Hours after Casey Anthony learned on Thursday that she will leave jail next week, lightning apparently struck a tree next to a makeshift memorial in honor of her slain daughter, Caylee.
No one saw lightning strike the pine tree on Suburban Drive in Orange County, Florida, where teddy bears and flowers mark the spot where 2-year-old Caylee's remains were found on December 11, 2008.
But long, diagonal strips of exposed wood scarred the tall pine tree, WESH reported, and bits of bark lay scattered across the road.
"It could be a sign from the angels that they aren't happy with what's happened," a visitor to the site told the Orlando Sentinel newspaper. "The rain, the lightning, the storm – it's the heavens indicating they aren't happy."
There are more lightning strikes in Florida per square mile than in any other state, according to weather.com.
A Pinellas County jury acquitted Anthony, 24, of murder and manslaughter charges Tuesday in the death of her daughter. The same jury convicted her of four charges of obstruction of justice for lying to police during the search for Caylee.
Judge Belvin Perry sentenced Anthony to four years in jail – one year for each of her four convictions – but with credit for nearly three years already served and good behavior, her release date was set for Wednesday, July 13, a court spokeswoman said.
CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin calls the four-year sentence Judge Belvin Perry slapped on Casey Anthony a surprise but says the judge likely was making a statement in giving her the maximum jail time.
Perry on Thursday sentenced Anthony to one year behind bars on each of four counts of lying to police concerning the death of her daughter, Caylee. She also was fined $1,000 for each count.
“Most people convicted of misdemeanors do not get prison time in Florida or anywhere else," Toobin says.
Despite the sentence, Anthony won't spend much more time incarcerated. She got credit for the time spent in custody since her arrest, almost 1,000 days.
Before the court gave Anthony's official release date, Toobin speculated that she could be free in less than two months once credit for good behavior also was considered. But it appears Anthony got a bigger break – she'll be out in a less than a week. A court spokeswoman said her release date would be Wednesday.
[Updated at 11:34 a.m.] Casey Anthony will be released on July 13, 2011, according to a court spokesperson.
The spokeswoman said she would release more information about the calculation as soon as it was available.
[Updated at 10:41 a.m.] Judge Belvin Perry and attorneys for the state ad the defense are continuing to hold discussions in the courtroom.
All sides are working with the corrections department to help determine exactly how much time Casey Anthony has served in order to determine how much longer she will need to serve to finish out her sentence. The decision is expected to come soon.
[Updated at 9:30 a.m.] Judge Belvin Perry has sentenced Casey Anthony to one year in jail for each of the four counts of lying to police, which will run consecutively.
The judge and defense attorney Jose Baez said it will take about an hour to figure out what exact time Anthony has served and how to apply that to the sentence. The jail where she was being housed would also have to consider any good behavior time.
It appears that for now Casey Anthony is headed back to jail - we'll just have to wait for the specific calculations from the court to find out for how long. Analysts appear to be saying that based on Perry's ruling - and calculations that she served about 1,000 days in court - it is likely Anthony could be free by the end of the summer.
Perry also said he would fine Anthony $1,000 for each count. Perry also said that the court will work to calculate the cost of the investigation into Caylee Anthony's disappearance and what amount of that Casey Anthony might have to pay. The judge has also let Anthony and her team know that they have 30 days to appeal his ruling.
Anthony has remained stoic during this portion of the court hearing. She is conferring with her other attorneys as the judge hands down the sentence.
But as she prepared to exit the courtroom, Casey Anthony let out a tiny smile.
[Updated at 9:26 a.m.] Judge Belvin Perry is breaking down each of the false information charges and specifically what lies Casey Anthony told police that led them along in their investigation - including one where she said she spoke to Caylee Anthony.
Perry rules in favor of the prosecution, saying he doesn't agree that the lies were all one act.
"As a result of those four separate and distinct lies, law enforcement expended a great deal of time, energy and manpower looking for young Caylee Marie Anthony," he said. "This search for her went on from July through December - over several months - trying to find Caylee Marie Anthony. Four distinct, separate, lies. Just as the jury spoke loud and clear on counts one, two and three on their verdict they also spoke loud and clear on the remaining counts."
[Updated at 9:25 a.m.] Casey Anthony will not make a statement before sentencing, her attorney said.
[Updated at 9:17 a.m.] The prosecution has said though they were only handed this defense request this morning. Still, they do not believe the lies should be treated as one single act because there was a temporal break in between each of the lies. And they've also got a few prior cases to back up their thoughts. The fact that the statements happened on the same day doesn't mean the statements should be considered all one act, the prosecution argued.
