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. Karos

    It's sad that the media don't just let things go and die down. I believe the media is keeping this thing going and adding fuel to the fire. I think Nancy do some good work but I also feel that she needs to get off of her soap box. God will judge Casey in a way that men never could if she is guilty. But I would hate to see someone attempt to do something to Casey after listening to and watching the Nancy Graces of the news. I would not purchase anything that Casey may benefit off the death of child; but I refuse to listen to Nancy, Vinnie, Jane and the like continue to flame the fire with this story. Has anyone as these new journalist how much money they've made off the issue? How much money they donated to children of voliate crimes? They were so certain that she would have been found guilty and now the egg is stuck on their faces and they can't live with that.

    We say let the jury do their jobs and when the jury return with a verdict you don't want to hear now the jury is wrong, stupid, and whatever else. Everything but a good judge of the issues. They say there was not enough evidence, then look the the DA's office on how they presented the case. Look at how you dogged out the defense, only thing was that the jury wasn't able to hear your crazyness. I say the judge, jury, defense and DA has done their job; stop crying and let God do his job now. God is the ultimate judge and no one can doubt or question his judgement.

    So I say Nancy you need to put the fuel back in it's container and let it go before someone else gets physically hurt or hurt someone. If it happens it will be all on your back.

    July 7, 2011 at 1:17 pm | Report abuse |
  2. tb

    OMG some of you don't even know what you are talking about. "Amy" the mother lied!!!! She was at work that day and never looked up anything, Casey did. We all know she killed her daughter as did OJ and R Blake. Casey parties for 31 days, puts the child in triple trash bags and then a laundry bag, puts tape over her mouth, gets a tattoo after she went missing that says "beautiful life" Sits in jail for 3yrs and then comes out with "SHE DROWN IN THE POOL" Why didn't she say that on day one. Go to hell Casey. NANCY YOU RULE

    July 7, 2011 at 1:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      obviously you must be an OVERWEIGHT SOCCER MOM to say all those unproven allegations!

      July 7, 2011 at 3:00 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Sideshow

    NANCY GRACE is the REASON Casey Anthony got off! When will you people see this?? SHE cause the prosecution to OVER CHARGE this case and caused the not guilty verdict. If they had charged her with 2nd degree, 3rd degree or even just manslauter, it's a slam dunk. 1st degree?? Premeditated? It WAS an accident...an accidental overdose of chloroform that killed Caley...this was likely NOT the first time she did this to Caley...just the last. People like Nancy Grace need to give their head a shake and not "force" prosecutors to "do as I say" or be ridiculed publicly. NANCY GRACE, you have only YOURSELF to blame!

    July 7, 2011 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Eric P

      Yeah, your'e right. She probably is. I highly doubt her insane diatribes ever reached the jury (obviously), but I think it's totally plausible that the prosecution could have been listening to the rucus she was causing from her HLN pulpit about certain she was of Casey Anthony's guilt. There's a million reasons why people lie to police, at the top of that list is probably the fact that police lie all the time to get convictions for the state...happens ALL THE TIME. But whatever. She got caught lying, and she served her time. Lying to cops doesn't make someone a murderer. Nancy Grace is so absurd in her reasoning...it all makes sense now why she's a TV host and not in a courtroom anymore. She's unstable.

      July 7, 2011 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • bama0918

      I'll take it a step further. Not only does Nancy Grace not belong in a court room, not on "real" CNN, or even on HLN. She belongs in therapy somewhere. All of the diatribes in the world against C. Anthony et al. are going to erase the pain she or other victims suffer. That takes healing, and not naked aggression and vengefulness toward everyone accused of a heinous crime. Maybe Nancy'll use this opportunity to take some time off and get her own head screwed on straight...

      July 7, 2011 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • dee dee

      I absolutely agree and think that should something happen to Casey or any of the jurors once all is said and done that she should be charged with in-sighting violence.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:25 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Sharky

    Just once I'd like to see soul-searching done BEFORE someone does something stupid– and that includes Casey killing her daughter.

    July 7, 2011 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Eric P

    I am with the apparent minority who thinks the general public needs to stay the hell out of these matters. When you have idiots like Nancy Grace TELLING extremely simpleminded, likely uneducated, people who are unwilling to respect due process and giving a defendant, regardless of what they are accused of doing, that the verdict was WRONG and that justice wasn't served you're inviting anarchy. I personally don't care about Casey OR Caylee Anthony. Why would I? And why do these fanatics? Get a life and move on. The state should have done a better job of prosecuting her. It's over now, move on. Nancy Grace is about as poisonous to this society as Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity. She's out of control.

    July 7, 2011 at 2:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mona

      ERIC P...YOU ARE THE MAN!!!!!! No, you are not alone. I agree whole-heartedly with you. And what's so funny about those being "salty" from the verdict. They were all for the jurors: the jurors are great, they will do the right thing; they are bright...the verdict; now, the jurors are idiots, who picked them...blah, blah, blah...nancy grace and her coherts are the biggest bunch of blowhards in the media, next to rush limbaugh. If everyone put as much energy and effort into making this country a better place to live, as they are in this case, we might not have so much chaos wreaking havoc.

