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  1) Florida Bar certified to instruct criminal defense attorneys about the Casey Anthony trial. {Miami-Dade    

       public defender, Innocence Project at Stetson College of Law, etc.}

  2) Only journalist to publish a story about the Casey Anthony case for Harvard.

  3) Society of Professional Journalist's 2016 Investigative Journalist award for reporting on the Casey

      Anthony case.


Copyright ©​ Keith Long.              Stay in touch   kdlongmany at gmail dot com


                                             Skype id           WriterKeith

     

 
       

 


















                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Casey Anthony During Her Trial for Capital Murder

      
              













 





                                                                                                                                                                                                 George Anthony pondering the prosecution case against his daughter, Casey.           
              

                                     

    The Stranger Inside -- The Untold Story of the Casey Anthony Family

    Written by the Journalist of Record for the Casey Anthony Case

    Keith Long

 

 

I can’t say why I was attracted to the televised trial of the most hated woman in America in 2011. It may have been because every time I turned on the television or checked my Twitter feed, she was there in front of me. There were 600 media outlets credentialed by the court covering the trial. The Miami Herald, and Washington Post live-streamed courtroom video, in an all-out effort to grab market share away from HLN’s gavel-to-gavel coverage. I have to say, despite multiple apps available, I followed the trial on HLN, led by Nancy Grace. When the jury announced its decision, Nancy’s audience totaled the most viewers {5.2 million}. Fox attracted 3 million, CNN had 2.3 million, and MSNBC registered nearly 1 million.

 

There was a lot of stuff being reported in the media to generate that kind of interest. Casey Anthony’s demeanor during the trial called up photographs that were carried all over the country picturing her having a blast at a nightclub just a few days after witnessing the death of her two-year-old daughter, Caylee. She never reported Caylee’s death, and her own mother eventually had to 
call police to report Caylee missing. After her arrest, the twenty-two-year-old single mom lied to police about where she worked, when her daughter disappeared, and she insisted to investigators that a fictitious nanny kidnapped her deceased daughter. I was among the throng watching coverage of the five-month search for her daughter, while she repeatedly insisted Caylee was alive. I was glued to the TV when news broke that Caylee’s body was discovered just blocks from her home. Jeff Ashton, the assistant prosecutor, seemed to understate the obvious when he said simply, “If a mother doesn’t report the death of her child, she must be guilty.”

 

By the time her trial started in Orlando, the courtroom had already rivaled nearby Disney World as a tourist destination. The 50 public seats in the courtroom’s balcony were the hottest tickets in town. Visitors literally fought one another for seats to watch what Time magazine headlined as the “social media trial of the century. There were occasional comparisons in the press to another “trial of the century,” the OJ trial, as the only comparable criminal trial in memory to generate as much public interest. Fair to say, it seemed apparent that not one of the millions of trial watchers, myself included, gave any thought to the likelihood of a “not guilty” outcome for Casey Anthony.

 

Quite literally, all the talk I heard about the trial seemed to believe the outcome was already known. Mid-trial, Time magazine invited readers to visualize her execution: “Virtually no one doubts that Anthony was involved in her child’s death,” then added, “but if you see murder in Casey Anthony’s big brown eyes during a live feed of her trial, you can tell all the world how delectable you will find her execution.” Florida’s attorney general, Pam Bondi issued a statement before the trial began: “There’s 
no one else in the world who could have killed Caylee Anthony except Casey.” The court of public opinion anticipated a slam dunk guilty decision, followed by an all but certain death penalty for the Tot Mom, Casey Anthony.

 

The jury of twelve took barely a single day to make their decision. The moment after the verdict was announced, Kim Kardashian squeezed 140 characters into her tweet and spoke for virtually everyone, “What!!!???!!!! Casey Anthony found not guilty!!!! I am speechless!!!”

 

News of the jury’s inexplicable decision to acquit Casey Anthony was the largest shared virtual experience up to that time, as the nation was transfixed with Twitter feeds and Facebook posts which spread the news instantly. The 
media post-mortems of the case were reflected in public statements issued by the trial judge and prosecutor. Judge Belvin Perry said, “I was surprised, shocked and in disbelief at reading the verdict. There was sufficient evidence to sustain a verdict of murder in the first degree in this case.” Jeff Ashton, the deflated assistant prosecutor faced the cameras with his team and said, “The acquittal was the work of a jury that didn’t believe Casey deserved any punishment. But they gave a lot of thought and discussion about what movies they wanted to see.”

 

My investigative journalist’s antennae went up on the first day of the trial. Now with the trial over, I was ready to move on with other important stories that fuel the interest of journalists like me. I did have a lingering question about the trial: “OK, who did the jury think killed Caylee?” I watched an interview with the jury foreman who told a national television audience that the jury had considerable discussions surrounding that very question: If it wasn’t Casey, who was the killer of Caylee? I found it disconcerting that the only alternative person of interest who raised serious suspicions for the jury was George, Casey’s admittedly “bad actor” father.