The prosecution also said as a result of the individual lies police had to go on a "wild goose chase" in the case.
[Updated at 9:16 a.m.] The judge is reiterating his question to the defense: Are they arguing that Casey Anthony didn't have time to pause and reflect when she was making her statements to policy. Their answer: Yes. And that's why the lies should be considered as only be one charge.
[Updated at 9:11 a.m.] Judge Belvin Perry is taking a minute to read through the materials the defense has provided in regard to treating the misdemeanors as one charge.
[Updated at 9:04 a.m.] The defense is asking the court to consider the four misdemeanor charges of lying to police as one charge when it comes to sentencing - saying they were all part of the same act.
Because the information at question was part of the same interview and Casey Anthony did not have time to take a mental break and reformulate her thoughts and statements, her lawyers are saying all of the charges should be reduced to just one.
Because it was "one act" made by Casey Anthony the defense says it is a violation of double jeopardy to sentence her four separate times for the same offense.
[Updated at 9:03 a.m.] The defense has withdrawn an earlier motion for a mistrial - something lawyer Jose Baez jokes he doesn't need anymore.
[Updated at 9:00 a.m.] Judge Belvin Perry has entered the courtroom. The sentencing is about to begin.
[Updated at 8:58 a.m.] Casey Anthony is much more animated and less stoic in court Thursday - and the sentencing hearing hasn't even begun yet.
Though she's still biting her nails as she had during the verdict, it's mixed in many more with smiles and winks to the defense team than looks of worry.
Defense Attorney Jose Baez has just sat down next to her and patted her on the back. The defense table couldn't be any more full of smiles today.
On the other hand, the mood outside the courthouse is a little different. Protesters are gathered outside and still angry with the not guilty verdict.
[Updated at 8:48 a.m.] A smiling Casey Anthony has walked into the Orlando courtroom wearing a long-sleeve blue sweater and her hair down. She appears much more relaxed than she has during any other day in court. She's chatting with her attorney's as she awaits the judge and her sentencing.
Her parents George and Cindy Anthony are seated at the back of the courtroom.
[Posted at 8:28 a.m.] Casey Anthony is due in court Thursday for a sentencing hearing on four misdemeanor counts of lying to police regarding a missing person case - the only charges she was convicted of during her seven-week long murder trial.
She avoided the most serious charges when a jury acquitted her of first degree murder, aggravated child abuse and aggravated manslaughter in the 2008 death of her daughter Caylee. Each misdemeanor count carries a maximum sentence of one year in county jail, for which Judge Belvin Perry has the option of sentencing her consecutively or concurrently.
Judge Belvin Perry sentenced Casey Anthony Thursday to four years in prison - one year for each of her four convictions of lying to authorities - but with credit for time served and good behavior, she could be released as soon as this summer.
Denying a defense motion to reduce the four counts to a single conviction, Perry gave Anthony the maximum prison time he could by ruling that the four years be served consecutively. He also fined her $1,000 for each count.
A jury acquitted Anthony on the most serious charges Tuesday, including murder, in the 2008 death of her 2-year-old daughter Caylee, but convicted her on the four misdemeanor counts of lying to police.FULL STORY
Two jurors in the Casey Anthony trial say they wish the outcome had been different but prosecutors did not present enough evidence to convict Anthony of killing her daughter, Caylee, according to news reports Thursday.
"It doesn't feel good. It was a horrible decision to have to make" to find Anthony not guilty, said Jennifer Ford, who identified herself as Juror No. 3, in an interview with ABC News.
"We were sick to our stomach to get that verdict. We were crying, and not just the women," Ford said of the 12 jurors in the ABC interview.
The tears were still flowing Wednesday as Juror No. 2 (he did not want to be identified by name) spoke to Florida's St. Petersburg Times.
"I just swear to God … I wish we had more evidence to put her away. I truly do … But it wasn't there," he said in an emotional interview with the Times.
Juror No.2, who the Times reported is a black male, married and a father of two young children, said he was the last holdout on the jury who wanted to convict Anthony on a lesser charge of aggravated manslaughter, which would have carried a prison term of up to 15 years, according to the newspaper.
The prosecution's inability to prove who was Caylee's caretaker at the time of her death, Casey Anthony or the girl's grandparents, doomed the manslaughter charge, Juror No. 2 said.
"We truly don't know what happened. Somebody knows, but we don't know," he said in the Times interview.
Ford told ABC that prosecutors left key questions unanswered.
"If you're going to charge someone with murder, don't you have to know how they killed someone or why they might have killed someone, or have something where, when, why, how? Those are important questions. They were not answered," she said in the ABC interview.
An alternate juror, who was present for the trial and sequestered along with the serving jurors, said he would have voted for acquittal, too.
