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. Mr. Logic

    Countdown to sentencing? Civil litigation? Hippicritical concerns that Casey will make money? HLN and CNN are making millions on the death of this little girl. If Nancy Grace and the rest of her air head team on HLN were accused of murder they would all take advantage of a dream team too and yes they would walk away guilty if they could. What a bunch of bottom feeders! Disgraceful.

    July 6, 2011 at 2:49 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Mr. Logic

    The entire population of Florida has to get a life. the prosecutors were inept. They made their bed. This Jane Velez-Mitchell is so stupid it!s comical. They are inciting a lynching of Casey Anthony and it ought to be stopped.

    July 6, 2011 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Casey'scrotch

      Channey Mason is a DIIIICK!

      July 6, 2011 at 3:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • M Bell

      I agree with CHeny Mason. The news media serve one function – to lather up the ratings for their corporate masters by sensationalizing and emotionalizing a serious legal issue – capital punishment. Shame on the judges, prosecutors, defense counsel who participate in this farce.
      Has it really come to this – that without a manner of death and without a cause of death, without dna implication that we will take another life of someone who isn't popular in our 'clique' to make us feel better about an innocent child found in a rattle-snake infested swamp that no party girl would tiptoe thru if you paid her to do it?
      Ill informed masses with little ability to separate emotion from legalities is a product of our culture and our school systems that will eventually annihilate our founding principles.
      HLN, CNN and these talking heads are now ACTIVELY IMPLICATING THEIR CORPORATE MASTERS in the kangaroo court justice, these foaming at the mouth, indignant masses who cannot accept that the system serves even when we don't like the outcome will eventually endanger Casey's life.
      Follow GEorge. There is only one reason a good mother or grandmother from a fairly financially stable middle class family does not take children to pediatricians or ob/gyn's. They don't want the children being examined too closely.
      What might that reason be?

      July 6, 2011 at 6:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • M Bell

      She's not as stupid or annoyingly hokey as Nancy Grace who needs to explain to her bosses why she was so clueless.
      ANd hell hath no fury like a talking blond head WRONG on EVERY SCORE for 3years straight.
      pool full of water, ladder up, french door open for the doggies to go poo? SERIOUSLY?
      Why throw the child away in a garbage bag? Because there's more money in that story.
      Accidental drownings are a dime a dozen story but no one apparently requires a pool fencing in Florida like they do in other states.
      THis is a sick, sick family and Casey is a product of their dysfunction. Cindy worked for Gentiva, has some nursing background and no pediatrician records on the daughter or grand daughter? no ob/gyn till her 8th month? IF Cayce was such a party girl living with her parents – wouldn't you wonder about drugs and the foetus and get her into an ob/gyn every month to protect your grandchild?
      What were they afraid a doctor would find on these female children?

      July 6, 2011 at 6:39 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Krock23

    So ABC and Disney by association, decided to pay 200,000 to the Anthony family which was used for Casey's defense.
    Dusnay supporting a child murderer. Can this case get any worse? Shame on them.

    July 6, 2011 at 3:01 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  4. StIves

    Sad, but true, public opinions and the media make you guilty, seem guilty and convit you without having or knowing all of the facts. This has to stop. There is to be a level where none of this should have any rights hereof. Mass media and public opinions cause the guilty go free and the innocents to be convicted. Well, in this case of Ms. Casey Anthony, they make her look and feel less than a human being. The facts remain, the proof, the manner, and how or who did what and when....none of it was concrete. To me, Casey Anthony did not have a fighting chance without proper representation. She had a good Lawyer no matter his status. What I saw was nothing but the truth of facts he gave on behalf of Ms. Casey Anthony. There was not proof she did anything...except mislead of informatoin in this case.

    July 6, 2011 at 3:12 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  5. newstome

    I would be surprised if Nancy Grace's license to practice law is even current. The only place I want to see her is in a courtroom trying a case. If she actually HAD to shut up and allow someone else to argue another point of view, she would be left stupified.

    July 6, 2011 at 3:46 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Pistol

      If whe had to shut up for any length of time she would blow up...................

      July 6, 2011 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nadine

      I honestly believe she's a bit cuckoo. And at the same time, very calculating. That pecan-pie accent, the way she never lets anyone else speak - it's all a way of being so very obnoxious that people tune in to watch her. Like a dancing bear. Or certain political commentators.

      July 6, 2011 at 5:42 pm | Report abuse |
  6. John Schwendler

    Banning all television from all courtrooms is a start. Without six weeks inside the court, Ms. Grace and all the talking heads would have had to spout even morth worthless speculation as to what was going on, just like everyone else. Her alleged "show" is nothing more than a ratings stunt to sell soap. Today CNN is bragging that they are now on a "Sentencing Watch" for crying out loud. Enough is enough. What I truly find remarkable here, is lawyers are discussing ethics !

