Trial is over, but verdict is still out in Anthony case

Going free doesn't mean she'll have freedom

July 07, 2011|By Susan Reimer

It was O.J. all over again.

A jury ignores a mountain of evidence against an arrogant defendant accused of murder, and the public is first shocked, then outraged.

When word came that the verdict was imminent, crowds gathered outside the Orlando, Fla., courthouse and at the site where little Caylee Anthony's body was found and in front of televisions across the country. As was the case with Simpson, the jury had deliberated for less than a day. Certainly the verdict would be guilty.

After all, Casey Anthony, the child's young mother, had partied for a month without telling anyone her daughter was missing. Wasn't that as much a confession of guilt as Simpson's two-hour freeway ride in the Ford Bronco, with police in pursuit?

When it was announced Anthony had been found not guilty of murder, child abuse and manslaughter — and was guilty only of lying to police — the spectators, so many of them women, screamed, cried and even fainted.

And the experts on cable television, which had elevated an obscure unwed mother to the sort of attention enjoyed by a Hollywood star or Hall of Fame football player, sputtered in outrage and back-pedaled like mad.

The prosecutors had screwed up again. They hadn't been able to tie Casey Anthony to the child's death or even explain how it happened. There was reasonable doubt. And now the toddler's mother, dubbed in the media as "the most hated woman in America," would go free.

"If the glove doesn't fit, you must acquit." Attorney Johnny Cochran's declaration to the O.J. Simpson jury echoed from the past.

It has been a generation since Simpson's trial launched the 24/7 cable news cycle, and the emergence of the Internet social media since then magnified the public reaction to the Anthony verdict many, many times over.

Within minutes of the verdict, there were almost 4,000 news articles and blog entries tracked by Google. CNN set a record for page views. Twitter was reported to have published more than 325,000 comments, and posts were coming into Facebook at more than 10 every second. (In a bizarre irony, the Kardashian sisters, whose late father, Robert, helped engineer Simpson's acquittal, tweeted their shock at the injustice of the verdict.)

Simpson was accused of a savage crime. He is thought to have nearly decapitated his estranged wife during a jealous rage and then stabbed a hapless waiter who had stumbled into the murder scene.

But Anthony was accused of infanticide, and a special place in hell is reserved for a mother who kills her own child. A jailhouse letter, in which Anthony said she wanted to have another child as soon as she was released, is more chilling now that we know she will be.

"The devil is dancing tonight," said CNN's Nancy Grace, a singularly dogged member of the media pack that pursued Anthony.

Like Simpson, Anthony will emerge from jail into a lonely world, where only those who hope to make a buck off her story — or who have some dark urge to be close to evil — will befriend her.

Like Simpson, she will go through life, knowing what she knows, until the universe exacts its price.

Simpson now sits in a Nevada prison, convicted of kidnapping, armed robbery and a slew of other charges in connection with his attempt to retrieve football memorabilia he said was stolen from him. He is serving a 33-year sentence.

You could argue that the criminal justice system finally caught up with Simpson. Now we wait to see what the Furies have planned for Casey Anthony.

susan.reimer@baltsun.com

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