"They didn't show us how Caylee died. They didn't show us a motive. I'm sorry people feel that way. ... These were 17 total jurors. They really listened to this case and kept an open mind," ABC News quotes Russell Huekler as saying.
While those three people have spoken about the case, at least one of the sitting jurors wants money for the behind-the-scenes story.
The man, identified as Juror No. 6, wants $50,000 for his story and has hired a publicist, CNN contributor Howard Kurtz reports for The Daily Beast.
Casey Anthony learns her fate as Washington continues to debate the debt ceiling and the consequences of default. Watch CNN.com Live for continuing coverage of these developing stories.
Today's programming highlights...
9:00 am ET - Casey Anthony sentencing - Casey Anthony will be sentenced on four counts of lying to police regarding a missing person case.
9:30 am ET - Senate debates debt ceiling - Senators resume discussion on raising the debt ceiling and dealing with deficit reduction.
HLN host Nancy Grace has been credited with making the Casey Anthony case a national story. She has been outspoken in her belief that Anthony is guilty of murdering her daughter, despite a jury's verdict. She's also a former prosecutor with strong opinions about what went on in the Florida courtroom in the past few weeks. She spoke with CNN.com about how she would have tried the case, the "CSI effect" on juries and why she doesn't "give a fig" about what Anthony's defense team thinks about her.
Grace: As I’ve always said since 1984, when I started trying cases, you win or lose your case - it’s all over at the end of voir dire (jury selection). I’ve always believed that. It’s true. I think this jury hamstrung the state. The state absolutely put up a good case and I get real fed up when I hear this is a circumstantial case. Most cases are circumstantial because rarely do people commit felony crimes in the open. Murder, armed robbery, you do it in private, in secret, so very rarely is there an eyewitness or direct evidence to a crime.
CNN: Watching a case like this, do you miss the courtroom and prosecuting cases?
Grace: I always miss the courtroom. I miss the courtroom all the time because the courtroom gave me immediate gratification. I knew I’d done something worthwhile when I put someone behind bars or represented crime victims, I knew I had a done a good thing by speaking for people who couldn’t speak for themselves. I don’t get that immediate gratification from being on TV.
CNN: As a former prosecutor, if you could retry this case, how would you do it differently?
Grace: I think they did such a very good job it’s hard to attack anything they did. I think maybe I would’ve taken a different tack in jury selection but that’s really it. There were some obvious problem jurors: You had one on there with an arrest for DUI; another with an arrest for drug paraphernalia; one whose sister and her boyfriend beat up their father; one juror who said she could not judge. Why the heck would you not want someone off the jury who cannot judge? The jury is the sole judge of facts, evidence and the law. Who the heck wants someone who can’t judge? They tried to get rid of them but were not successful. I think the jury was snakebitten from the get-go.
CNN: What do you think is the most important piece of evidence that the jury never saw or heard?
Grace: I don’t believe they saw all of the audiotapes or heard all the videotapes (of Casey Anthony’s jailhouse phone calls). I think the so-called bodyguard or bail bondsman had a lot to offer, his discussions with tot mom when she was referring to Caylee in the past tense before her body had been found, her being very flip about Caylee, being more concerned about a hot guy flirting with her on Facebook. Evidence of that nature.
Casey Anthony's acquittal on first-degree murder charges may be one of the most surprising trial outcomes in at least a decade. The Florida mom may have escaped with only misdemeanor convictions, but her acquittal is drawing comparisons to another high-profile murder trial: O.J. Simpson's.
Casey Anthony was served papers in jail Tuesday night for her deposition in a defamation lawsuit filed by Zenaida Fernandez Gonzalez, an assistant to Gonzalez's attorney John Morgan said Wednesday.
When her daughter Caylee was missing, Casey Anthony said the 2-year-old was with a nanny by that name. Eventually confronted by her family, Casey Anthony maintained that Gonzalez had kidnapped Caylee.
Authorities never found the nanny. They found a woman named Zenaida Fernandez Gonzalez, who denied ever meeting the Anthonys and later filed the defamation lawsuit.
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.”
Editor's note: For more on the jury's finding that Casey Anthony is not guilty in daughter Caylee's death read our full story here.
[Updated at 8:20 p.m.] From the moment word came that Casey Anthony was acquitted of murdering her 2-year-old daughter, online networking sites were flooded with a cascade of amateur commentary. A few big names, including Kim Kardashian, joined the fray. Most condemned the verdict – "no justice for Caylee" was a common comment – which comes after years of the case serving as fodder for cable news, tabloids and the like.
