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. Margaret

    Nancy Grace of HLN should be sanctioned and charged with defamation of character.

    July 5, 2011 at 8:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kate

      Nancy Grace is a huge part of the problem IMO. I don't like it when the media pulls their guilty until proven innocent nonsense. I think the world would be a better place if we stopped reporting on crime altogether unless it is something imminent (like a missing child or something). I don't feel sorry for Casey but she will likely have to go through the rest of her life with people like Nancy Grace defaming her and that doesn't sit well with me either.

      July 5, 2011 at 8:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Iamgr82day

      Let us not forget the Duke Lacrosse players. Her rush to judgement ruined their lives. It turned out that they we not guilty.. I mean really not guilty. She does this over and over. She rushes to judgement. Sometimes she was correct and they were guilty, but often she was wrong. It might not bother me so much, but she never apologized or made ammends when she unfairly crucified someone in the media. It would also not bother me so much if she did not attempt to make herself credible by announcing that she is a former prosecutor. She is not constrained by the same burden of proof as a real prosecutor, but people do not realize that she is free to make assertions that are not evidence and not disclose or or give the other side their fair time. She does can focus on only one piece of evidence and not allow an alternate interpretation of that evidence. People assume that because she is a former prosecutor, she must be legally correct in her assertions. She has no sense of fair play... thatt is why she rushed to condemn the jury when the real prosecutors we able to accept the outcome and not blame the jury...even the one retiring. He accepted that he did not prove his case to the jury and that was that. She went on to defame members of the jury. I stopped watching that network a long time ago when they changed formats. I still watch the parent network since they have attempted to maintain some form of journalistic integity... or at the very least they gave time to both sides of the arguement.

      July 9, 2011 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Margaret

    Can we not just get Anderson Cooper to actually talk about this case. At least he might be objective and hold up the true meaning of American Justice and not try Casey Anthony in the court of public opinion. I am so sick of HLN newscasters (if I can use that latter term loosely). Give it up. Nancy Grace makes me sick. I think that the jury said not guilty because they were so SICK of lies and Nancy Grace. Please your HLN people are just in it for money and ratings.

    July 5, 2011 at 8:28 pm | Report abuse |
  3. HRM banasy

    Toobin is CNN's legal analyst.
    He's part of the problem, as he's a legal analyst for the Cable News Network, and thus, part of the media.

    July 5, 2011 at 8:32 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Jeff Frank ( R-Ohio )

    "If not her...then who...and how and why."

    July 5, 2011 at 8:33 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Remi

    Right now Nancy's busy defaming 12 people who didn't look for an excuse out of their civic duty, expected to be paid crappy, and NEVER knew this would be the case they got. Now I'm sick, Nancy.

    July 5, 2011 at 8:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • M K

      I agree with you about the jurors. All twelve of the jurors did the right thing, they should be commended. The jury heard and weighed the evidence and found it lacking and conflicting. It was a trial by jury and not by media. It scares me to think that speculation and media opinion could put a person on trial because they angered investigators and did not respond to a tradgey in a "normal" manner. I think the media needs to go back to reporting facts not their opinions and stop taking sides. We should stop listening to the media and do our own research and think for ourselves. Who needs the media to tell us what to think or how we should act?

      July 5, 2011 at 9:23 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Alex K

    This is shocking. With the prosecutor’s stellar closing arguments I was sure the jury was coming back with guilty.

    Poll: Should Casey Anthony have been acquitted of murdering her daughter?
    Vote: http://www.wepolls.com/p/1056161/


    Poll: Should HLN be ashamed of how they reported the Anthony trial?
    Vote: http://www.wepolls.com/p/953790

    July 5, 2011 at 8:36 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Laura

    So I guess Toobin thinks justice was served. I suppose he thinks justice was served in the Simpson case too. I had no idea that justice left such a bad taste in your mouth.

    July 5, 2011 at 8:41 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Kate

    I think we need to ban all media from courtrooms. I think justice needs to be carried out privately.

    July 5, 2011 at 8:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • California

      I couldn't agree more. The judicial system with 12 jurors being selected is done for a reason. Since when has it become our business to play a part in the ruling?

      July 5, 2011 at 8:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Michael

      No guarantee justice will be carried out even with no media in the court rooms.

      July 6, 2011 at 2:15 am | Report abuse |
  9. Up With Jesus

    Oh, never mind the media ruins the life of the accused. Never mind the fact that these people will be ostracized where ever they go.

    Yup. The media is just a messenger.

