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Analyzing a Homicide: The Case of Casey Anthony.

The Casey Marie Anthony trial is among the first court cases to integrate social media as an extension of the court of public opinion (Moran, 44). In 20008, the then 22-year-old Casey Anthony was charged with first-degree homicide for the alleged homicide of her 2-year-old daughter Caylee Marie Anthony (Moran, 44). The case received national attention through extensive press coverage and social media discussions. Though the case began in 2011, different media platforms heavily discussed the specifics, making crucial information public before the jury selection process began (Moran, 44). The abundant information circulating in the media and on the court of public opinion raised questions of whether the jury would be effectively sheltered from interacting with the materials and if Casey would receive a fair trial (Moran, 44). The case shows how media and social media platforms that thrive on freedom of expression hinder a person’s right to a fair trial.

Case Summary.

At 19 years old, Casey gave birth to her daughter, Caylee. The child’s father had not been publicly identified during the trial. Casey was arrested for lying to authorities, child neglect, and obstruction of an active investigation. She is later charged with the murder of her daughter after evidence suggests that her vehicle had previously handled a human corpse. In 2011, she was arraigned in court, and the trial began after the jury was selected. The prosecution and the defense present their arguments and counterarguments. After deliberation, the jury acquits Casey, and the court charges her several fines and a sentence of four years. However, she ends up serving just one after the judge determined that the jail time she served previously counted as part of the science. According to (Hough et al., 230), prosecutors produced hundreds of evidence pieces during the trial that law enforcement agents secured during the investigation, including computer searches on various questionable searches by the defendant, including how to make chloroform and break someone’s neck. The prosecution also presented forensic and DNA evidence, including a strand of her daughter’s hair found in Anthony’s car trunk (Hough et al., 230). However, the DNA evidence was considered inconclusive in determining the connection between Casey and the murder. Failing to meet the beyond reasonable doubt criteria for murder cases created an avenue for the judge and jury to rule in favor of Casey, and she was acquitted of the crime.

Motives and Origin.

The motives of the crime and Casey’s part in the crime are hard to decipher as all the evidence presented in court, on which the prosecution based their arguments, was forensic. Motives in criminology are what drive a person to commit a crime. In Casey’s case, defining the motive is difficult as the case was treated as a forensic inquiry. However, circumstantial evidence and information from the media suggest Casey murdered to liberate herself from the responsibility of motherhood. Several stakeholders suggest that Casey acted unmotherly afterward, engaging in parties and showcasing an apathetic attitude. Evidence from cyber probes also showed the possibility of premeditation (Hough et al., 233). Unmotherly behavior made Casey apathetic, and the court of public opinion used it as grounds to pass their judgment. For instance, according to (Moran, 53), a cybersecurity probe into Casey’s laptop revealed searches on making chloroform and self-defense. Such searches show that Casey might have the intent to murder her daughter, with the prosecution also utilizing the searches as grounds to suggest premeditation. The defense also used forensics to dispute alternative narratives that Casey and her father tried to cover up the child’s drowning in the family pool, arguing that the scientific evidence presented by the state was inconsistent. In first-degree murder cases, prosecutors must establish the aspect of premeditation, relying on circumstantial evidence to show that a suspect’s undertaking before the crime proves planning. Premeditation is an aspect juries ponder on to influence their final verdicts. In Casey’s case, the circumstantial evidence was not deliberate enough to convince the jury and the judge that she actively planned the demise of her daughter.

Circumstances of the Homicide.

The circumstances of a crime refer to the suspects’ actions or the facilitating of the occurrence of the crime. Casey’s actions lack enough context to highlight specific indicators of the relevant circumstance that facilitated the crime (Moran, 52). However, Casey consistently showcased that she was a habitual liar by telling multiple lies. She lied to the police about her whereabouts and was also a habitual liar, duping friends into babysitting Caylee while she was out partying (Moran, 52). She also lied about the possibility of an imaginary babysitter kidnapping Caylee when probed about her whereabouts. Casey also lied to the police about her place of employment. Casey was arrested and charged with providing misleading information to authorities, child neglect, and obstructing police investigations. Therefore, it is evident that Casey had a predisposition to lying that made her mislead authorities. Her tendency to lie contextualizes her arrest and subsequent actions of misleading authorities (Hough et al., 235). However, finding the circumstances that led to Caylee’s death and Casey’s involvement is difficult as the evidence provided is subjective and circumstantial. For instance, many witnesses suggest that she did not act motherly toward Caylee by enlisting friends under pretenses to babysit her while she went partying. The circumstances of the case prove Casey is a deceptive person but do not showcase her as a murderer or highlight personality flaws that would intrinsically establish her as a criminal. Juries require proof of criminality in preference to a history of poor behavior when passing a guilty verdict (Moran, 52). Therefore, the circumstance of the crime could not be a significant consideration to associate Casey with the murder of her daughter.