      July 7, 2011 at 3:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • AC

      Eric...it is not about you, Nancy Grace, the right wingers you call out or the public. It is about Caylee. The fact that you do not care about Caylee is the heart of the problem. "Get a life" is not the answer, protect a life is. We are a community of people. Until we each protect the innocent and defend each other (including those we don't know) the problem will continue. I do not know or love Caylee, but I know someone did. I do not know for certain Casey is guilty...but Caylee was in fact innocent. It is for her and those who loved and lost her that I care. You are important Eric...so was Caylee.

      July 7, 2011 at 8:21 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Clark

    When all of you morons get this figured out (Nancy Grace and Jose Baez included) let the rest of us know. Will ya?

    July 7, 2011 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Mona

    For the love of God, let it go. The saddest part of it all is a three year child has lost her life...period. Let's advocate for that. Let's put our resources into providing better child care, better parenting classes, more money for services to help parents affectively raise their kids, letting parent know that they can give their kids to any firehouse, hospital or police station, if they are fit to parent. How about using our powers for good for once? All this nonsense about "woulda, coulda, shoulda" is falling on deaf ears. Casey has been acquitted. The trial is over. It's time for ALL OF US to move on. If you have children, how about going to give them a hug or a kiss. Take them to the park...and get off of the air waves with insignificant, useless chatter.

    Now, I'm sure there are the few of you who will have to reply to my posting. Before you do, ask yourself, "What good would me replying to this post achieve?" If your response is "nothing" then do just that...nothing

    July 7, 2011 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
  8. david

    What's to reflect? She was 100% involved in the death of her child. She didn't give a crap about her child. But in some states, the populous is too stupid to be able to even charge a person with child endangerment or neglect. I can only speak for myself, but in my book, not reporting your child missing for 30 days is child neglect. But hey...obviously (and sadly) I AM better than most.

    July 7, 2011 at 3:29 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Emmanuel

    It is such a shame that this country has stooped so low when it comes to the media. We have CNN cover this story all day all week, but I wonder where is CNN when it comes to the national debt.
    Casey? she will become a star overnight, who's helped her? Robin Mead , Nancy Grace, Velez-Mitchell and a host of TV personalities. Oh well, its only in the USA we find such drama.

    July 7, 2011 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Pat

    Once again the media with over-zealous, poorly-informed headline-grabbing bigots tried someone without all the facts and convicted someone. Nancy Grace is a DISGRACE.
    This case wasn't WON by the defense ... the PROSECUTION didn't have a case.
    Mike Brooks responses are very typical short-sighted myopic law enforcement vision.
    After the prosecution's case, I didn't need the defense. Prosecution didn't prove murder!
    SHAME SHAME SHAME on the media led by the HLN circus ringleaders Nancy Grace, Jane Velez-Mitchell. What a waste of airtime.
    Media needs top present information fairly without their own opinions.
    If it wasn't for media pressure, this case probably doesn't make it to trial.
    Remember the FACTS or more importantly, the lack of.

    July 7, 2011 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Barry Robertson

    I'm happy to see that I'm not the only person who view Nancy Grace as someone who incites people in a very negative way, by insisting Casey was guilty even before the trial and consistently refering to her as Tot Mom wasn't right and when the jury aquited casey based on lack of evidence there being called uneducated. To Nancy and conpany, ask yourselves this question, if that was a love one of your on trial and the same evidence was presented by the prosecution and the jury came back with guilty on all counts would you accept it.

    July 7, 2011 at 5:11 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Bob

    I am a strong advocate of our jucical system and our legislative and executive system of government. However, we have to change with the times. Juries are fickle and unpredictable and that should not be the case. To think that a random selection of 12 people will give a person an unbiased decision is simply a pipe dream. A cold hard look must be taken into account when selecting a jury memeber. There should be established some type of criteria for a person to become a jury member. Sorry, but contrary to what some might ideally think, our jury system of selecting is obsolete and needs to be changed. Keep the jury but change the selection process.

    Bob, St. Louis.

    July 7, 2011 at 5:25 pm | Report abuse |
  13. JIM

    great article.......mason is a redneck and tobin needes a kick in the ass to reality/man up!!!!!!!!! I guess the media is at fault for waiting 31 days to start the story coverage......

    July 7, 2011 at 5:46 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Me

    Even if she did not do the murder, she knows who killed her own daughter. The reason there is not enough eveidence is because poor Caylees body was so decomposed. Its sad that now and days you can get away with anything. She is hiding something that she is not saying. She knows the truth. The only thing that I can say is KARMA will get you. WHAT GOES AROUND COMES AROUND.

    July 7, 2011 at 5:51 pm | Report abuse |
  15. robert Zuckschwerdt

    CNN is a disgrace, allowing Nancy Grace to incite people, pass judgement on people without knowing the facts, one day if she is allowed to carry on this way, she is going to cause a lynch mob mentality. I know Nancy's program is your highest rated one, but I used to consider your channel number one in NEWS, I quit watching this tabloid junk, and I don't go to CNN for news anymore.

    July 7, 2011 at 6:22 pm | Report abuse |
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