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Casey Anthony not guilty of murder, other charges in daughter's death

By Ashley Hayes, CNN
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Casey Anthony not guilty of murder
  • NEW: An alternate juror in the case says he agrees with the verdict
  • Casey Anthony's family says the jury made a fair decision
  • The Anthonys say the defense was "baseless"
  • Prosecutors express disappointment with the verdict

Tune in to HLN's "Nancy Grace" at 8 p.m ET Tuesday as Nancy Grace reports live from Orlando. HLN also airs "Justice for Caylee: A Nancy Grace Special" at 9 p.m. ET Saturday. And share your reaction to the verdict.

(CNN) -- After less than 11 hours of deliberation, a jury Tuesday found Casey Anthony not guilty of first-degree murder and the other most serious charges against her in the 2008 death of her 2-year-old daughter.

But the jury convicted her on four misdemeanor counts of providing false information to law enforcement officers.

As the verdict was read, Casey Anthony cried from her seat in the courtroom, breathing deeply as she looked forward. She then hugged her defense attorney Jose Baez and other members of her defense team.

Her father, George Anthony, meanwhile, showed no visible reaction from his seat in the back of the courtroom.

Orange County Chief Judge Belvin Perry Jr. set sentencing at 9 a.m. Thursday for Casey Anthony. She faces up to a year in jail on each of the charges of lying to police.

All 12 jurors in the case declined to speak to the media, court spokeswoman Karen Levey told reporters. "They are just not interested," she said, adding their response was an "unequivocal no." Perry has barred the release of their names at this point, Levey said.

However, one of the five alternate jurors in the case told HLN his opinion on the jury's decision.

"I agree with their verdict wholeheartedly," said alternate juror Russell Huekler, who sat through the trial but did not participate in the jury's deliberations.

"The prosecution did not prove their case," he said. "The big question that was not answered: How did Caylee die?"

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That uncertainty was also expressed in a statement released by an attorney for Casey Anthony's family.

"While the family may never know what happened to Caylee Marie Anthony, they now have closure for this chapter of their life," said a statement issued on behalf of Casey Anthony's parents, George and Cindy Anthony, and her brother, Lee Anthony, by their attorney, Mark Lippman. "They will now begin the long process of rebuilding their lives."

"There are no winners in this case," Baez told reporters after the verdict. "Caylee has passed on far, far too soon." He said his motivation for the last three years has been seeking justice for Caylee as well as Casey Anthony.

"Casey did not murder Caylee," he said. "It's that simple. And today, our system of justice has not dishonored her memory by a false conviction."

Another defense attorney, J. Cheney Mason, said he hopes the verdict "is a lesson to those of you having indulged in media assassination for three years."

"We're disappointed with the verdict today and surprised, because we know the facts," Lawson Lamar, state attorney for the 9th District, told reporters. But, he said, "I never, ever criticize a jury. Theirs is the task of deciding what to believe."

He praised the job done by prosecutors, but said proving the case was tough, as Caylee's remains were skeletal when they were discovered and lacked any chemical evidence. "This was a dry-bones case," Lamar said. "... The delay in recovering little Caylee's remains worked to our considerable disadvantage."

None of the prosecutors who tried the case -- Linda Drane Burdick, Jeff Ashton and Frank George -- spoke at Lamar's news conference.

The Anthony family statement said, "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 judge.

The Anthonys asked for privacy "to reflect on this verdict and decide the best way to move forward." They asked that well-wishers hoping to donate stuffed animals or toys near their home donate those items instead in Caylee's name to "families in need, religious centers or any other entity where the toys would be appreciated."

The Orange County Sheriff's Office will transport the jurors back to Pinellas County Tuesday night, Levey said. Jury selection was moved to Pinellas County because of extensive publicity surrounding the case in the Orlando area, and the jurors have been sequestered in an Orlando hotel for the trial.

