July 5th, 2011
08:18 PM ET

Toobin: Media should soul-search after Anthony verdict

The news media should reflect on its coverage of Casey Anthony after the Florida woman was found not guilty of murder in her daughter’s death, CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin said.

But he added the verdict also helps show that intense media coverage doesn’t necessarily lead to juries that are eager to convict a defendant.

Toobin’s comments came after Anthony attorney J. Cheney Mason - after Anthony’s acquittal Tuesday – blasted what he called “incompetent talking heads” and a “media assassination” of Anthony.

Mason said that “colleagues from coast to coast and border to border have condemned this whole process of lawyers getting on television and talking about cases that they don’t know a damn thing about and don’t have the experience to back up their words or the law to do it.”

National media coverage of the case began in July 2008, the month that 2-year-old Caylee Anthony’s family reported her missing. The coverage was spurred in part by reports the family hadn’t reported the girl missing until a month after she was last seen; the child’s remains were found in a wooded area later that year.

Toobin said he doubted Mason’s team would take legal action against the talking heads Mason railed against, saying the matter “will be dealt with appropriately in the court of public opinions.” But Toobin said it was safe to say that some media coverage was “very much negative toward Casey Anthony.”

“The media’s performance will be something we should all discuss,” Toobin said.

Former prosecutor Nancy Grace, whose show on CNN sister network HLN has featured the case extensively, defended the media coverage. "I find it interesting that his first reaction was to attack the media like we had something to do with it," she said. "We didn't have anything to do with it; this was all tot mom."

She added, "There is no way that this is a verdict that speaks the truth." Also Tuesday, Grace said that “as the defense sits by and as their champagne toast after that not guilty verdict, somewhere out there, the devil is dancing tonight.”

Attorney Debra Opri, arguing that the media is the “13th juror,” said lawmakers may want to see “what steps … we have to take, without stepping on the First Amendment, to protect” defendants’ rights to a fair trial.

Toobin said government regulation isn’t necessary, and that the Anthony trial and other high-profile cases show that media scrutiny doesn’t necessarily lead juries to issue convictions.

“(Opri’s) argument … is that the media had too much influence. You know, Nancy Grace was on TV for three years saying (Anthony) was guilty, and the jury said otherwise,” Toobin said. “Michael Jackson – also acquitted (of child molestation in 2005). O.J. Simpson – also acquitted (of murder in 1995). William Kennedy Smith – also acquitted (of rape in 1991)."

Tom Mesereau, an attorney for Jackson in the entertainer's 2005 case, concurred.

"I think this defense team focused on the courtroom, not the media. The media likes to think that they're going to influence these verdicts, and look at the history," Mesereau told CNN's "In the Arena" on Tuesday night, citing the Jackson and Simpson cases, as well as the 2005 trial of actor Robert Blake, who was acquitted of murder.

Toobin said that if media coverage affected the trial, the influence might have been seen in the prosecution's decision to make this a death penalty case.

"(This) always seemed like a wrong decision to me, given the ... absence of a cause of death (and) a time of death," Toobin said. "To make this a death penalty case sounded to me like the prosecutors had been spending too much time listening to people on cable news being outraged about the case rather than evaluating the evidence in the cold light of reality, and I think that was where the media influence was, more than in how the jurors behaved."

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Filed under: Casey Anthony • Courts • Crime • Florida • Justice
soundoff (399 Responses)
  1. Nutsy

    A somber Jose Baez says there were no winners today.......................CHAMPAGNE PARTY LETS GO !!!!!! JERK!

    July 5, 2011 at 10:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Russell

      there is something wrong with baez I've been thinking it from the first day of opening statements. the only chance he had was with some kakamame story to throw the jurors off the real truth. I guess thats how our court system works all about luck of the draw.

      July 6, 2011 at 12:24 am | Report abuse |
    • Danny

      Why shouldn't they celebrate a legal victory in private, like they did? They fought hard for Casey Anthony for 3 years. Baez had already made a very appropriate public statement about Caylee.

      July 6, 2011 at 1:00 am | Report abuse |
    • Allan

      I like the way Nancy Grace's show had a camera pressed against the glass trying to see the defense team, then said "look at them drinking and jumping around in front of everyone. How disgusting!!".... Hello who has the camera spying on them!!!

      July 6, 2011 at 6:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • M Bell

      HIs entire team got paid $90k for everythign for 3 years work. I'd be poppin champagne too if I was responsible for saving a life that he believes did not murder Caylee. Do you have any idea what the costs of running a defense team for 3years is ?

      July 6, 2011 at 6:55 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Chris

    It is great to see that the justice system works and has not been hijacked by the media know-nothings that spew their garbage. If people like Nancy Grace, and the fools that listen to her, had their way they would serve as judge, jury and executioner. Thank God we live in a country where you are innocent until proven guilty and where the rule of law forms the foundation of our justice system not hysteria.

