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. ron brooks

    She is a white woman. Put any guy in place on this case and guaranteed conviction of murder or at least manslaughter. Yes take a look at our justice system and our changed society. Men have no rights in our country except the right to work, shut up and hope you are not taken to court for divorce, abuse, cheating or just being a man. Women can get away with murder in this country.

    July 13, 2011 at 8:08 am | Report abuse |
  2. Pat - Illinois

    Since getting ones face on TV is the goal for so many media viewers – regardless of the reason – no wonder the 24/7 coverage by so many channels influenced the outcome of this trial. How could anyone believe the prospective jurors who claimed to not have been influenced by media coverage of this case? Nancy Grace is a shrill commentator making money like an ambulance chaser and she has plenty of company from other "commentators." I believe that the media latches on to a case and then drives it into the ground – that allows them to fill their program schedules with the least amount of effort (MONEY). I believe that they end up brainwashing some viewers with their constant chatter. When you couch an element of truth with never ending opinions and speculations, you have a tremendous amount of influence on the opinions of the public.

    Do I believe Casey was guilty, YES. So don't think my comments are in defense of the verdict. But sadly we are know how that turned out.

    July 13, 2011 at 8:44 am | Report abuse |
    • Jeanb44

      The jury did exactly what it should have done, given the over-charging done by the prosecutor. There was no evidence to support a first-degree murder charge. The jury undoubtedly believed the tot mom had something to do with the death, but their hands were tied. They could not find evidence for a first-degree murder conviction, and nothing else was offered them.

      July 28, 2011 at 3:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bob B

      Nancy "DIS" Grace, is the most dangerous person in the media,who hides behind the 1st amendment, when it sides with her cause. But, if you asked the young woman's family, who committed suicide with assistance of Nancy "DIS" Grace and the man's family, who committed suicide,with assistance of Nancy "DIS" Grace in Eliz Smarts kidnapping case,including Eliz Smarts uncle who was found guilty by Nancy "DIS" Grace and the Duke University lacrosse team convicted and found guilty by Nancy "DIS" Grace and amoung many,many more, and when WRONG she rudely moves on to her next target. She should be off the airwaves, permenently. She is an ungly human being (being nice) who thrives on others tragedies, puts the money in her kids college fund and boldly leads her sheep where ever she wants.

      August 5, 2011 at 9:25 am | Report abuse |
  3. Nathan

    Since Florida is a public records state and since so much of the trial was televised I believe the public drew their own conclusions based on the evidence and testimony. To blame this on the 'media' is ridiculus... I recall the prosecution wanted a gage order but the defense objected, the defense was the only side that got on tv...selling pictures of Caylee. HIPOCRACY.
    As for the verdict, I do believe the jury got it wrong. The fact they got lost in the details or believed George Anthony killed her blows my mind. Fact is she was not reported dead / missing for 31 DAYS, reported by the grandmother...not the mother, and Casey's explanation was not supported by any EVIDENCE....How could not jury not see Casey's lies likely allowed all evidence linking the death to her to be destroyed....she was lying for her own personal gain!
    For the jury to no look at that and find her at least guilty of child neglect is beyond me. I could have accepted a lesser charge but not an acquital.
    I do believe the court of public opinion will judge Casey, her defense team and jurors justly....they will have to sleep in the beds they made for themselves. When 70% of america says the jury got it wrong then she was not judged justly or by her peers.

    July 13, 2011 at 10:59 am | Report abuse |
    • obverse side

      Last time I checked all of the conjecture of Nancy Grace and her ilk is NOT evidence. What you saw and heard for three years was sensationalism and what-if scenarios not allowed in court because it is NOT evidence. You've been conned by the talking heads of TV land, it is not real, just ratings grab.

      July 13, 2011 at 6:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sam

      I dont believe the media influenced the ruling but I do think the media needs to take responsibitly for causing harm time and time again. The jurors and other parties would not receive the number of death threats etc they have if it weren't for the media coverage. I just love how people are so willing to pass judgement on others. Do I think Casey Anthony killed her daughter. I would say yes, more than likely she did but would I bet my life on it...no, I sure as hell wouldn't. I can't stand people like Nancy Grace who feed into all the hatred and negativity. I think Casey is the only person that knows the truth and I refuse to risk my chance of getting into heaven by judging her or anyone else. Those of you who are threating the life of someone else, or harassing them with negative comments are no better than Casey Anthony so just remember what comes around goes around.

      July 15, 2011 at 4:03 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Jake

    Maybe if this was posted in the CURRENT comments instead of way back in the July 6th comments it might actually be read. Maybe 'OJ' can team up with Florida Enforcement and help them find the 'real' killer (If they let him out). After all, he has extensive experience in evasion of justice in criminal cases. Oh, and if you DO believe the P.O.S, is 'innocent, then you must believe her defense teams version of events. That there WAS NO KILLER! Remember it was ALL a tragic ACCIDENT! An accident in which THEIR CLIENT CONSPIRED with her dad to cover up and HIDE the BODY (The Car, Then The woods/swamp), disguising it so it looked like a Murder Victim (The duct Tape) and THEN NOT reporting the disappearance of a child for 30 DAYS! Then Lying to police and searchers to misdirect and mislead them to allow time for possible critical evidence (ACTUAL cause of death) to be destroyed so it could not be used against the defenses client.
    If you Really believe that she is not guilty just because the jury was too stupid to convict of ANYTHING, then you are also a party in this crime. Because others WILL do this again and use this case as a precedence to get off themselves.