 

Her parents were already on a lot of people’s radar screen. For one thing, many found it more than a little odd that George was the state’s chief witness against his daughter, and he testified in a way that seemed to delight in assuring her conviction; it seemed to many he relished a death sentence for his own daughter. Her mother, Cindy Anthony, was also a prosecution witness, and in the opinion of many, she committed perjury more than once on the stand. She and George sat together and watched the trial as partners. It did appear their sentiment for the outcome was the same as the public’s, and the prosecutors. It caught my attention that both parents seemed willing contributors to a likely death sentence for their twenty-something daughter.

 

I thought, wow, there must be some really bad stuff in their daughter’s background to justify parents’ betrayal of their own flesh and blood. Who killed Caylee Anthony? I couldn’t help myself, this is like, what I do.

 

I took a deep dive into the trial record from the Ninth Judicial Circuit in Orlando. In a few words, my investigation found that prosecutors had more evidence pointing to a coverup by the Anthony family, and an accumulation of evidence that Caylee’s killer may have been her father, George. The case record also revealed overwhelming evidence that Casey’s mother, Cindy, misled investigators to avoid raising suspicions about what went on in the Anthony home behind closed doors.

 

As I moved deeper through the trial record, what I uncovered blew my mind. No one who followed the trial on television or in the press could have expected what I unearthed from the hundreds of files obtained from the Ninth Judicial Circuit in Orlando. There were statements to prosecutors from family friends that Casey was sexually abused by her father, George, beginning when she was eight-years-old. Prosecutors were put on notice there were long-standing conflicts in the family Caylee’s paternity, and suspicions were directed toward George as Caylee’s father.

 

There were eight court-appointed forensic psychologists who evaluated the accused murderer of Caylee. Casey told them flat out, “I didn’t kill Caylee.” The record shows those experts shared notes amongst themselves and reached a consensus that the defendant was truthful in her description of George’s role in Caylee’s death. They ran tests called MMPI, TSI {trauma symptom inventory} and then investigated a myriad of background information from authoritative sources that led them to determine she was actually a good mother. Their testing excluded any probability of malingering {lying}.  One psychologist, Dr. Harry Krop, was asked for his professional opinion by Dr. Drew Pinsky on his national TV show, and the Florida psychologist told Dr. Drew that his professional conclusion was that Casey Anthony was not capable of harming her daughter. Another forensic psychiatrist was deposed by the two lead prosecutors just before trial, who asked him directly if he had any doubts about her believability when Casey Anthony named George the one responsible for Caylee’s death, and that it was George who threw her body into woods, just a block or so from his home. The court-appointed forensic psychiatrist answered, “I have no reason to not believe her.”

 

I myself talked with another lead court-appointed psychiatrist 
on background for literally an entire day {he evaluated her for over 100 hours just before the trial}, and his opinion was that all the evidence from his interviews and evaluations pointed toward Casey as a loving and protective mother, the same conclusion as the other forensic psychologists. 

 

Perhaps it is my training from the investigative side of journalism, as opposed to the opinion side, but I was open-minded to the conclusions of the experts that Casey Anthony’s behavior after witnessing her daughter’s death could be more about traumatic denial, than guilt. Information from the trial record continued 
to confirm that the only other possible suspect in the murder of Caylee was George. It occurred to me that the cumulative evidence prosecutors had was that Casey indeed witnessed Caylee’s murder by her father.  If it was true that George sexually abused Casey for ten years, could the reason for the murder of two-year-old Caylee be George’s fear that Caylee could be his child?

 

I was compelled to look at the family to solve the mystery of two-year-old Caylee’s death. Cindy {a pediatric RN} and George both denied their daughter was pregnant when she was in her eighth month and quite conspicuously carrying Caylee. Prosecutors composed 
a timeline that raised suspicions about George as soon as Caylee was born. Fears about who was the father seemed to tear the family apart. Days after Caylee’s birth, George went near-crazy and stole $30,000 from Cindy’s IRA savings account, which he immediately lost in online gambling. He fled the home and filed to divorce Cindy before Caylee was three months old. After initially covering up his theft, he eventually told investigators the reason for his theft and split was because of an “issue” he had involving Casey and her new baby; he couldn’t deal with it anymore. In other words, his tension from living with Casey and her newborn daughter, Caylee, was so great, he had to flee his marriage of twenty-seven years, and move in with his elderly parents in another city.