    July 5, 2011 at 8:41 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Juan

    How come there was not a charge for criminal child neglect? A mother that leaves her 2 yr old baby with an imaginary nanny for a month and results in death is criminal child neglect...felony 3-15 yrs. I respect the legal system, but justice remains to be served in this case.

    July 5, 2011 at 8:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • kpearson

      You are so right. I have 3 children and it kills me that a mother would do this to her own child. I found myself saying no way, but mothers do do this and it happens more frequently than we would like to think. Let's hope that while she was in jail she had her tubes tied. That is one thing that I am SURE the state would be happy to pay for.

      July 5, 2011 at 9:49 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Austin

    This is exactly what happens when you show this case to a bunch of opinionated Americans. I had a feeling she was not guilty all along. They had no DNA, Finger prints, or any sort of hard evidence to prove that CASEY was guilty. Who knows, it could have been her Mother, or Father. Yes, the family does lie about a lot, but that doesn't mean that shes guilty. I think the jury made the right verdict, because there was no proof, just speculation. Including the big turn with the Meter Reader admitting to messing with the body! Prosecution did a great job, but the investigation didn't!

    July 5, 2011 at 8:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • kpearson

      What do you need to prove gulit? pictures? a home movie? She was found not guilty by 12 jurors, not by God. She will have to answer to him one day.

      July 5, 2011 at 9:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • nmlawyer

      That was true of a young man in Alaska named Joshua Wade. He was acquitted in 2003 of killing a woman named Della Brown. There were no fingerprints, DNA, etc. He was convicted of tampering with evidence, which he admitted to doing. He was sentenced and got out of prison in 2006. When he entered his guilty plea for killing another woman in 2007, he admitted to killing Ms. Brown as part of his plea agreement.

      July 7, 2011 at 11:30 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Jeff Frank ( R-Ohio )

    Now that she has been found "not guilty", they're no doubt going to have to take her into further custody so somebody don't whack her.

    July 5, 2011 at 8:46 pm | Report abuse |
  13. California

    Forgive me for saying this, but the amount of coverage this case received should be an example of poor media exhibited. This took more coverage than the OJ Simpson trial. There are MORE pressing matters such as our economy, unemployment rates, and overseas turmoil affecting us here in the United States. Millions of children get killed and their murderes never get the coverage like this.

    July 5, 2011 at 8:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jenna

      It's a phenomenon known as Pretty White Girl or Rich White Girl Syndrome. Your assessment of the situation is pretty accurate, though. It's nothing more than a sensationalized diversion tactic of force feeding the masses something shocking and mysterious so they won't notice what's being done to our country. Her acquittal was no doubt a godsend to those who need the public to have an outlet for their angst.

      July 5, 2011 at 10:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Duh

      @Jenna Trolly: She's not pretty. Maybe to a black guy she's snow white, but us white guys would hit it and pass. Something I'm sure you're used to. She looks like a mouse and she lived with mommy and daddy in a middle class home. She's dirt trash, but I guess to you she's Rapunzel. Lol.. Wow

      July 6, 2011 at 12:27 am | Report abuse |
  14. beachrat

    Yes, its about time someone called out the talking heads on this kind of thing, and it just happens that Nancy Grace is the worst offender of all. She should be ashamed of herself. as for Jeffery Toobin, he has always been even handed and reasonable.

    July 5, 2011 at 8:52 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Camille

    I felt the Media coverage of this trial was over the edge. I could not go to one newspaper source without seeing all of the days details about the trail, some sources it appeared were trying to stay factual will others stretched the truth daily. Nancy Grace, even though I realize does some good things for deserving people, was the most annoying of them all, the "Tot Mom" phase she choose to use was just annoying and in my opinion, unprofessional. I could not watch her show because she had already formed her opinion based on information that was clearly not solid. Caylee should have never died, her mom Casey seemed very guilty, but the how, when, why, there was no solid evidence. It was in my opinion that a professional should remain just that if they want people to respect their opinions. Letting your own emotions and common sense rule your opinions is not professional. I have over 25 employees, I have learned common sense does not always point to the guilty, all the facts and evidence if you can get them, do. The scariest thing about this trail is how the media can influence the public to behave unjustly to the parties involved in the case. Cindy and George are now in hiding due to death threats, I believe the media helps fuel this. Casey is not going to be safe when she leaves jail and the media will do everything in their power to find out where she is and let the public know, I do not believe the media helps serve justice. I believe the Media in many ways helps break it down. Whether you think she is guilty or not, the Jury found her Not Guilty.

    July 5, 2011 at 8:52 pm | Report abuse |
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