    July 5, 2011 at 10:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • be

      Perfectly put!

      July 5, 2011 at 11:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan Juroff

      Ditto!

      July 5, 2011 at 11:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rick Nelson

      Best comment read so far! Today, Vinnie, Nancy, Julie and all the rest of the HLN lynch journalist were made to look like morons, by their guilty verdict of Casey Anthony weeks before the trial started. All the "media lawyers" an even a judge (not the no job judge Alex) who insisted THE EVIDENCE beyond a reasonable doubt, could not be proved..were cut off in mid sentence by the each and every one of the lynch journalist. Any subject, of any matter, if a person disagrees with Nancy Grace they are cut off in mid sentence. Her words today of Baez and the jurors were nothing short of deformation. Mr Mason I am sure was speaking directly to her and her fellow "journalist lawyers" today!

      July 6, 2011 at 1:27 am | Report abuse |
    • Allan

      I'm telling you... Casey vs Grace PAY PER VIEW mud wrestling at Madison Square Gardens with the Honorable Belvin Perry referee!! What say's the defense? After all Nancy Grace has been slinging mud for 3 years, so it's fitting.

      July 6, 2011 at 6:38 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Patty Johnson

    I Found out something very important after the death of Michael Jackson. I watched Nancy Grace and Jane Valez-Mitchell, and before his death, they both had him convicted and hung from the highest tree, and then after his death, They Still trashed him. It doesn't matter to the media whose life is trashed, as long as they get their story, and the ratings that go with it. And what's even worse, PEOPLE are SO GULLIBLE. They think because they saw it on the news, read it in the paper, or magazines on the internet or heard it on the radio, they think it has to be the GOSPEL TRUTH! WAKE UP PEOPLE! There is alot of FALSE INFORMATION out there! Get these people off of TV! I no longer believe everything I see and hear! I take a lot of things now with a grain of salt. There is a lot of difference though, in one being falsely accused, Being guilty, and justice not being done! As for me, I will only trust in GOD! He knows the truth about Little Caylee, and his justice will be upon those who had a hand in her murder! RIP Michael Jackson, and Caylee Anthony

    July 5, 2011 at 10:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sound minded and educated American

      Michael Jackson did more to incriminate himself in my eyes than the media ever did. I don't watch Nancy Grace or that Jules whomever... There is a clear and concise majority of people that find it at least very suspect that a grown man sleeps with children. Obviously you are cool with that and I'm glad you posted your name for everyone to see. I know how the legal system works and the mere fact that Casey waited 31 days before any police were even called is grounds for child neglect. Obviously you and the jury just let your kids run around doing whatever with whomever for however long it takes before your last brain cell decides something might be wrong. The fact you don't even see child neglect in this case astounds me.

      July 6, 2011 at 12:04 am | Report abuse |
    • Patty Johnson

      This is a reply to "Sound Minded and Educated American..." Yes I was brave enough to list my name for all to see. I see that you weren't that brave, My opinion that I stated was referring to how the MEDIA TRASHES PEOPLE....It did NOT reflect my true feelings of the Casey Anthony Trail. But while we are on the subject, Let me do this now. I feel a great injustice was done on Tuesday, July 5th, 2011, when the "Not Guilty" verdict was read. Now, Casey Anthony is added to the list of people who "Got away with it.." I do not have any children, but I DO NOT believe in Child Abuse, or Child Neglect, or anything of that matter. If you were truly as educated as you claim, you would have been able to spell "Jane Valez-Mitchell" Instead of stating her as "Jules Somebody" If you do not watch her or Nancy Grace, You have no idea what I am talking about in the fist place! These are the people that I was referring to in the first place. they are the people that I was talking about, that should be removed from television. Their opinions do not matter to me, and neither does yours! Why don't you take your opinion and go back behind the barnyard where you belong!

      July 7, 2011 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Danny

    Nancy Grace even had the GALL to question the credibility and motivation of the Casey Anthony jjurors, saying that some of them had had brushes with the law!!! How unprofessional of her! If they were seated, they CERTAINLY DESERVED OUR RESPECT and that of the legal community.

    July 5, 2011 at 10:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • CiCi

      I agree. I used to be a fan of Nancy Grace, however after going to school for a degree in forensics and the law classes that are required, I realized just how unprofessional she behaves on her show. Despite the public's feelings regarding the case, the jury is only allowed a certain amount of information. Emotions have no place on a jury and with Nancy Grace being a former lawyer, I wish she would have more objectivity when reviewing court cases. Sadly, what she does brings in the ratings.

      July 5, 2011 at 11:47 pm | Report abuse |
  5. katj

    Supply and demand! Many many many folks were and will be waiting and watching the Anthony saga for some time to come and the media will be happy to supply the demand!! It's this lovely age of reality tv. It is a crying shame and a direct reflection of our times. A baby was thrown out like trash and her 'mommy' will be on a dance floor before you know it.Don't blame the media. Turn off the tv or change the channel.