 

Meanwhile, prosecutors continued to accumulate witness statements that pointed toward
 their

case-in-chief’s lead witness {George} as the killer. During the intensive, nationwide search for Caylee, George had an affair with a woman who told prosecutors that George already confided to her that Caylee was dead, and he was responsible. What George told investigators about his involvement with Caylee’s death was something much different: he was certain Caylee was still alive, and he publicized that belief in the nationwide search for her. Shortly after Caylee’s body was found, George attempted suicide. In fact, it was the day the county medical examiner released the paternity results from Caylee’s autopsy.

 

Bottom line, the trial record of information that prosecutors had was nothing like the evidence they presented at trial, and not even close to the narrative gobbled up in the court of public opinion, which largely not only expected, but early on, demanded that the most hated woman in America be judged guilty and then summarily executed by the state of Florida. Jesus Christ, I ultimately could reach no other conclusion than every bit of information from the trial record supported the jury’s acquittal of 
this despised woman. The jury foreman voiced the jury’s strong suspicion of George as a pedophile and a parent guilty of infanticide.

 

At this point, I talked to other journalists who followed the trial and found several who were as uncomfortable with the runaway social media narrative of the Casey Anthony trial as I was. Barry Sussman left the Washington Post after supervising Woodward and Bernstein in the Watergate series, and he was now leading Harvard’s Nieman Foundation for Journalism. Barry said to me he thought the coverage of the trial was a media circus, and he invited me to write an article for Nieman’s Media Watchdog about the trial’s coverage. Overnight, my article got the most response in Nieman’s history.

 

I found Howie Kurtz, who was then with CNN’s Reliable Sources. Kurtz expressed his opinion of the coverage this way: “I refused to join the media frenzy after two-year-old Caylee was killed. The tone of the coverage was Casey Anthony must be guilty.” Jeff Toobin, who covered the OJ Simpson trial, and was now also at CNN, said, “The news media was very unfair to Casey Anthony, it is something we should all discuss.”

 

Pretty much, as an investigative journalist, what I do is investigate primary source materials, like trial records. In my investigation of news stories, I often wrestle with burdens acquired from an open mind. My operating principle is always to balance the narrative. Sussman, Toobin, Kurtz, 
and myself all saw something in the press narrative of the trial that cried out for a closer look, and a balancing narrative.

 

Reports of sexual abuse by George in the Anthony family became impossible to ignore. Evidence of 
a

cover up by George’s wife, Cindy, accumulated to the point that she appeared more likely than not to be lying to investigators, not just one time, but more on than 50 occasions. I documented her disingenuity in my narrative. I continued to be nagged by the thought that Casey Anthony’s behavior was about denial of her daughter’s murder by an abusive father. Her statements denying that her daughter was dead, and then her made up stories to investigators about what happened, seemed to me and the psychologists who evaluated her, more like coping mechanisms, than covering up a crime. This kind of denial was the only thing she had going for her and it allowed her to function after witnessing the murder of her child by her own father, who by the way, abused her horribly for more than a decade.

 

The only incriminating evidence against the defendant, at the end of the day, narrowed down to her behavior “after” she witnessed Caylee’s murder. Her bizarre, incomprehensible behavior and so many denials were interpreted by everybody as hiding her daughter’s death because she was guilty. The trial record, statements by psychiatrists, and my own extended conversation with one of the court-appointed psychologists, forced me to consider the possibility that Casey’s denial of her daughter’s death came from a different place: denial because witnessing the death of her child was too painful, especially if her daughter’s death was not accidental, but rather an act of unspeakable murder by a father who abused her beginning when she was in the third grade.

 

In the cable and digital world that I inhabit, news of the Casey Anthony acquittal soon gave way to other criminal news stories. Trayvon Martin in Florida was one, and there were others I worked on. Then one night, I heard a CNN legal analyst, Sunny Hostin, talking with Anderson Cooper about parental abuse and her experience with spouses of child abusers who protect their husbands. She was asked by Anderson about her experience with families where fathers sexually abused their daughters. Sunny recalled the many cases she tried as a federal prosecutor when mothers blamed their children for their husband’s abuse. Jerry Sandusky’s wife, Dottie Sandusky, comes to mind.  Sunny said what Sandusky’s wife did was quite common. “I had people sitting in my office, mothers turning against their own children saying their child-victims were lying. And I’ve got to 
tell you, when I prosecuted cases, it’s still a very unpopular position, I wanted to go after the mothers because these are witnesses to sex abuse.  They’re enablers. They’re putting their children in danger, and I think they’re partly responsible.” Her statement drew me back to the specter of George and Cindy Anthony cooperating with prosecutors and working together for the same outcome: to wait for the jury to do the inevitable and order the execution of their daughter by the state of Florida, and it seemed to them: the sooner the better.

 

Investigative journalism is a journey. The best stories write themselves. Eventually, my reporting on the acquittal of Casey Anthony led me toward an unbelievable conclusion: The entire family covered up Caylee’s murder: Casey, Cindy, and George.


                                                      
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