The proceedings stretched to more than six weeks and featured allegations of sexual abuse, questions regarding Casey Anthony's competence and various theories on what happened to Caylee.

Casey Anthony, 25, was charged with seven counts -- first-degree murder, aggravated child abuse, aggravated manslaughter of a child and four counts of providing false information to a law enforcement officer in Caylee's 2008 disappearance and death.

Caylee was last seen June 16, 2008, but was not reported missing until July 15, 2008, when Casey Anthony's mother, Cindy Anthony, tracked her daughter down and demanded answers regarding Caylee's whereabouts.

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Prosecutors alleged Casey Anthony used chloroform to render her daughter unconscious and then duct-taped her mouth and nose to suffocate her. They alleged that she put the child's body in the trunk of her car for a few days before disposing of it. Caylee's skeletal remains were discovered December 11, 2008, by former Orange County meter reader Roy Kronk.

Casey Anthony's defense attorneys maintained that Caylee was not murdered at all. They said the child drowned in the Anthony's above-ground pool on July 16, and that Casey Anthony and her father, George Anthony, panicked upon finding her there and covered up the death. George Anthony denied that in his testimony.

The defense also attempted to cast suspicion on Kronk, the meter reader. Defense attorneys asserted that he had found Caylee's remains months earlier than he claimed and that he hid them before placing them where they were found. He did that, they claimed, just before notifying authorities in an effort to cash in on the high-profile case.

Kronk denied those allegations, according to his attorney. He testified on the stand that after calling police three times in August 2008 to report something suspicious in the woods, a deputy met him at the scene and "chewed me out," telling him he was wasting the county's time. He said he dropped the matter after that until he revisited the scene in December and found Caylee's skull.

Prosecutors pointed to Casey Anthony's behavior during the 31 days before Caylee was reported missing as evidence of her guilt.

According to testimony, Casey Anthony was not looking frantically for her missing child as she later told police. Instead, she moved out of her parents' home and stayed with her then-boyfriend, Tony Lazzaro. She also got a tattoo saying "Bella Vita" -- Italian for "beautiful life" -- and went shopping, witnesses said. She also partied at Orlando nightclubs and participated in a "hot body" contest at one point, according to testimony.

Lazzaro and other friends and acquaintances of Casey Anthony's testified that at no time during that month did she tell anyone her daughter was missing or ask for help, and she did not seem anxious or sad. When asked where Caylee was, she told them the child was with her nanny, a woman named Zenaida Gonzalez. She told her parents other stories, including that she and Caylee were in Jacksonville staying with a wealthy suitor, Jeffrey Hopkins.

Eventually confronted by her family, Casey Anthony maintained Gonzalez had kidnapped Caylee.

Authorities never found the nanny. They found a woman named Zenaida Gonzalez, who denied ever meeting the Anthonys and later sued for defamation. A man named Jeffrey Hopkins took the stand and said he was an acquaintance of Anthony but that the two had never dated. The wealthy suitor and the nanny were among a host of people Casey Anthony made up, her defense attorneys acknowledged -- her attorney referred to them as her "imaginary friends."

Defense attorneys explained Casey Anthony's behavior in the month before Caylee's disappearance was reported to police by saying that she had been sexually abused by her father from the age of 8 and had been taught to conceal her pain. George Anthony denied that claim in testimony, saying, "I would never do anything like that to my daughter."

Perry ruled just before closing arguments began that there was no evidence Casey Anthony had been sexually abused and prohibited defense attorneys from mentioning it.

The defense also said Casey Anthony behaved as she did because of her dysfunctional family. Defense attorney Jose Baez told jurors his client had made some mistakes and bad decisions, but maintained that was not enough to convict her of murder.

However, prosecutor Burdick told jurors in her closing argument, "There's nothing that's wrong with Casey Anthony that can't be explained in two words: pathological liar."

Casey Anthony's car -- and the odor emanating from its trunk -- was another prong of the state's case against her, made up of largely circumstantial evidence.

