US mother cleared of toddler murder
Mother Casey Anthony has been found not guilty of killing her two-year-old daughter in a case that captivated the US as it played out on national television from the moment the toddler was reported missing three years ago.
Anthony, 25, wept as the judge read the verdict, which jurors reached after less than 11 hours of deliberation over two days. She was charged with first-degree murder, which could have brought the death penalty if she had been convicted.
Instead, she was convicted of only four counts of lying to investigators looking into the June 2008 disappearance of her daughter Caylee. Her body was found in the woods six months later and a medical examiner was never able to determine how she died.
She will be sentenced by the judge in Orlando, Florida, on Thursday and could receive up to a year in jail for each lying count.
Anthony's lawyers claimed that the toddler drowned accidentally in the family swimming pool, and that her seemingly carefree mother in fact was hiding emotional distress caused by sexual abuse from her father.
Prosecutors contended that Caylee was suffocated with duct tape by a mother who loved to party, tattooed herself with the Italian words for "beautiful life" in the month her daughter was missing and crafted elaborate lies to mislead everyone from investigators to her own parents.
Captivated observers camped outside the courthouse to jockey for coveted seats in the courtroom gallery, which occasionally led to fights among those desperate to watch the drama unfold.
Anthony did not take the stand during the trial, which started in mid-May. Because the case got so much media attention in Orlando, jurors were brought in from the Tampa Bay area and sequestered for the entire trial.
Anthony's lawyer, Jose Baez, conceded that his client had told elaborate lies and invented imaginary friends and even a fake father for Caylee, but he said that does not mean she killed her daughter.
"They throw enough against the wall and see what sticks," Baez said of prosecutors during closing arguments. "That is what they're doing ... right down to the cause of death."