[Updated at 7:55 p.m.] Mourners of Caylee Anthony want you to turn your porch lights on tonight in honor of the slain 2-year-old.
The Facebook event, "Porch lights on for Caylee Marie Anthony," urges people "all over the world" to start participating at "9 pm in your own time zone."
Already, 546,610 have said they're attending, and some say their lights are already on.
[Updated at 7:20 p.m.] Alternate juror Russell Huekler said he agrees with the jury's verdict "wholeheartedly" and surmised that Caylee Anthony's death was a "horrific accident" gone awry.
"The prosecution did not prove their case," said Huekler, who sat through the entire case but did not get to deliberate the charges.
Prosecutors failed to answer the question of how Caylee died, he said.
From the testimony, Huekler said he drew the conclusion that "it was probably a horrific accident" that Anthony and her father, George Anthony, covered up.
"Unfortunately it did snowball and got away from them," Huekler said. "It was such a horrific accident that they didn't know how to deal with it. The family appeared to be very dysufintional and instead of admitting there was an accident, they chose to hide it, for whatever reason."
[Updated at 5:08 p.m.] Attorney Mark Lippman issued a statement on behalf of Lee, George and Cindy Anthony:
While the family may never know what has happened to Caylee Marie Anthony, they now have closure for this chapter of their life. They will now begin the long process of rebuilding their lives.
Despite the baseless defense chosen by Casey Anthony, the family believes that the Jury made a fair decision based on the evidence presented, the testimony presented, the scientific information presented and the rules that were given to them by the Honorable Judge Perry to guide them.
The family hopes that they will be given the time by the media to reflect on this verdict and decide the best way to move forward privately.
The family also wanted the public to know that if anyone wanted to honor Caylee by leaving stuffed animals or other toys at any area near their home, that they would prefer those items be donated in Caylee’ s name to families in need, religious centers, or any other entity where the toys would be appreciated.
Florida mother Casey Anthony was acquitted of all charges Tuesday in the death of daughter Caylee in 2008. But she still faces sentencing Thursday on four counts of lying to police regarding a missing person. What could be in store for her?
Each misdemeanor count carries a maximum sentence of one year in county jail, for which Judge Belvin Perry has the option of sentencing her consecutively or concurrently.
The defense plans to ask Perry that she be sentenced concurrently because the four counts occurred at the same time, defense lawyer Cheney Mason told In Session's Jean Casarez.
A Florida jury on Tuesday found Casey Anthony not guilty in the 2008 death of her daughter, Caylee. Here's a look back at highlights from 33 days and more than 100 witnesses in the trial of the year:
Week 1: As Casey Anthony murder trial begins, mysteries remain
The case of Florida v. Casey Marie Anthony began with both sides summing up their versions of what they believed the evidence would show. From the prosecution, jurors heard a timeline of the defendant's activities before her mother reported Caylee missing: parties, drinking and sleepovers with men.
Those days included getting a tattoo, participating in a "hot body" contest at an Orlando club, many Caylee-free nights at her then-boyfriend Anthony Lazzaro's apartment and many, many lies, the prosecution said.
"No one else benefited from the death of Caylee Marie Anthony," said assistant state attorney Linda Drane-Burdick in her opening statement. "Caylee's death allowed Casey to live a good life, at least for those 31 days."
From the defense, jurors were presented with an image of loving mother, whose dysfunctional family forced her to live in a state of denial. They argued the family held dark secrets, including that Casey was sexually abused by her father and brother.
The defense also revealed their theory of the case: Caylee drowned in the family pool as the result of what Baez called "an accident that snowballed out of control." He said it was an accident to which Casey's father, George Anthony, was privy. Baez said George Anthony tried to cover up the drowning at Casey's expense.
[Updated at 4:29 p.m. ET] Tuesday's verdicts in the Casey Anthony case - she was acquitted of felonies including murder, and found guilty of four misdemeanor counts - were a "historic rejection of the prosecution’s case," CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin said.
"They sought the death penalty against this woman, and she got convicted of four misdemeanors (of providing false information to a law enforcement officer). This is a historic rejection of the prosecution’s case and an enormous victory – for better or worse – for Casey Anthony,” Toobin said on CNN minutes after the verdicts were read.
“She won and the government lost. ... In most courtrooms in the United States, if you’re convicted of misdemeanors, you do not get a prison sentence. So, the fact that the sentencing is just coming on Thursday - two days from now - suggests that there will not be much to this sentencing," Toobin said.
A lack of evidence pointing to a time of death and a cause of death for Casey's daughter Caylee was key to the acquittal, according to Toobin.
