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Why Was Casey Anthony Acquitted Of Her Daughter Caylee’s Murder? The Jurors’ Take, Explained
In 2011, a jury acquitted Casey Anthony of the death of her daughter Caylee Anthony following a highly publicized trial, which was watched by millions across the country.
On July 5, 2011, after deliberating for more than 10 hours, a jury of seven men and five women returned a not guilty verdict on the most severe charges against Casey Anthony, who was accused of killing her daughter, Caylee.
Caylee was last seen alive on June 16, 2008, and reported missing 31 days later, on July 15, by Casey’s mother, Cindy. During that time, Casey got a tattoo that read “Bella Vita” — translating to “beautiful life” in Italian — and was photographed at various bars in the Orlando area.
The two-year-old's skeletal remains were found in a wooded area near the Anthony home on Dec. 11, 2008.
During the three-week trial, prosecutors alleged that Casey had used chloroform to subdue her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee, before covering her mouth and nose with duct tape, according to CNN. Prosecutors asserted that Casey then put her daughter’s remains, covered in a black trash bag, inside her car’s trunk, before disposing of them days later.
The defense during the trial, meanwhile, argued that Casey and George had panicked after Caylee accidentally drowned, an allegation that George has repeatedly denied.
Cameras recorded as Casey cried tears of joy, her defense team wrapping their arms around each other in celebration of the jury’s verdict. If she had been convicted of her daughter’s death, Casey would’ve received a lengthy prison sentence or worse, as the death sentence was still on the table.
Following the controversial verdict, Casey spent two weeks in prison on four misdemeanor charges of lying to police, a sentence that factored in time already served and good behavior, according to the New York Times. On July 17, 2011, she was released from the Orange County Jail in Orlando, Fla.
In the wake of the trial, which saw Casey’s own family members testify against her, people questioned how the jury could’ve acquitted the twenty-something of her daughter’s death.
For one anonymous male juror, the answer was simple: “Generally, none of us liked Casey Anthony at all," he told PEOPLE Magazine a month after the trial. "She seems like a horrible person. But the prosecutors did not give us enough evidence to convict. They gave us a lot of stuff that makes us think she probably did something wrong, but not beyond a reasonable doubt."
The male juror said that the jurors unanimously agreed to convict Casey on the charges of lying to police but were split when they first voted on the murder charges. He explained to PEOPLE that they did a second vote, which resulted in an 11 to 1 vote in favor of acquittal.
“Everyone was just stunned at what we were about to do,” he told the outlet. “[One of the women jurors] asked me, 'Are you okay with this?' I said, 'Hell, no. But what else can we do? We promised to follow the law.'”
Juror No. 3, Jennifer Ford, remembered that discussion in an interview with ABC News. She reiterated that the jurors felt there wasn’t enough evidence to convict Casey of murder, lending to their feelings of reasonable doubt.
“If you’re going to charge someone with murder, don’t you have to know how they killed someone or why they might have killed someone or have something, where, when, why, how?” Ford said. “Those are important questions, and they were not answered.”
Ford additionally stated that the defense’s version of events, in which Caylee accidentally drowned at her grandparent’s, Cindy and George Anthony’s, home, was more believable than the theory presented by prosecutors.
"Obviously, it wasn't proven so I'm not taking that and speculating at all,” she added.
The aforementioned male juror once again spoke out in 2021, saying that he agreed with Ford’s evaluation of the drowning theory. As he told PEOPLE Magazine, "It was plausible to me... And I remember thinking, 'Well, that would explain a hell of a lot.'"
Casey discusses the case in further detail in the three-episode documentary “Casey Anthony: Where The Truth Lies,” streaming Nov. 29 on Peacock.