When Florida mother Casey Anthony was found not guilty of killing her 2-year-old daughter Tuesday, reactions were instant and polarized.
Anthony, who could have been sentenced to the death penalty if convicted, simply wept. Her parents were silent.
Anthony’s defense attorney, Jose Baez, said this verdict proves, “You cannot convict someone until they’ve had their day in court.”
A second defense attorney for Anthony, Cheney Mason, blasted the media in a statement, saying, “I hope that this is a lesson to those of you who have indulged in media assassination for three years, bias, and prejudice, and incompetent talking heads saying what would be and how to be.”
Are Baez and Mason right? Has the media that followed the trial, which became the nation’s obsession as it played out on national television, gone over the top in their overwhelmingly negative response to the verdict?
Joy Behar, a co-host of the morning television show the View, tweeted her feelings about the verdict:
Nancy Grace, who has been criticized for her intense coverage of the trial, tweeted similar doubts:
Some media outlets used the almost derisive-sounding nickname for Anthony, “Tot-mom,” which Nancy Grace had taken to calling her throughout the trial.
Others speculated that the clerk became temporarily speechless when she saw the verdict was not guilty.
Top hashtags on Twitter soon included #notguilty, #caseyanthonyverdit and #shock, as media pundits and those who had followed the trial expressed shock, and sometimes disgust.
The hashtags became so prevalent that some companies didn’t even realize the context:
Filmmaker Michael Moore made clear that he thought the media coverage was biased:
Wait! She was already convicted by Nancy Grace and the rest of the media! Why did the jury have any say in this??
Tommy Christopher, a media correspondent for Mediaite, tweeted that the media’s response showed they had forgotten about the presumption of innocence:
Didn't follow #CaseyAnthony trial much, but shocked reactions suggest media's erosion of presumption of innocence.
And other people said they believed the verdict to be sound.
Yael Wiesberg called to say he “knows how the jurors in this case feel.” Wiesberg, 68, says he served as the jury foreman of a sequestered jury in Montgomery County in 1983.
Wiesberg says he served on a robbery trial for Timothy J. Buzbee, a man who was later convicted of 16 rapes in the Aspen Hill area. Although Buzbee had already gotten the moniker the “Aspen Hill Rapist” in 1983, the jury found him not guilty.
“We were under extreme pressure to convict him,” says Wiesberg. “But we felt that under the evidence that was presented by the state’s attorney that he did not do that act of robbery. ... My friends and family were not overjoyed with the [not guilty] decision.”
Wiesberg says that when he heard the news of Casey Anthony’s not guilty verdict, he cried. “I had a cry not because she was found not guilty, but because I believe in the judicial system. Based on the evidence presented, I think they made the right decision.”
The seven women and five men who found Anthony not guilty declined to discuss the verdict.