"There was never even a theory of when or how or even why Casey Anthony killed her daughter," he said. "There is certainly a lot of evidence that she behaved terribly, that she lied about all sorts of things. But in terms of murder, much less first-degree murder – intentional murder - there really was a big gap in the evidence, and I certainly expect that when these jurors come to explain their verdict, the failure to prove a time of death or cause of death will be a major, major factor.
Jurors reached a verdict Tuesday in the Casey Anthony murder trial in Orlando, according to court officials. Anthony, 25, is accused of killing her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee, in 2008. In this high-profile case, there's a lot at stake. For the defendant, the verdict is a matter of life and death.
Anthony is charged with seven counts, including first-degree murder; aggravated manslaughter of a child; aggravated child abuse; and four counts of providing false information to law enforcement. As those following the trial across the country anxiously await the jury's verdict, CNN takes a look at all the charges, what a guilty verdict on each charge would mean and what kind of sentence Anthony could be facing if the jury finds for the prosecution.
If you've been captivated by the trial and want to reconsider the evidence, take a look at key points from the defense and prosecution.
And if it's a bit confusing with so many charges and possible sentences, you can always click over to CNN affiliate WESH-TV in Orlando, which has a handy calculator for figuring out possible total sentences depending on whether Anthony is found not guilty or guilty on each of the charges.
Charge: Capital first-degree murder
What it means: If found guilty, the jury would indicate it believes Anthony planned the murder.
Possible sentence: Anthony would face death by lethal injection or life in prison without the possibility of parole if recommended by the jury. The judge could overrule this in the sentencing phase but would be required to write an explanation for his disagreement with the jury.
Jodi Waits is planning to leave her home in Lexington, South Carolina, on Wednesday to drive to Florida, where her elderly parents live.
"I'll stop at stores and rest stops on the way down," said Waits, 48. "And hopefully they won't have a verdict while I'm on the road."
Across the nation, many of those who were glued to the televised murder trial of Casey Anthony are expressing similar sentiments as a second day of jury deliberations are under way. The jury is deciding whether Casey Anthony is guilty of killing her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee, in 2008.
Orange County Chief Judge Belvin Perry Jr. called jurors into the courtroom briefly Tuesday before sending them out to continue their deliberations about 8:30 a.m.
Casey Anthony is charged with seven counts, including first-degree murder; aggravated manslaughter of a child; aggravated child abuse; and four counts of providing false information to law enforcement. If convicted of first-degree murder, she could receive the death penalty.
She has pleaded not guilty to all charges, and she denies harming her daughter Caylee.
Prosecutors allege that Anthony used chloroform to render Caylee unconscious before putting duct tape over her nose and mouth to suffocate her. She left Caylee's body in the trunk of her car for a few days before disposing of it, they allege. The little girl's skeletal remains were found in December 2008 near the Anthony home.
Many have compared Casey Anthony's trial to the O.J. Simpson murder trial in 1995 - only fueled by today's prevalence of the Internet and social media.FULL STORY
The jury will deliberate for a second day today in the murder trial of Casey Anthony. Watch CNN.com Live when a verdict in the case is announced.
Today's programming highlights...
Continuing coverage - Casey Anthony trial verdict watch
10:00 am ET - Shuttle status briefing - NASA briefs reporters on preparations for Friday's planned launch of space shuttle Atlantis.
It's the capital murder case that's held our attention this summer. But has the prosecution proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Casey Anthony intentionally murdered her daughter? The jury is beginning their deliberations today, and now it's your chance to weigh in. You've gotta watch the most pivotal moments from the defense and prosecution and judge for yourself whether Casey Anthony is guilty or innocent.
The Casey Anthony case could go to the jury today, while America celebrates its 235th birthday. Watch CNN.com Live for continuing coverage on these developing stories.
Today's programming highlights...
8:30 am ET - Casey Anthony trial - Jurors may begin deliberations today in the case of the Florida woman accused of killing her young daughter.
As Casey Anthony alternately cried, glared and shook her head, prosecutors in her capital murder trial told jurors Sunday that evidence in the case points to only one conclusion - that she murdered her 2-year-old daughter Caylee.
"When you have a child, that child becomes your life," prosecutor Jeff Ashton told the seven-woman, five-man jury. "This case is about the clash between that responsibility, and the expectations that go with it, and the life that Casey Anthony wanted to have."
Jurors are expected to begin deliberations later Sunday to decide if Anthony, 25, is guilty of killing her daughter. She is charged with seven counts, including first-degree murder, aggravated child abuse and misleading police. If convicted of first-degree murder, Anthony could receive the death penalty. She has pleaded not guilty to all charges, and denies harming her daughter. Read the full story and review what defense attorneys have said during the trial.