthony’s father, George, wiped away tears. Without speaking to Anthony, he and his wife left the courtroom escorted by police while the judge thanked the jury.
“While the family may never know what has happened to Caylee Marie Anthony, they now have closure for this chapter of their life,” the elder Anthonys said in a statement. “They will now begin the long process of rebuilding their lives.”
Defense lawyer Cheney Mason lashed out at the media and legal pundits who have been following the case since 2008.
“I hope that this is a lesson to those of you that have indulged in media assassination the last three years,” Mason said at a news conference.
Caylee disappeared in June 2008, and her grandmother reported her missing a month later. Her decomposed body was found that December in woods near the Anthony home. Duct tape was on the remains, but the coroner could not determine a cause of death.
Prosecutors contended that Caylee was suffocated with duct tape by a mother who loved to party. They said Anthony tattooed herself with the Italian words for “beautiful life” in the month her daughter was missing and crafted elaborate lies to mislead everyone, including her own parents. When Cindy Anthony asked where her granddaughter was, Casey Anthony said she had been taken by a babysitter — who proved to be nonexistent.
Anthony’s lawyers contended that the toddler accidentally drowned in the family pool, and that her seemingly carefree mother in fact was hiding emotional distress caused by sexual abuse from her father, an allegation he denied.
Anthony did not testify.
The jurors — seven women, five men — declined to talk to the media, and the judge ordered their identities kept secret.
Because of the intense media attention in Orlando, jurors were brought in from the Tampa Bay area and sequestered for the trial, which began May 24.