    July 5, 2011 at 10:52 pm | Report abuse |
  6. amarjit

    It is not correct that media prevailed over justice administration by the Jury by more coverage.But is verdict after consideration by Justice after consideration of Jury by supervising Judge. Jury represent the public opinion but cannot hijack the justice in verdict.

    July 5, 2011 at 10:55 pm | Report abuse |
  7. AJ

    Nancy Grace has an ego twice her size! In one sentence she says thatmedia has nothing to do withis case and then almost in the same breath she lambasts the verdict reached by the jury!!

    July 5, 2011 at 11:05 pm | Report abuse |
  8. ToadInAustin

    Nancy Grace is a blight on this network. For her to persist in the childish use of this 'Totmom' nickname, for example, is so tawdry. Her utter ugliness is why I watch her–to laugh, it's like watching Johnny Knoxville or something, you watch because it's so stupid. And then you turn it off when it gets too much.

    To sit and seriously ponder whether the media should do this or that, it's just silly when a network of the status of CNN employs people of that quality on the very sound reasoning that you can never underestimate the intelligence of the viewing public.

    The mainstream news media are a joke. So laugh, don't discuss, there's nothing to discuss, it's too late. It's a done deal, and news-o-tainment is the journalism and history of the future.

    So, anyway, when is CNN going to do a one-hour special, with Nancy Grace hosting, on the private lives of the Totmom family after the trial? Can't wait, huh?

    July 5, 2011 at 11:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • John

      I agree with you 100%.
      The defense attorneys will have to wait awhile to get that dance with the devil since they'll have to cut in on Nancy.
      She's the most disgusting thing on T.V, and that's saying something.

      July 5, 2011 at 11:20 pm | Report abuse |
  9. IKE

    In Oklahoma there was a female forensic chemist who was manufacturing evidence, she and the DA had a 100% conviction rate. It was discovered that her and the DA had sent many innocent people to prison. They fired her, and let some of the people out of prison.

    July 5, 2011 at 11:13 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Mike

    One of the big issues is that many people naively treat commentary as though it was news.

    News is facts. Opinions are not.

    July 5, 2011 at 11:21 pm | Report abuse |
  11. sassypants

    The article is about the media doing some soul searching not about Casey's guilt or innocence. I'll just say that based on her behavior and that of her family... they kind of brought it on themselves. Of all cases this is the one case where I don't think the media over did it and it's because of how wierd the family acted. You were lured into it. If Casey gets a pass on what she did... surely we can give the media a pass on this one too.

    July 5, 2011 at 11:22 pm | Report abuse |
  12. damnufools

    This verdict is a mandate against NANCY GRACE! Cheny Mason spoke directly to the big mouthed blonde bimbo! I think anyone she prosthelyzes against the way she did from the start of this case should walk; guilty or not... Now she says the system failed! LOL! She is supposedly an intelligent lawyer & should know better than most the prosecution had NO CAPITAL CASE. They went for guts & lost. How do you feel tonight laughing guy Ashton... because you wanted to make a national name for yourself you let her go free... As she should be. * beyond a reasonable doubt is the statute.

    July 5, 2011 at 11:23 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Roscoelette

    Three things to remember. 1. Duct tape on a child's face. 2. Full 31 days of partying after a child is either missing or dead (depending on whose story you believe) 3. Defendant is a liar. So, we should believe her latest story about the drowning? That doesn't make sense. Has nothing to do with the media.

    July 5, 2011 at 11:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kimmie K

      What's missing from your post, and what was apparently missing from the evidence the jury had, was physical evidence that showed:
      1. the defendant put the duct tape on the child; and
      2. the defendant killed the child.

      July 6, 2011 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
  14. The media is not our legal system!!

    I am very angry with the coverage CNN has given this case. Like many others have mentioned, the media, including CNN, had Casey Anthony convicted before this trial even began. And they didn't stop when the not guilty verdict was given. Regardless of what I think or the press thinks, we have our judicial system for a reason and we must trust this ystem

    July 5, 2011 at 11:28 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Nancy ...... Who

    Today's mainline journalism needs to have it's legs cut out from under it. Nancy Grace and her team of so called experts are just a bunch of pawns that serves the CNN board to get ratings so the can line their pockets with additional revenue. That is why I choose not to watch "The Nancy Grace" circus show. Full of smoke and mirrors that includes over the top journalism techniques and sickening presentation style. No one ha the right to allow the media to influence public opinion. I just wonder how many innocent people were put to death by media influence. I would suggest that the media have it's wings clipped. Oh......... and somebody please fire Nancy Grace.......what an embarrassment. Oh... also fire the rest of the CNN team that supported her program, they are just as guilty of trying to influence the legal system.

    July 5, 2011 at 11:44 pm | Report abuse |
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