    July 6, 2011 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  7. lwilliams74

    The outcome of this case should be surprising... but it's not. From 2008 to today, media reporters have been digging this case in the ground. It doesn't seem as if the prosecutors ever had a true chance to prove the state's case to the jury, because every move that the police made regarding the investigation ended up on the 6pm news. Rather society believes that this mother is a heartless person or not, at this point.. is irrelevant. The state was unsuccessful at proving her guilt, and a jury of her peers found her innocent. So now as a society, we need to let it rest. I definitely don't agree with the death of this precious child.. but when situations are played out in the public's eye the way that this case has been, it makes it extremely difficult for law enforcement and the state's legal team to do a successful job of prosecuting a case to the "fullest extent of the law". To the people that are calling this family on the phone, and making death threats, or standing outside of their home calling them derogatory names.. stop being heartless yourself!!!! When you start threatening individuals because you may not agree with the outcome of a situation, it's ridiculous. It makes you seem extreme, and you NEED to stop. Again, how individuals personally feel.. does not matter at this point. The judicial system has done it's job. The same judicial system that you helped to keep in existence (especially if you voted in your local elections.. and if you didn’t get out and vote, or you're not a registered voter... you definitely need to stop the madness!!!) It's time for the community at large to let it go. This case was like baseball... when it's time for you to go up to plate to bat.. and you know that the pitcher is aware of all your moves.. don't be shocked, stunned, and amazed when he strikes you out.. and you lose the game. You lost... now go home.. and start preparing for the next game!!!!

    July 6, 2011 at 5:04 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  8. AnnaCatherine

    I don't watch the shouting matches but I never thought for a minute that Casey Anthony murdered her daughter. Motive was missing and so was proof that there was any crime. Nancy Grace has a voice scalled her. Apparently the girl thought she was calling for advice. INstead Nancy Grace opened both barrelsat her. It was the usual undisclosed sum settlement and gag order. We can't have secrecy in these matters,not should we but we can't continue to turn people over to incompetent loud mouths with scat knowledge of what happend. This is people's lives and they deserve more respect. Let them get real jobs.

    July 6, 2011 at 5:13 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Nadine

    Yeah, CNN is soul-searching all the way to the bank. Pull the other one.

    July 6, 2011 at 5:35 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Nadine

    I think that Nancy Grace was so overbearingly prejudicial that many people just took the other side out of sheer orneriness. You act stubborn and ornery and biased and unfair and you make many other people do the same. She was so unprofessional as a journalist that it would have been about the same with Paris Hilton hosting her show each night.

    July 6, 2011 at 5:39 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  11. A. A.

    Nancy Grace should be ashamed of herself for bashing the public servants who gave up 6 weeks of time with their own families to do their civic duty. Why she is not demon-izing the prosecution is beyond me. I saw the case, heard the evidence, and unfortunately when you cut through all the emotion and yellow-journalism there just was NOT enough evidence to convict. The jury absorbed the objective information and was courageous in fighting the social media biases that plagued this case. Even though Casey is probably guilty the evidence did NOT bear that out. The jurors were fearless in the face of this tidal wave and produced the only verdict possible under the law based on what they got from the prosecution. Nancy Grace should be reporting for the Enquirer or Fox rather than pretending to be a journalist on CNN. Shew wouldn't know the word "objective" even if it were tattooed on her forehead...objectionable is more like it. I lost a lot of respect for CNN/Turner due to this coverage.

    July 6, 2011 at 5:41 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Nadine

      Amen. Well said.

      July 6, 2011 at 5:46 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Linda

    I don't know why this case gathered so much pre-trial publicity. Sure, when a child is missing, it is important. But once Casey was arrested and searches were called off, why were her jailhouse tapes and every move she made be plastered all over the place? I found it disgusting that pictures of Caylee were used to finance Casey's defense. Casey could have been stuck with a second rate public defender if the media hadn't pounced on Caylee's pictures.

    July 6, 2011 at 5:46 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Allan

    Everybody wants her hung. Yet I see Casey and Nancy Grace in a Pay Per View mud wrestling match!!! I mean Grace has been slinging mud for 3 years now. I would pay at least 50 cents to see it.

    July 6, 2011 at 6:02 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Linda O

    This defense team are all complicit in the fraud committed on the court. They revised their defense to fit the evidence. This was not about the truth but winning only. They all helped free a killer. Along with her family. If in the future for reference be sure to hide the body in water real good. Then lie about everything & be sure to have your family help you by covering up everything. Be careful and make sure they change their minds often. Oh yeah you & your attorney wait till 6 months before trial to come up with a theory after you review everything the state has against you. Then do a check list of possible suspects you can throw under the bus with you or alone. Good to know in court you are protected from criminal liability for slander. So you can say anything you want about anyone. Your home free. Double check to be sure your lawyer still has license & is in the clear from the FL Bar for all the charges against him. As a new attorney Mr. Baez has the most complaints ever filed against a lawyer in such a short time. He has at least 6 pending charges. As of today. I believe the State Bar made a mistake allowing him to have a license to practice law here. In 1998 the state denied him a license due to his moral financial behavior, writing bad checks & failure to pay child support. Check Wikipedia under his name to see it for yourself. All attorneys should be embarrassed & ashamed of this immoral unethical behavior by Mr. Baez & his so called team. Shame on any one of you to praise him for this win. I guess even fraud committed in court in front of a jury is OK as long as it gets past the Judge. Witnesses caught lying still will not vacate this verdict. Shame Shame to them all.

    July 6, 2011 at 6:18 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Bruce D

    This may not be over yet. Cindy Anthony very possibly could be tried for perjury. Casey is off the hook. But not Cindy

    July 6, 2011 at 6:53 pm | Report abuse | Reply
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