The Casey Anthony "not-guilty" verdict: Why it was right—even though it feels wrong

Corey Stroud prays at a Caylee Anthony memorial in Orlando, Florida, on Wednesday. (AP Photo: Alan Diaz)Corey Stroud prays at a Caylee Anthony memorial in Orlando, Florida, on Wednesday. (AP Photo: Alan Diaz)When a Florida jury declared Casey Anthony not guilty of her daughter Caylee's murder yesterday, people across the country, especially horrified parents, reacted with shock-and anger.

"I walk away from this case with just dissatisfaction with every side," Anthony's former fiance, Jesse Grund, told Nancy Grace on Headline News. "I'm angry tonight with the defense and their lack of tact by having a champagne toast right across the street from the courthouse. ... [Caylee] is never coming back, and nobody sought out the truth in this. This was all about winning. This was never about the truth."

Florida's policy of allowing cameras in the courtroom turned the case into a very high-profile one, and made it easy for viewers to become emotionally invested in it. As the verdict was read yesterday, crowds outside were stunned. Some cried and screamed, "Oh my God!" Others chanted, "We want justice" and "Justice for Caylee!"

The outrage over the death of a little girl is understandable (to say the least), but it's easy to forget that Casey Anthony wasn't on trial for knowing what happened to her 2-year-old daughter. She was on trial for premeditated murder. And though there was plenty of logical, circumstantial evidence that pointed to her guilt, there was no concrete, forensic evidence that tied her to the crime. To put it another way: In spite of the phone calls, the diary entries, the lies, the non-existent nanny, the duct tape on the body, the computer searches for chloroform, and the evidence found in Anthony's car, the prosecution couldn't prove that Anthony was the one who killed Caylee, or that she wasn't instead covering up for the person who did.

So Anthony was convicted, not of murder or child abuse or neglect, but of four counts of lying to law enforcement. Since the maximum penalty for that misdemeanor is a year in jail for each count, and she's already been in jail since 2008, Anthony may be sentenced to time served-which means she could walk away from this a free woman instead of facing life in prison or the death penalty. And that may be part of what people are most upset about.

Marcia Clark, the lead prosecutor in the O.J. Simpson case (to which Anthony's trial has been compared so many times), wrote at The Daily Beast that the Anthony verdict was "far more shocking."

"Those lies were-most people agreed (myself included)-the proverbial noose around her neck," Clark writes. "What mother sees that her child has drowned in the pool and not only fails to call 911, but then duct tapes her mouth and nose, hides the body in the trunk for days, and then dumps it in the woods? And then goes out to party and lies for a whopping 31 days about where the baby is? Who but a killer mother does that?"

There's a difference between "reasonable doubt" and "a reason to doubt," Clark writes, adding that it's easy to confuse the two. That's what some think happened in the O.J. trial, she says, and perhaps that's the case here as well. (Jurors in the Anthony trial have not issued statements to the media, though one juror has said that he's willing to talk for a five-figure price.)

The attorney representing Casey's parents, George and Cindy Anthony, and her brother, Lee Anthony, issued a statement Tuesday, asking for time to reflect on the verdict. "While the family may never know what has happened to Caylee Marie Anthony, they now have closure for this chapter of their life. They will now begin the long process of rebuilding their lives," the statement read. "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."

Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. reportedly once said: "This is a court of law, not a court of justice." But what it all may come down to, for us on the sidelines, is the difference between law and logic-and the fact that it's difficult to digest a ruling that may be technically right but feels so very wrong.

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