    July 13, 2011 at 11:23 am | Report abuse |
  5. RLB


    You know and i know that you were on a witch hunt because you had her guilty even before she went to court you'r the cause of all this out rage. that people are showing toward her. If she is murderd when she gets out. your the cause of it. with out even knowing the whole truth i hope the truth comes out some day as long as you get paid for caylees death thats all that matters. why don't you take some of your energy and find out the truth.

    July 13, 2011 at 11:53 am | Report abuse |
  6. RLB

    Just because nancy said she's guilty dosn't make so nancys not judge or the jurry just someone that likes to g

    July 13, 2011 at 1:54 pm | Report abuse |
  7. RLB

    I don't know how to tell you people this but nancy is just a reporter that gets paid for how big her mouth can get and how many people she can get riled up for her own profit. sorry nancy lovers she's not the jury or the judge just a big mouth that likes to find people guilty before there even on trial. If she has proof please show us nancy we would like to this proof the only people that has found her guilty is the people that watch your show. if she's get murderd when she gets out it's nancys fault she the one that brought the evil out of the wood work.

    July 13, 2011 at 2:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • MJ

      you are a dum8a$$

      July 29, 2011 at 5:39 pm | Report abuse |
  8. RLB

    I don't believe she drowned I believe she was murdered or by accident but she had help or maybe she didn't but just because she was with caylee dosn't make her the killer. she has been a lier all her life maybe when she thought they where going to accuse her so she started making up lies. that don't make her a killer.

    July 13, 2011 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
  9. RLB

    nanthan you'r a reporter have to be. or you you was in a cave some where. the media didn;t have anything to do with this bieng hyped up your very funny nathan. Ha Ha

    July 13, 2011 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
  10. RLB

    here's the problem they are afraid to death she might make money off a book or something. But on the other hand everybody has there hand out wanting all this money back sounds like if they want there money then they should let her make money however it is. Because there not getting there money back if she's working at mcDonalds. If she ever wrote a book believe me everybody would buy it they say they wouldnt but they would even nancy herself would be in line. even i would want to know what she has to say wouldn't you.

    July 13, 2011 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse |
  11. KF

    The media will not soul search because the media does not have a soul...plain & simple.

    July 28, 2011 at 10:27 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Jackal

    This is why we vote for someone smarter than us to Congress. Americans are mostly self absorbed and stupid. Greater good doesn't exists any longer. It's all about self-interests. Jurors have been stupid all throughout our legal process. Anthony case exemplifies it. Why else would a jury award "victim" in civil courts millions of dollars for self-inflicted damages ???? They themselves dont want to admit that people are stupid and ingenuous.

    August 1, 2011 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |
  13. EvidenceBase

    Nice Mr. Toobin – will you talk to Nancy Grace for us? Perhaps tell her to shut up?

    August 1, 2011 at 11:03 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Terri

    I completely agree with Bob B in his comments about "Dis" Grace, Nancy Grace.............I am sick of hearing her blasting comments about whomever she chooses to rant about and NEVER GIVES the benefit of the doubt to those who are innocent or cannot be proven guilty. Nancy "Dis" Grace is a very "Two" faced commentator and I'm not sure what HLN sees appealing about her. I have never seen a more hypocritical newscaster on television. Remember Nancy, I have freedom of speech like you always use as your excuse for derogatory comments about innocent people. You must have loved being a prosecutor because you dove damming people. I can't believe you were chosen for DWTS because it my mind you are NOT a star. Your program thrives on the same thing you criticize others for and that is your "narcissistic personality". I find when you have guests on regarding whatever the topic, you constantly interrupt them, don't listen to what they're saying and put words in their mouth and spew that you disagree with them when in fact, it's obvious the person who came on your show to comment on one of your media coverges agrees with you.............you just don't LISTEN TO WHAT THEY ARE trying to say because of your NARCISSISTIC PERSONALITY. PLEASE take this woman off HLN......if anyone person has caused undo stress & possible harm to another human being, it is Nancy Grace and her negative view point of Casey Anthony. I want to know what's legal about her constantly calling Casey a "murderer" on national television......does HLN not have any scrupples when it comes to this woman's rude messages and commentary. I hope someone from HLN reads this post.

    September 15, 2011 at 3:28 am | Report abuse |
  15. Rob

    They never had the evidence to support 1st degreee murder, the prosecutor wanted the death penalty, instead he let a murderer walk free because of his ego. If you believe in the afterlife, why bother worrying about this, Casey will die one day like everyone, and if she is guilty she will get hers.

    September 24, 2011 at 10:50 am | Report abuse |
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