The Present Outcome.

The jury acquitted Casey. The inconclusive DNA evidence informed the acquittal on the strands of hair presented by the prosecution. According to (Hough et al., 235), the prosecution’s admission of forensic and DNA evidence included a strand of her daughter’s hair found in her vehicle’s car trunk exhibiting decomposition and high levels of chloroform. Though the DNA evidence collected was enough to identify the hair as human hair, the decomposition and exposure to chloroform deteriorated the genetic materials that they could not conclusively determine that it belonged to the young Anthony. An FBI exported testifying in the case determined that the decomposition was a significant consideration as the science was still evolving. DNA evidence forms the basis of the jury’s decision (Hough et al., 230-235), which establishes that juries are influenced by the presence of DNA evidence in homicide cases as DNA evidence is viewed as significant. However, the jurors should consider the collection, storage, and analysis process as they are critical to the integrity of DNA evidence. After deliberation, the jury acquitted Casey, and the judge ruled in favor of the defendant, fining her a $4,000 fine and four years imprisonment, of which Casey had already served three years for misleading law enforcement (Moran, 45). The jury’s decision and the judge’s ruling parked several protests outside the court premises and online platforms calling for justice for Caylee. Casey was released from Orange County jail in 2011, where she was met with protestors disputing the ruling (Moran, 45). The court of public opinion felt that Casey received a lighter sentence for the crime as they believed most of the evidence points to Casey as the murderer.

Known Legal Situation.

Known legal situations refer to familiarity with the legal implications of one’s actions. There are several instances where one is expected by law to behave in a certain way. In Casey’s case, there are several instances where she should have known that she was breaking the law (Hough et al., 230). For instance, when giving police false information, Casey willingly and knowingly breaks the law. She disagrees with the implications of her action in giving false information regarding her daughter’s whereabouts. According to (Moran, 55), Casey was acquitted of wrongdoing. However, she served a one-year jail sentence and paid $ 1,000 for the four demeanors leveled against her. Casey must also reimburse the sheriff’s office $ 213,000 for the search of Caylee Anthony and all other costs incurred during the investigation and subsequent court proceedings. The ruling was unpopular among the general public, who felt Casey was given an easy sentence and deserved more punishment. The ruling, however, adhered to the law and especially the legal framework of proof beyond reasonable doubt. There were numerous instances in the case where there were logical explanations that would suggest Casey was not involved in the murder. For instance, the hair strands on the car trunk had viable DNA to show they belonged to humans, but there was no way to determine they belonged to Casey’s daughter (Hough et al., 230).

vii. Implications and Lessons from Case.

There are numerous takeaways from analyzing the case. The primary takeaway is the power and influence of the “beyond reasonable doubt” concept in homicide cases. In homicide cases, both the prosecution and the defendants center their argument around the idea, with the trial burdened with proving the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Utilizing the concept implies that there should be no logical leeway that stains any evidence presented before the court. According to (Hough et al., 230), the prosecutor conducts an assessment to determine the potential of the case to succeed in court or not, and if they have any doubts about securing the reasonable doubt, they may use discretion to dismiss charges. Proving a murder case beyond a reasonable doubt is essential as it ensures suspects get a fair trial and the prosecutor provides tangible evidence to secure a conviction from the court. However, when analyzing the court case and appreciating the disparity between the jury’s ruling and the court of public opinion’s sentiment, it becomes apparent that the concept may lead to the passing of unfavorable rulings (Hough et al., 230). The court of public opinion found Casey guilty of the crime, while the jury’s verdict was that Casey was innocent. Proving cases beyond reasonable doubt can also create avenues where guilty individuals evade any form of punishment and justice from the judicial system, as their cases may lack the necessary evidence to prove their crimes beyond reasonable doubt. The takeaway is that facilitating the practical doubt concept creates avenues that can promote criminals evading punishment even though it ensures every suspect receives a fair trial.

viii. Conclusion.

In conclusion, the judge’s ruling and the jury’s verdict to acquit Casey Anthony was an unpopular decision in the court of public opinion. However, when analyzing the case, it becomes apparent that the ruling was fair as the prosecution could not prove beyond reasonable doubt that Casey was the murderer. The one sentence is also fair as she had already served time behind bars. The case showed how sometimes justified rulings may be unpopular in the court of public opinion, especially in the age of social media. However, sticking to the book and ruling justly at times may create leeway that facilitates the evasion of justice by criminals.

Work Cited.

Hough, Richard M., and Kimberly D. McCorkle. American Homicide. 2016. 2nd ed., SAGE Publications, 2019.

Moran, Riley. “Casey Anthony and the social media trial.” Women Leading Change: Case Studies on Women, Gender, and Feminism 4.1 (2019).


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