On June 27, she abandoned her car at an Orlando business, saying it had run out of gas, according to testimony. It later was towed to a wrecker yard, where it remained until July 15, when her parents, George and Cindy Anthony, received a letter from the tow yard and went to pick it up.

Numerous witnesses, including a tow yard employee and George Anthony, said there was a vile smell coming from the car's trunk. The prosecution alleges -- and a number of witnesses testified -- that the smell was that of human decomposition.

A cadaver dog alerted to the possible presence of human decomposition in the trunk. Arpad Vass, a research scientist at Tennessee's Oak Ridge National Laboratory, testified that forensic testing of air samples, carpet, scrapings from the wheel well and a spare tire cover found a handful of compounds associated with human decomposition.

Vass said testing showed chloroform present at a "shockingly high" level on a carpet sample from the trunk. Defense experts who testified, however, disagreed with Vass' findings and found low amounts of the substance, which is present in a number of household cleaning products. However, prosecutor Jeff Ashton pointed out to jurors, none of the experts disagreed that chloroform was present.

Searches conducted on the Anthony computer were another focus of the state's case. Computer experts testified that in March 2008 -- three months before Caylee disappeared -- someone searched for keywords including "chloroform," "how to make chloroform" and "alcohol."

Cindy Anthony took the stand during the defense's case and testified that she searched for chloroform, saying that evolved from a search for "chlorophyll" as she was trying to determine if her dog's habit of eating bamboo plants in the back yard was making it tired.

Prosecutors introduced work records showing Cindy Anthony was at work at the time the searches were conducted. She said she could have left early that day, as she often took comp time from working overtime.

An attorney for Cindy Anthony's former employer took the stand as a rebuttal witness. He brought work records that he said showed that someone using Cindy Anthony's credentials was logged in and using a desktop computer at her office on the days when those searches were done on her family's home computer.

On the defense's contention that Caylee drowned in the Anthony pool, Cindy Anthony testified that Caylee was able to climb into the pool on her own. But she said the toddler could not have put on the pool's removable ladder or opened gates leading to the area. Baez told jurors in his closing argument that Cindy Anthony may have left the ladder up the night before, when she and Caylee went swimming, although she testified she did not.

Jurors heard hours of forensic testimony, receiving crash courses in DNA, hair analysis and chemistry, among others.

Experts testified that a hair found in Casey Anthony's trunk had a band that suggested it was from a decomposing body. The hair was similar to Caylee's, according to forensic experts, but could not absolutely be proved to be hers.

The trial was abruptly halted on Saturday, June 25 -- Perry said on June 27 that Casey Anthony had been examined by two psychologists and a psychiatrist following a defense motion questioning whether she was competent to proceed.

The defense called a woman to the stand who volunteered in the search for Caylee. Krystal Holloway testified that she and George Anthony had an affair. Holloway said that he once told her what happened to Caylee was "an accident that snowballed out of control." George Anthony denied the affair, and prosecutors used Holloway's statement to police to say she was taking George Anthony's comment out of context. According to the statement, Holloway told authorities George Anthony said he believed Caylee's death stemmed from an accident and that Casey Anthony may have covered it up somehow.

Throughout the trial, the pain experienced by Casey Anthony's family was evident. Both her father and mother sobbed on the stand at times recalling their granddaughter. George Anthony also cried as he testified about his January 2009 suicide attempt, which came shortly after Caylee's remains were identified.

Jurors heard testimony about items found with Caylee's remains. A Winnie the Pooh blanket matched the one found in the little girl's room at the Anthony home. The laundry bag that prosecutor Ashton told jurors served as Caylee's coffin was one of a matching set -- the other was found at the home. And all that remained of the little girl's T-shirt, saying "Big Trouble Comes in Small Packages," were some letters and the stitching around the collar.

Prosecutors pointed out in closing arguments that only Casey Anthony had access to all the items of evidence.

In Session's Michael Christian contributed to this report.

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