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Emotional, unsatisfying ending for many tracking Anthony case

By Greg Botelho, CNN
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Crowd 'shocked' by not guilty verdict
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A jury's acquittal of Casey Anthony for killing her daughter stirs strong reactions
  • At one point on Tuesday, 9 of the top 10 trending topics on Twitter dealt with the case
  • Some following the trial say they're disappointed by unanswered questions
  • Many say they connected with the case because it involved a child's death

(CNN) -- It was up to seven women and five men in an Orlando courtroom to decide the fate of Casey Anthony on Tuesday. But by the time they issued their verdict, tens of thousands more people had made their own decisions on the high-profile case.

The jury's decision to acquit the Orlando mother on charges she had murdered her then-2-year-old daughter Caylee sent shock waves through the legions who have been following the trial in person, on television and online. In a case marked by emotion, intrigue and intense interest, the verdict lived up to its billing -- even as it disappointed the many of those who have been captivated by the Anthony family's drama.

"If she didn't kill her, who did?" said Buddy Frazier, 72, of what he'd ask the jury. "This many people can't be wrong."

The Woodstock, Georgia, resident was one of many whose jaws dropped when they watched the verdict from home, feeling justice was not served. That view was seemingly widespread Tuesday outside the Orange County courthouse, where dozens appeared visibly upset as they loudly decried the verdict.

While not all agreed with it, the decision marked the end of a case that began three years ago, and a trial that began in May. But it has also left many questions unanswered.

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Evelyn Kerr, who believes the jury did the right thing, said that that lingering uncertainty is the toughest thing. Due to rules about "double jeopardy," the state cannot try Casey Anthony again and there's been no indication of other suspects or new evidence to move the case forward again.

"What happened, I don't know," Kerr said, adding that she wasn't sure whether Casey Anthony was innocent but also didn't believe there was enough evidence to convict her. "I want to know what happened to this poor child."

As much as the depth of the emotion, the breadth of the reaction also matched the much-stated assessment that the Casey Anthony case is, thus far, the trial of the 21st century.

At one point, for instance, nine of the top 10 trending topics on Twitter related to the case -- with hash tags that ranged from #notguilty to #shocked. Just over a half-hour after the news came out, CNN.com's story on the topic had more than 5,000 comments.

Several people outside of the courtroom on Tuesday referred to the case as "O.J. Number Two," drawing a parallel with O.J. Simpson's acquittal on charges he'd murdered his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman.

While some spectators were claiming that a jury had sided wrongly in both cases, Purdue University sociologist Jack Spencer said that the comparison fit for other reasons.

"It's quite a phenomenon," said Spencer, shortly before the verdict was announced. "The obvious similarity (with Simpson) is that this is a court case that's generated a media frenzy. Another similarity is that there is a widespread perception that Casey Anthony is guilty, but that she might get off."

Jennifer Culver, a 38-year-old mother of two from Alabaster, Alabama, felt that was exactly what happened. She said that she first got hooked after seeing footage of Casey Anthony "shaking her prison-appointed flip-flop (when) they were talking about how she had a missing child."

"Something is not right here," Culver recalled thinking.

She added that the entire case was like "going to the zoo and looking at an animal," fascinating as she never knew what was going to happen. After the verdict came down, Culver said that she was flabbergasted. She also believes, like many legal experts, that Casey Anthony will be freed later this week on time served despite her conviction for lying to investigators.

"I feel she got away with murder," Culver said. "I just can't believe she's going to be walking around soon. I just can't imagine what her life is going to be like, what her parents' life is going to be like."

For Culver, like most others, Casey Anthony was an unknown -- and not a celebrity like Simpson, a football legend and actor -- when reports surfaced three years ago that her child was missing. But the fact that a child was dead, and her mother had been accused of killing her, struck a personal chord with Culver and compelled her to follow the case.

The same happened with Kerr, who has a teenage daughter and a son who is Casey's age, and grandchildren. Frazier, too, is a grandfather of seven, one of whom is a girl the age Caylee Anthony would have been had she lived.

"My life is over, and their life is all ahead of them," said Frazier of his grandchildren. "I will never move on (after the Anthony verdict). It'll always be in my memory."

CNN's Ashley Hayes contributed to this report.

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